Swordsman vs Archer

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Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Ninetails1985 » 27 Mar 2014 14:49

Hi guys,
After I watched this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrJr0-HVIa8&list=UUt14YOvYhd5FCGCwcjhrOdA
I got really curious about a scenario I've been discussing with some friends, all having different opinions about it. The setting is the same as yours - open ground, two fighters of equal strength, training in their field and everything else is the same except their weapons - a bow (longbow) and arrows vs sword and shield (target). Lets say they don't have armor just regular clothing. George Silver list is pretty interesting but hasn't included the bow, one of the most important weapons in history. When I tried to research the subject I found videos of people dodging arrows being shot at them and you also have a target type shield for the ones you cannot catch.
For the purpose of the discussion lets say the combatants start at 150 meters distance. In my opinion the swordsman can defend himself at that distance by either dodging or blocking but the closer he gets to the archer the more straight the trajectory of the arrow will be (which will give accuracy) and the faster the arrow will fly. However, with the shield, he can pretty much cover his vital areas and I guess his legs will be the best target for the archer. Lets also assume that the second the swordsman reaches the archer its curtains for him. The archer however, does have the option of running in the opposite direction - how much shooting arrows and running is effective I have no idea. Also reloading takes time and 150 is not that much distance to sprint for the swordsman.
So what are your thoughts on the subject? I know a definite answer is out of the question but lets try to give a percentage based one?
Hope I am posting this in the right place :)
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby admin » 27 Mar 2014 16:05

I think you’ve actually covered most of the considerations.
Having done many years of archery, including standing at the target end (behind safe cover!) I agree that at 150 metres it is very easy to just step out of the way of an arrow. It is quite easy to avoid arrows even at about 80 metres. Arrows don’t actually move very fast and so long as you see them coming, you can move out of the way. However, at about 50 metres it will become quite difficult and a really good archer can stand a good chance of shooting a moving target at that range – the closer the target is, the easier it is to hit a moving target, until about 5 metres where most people find it hard to move the bow enough to compensate for the target’s movement. Therefore I would say that for the swordsman the most dangerous distance in approaching the archer is about 10-30 metres. At this range even archers of basic skill can aim at specific body areas, such as the legs, and can stand a good chance of hitting a moving target.
Now the shield is really critical in crossing this very dangerous 10-30 metre range. Clearly a person with a pavise can just walk up to the archer without any real worry. The smaller the shield is, the less coverage it will give against arrows, of course :). If we assume a round viking-era type shield then the legs, as you say, will be the vulnerable target. However, consider that the swordsman is running – both his legs are moving quickly and he is probably running in a zig-zag line (this was even recommend when attacking someone with a musket in the 17th century). So the swordsman’s legs might not even get hit. And if they do, there is a large chance that the arrow/s will not seriously wound. They stand almost nbo chance of killing him and a relatively small chance of stopping him. Animals shot with arrows can run for hundreds of metres. Many people in history have survived one or more arrow wounds.

So really I think this comes down to two important deciding factors:
1) How quickly the swordsman covers the ground and therefore how many shots the archer is able to put on target
2) The random factor of any wounds caused – where they are exactly and what effect they have – this is unknown.

Generally speaking in this scenario I think I’d rather be the sword and shield guy than the archer, but neither of them are exactly in a great situation!

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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Ninetails1985 » 27 Mar 2014 17:55

admin wrote:Welcome to the forum :)

Thank you!
And thank you very much for your opinion too, that really made my day :) I am definately a swords guy myself, if fact I am in the process of ordering my first custom made sword :D I've been arguing with my friends ever since we saw Hunger Games 2 which is superior but most give no chance for the swordsman which was bugging me. You made a really good point about the deadliness of both weapons, in fact I even remembered reading some statistic saying that you have a higher chance to die from a stab wound than a bullet wound in the UK.
Longbows did help win some major battles but their power lie in volley not single combat in my opinion.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby demoman_chaos » 27 Mar 2014 23:01

Having done live-steel combat with archers (rubber tipped arrows), I can say the viking round shield would prove almost 95% effective in that scenario. I will say upfront that for safety, our bows are only about 30-40 lb draw. Even at close range (15-20 ft roughly), I could see the arrow and could react to it enough to defend myself from it if needed. Since the feet are moving, and only within view for a fraction of a second each time you wouldn't really be able to get a shot on them unless you were very lucky.

That being said, shield size is key. A 36 inch viking shield is no contest, but a 10 inch buckler would be quite interesting. You have to move it far more than a large shield, meaning you need more time to defend. This combined with just how precise you have to be to succeed means that the archer stands a decent chance in that match.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Thallian » 27 Mar 2014 23:19

You know, surely the archer would have been equipped with melee weapons himself? Certainly in the late medieval period they might even sport a sword and buckler.

In which case the archer may shoot at the swordsman until he gets too close, at which point the archer reverts to being a swordsman himself.

As an aside note, Re-enactment archery really does not compare to archery for hunting or warfare. Most re-enactment arrows I've come across are not spined correctly for the bow that is used with them, some are fitted with extra big fletchings to slow them down and the bows used are themselves underpowered.

A really heavy warbow might be quite capable of wounding a fighter through his shield. I've shot arrows half a yard through half an inch of marine ply with a mere 80lbs.

The answer seems to be, as usual, "It depends..." :wink:
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Chiron » 28 Mar 2014 10:31

Having fooled around with homemade safety arrows and homemade swords and shields in a much more innocent time before finding the light of HEMA :wink: , I must say that I found it a little more even as the archer, there are a couple things that really come into play. A) how fast can the archer knock and fire without looking at what he's doing, the moment you have to look your ability to keep track of your opponent disappears, if you can loose an arrow every two to three seconds at close range you can usually get a good shot off. B) Can you shoot on the move? if you can run sideways and still shoot than you've got a good chance, if you can run and shoot backwards at the same time you're good to go, I used to be able to run full pelt and bend over and get a shot on the knee with 60% accuracy and an arrow through the kneecap is somewhat decisive. Now keep in mind I was using 30/40 pound bows with 30" draws at the time with very light safety arrows, these tactics won't work with a longbow or any bow with a really long draw as the long draw cuts down on speed and maneuverability even more than a really powerful bow with a really short draw. The Plains Indians even in war were very unclose even with there archery which is one reason why they developed their bows and archery like they did.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby admin » 28 Mar 2014 12:47

Yes, to some extent I think a heavier poundage bow would actually be a disadvantage in this scenario, as you cannot shoot them as quickly or dynamically as a bow which is easier to draw and hold. I'm far more accurate with 60lbs than I am with 80lbs, and above that, for me, is more like weight lifting than shooting. Also, assuming that range and armour penetration are not important here, a 45lb bow will penetrate most of a person's body - a 70lb bow will just send the arrow right through and out the other side, which doesn't actually do any more injury to the person! Watch bowhunting examples on Youtube (or go bowhunting) - arrows from modern compound bows often go straight through things like deer and pigs and carry on going.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Chiron » 28 Mar 2014 18:08

The advantage of heavier poundage is higher range and the ability to pierce shields, if you've got ten men agains ten Archers I might go with the longbows but individually I would prefer my Sioux War-bow which is in total 40" long and has a 24" inch draw hand to string and is only 40lb but is incredibly zippy because of it's slight recurve so there's no dodging it at close range. It's just a lot easier to handle close in, and as you say, at close range it doesn't take much to kill a person, penetrating armor might become a problem though.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby admin » 31 Mar 2014 11:41

Yes, heavier draw weight is for extra range and/or extra penetration of non-flesh materials. 45lbs from most bows (not crossbows) is quite enough to kill or mortally injure most living creatures at up to about 60 metres.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby MEversbergII » 31 Mar 2014 16:22

I am silly and poorly educated - why wouldn't a same poundage crossbow suffice? Is it because the bolt is heavier than the arrow?

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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Dave B » 01 Apr 2014 10:41

As I understand it, it's more to do with draw length.

The energy you put into an arrow or bolt is a product of draw weight and draw length. When you draw a longbow, say a 60 lb longbow, you draw it back maybe 28 inches. So when you let go of the arrow it is accelerated by a force of 60 lb, and it continues to be accelerated for the first couple of feet of it's journey to the target, albeit decreasing as it gets closer to leaving the string

A crossbow has more like a 10 or 12" draw length, so an 120lb crossbow has twice the initial acceleration, but applies that acceleration over less than half the distance. So typically I think you probably need maybe twice the draw weight in a crossbow to get the same energy.

If I understand the physics correctly the weight if an arrow is a complex issue, but with a heavier arrow it goes slower, and hits with a lower speed, but the momentum ends up the same as a lighter arrow with more speed but less mass - it's primarily about how much energy you can put in, which is all down to draw weight and length.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby MEversbergII » 01 Apr 2014 14:52

Ah yes! I run a table top game called GURPS, and there was an article about this - thank you for the reminder.

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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Gordon H » 04 Apr 2014 18:56

A heavy crossbow would be probably not as effective as the bow, due to the reloading time, especially when you consider how much time it would take someone could cover ground over 150 metres, you would probably be lucky to get 3 or 4 bolts fired.
I think another couple of factors would also be your archers rate of fire against a moving target and how much punishment the shield could take.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby admin » 05 Apr 2014 21:10

Dave B wrote:As I understand it, it's more to do with draw length.


Exactly - called a 'power stroke'. A 60lb bow pushing for 30 inches imparts a lot more energy than a 60lb bow pushing for 8 inches. Crossbows have very short power strokes, which is why they have to be very high power to be effective.

Incidentally, modern crossbows have a longer power stroke than medieval European crossbows in general. Most replicas of medieval crossbows have unhistorically long power strokes (and correspondingly low power). Tod of Tods Stuff is one of the few people making historically accurate short power strokes and high poundage.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Alina » 14 Apr 2014 20:50

This question is still used today in questions of gun vs knife. Generally, if you have to draw and ready a handgun, you have to be at least 20 feet away from a knife wielding assailant to get shots on him before he gets to you. Bows are considerably slower. I can shoot probably 8-10 well-aimed shots in a minute, and my effective range on a man-sized target is probably 80 yards. Depending on how you were closing the distance would make a difference in my ability to engage you as a target. If you were running a hundred meter dash type speed, I'd probably wait until the 50 yard mark to shoot, reload, and then wait again until I had a close shot that gave me a good chance of hitting what I was aiming at.

To be honest, while people can dodge arrows at long range, within 50 yards, as Matt said, it's almost impossible. It also depends on how ready you are to move. I did experiments with friends and teenagers I was teaching, where we shot them with safety arrows from a 15 pound bow at 20 yards and less. Most people can't dodge a slow safety arrow from a 15 pound bow at 15 yards.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby janner » 18 Apr 2014 08:04

One might also consider that on the north west European high medieval battlefield, the bow was generally used for mass effect. Dodging one arrow at medium range is very doable, dodging a volley less so :lol:
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Jonathan Waller » 18 Apr 2014 17:25

Not sure that anyone has mentioned this already, but consider the archer moving, perhaps moving closer between shots when the opponent is further away and moving away between shots as they get closer.
Mont Luc talks about the English archers closing distance to the opponents to shoot at closer ranges, or doing so after having draw fire from arquebusiers, to shoot while they were loading and then with drawing out of the fire arms effective range. Also when non missile troops would try to engage then the archers would run and then turn and shoot and run again to maintain distance.
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby Inthe Meantime » 19 Apr 2014 16:54

You could always learn this technique as demonstrated by the leader of our illustrious band
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOjL_C1A5NQ
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Re: Swordsman vs Archer

Postby jelliejones » 28 Apr 2014 01:01

Wow really interesting fight, but aim in wight archer cause it was long range fighter. warrior can't defeat archer in long range.
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