Longbow vs. armor test

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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dan Howard » 30 Jul 2012 22:59

Alina wrote:While the complaints are certainly valid, who else is surprised by the awesome performance of the type 16 broadhead? Based on these tests, I think that's what I would pick against a standard medieval army, unless I knew I was going up against hordes of French men at arms or something.

That is the only part of the test worth noting since a comparative analysis of the penetrating capacity of various arrowheads do not need a target that is representative of historical armour. The rest is no better than all of the other back yard tests around.

I've been saying for years that the Type-16 is the arrow that was used at close range for armour piercing, not the bodkin.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Alina » 31 Jul 2012 00:04

Does anyone know the earliest recorded date for the type 16?
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby bigdummy » 31 Jul 2012 01:25

Alina wrote:I'd still like to know the flight arrow source, just for my own personal edification.

I agree with everybody else. Obviously longbows did shoot long distance some of the time, but I'm definitely in Matt's camp in believing that the real slaughter took place at ranges much closer than modern authors suggest.


The worst of the slaughter was probably carried out at closer range than that, with a misericorde... though that doesn't make it the mightiest weapon of the Medieval battlefield... or does it?

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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby admin » 31 Jul 2012 11:04

I think there is no remaining doubt that it was the Type 16 arrowheads that were made with armour-piercing in mind. See the Royal Armouries view here:
http://www.royalarmouries.org/what-we-d ... arrowheads

Type 16's were made of expensive carbon steel and hardened by quenching. The only realistic conclusion is thet they were intended to pierce armour (whether they did or not is a different matter).

Alina wrote:Does anyone know the earliest recorded date for the type 16?


Funnily enough, no! I had never really thought about it before - they certainly appear on many 15th century sites. The problem with dating arrowheads is that they tend to be found out of archaeological context, by metal detectorists. I know they recovered hundreds of them from the Battle of Towton site.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Jonathan Waller » 31 Jul 2012 13:02

The type 16 is an evolving type, plus it comes in a variety of types, arguably it starts in the 14th Century and is still there in a evolved type in the 16th....
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Alina » 01 Aug 2012 00:05

Jonathan Waller wrote:The type 16 is an evolving type, plus it comes in a variety of types, arguably it starts in the 14th Century and is still there in a evolved type in the 16th....


Do you have any links to these early 14th century examples, or perhaps source documents or journal articles where they might be encountered?
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Chidokan » 17 Nov 2012 00:51

I think most people miss the point on using a bow.... why would you aim at the most difficult part to penetrate when you can aim at joints, open face helmets, naked horse flesh, unarmoured men, etc???
Volley fire is really about taking out as many as you can as fast as you can, you do not care if you wound or kill, just get someone to 'go away' from the fight. Think of it this way... do you want to waste all your arrows on the guy in plate armour with a vague hope of maybe hitting him once out of bagful if you are lucky, or taking down his support troops so he is left by himself, and ten of you can rush him and bring him down?
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Gil-Galadh » 18 Nov 2012 09:08

----doublepost-----
Last edited by Gil-Galadh on 19 Nov 2012 11:56, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Gil-Galadh » 18 Nov 2012 09:08

Chidokan wrote:I think most people miss the point on using a bow.... why would you aim at the most difficult part to penetrate when you can aim at joints, open face helmets, naked horse flesh, unarmoured men, etc???

I'm not sure you'd really be aiming at that tiny spot on the fast approaching bobbing up and down figure, that's also a bit far.
And recently I'm not even convinced the idea of arrows is to take out as many as you can as fast as you can. While wounding and killing sure an important part, especially against poorly-armoured people, I think the bows and arrows were more like area-denying and disrupting weapons, with greater tactical use than actual killing power.

I'm interested if there are any comparisons between the way eastern horse-archers are employed and the western foot archers
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dave Long » 18 Nov 2012 18:35

Alina wrote: In my mind, it's an absolute waste of energy on the part of rider and horse to ride around and shoot when you can just sit still and do it. That doesn't mean that it wasn't done, but it certainly makes a great deal less sense, and in the absence of evidence I think the only reason that image has held sway is because it's more exciting and romantic.

Can you just sit still and do it? I mean, it's possible to just stand still while fencing, too, but nobody outside of wheelchair fencing forsakes mobility to save energy.

I have three broad lines of argument against this hypothesis:
      Period Art: Even from illiterate societies, we have jewelry, etc., and the subjects are shooting at the gallop. Granted, that could only be because the image is more exciting and romantic, but I'm having a hard time remembering any depictions of mounted archers firing from the halt. Does anyone here have any?
      Logic: If someone is in your range, you are in theirs, and a horse is a big target. For the first few thousand years, the extra mobility of a horse is enough to make up for its extra size on the battlefield, but standing around negates that advantage. (also: if you fire with the movement, there's an extra 10-15 m/s to be picked up; judging from the numbers in the original article (ca. 50 m/s initial velocity) that ought to make a noticeable difference)
      Riding Position: In equestrian sports, it's generally acknowledged that the shorter the stirrup, the faster the discipline. For instance, here's a nice picture from an essay on spanish light cavalry which contrasts heavy cav (riding long, but trotting) and light cav (riding short, galloping): Image
      In general (cf Rembrandt's Polish Rider) when we see mounted archers (who are not shown standing to shoot -- check where the hips are relative to the saddle) they are depicted with a seat much closer to the light cavalry. If you plan on isolating your body motion from the horse's, this seat makes sense. Were you to shoot almost exclusively from a standstill, or even at low speeds, long stirrups would be less tiring.
Essentially, my slogan is that mounted archery is to its pedestrian cousin as sporting clays are to 300m target shooting; the goals are similar, but the philosophy, preparation, and pressures are very different. (if any traditional toxophiles would like to empirically test this claim, there are several groups who offer seminars and organize competitions; at least on the european circuits we even have Popinjay/Qabaq as a common event)
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Alina » 19 Nov 2012 22:35

That's an interesting point of view, and I will say that the records we have for mounted archery in terms of surviving sports certainly seem to indicate shooting on the move - the Koreans and Chinese have specific training manuals for this, and the Japanese sport of Yabusame continues this tradition to the present day.

That having been said, I think it's a question of tactics in the moment, what works in one instance might not work in another. To me, it seems reasonable that in a case like Arsuf, or like Carrhae, you've got horsemen who are sitting atop stationary horses, or horses that are moving at a very slow walk. They're able to take shots at their opponents who are helpless in the latter case against arrow fire or handicapped in the former case by being strung out on a line of march. I think also if you look at Poitiers, you see the English using mounted archers like dragoons, the horse providing mobility for an archer who dismounts to do the business of shooting.

So are there any examples of mounted archers charging around at breakneck speed shooting? I'm inclined to believe that there are, though I don't have a ready source handy. I've been looking at the Egyptian military a lot, and it seems that in the case of chariot warfare, riding past the enemy at high speed, making a strafing run against a line of troops, seems to have been the modus operandi of the thing. This makes a certain amount of sense in light of the increased maneuverability garnered from the chariot. On the other hand, chariots in a non-Egyptian context tend to be bulkier, heavier, and participate in more than just hit and run style fighting. They may in fact be fighting platforms working on the same dragoon principle mentioned above.

So, yeah, I'd love to see text-based sources on riding at the gallop to shoot in an actual battle. I'm sure they're out there. I think my post probably overstated things a little bit. My intention isn't to say that galloping to shoot is never done, rather that we always see it done that way in popular media, and I'm betting that there were lots of other ways to do it, which may have been as common or more common than shooting at the gallop.


Also, kind of unrelated, but interesting food for thought. I've watched competitions of horseback archery, and the targets are uniformly close - ~10 yards away, while people ride by at high speed to shoot. If this is really how they were intended to be employed, it certainly explains why foot archers were such an effective counter to horse archers. I can hit a human head-sized target on foot at about sixty yards now, provided it's not moving. I can hit a horse sized target about 80% of the time at ranges from 80-100 yards, and that's improving every day. By this time next year, I have no doubt it'll be 100% of the time. So, it would be a very easy thing to shoot even a moving horse and rider, long before they got within a range that was comfortable for them to shoot from horseback.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dave Long » 20 Nov 2012 12:22

Alina wrote:I can hit a human head-sized target on foot at about sixty yards now, provided it's not moving.

Then I believe we're in agreement that horse archers were moving (unless there's no return fire, in which case we also agree that there's no compelling reason to move)
Alina wrote:I've watched competitions of horseback archery, and the targets are uniformly close - ~10 yards away, while people ride by at high speed to shoot. If this is really how they were intended to be employed...

In fact, I doubt strongly that this is how they were intended to be employed. To me, the competition setup merely reflects the reality that in many areas, finding 100m of land to gallop down is difficult enough without asking for depth downrange, that 25# bows are in general kinder to the neighbors' health and property than war bows, and that almost no one these days does mounted archery as anything more than a hobby[1].
Furthermore, shotgun events are not rifle events, and mounted archery isn't pedestrian archery, the crux (at least for beginners) is not sniping accuracy as much as it is the ability to nock, lead a target, and shoot in a 3-4 second rhythm[2].
My best guess as to how they were actually used is an extrapolation from the turkish sport of cirit[3]; I know very little about it (not having any turkish, either), but the general idea seems to be to run into no-man's land towards the other team, throw a stick at one of your opponents, and then try to run back to your side before they manage to hit you with a thrown stick. In other words, "do unto others, then run", which is the classical light cavalry skirmishing role[4].
Given that arrows fly a bit farther than wooden sticks, I'd expect a mounted archer's skirmish to look similar, but on a scale at least 3 or 4 times as large (simulation would require 4-8 ha, or 10-20 acres, for the playing field, not to mention the problem of blunts), with many more people in motion (these one-at-a-time throws being for the benefit of the scorekeepers)
Alina wrote:So are there any examples of mounted archers charging around at breakneck speed shooting?

Other than the artwork? Looking through the books here, there's only one example of someone shooting from anything other than a gallop, and it depicts a pause during a hunt: the archer is plinking at a bird while his horses nibbles some grass[5]. It may be counterintuitive, but if you try it, I think you'll find it's actually easier to shoot at speed; the trot and canter impart much more extraneous motion than a good gallop. (as the difference between a jockey seat and a jumping seat will quickly attest!)

[1] my wife and I recently competed with well under 20 hours of practice and our horses never having seen a competition course before (getting a horse to the range is a little more involved than putting bow and arrows in the car); given the logistics of day jobs, I think the hard-core competitors at our national level count themselves lucky if they manage 50-ish hours of practice a year. to put that into context, I'm a poor fencer (250 hours) and a middling amateur in the disciplines I take seriously (10'000 hours); by comparison any 14 year old steppe dweller would already have had far, far, more saddle and bow time.
[2] the archer's equivalent of the "assault rifle" principle? (this calculation also illustrates that competition archers are not moving at "high speed", but only at half speed. high speed would leave under 2 seconds per target)
[3] cf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4FS9remb7U How long does it take these guys to close 80-100 yards?
[4] Xenophon talks about iberian horse somewhere in his account of spartan wars, who, like the turks above, are effective at running in, throwing javelins, and getting back out (probably much more effective; cf [1]). He does mention that they dismount occasionally, but not to improve their firing platform: it's simply a ruse to lure opposing units in, getting them out of position.
[5] Image
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Alina » 20 Nov 2012 14:49

Cerit, or Jarid/Jerid in arabic, is a common sport all across the middle east. Exciting stuff too. It certainly argues for the way javelins were used from horseback.

As to the whole bow thing. Text sources are important. The middle eastern countries for much of their history were far more into writing things down than drawing pictures (drawing pictures was sort of kind of considered to be illegal and against Islam). So, the text source question is an open one. Where are the sources discussing shooting of bows on horseback at a gallop? I'm sure they're out there, but I don't know of one off-hand, and I'm pretty familiar with the medieval Islamic literature. Does that mean something? Who knows.

As to the idea that horse archers are moving and sometimes quickly and therefore making harder targets, I can't imagine that they're going to be successful against archers on foot. Horse and rider, taken together, make an easy target out to 100 yards, and this is aiming for individuals, not just lobbing massed volleys. I think it would be devastating for horse archers to come in range of archers on the ground.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dave Long » 20 Nov 2012 17:13

For texts, since Carrhae has been mentioned, these lines:
Plutarch Crass. 25.4
Plutarch Crass. 25.5
Plutarch (BP) wrote:... the Parthians stationed their mail-clad horsemen in front of the Romans, and then with the rest of their cavalry in loose array rode round them, tearing up the surface of the ground, and raising from the depths great heaps of sand which fell in limitless showers of dust, so that the Romans could neither see clearly nor speak plainly, but, being crowded into a narrow compass and falling one upon another, were shot ...

imply speed; neither dismounted nor walking archers are likely to raise a dust cloud.

Also, little googling turns up the following:

There's a bit of text here that might hint at the source, but it's all arabic to me:
Image
One might also be able to find something in latin related to the "eques ala Parthorum et Araborum":
Image
This is supposed to be from the Jami al-tawarikh, Rashid al-Din:
Image
and this from Rashid-ad-Din's Gami' at-tawarih. Tabriz (?), 1st quarter of 14th century:
Image

(edit: added plutarch)
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Chiron » 22 Nov 2012 17:24

There are arabic treatises we've even discussed them on the forum.
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14678&hilit=arabic+treatise\
8th post from the bottom you can see some riders playing Quaback, ones galloping the others standing, the fact that quaback as a game is traditionally played at an all out gallop from what I can tell, is more evidence that they mainly shot at a gallop. Asiatic horse archery tactics were less based on dogfight skirmishes than two groups shooting long distance flight arrows at each other while moving and then closing for the kill, here moving and shooting is a must otherwise your screwed. I thought about it a bit and i think that's mainly what quaback is meant to teach you, the arced shot at a gallop and getting used to the position not to mention keeping your arm steady while pointing almost directly up (not as easy as it sounds at a full a gallup). An excellent book that mentions topic is "Language, Horse and Wheel" which also covers the early development of warfare in the near east. I think John Keegan also mentions it.

.. the Parthians stationed their mail-clad horsemen in front of the Romans, and then with the rest of their cavalry in loose array rode round them, tearing up the surface of the ground, and raising from the depths great heaps of sand which fell in limitless showers of dust, so that the Romans could neither see clearly nor speak plainly, but, being crowded into a narrow compass and falling one upon another, were shot ...


The clouds of dust imply that a body of riders were riding in circles, not that all the riders were it could very well be that a group rode around and shot while the others arced their fire at a stand waiting to relieve the runners. The battle by the sound of it lasted almost an entire day. I severely doubt parthian horses no matter how enamored Ann Hyland may be of them? Even a well supplied Remuda is not inexhaustible, you also need time to restock on arrows and rest yourself, so it makes more sense that some would be creating the dust and others would be shooting or waiting to replace the others.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dave Long » 23 Nov 2012 13:03

Chiron wrote:There are arabic treatises we've even discussed them on the forum.
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14678&hilit=arabic+treatise

Nice; a few links from there one finds a couple of tertiary sources which mention both stationary (as defensive prepared fire) and dismounted (last stand) archery among mamluks and mongols:

http://the-mamluk-faris.blogspot.com/20 ... es_20.html
http://the-mamluk-faris.blogspot.com/20 ... ew_21.html
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dan Howard » 25 Nov 2012 14:00

Gil-Galadh wrote:I'm not sure you'd really be aiming at that tiny spot on the fast approaching bobbing up and down figure, that's also a bit far.

That's one of the advantages of massed volleys. If a pile of arrows hit an armoured fighter, there is a good chance that one of them will hit a spot that isn't so well protected.

And recently I'm not even convinced the idea of arrows is to take out as many as you can as fast as you can. While wounding and killing sure an important part, especially against poorly-armoured people, I think the bows and arrows were more like area-denying and disrupting weapons, with greater tactical use than actual killing power.

That's another good application of massed volleys.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Dave Long » 10 Jan 2013 17:33

Dan Howard wrote:That's one of the advantages of massed volleys.
Another advantage is demonstrated nicely by a video (mentioned by Chiron in the Custer thread) showing the 2011 National Finals Rodeo barrel racing.

There's an onscreen clock, so you all can go ahead and figure out how much to lead to take aimed fire at a similarly-moving cavalryman. From Bane's original calculations in the paper referenced at the top of this thread, a 110 lb longbow arrow will hit its target at full range (230m) in 7.88s. All of these horses have made two sharp turns and put a good amount of distance in between in that time. Let's move up to 100m, and say the flatter trajectory gives 3s (instead of 3.4s). That's still enough time to either cover some ground or to even to change direction completely. What would a reasonable distance be for aimed fire?

(for reference, if quick googling can be believed, the pattern in the video is small due to the indoor venue: about 20m to the first barrel, and 20m between each pair of barrels)
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Alina » 10 Jan 2013 19:10

Hey Dave,

I think your time estimations are a bit off, because the amount of elevation you have to use for 230m is more than twice as much as you have to use for 100m, which is way more than twice as much as you'd have to use for 50m. It depends on the power of the bow, but my point-on distance with a 45 pound bow varies from 50-70 yards. So, I'd guess a 110 pound bow would net me not quite double that - maybe point-on at 100m if I'm very very lucky. The speed I'd likely be getting from a warbow would be around 180fps, I'd guess, especially if using a reasonably heavy "war arrow." So, time to target is less than 2 seconds - about 1.67 seconds at 100m. And I think those are reasonably conservative estimates.

Granted, I'm super impressed by the barrel-racing, I've never seen it before. It would be extremely difficult to aim and hit a target like that if it was moving side to side across my field of view. However, if it were charging directly at me, that'd be another issue. Archers tend to not give enough elevation to their instinctive shots at longer ranges, so the speed of the horse might actually help you hit what you're aiming at, as you'd be automatically leading the target without thinking about it. Even so, a difficult, difficult shot. I'd like to do more moving target work, but it's not an easy thing to set up for frequent practice.
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Re: Longbow vs. armor test

Postby Jonathan Waller » 12 Jan 2013 13:30

+1 impressive riding, but the speed etc. needs to be considered IMO relating to...
Would they be moving flat out like this historically?
Based upon the configuration of Medieval horses and the gate used, what would their "flat out" be.
How would that be reduced by the terrain?
Was their objective to get there fast, or get there together.
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