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Thread: Archery

  1. #1
    Harmless Moderator Tiaexz's Avatar
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    Default Archery

    Greetings all!

    I will be honest, I am not an expert in Medieval weaponry, mostly getting my information from Total War and similar period games. I always brought up with the view about archery being a rather slow and clumsy process of firing at range, much like you see in archery contests which was replaced by the rifle due to ease of use and overall better capabilities.

    But today, I was shown this video:


    I thought this is a very interesting alternative view, focusing on how much was lost about master archery and archery lore which make us forget how powerful these weapons of destruction were.
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  2. #2
    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    It's an impressive speed indeed, but he is only using a very short draw and it does not seem to be that strong a bow. It has little to do with what was used in war.

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    Harmless Moderator Tiaexz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    The shots go through chain-mail as shown in the video and he fires from the different postures from the records and using literature materials about wartime archery as sources to replicate.

    So it could be far closer than what we think.
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  4. #4
    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    We have no idea about the quality of the armour. There is a big difference between some cheap replica type and the real deal. He does not use a strong warbow nor is pulling to behind the ear when he beat Legolas

    There are indeed illustrations with archers using rather short draws. There is AFAIK still debate among scholars about the meaning: ignorant illustrators or weak (untrained) archers perhaps even using a shortbow (if that ever really existed)

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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Already saw hungarian reenactors/archers using similar techniques, with the same results...
    Definitely fits with harassing tactics, but I personally never liked those armour piercing tests: perpendicular shots from relative short rage, against an armour on a solid and plain surface, never felt "battle realistic" to me...

  6. #6
    Intelligent Idiot Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    I'm an archer (although I haven't practiced in a few years). That guy's technique doesn't seem very practical to me. A bow drawn only half way won't have very much power and distance, and you can see in the video almost all of his shots are at close range. At the end of the video it says the bows he used had draw weights of 30 and 35 lbs, which explains how he was able to draw so quickly and shoot accurately. For comparison a war bow would have a draw weight around 80 to 100 lbs. As a bow's draw weight increases it becomes a lot harder to shoot accurately, and as you can imagine drawing the bow is a lot slower as well.

    I could be wrong but I think that kind of shooting is only possible with really light weight bows, which don't have the penetration power to be of any use in a combat situation.

    That guy's skill were pretty impressive though, and I thought it was interesting that he based his technique on ancient sources. Who knows maybe that kind of technique really was used in warfare, but my guess is the Persians and Arabs liked fancy trick shooting just as much as we do.

  7. #7
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    The arabs were famous for their archery skills, an elite archer could fire an arrow a second, or fire 5 arrows at once
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Archery

    I believe "legolas archery" really came into it's own during William Wallace's time and was the best counter to Kilted Braveheart Infantry....

  9. #9
    Formerly Wigferth Ironwall Senior Member Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Quote Originally Posted by Tuuvi View Post
    I'm an archer (although I haven't practiced in a few years). That guy's technique doesn't seem very practical to me. A bow drawn only half way won't have very much power and distance, and you can see in the video almost all of his shots are at close range. At the end of the video it says the bows he used had draw weights of 30 and 35 lbs, which explains how he was able to draw so quickly and shoot accurately. For comparison a war bow would have a draw weight around 80 to 100 lbs. As a bow's draw weight increases it becomes a lot harder to shoot accurately, and as you can imagine drawing the bow is a lot slower as well.

    I could be wrong but I think that kind of shooting is only possible with really light weight bows, which don't have the penetration power to be of any use in a combat situation.

    That guy's skill were pretty impressive though, and I thought it was interesting that he based his technique on ancient sources. Who knows maybe that kind of technique really was used in warfare, but my guess is the Persians and Arabs liked fancy trick shooting just as much as we do.
    That looks credible as a technique for clearing an area quickly, say to keep back advancing infantry. Bear in mind, there are no living "Master" archers and nobody alive who has used an actual warbow professionally, so what this proves is that a man is capable of doing this - from that you can extrapolate that an archer was capable of doing, historically, with a heavier bow.

    Remember, pure draw weight is not the only important thing about a bow, the shape and how the bow deforms are what really determine whether the power stored in the spring is employed effectively. For example - when you release a recurve bow the string actually accelerates as the bow recovers from being deformed, that massively increases the arrow velocity compared to the same poundage on the string of a self bow.
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  10. #10
    Harmless Moderator Tiaexz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    He also says he has only been practising for 3-4 years and he states that Persian Archers were raised from a young age, so they grew up learning to use the bow as their way of life, and bringing in 10 years or so of experience, so he hypothesises that these Persian Archers would be far more deadlier than himself and trained by professional and experienced archers, compared to him who is self-teaching himself from experience and reading.
    Last edited by Tiaexz; 12-08-2012 at 02:13.
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  11. #11
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Persians were raised as children?

    Okokok that was daft. But that guy has some amazing skill, I absolutely cannot do that. I can continuiosly hit a target 20 meter at best and I need minutes to do it, what he does there is amazing.
    Last edited by Fragony; 12-07-2012 at 08:39.
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    Intelligent Idiot Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    That looks credible as a technique for clearing an area quickly, say to keep back advancing infantry. Bear in mind, there are no living "Master" archers and nobody alive who has used an actual warbow professionally, so what this proves is that a man is capable of doing this - from that you can extrapolate that an archer was capable of doing, historically, with a heavier bow.
    Good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Remember, pure draw weight is not the only important thing about a bow, the shape and how the bow deforms are what really determine whether the power stored in the spring is employed effectively. For example - when you release a recurve bow the string actually accelerates as the bow recovers from being deformed, that massively increases the arrow velocity compared to the same poundage on the string of a self bow.
    True, but draw weight is still the main indicator of how powerful a bow will be. A 30 lb. recurve bow won't be as powerful as a 60 lb. selfbow.

  13. #13
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Lucky owner of a custom W&w custom made recurve. I am not very good with it though. But it will shoot through just about anything. Archery is really hard I am happy enough if the release is right, lf I actually hit something that's a great bonus.

    Just about this one but with other stabilisers http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=p4mJdb65d30
    Last edited by Fragony; 12-07-2012 at 20:41.
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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Does an increased rate of fire, really equal an increase in lethality?

    From the little I know, missiles were really used to disrupt formations or hinder the opponent...
    I remember arab texts, teaching riders to aim the unarmoured areas of horses, so that the heavy cavalry or infantry could deal with the now dismounted enemy...

  15. #15
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    They switched to heavier arrows later as light arrows had little effect against armour, a heavy arrow is just as deadly as a crossbow-bolt and they could fire one a second. Takes years to be able to do that though.
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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Even taking Agincourt into account, the real killers were the stakes and the mud, in as much they rendered the cavalry charge useless and slowed down the infantry, which yes was under heavy fire, but made it to the English...

    Most were trampled by the retreating cavalry or killed in close quarters by the more agile and lighter bowmen...
    I just don't see this "deadliness" of arrows...

  17. #17
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Ever shot one? It may feel a bit light but it will shoot right through 5 centimeters of wood easily. The arabs adopted the Byzantine heavy arrow later, these can penetrate any armour. Mine are titanium and will shoot right through a car
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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Besides the fact that quilted surcoats stopped arrows alone without armours, which isn't really my point, Not everyone carried 100+ arrows, and if they shot like that guy in the video, give it 5 mins and the opposing army, with few casualties in the front lines, would close in and have fun with these uber archers :P

    Taking a well oiled military machine, both pratically and theoretically, like the mongol army, by wearing silk they minimized the effect of arrow wounds...
    Brainstorming more battles, at Crécy, again more engineer work and weather, not to mention the unusual and unchivalrous use of cannons (which means one side played by the older rules), helped the bows a LOT...

    Also, when you look at it, in all those occasions the French didn't suffer that many casualties, exception being Agincourt, but that's because Henry ordered to kill all the prisoners...
    What I'm saying is that bows weren't gamebreakers, they in fact offered an obstacle to the opponent and needed much support by any tactical field...
    Most of all they probably wounded and caused psychological damage more than actual killing...
    Last edited by Arjos; 12-08-2012 at 11:09.

  19. #19
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    They wore silk because it was easier to get the arrow out that way, it would 'catch' lighter arrows and they could just pull them out. There have absolutely been hard hitting arrows.

    Edit, little correction the mongols didn't, Chinese are guilty of that

    Edit, you should try a shot, you will immediatly understand how hard an arrow hits. It doesn't look like much but it will go right through you.
    Last edited by Fragony; 12-08-2012 at 14:56.
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    Master of useless knowledge Senior Member Zoo Keeper Champion, Kitten Shooting Champion, Eskiv Champion, Alien Commander Champion Ironside's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Quote Originally Posted by Arjos View Post
    Besides the fact that quilted surcoats stopped arrows alone without armours, which isn't really my point, Not everyone carried 100+ arrows, and if they shot like that guy in the video, give it 5 mins and the opposing army, with few casualties in the front lines, would close in and have fun with these uber archers :P
    Practical use would probably be more of a close range burst right before melee. That was quite efffective long into the gunpowder era.
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  21. #21
    Harmless Moderator Tiaexz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Quote Originally Posted by Ironside View Post
    Practical use would probably be more of a close range burst right before melee. That was quite efffective long into the gunpowder era.
    Considering the ammo required to do a burst, that would make sense. To use rapid-fire during instances of "impossible to miss" situations where the arrows will all be hitting targets.
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    Elephant Master Member Conqueror's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Would this sort of close-range rapid shooting be useful in raids? I've got the impression that especially during medieval era, large set-piece battles were more the exception than the norm, with smaller scale skirmishes and raiding being a more common form of military action. Looking only at the famous big battles may not be a very good way to estimate the effectiveness of a weapons system.

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  23. #23

    Default Re: Archery

    Good point Conqueror. While you are at it, how about siege warfare? If the attackers launch an assult, then rapid fire might be important for beating off the assult, or, from the attackers' viewpoint, for surpressing the defenders' missle fire.
    In those simple times there was a great wonder and mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, with Heaven very close above his head, and Hell below his very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, in the rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. The Devil too raged openly upon the earth; he skulked behind the hedge-rows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly in the night-time; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on the unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered villainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an angel of grace . . .

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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Tbh the whole mentality of the raid, is to assault fast and possibly undefended places, to acquire loot/resources/slaves...

    Sure, there could be few defenders, but nothing exceptional...
    As for sieges, I think stone projectiles, were preferred: we have archaeological finds for such missiles, from the Persians, to the roman castra...

    Attackers developed engines to advance protected, heavy stones or fire (hooks too), were the real counters...
    But I completely agree about suppressing fire, that was the foremost quality of archery...

  25. #25

    Default Re: Archery

    I'm not sure I follow your reasoning.

    If the attackers used ladders, as they sometimes did, how would they advance up them with protective engines? Obviously, they could not, and would be more vulnerable to arrows than to catapult stones (although not necessarily less vulnerable to stones dropped from above.)

    If the attackers made a breach in a wall with their engines, would they really advance slowly through it under cover, trying to move their wheeled engines over piles of rubble, or rush through, depending on speed and numbers to carry the assult? If they tried a rush, might not lots of arrows be more useful than a handful of catapult stones which were so inaccurate that they might hit the defenders gathered around the breach?

    Obviously, seige engines were important for seiges, and no one doubts the evidence that they were used, but there is also evidence that archers were used in seiges. Just because their role was different than seige engines does not mean it was unimportant.
    In those simple times there was a great wonder and mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, with Heaven very close above his head, and Hell below his very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, in the rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. The Devil too raged openly upon the earth; he skulked behind the hedge-rows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly in the night-time; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on the unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered villainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an angel of grace . . .

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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    I wasn't speaking of catapults, but several hand-sized stone projectiles and boulders, that were found...

    Breaches were made either by sappers (and in this case usually taking down towers aswell, so that the defenders didn't really have an higher ground) or by battering, in which case the attackers, did advance protected...
    Afterwards they organically plunged in: some at the periphery, trying to protect with shields their comrades; the few archers (and torsion weapons if were available) further back, suppressing any defender and those closer to the breach, pouring in as fast as possible, to overwhelm the defenders by sheer number...

    Later, if you take the Romani, it was all about medicolously advancing, while raising earthworks...

    The bottom line is that either the defenders are vastly outnumbered, in which case the attacker devised plans to assault by engineering, because soon as the walls were compromised, it was pretty much over; otherwise if the garrison was substantial, the attacker, simply had to cut supply lines and let hunger do the rest...

    With clever planning, an attacker didn't require to rush things up, we have texts for example, mentioning "ship's prows", that is protective structures, permitting the engineers and attackers to advance slowly, while escavating trenches and building any kind of wooden structure, to facilitate the attack...

    In my view, defenders had to worry more about such engines and how to counter them (tactically and architecturally), than to kill every single attacker...
    Last edited by Arjos; 12-18-2012 at 04:38.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Archery

    Well, I don't want to get bogged down in a long discussion about the details of seiges, which is rather off topic. Let me just point out:

    1: you seem to be focussing on the wrong period for this thread (see the initial post)
    2: medieval attackers and defenders alike provided themselves with archers, and castles were obviously built with intention of making the most out of archers (not the only goal of military architecture, nor necessarily the most important, but it was a goal) and during a seige literally thousands of arrrows might be fired. All rather a waste of time and money, I would think, if it was not really useful.
    In those simple times there was a great wonder and mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, with Heaven very close above his head, and Hell below his very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, in the rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. The Devil too raged openly upon the earth; he skulked behind the hedge-rows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly in the night-time; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on the unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered villainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an angel of grace . . .

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  28. #28
    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    Was mentioning ancient ones for the variety of engines they developed and influenced tactics ever since...
    If you prefer medieval sieges is all fine by me:

    Be it Jerusalem, Tyre or Kerak, for example, the same mentality was followed: using raw material from galleys to build towers and engines, use galleys with stone projectiles as mobile artillery or coming to the city with catapults...
    Attacking archers had the main object to harass the defenders, to keep them busy, not as much because otherwise they would've killed every single moving being under the walls, but because they would've made it harder to bring the towers to the walls or to sap. Not to mention setting fire/destroying to the attacking engines (and frankly, that would be due to other substances and again boulders, not arrows)...

    During those years, defenders would sally forth, with the prime target being the destruction of those machines...

    It was no accident, that the Mongols conquered the world, only after acquiring the knowledge for siege warfare from the Chinese...
    In general archers need support from heavier soldiers, because their feature is harassing and imparing, not sharpshooting and 1 shot-1 kill fantasies...

    Mind you, I'm not saying they weren't useful, quite the opposite, but that they performed all the killing (or the vast majority), imo, it's a misconception...
    Last edited by Arjos; 12-18-2012 at 06:53.

  29. #29

    Default Re: Archery

    Arjos, I keep getting the feeling that you are making up my side of the conversation for me. I never said that archers did most of the killing. I never said that seige engines were not more important in seiges than archers. I never said archers were some kind of super sniper "one shot one kill."

    This is what I had to say:


    1: in evaluating archers one should keep in mind that they were useful in seiges as well as battle.
    2: the ability of archers to shoot faster than most weapons at that time would contribute to their usefulness in seiges in certain curcumstances

    If you want to disprove either of those points, go ahead. If fact if you want to disprove anything, go ahead. I just wonder if you actually read my posts before responding to them.

    Edit: and now I'm feeling a little ashamed of myself. After all, people do misunderstand each other sometimes, so why should I accuse Arjos of not bothering to read my posts?
    Last edited by Brandy Blue; 12-18-2012 at 22:48.
    In those simple times there was a great wonder and mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, with Heaven very close above his head, and Hell below his very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, in the rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. The Devil too raged openly upon the earth; he skulked behind the hedge-rows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly in the night-time; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on the unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered villainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an angel of grace . . .

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  30. #30
    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Archery

    I agreed with you from the start about "suppressing fire", then I was responding to some of your specific points (why a certain age, what really seems to have happened during sieges and how big a part archers had)...

    Other sentences were to get back in line to the thread feeling, that archers were "deadlier", thanks to the rate of fire, etc...
    Sorry, to come out as particularly aiming (:P) at you...

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