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Thread: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

  1. #1

    Default (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    There are rather a lot of slingers in EB (and vanilla and other RTW era mods), and they're pretty handy. Rhodian and Balearic slingers were famous, even I've heard of them. I translated bits of the Anabasis that mentioned slingers at school. Yet one hardly ever sees them mentioned later in history.

    What happened? Why did they go out of fashion?

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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    For two reasond mainly. The sling is hard to learn to use well and it allows a peasent to take down an armoured warrior.
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla
    For two reasond mainly. The sling is hard to learn to use well and it allows a peasent to take down an armoured warrior.
    And because of that the peasants didn't use slings anymore?

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    Abou's nemesis Member Krusader's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cybvep
    And because of that the peasants didn't use slings anymore?
    More like they weren't allowed. And also you could get more troops into the field by getting them to use bows instead which was much quicker to learn.
    On a related note, Western European Knights tried to get the Pope to ban the use of crossbows because it was a 'cowardly weapon'. Real reason of course was that it basically took a few hours to learn the basics of using a crossbow, while it took 15 years to become a knight. For many a knight it must have been bad knowing one has spent his entire childhood being a squire and when he finally is a knight, he can get bolted down by some down-trodden peasant who has spent his childhood growing crops and just a few hours training to use a wooden stick which happens to be quite lethal.

    Who knows, maybe there was something similar going on earlier among other nobles?
    Last edited by Krusader; 08-29-2007 at 12:11.
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    EBII Mod Leader Member Foot's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cybvep
    And because of that the peasants didn't use slings anymore?
    No, people just stopped using on battlefields. Same reason why archery went out of fashion to the crossbow. Peasants still use slings today, but it is a weapon that is only of any use in mountainous terrain. Made one myself the other day, just a little experiment, quite fun really.

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    fancy assault unit Member blank's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Foot
    No, people just stopped using on battlefields. Same reason why archery went out of fashion to the crossbow.
    Foot
    ...and why crossbows went out of fashion due to the arrival of firearms...

    Since it is easier to use, there is no point in, say, having 10 slingers while your enemy can train 150 archers at the same time
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    EBII Mod Leader Member Foot's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by blank
    ...and why crossbows went out of fashion due to the arrival of firearms...

    Since it is easier to use, there is no point in, say, having 10 slingers while your enemy can train 150 archers at the same time
    I don't know if muskets were easier, they seem more complicated than just pulling back a string and sticking a bolt in. I think the crossbow to gunpowder was more driven by the superior power (particularly emotionally - the deafening roar would have scared the shit out of those who had never seen something like that before) of the musket over the crossbow.

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    EB annoying hornet Member bovi's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    It certainly was a lot less effective at reloading at first than the crossbow. The psychological effect had to be very important for a couple of years perhaps, but not once everyone had encountered it before. I would guess the balls provided more reliable killing of armoured enemies, IE a greater chance of penetration?

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  9. #9

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Not really, decent arrows (meaning: good quality arrow heads) would penetrate even steel armour. Which was the main advantage over say longbowmen: longbowsmen typically used their own arrows; with iron heads and they would bend on impact (but not penetrate steel).
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    EBII Mod Leader Member Foot's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tellos Athenaios
    Not really, decent arrows (meaning: good quality arrow heads) would penetrate even steel armour. Which was the main advantage over say longbowmen: longbowsmen typically used their own arrows; with iron heads and they would bend on impact (but not penetrate steel).
    Have you ever seen what a musket ball did? It pancaked out and made a very large very round hole in the person hit. It didn't cause incapacitating wounds, it killed them outright. You could survive a bolt, you couldn't survive a musket ball. The only saving grace of a musket was its inherent inaccuracy (until they got the rifle).

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    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Slings were the typical weapon for poor shepherds because it was cheap and simple to make. It was a weapon best suited for skirmishers in loose formation because each slinger needed a lot more room to operate than any other missile weapon. Stones or leadballs also doesnt have the same penetrative power compared to arrows/bolts.

    Bows have existed for thousands of years and seems to have been the preferred weapon for hunting. So its not like slings were the only weapon used in Ancient armies.

    So when an army had the opportunity to train and equip missile units, instead of just hiring whatever they could get in the local area (poor slingers looking for money), it was much better to go for bows.

    ----------

    The pope didnt just try to ban crossbows. It was both bows and crossbows and IIRC two popes tried but as history shows it was not very successful.

    ----------

    Getting hit by any missile weapon is generally not good but a musket was certainly not a insta-death weapon. With the limited medicine in those day, a hit in the torso and especially in the guts was very bad for the chances of survival, but some did.

    ----------

    Tests with handguns shows muzzle velocities of around 350 m/s and arquebuses either same or perhaps 400 m/s. At shorter ranges that produced penetration equal to the standard crossbow if not better. They were much cheaper to make than crossbows, the higher velocties meant soldiers had to worry less about range/elevation, and movement of enemy soldiers had less effect. So although they could not deploy in deep ranks and shoot massive volleys as bows/crossbow could, they were perfect for siegework and for skirmishers.


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  12. #12

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morte66
    There are rather a lot of slingers in EB (and vanilla and other RTW era mods), and they're pretty handy. Rhodian and Balearic slingers were famous, even I've heard of them. I translated bits of the Anabasis that mentioned slingers at school. Yet one hardly ever sees them mentioned later in history.

    What happened? Why did they go out of fashion?
    Well, actually they didn't. It is just that with Cavalry becoming prevalent and infantry getting a backseat (only spearmen and archers), they just got "demoted" to provincial and backward places. I imagine they would be used a lot in situations where the infantry could feel secure from quick cav thrusts that would decimate them.

    Case in point. Byzantine slingers in a silver "plate" from about 730 AD.







    and


    Now, so far as training slingers are concerned, I have to admit I have read nothing of them. The main reason, as I added earlier, is that now the enemy had a lot more cavalry than in Hellenistic times and the main slingers' targer, phallanx was only used by Byzantines.

    Bows can be used with infantry (spearmen mostly) screen, slingers can't. Thus they fell out of use, as it was no longer feasible to have units out in the open as light cav, which was prevalent at the time, would eat them for breakfast.

    In Alexiad, Alexios Komnenos in his final campaign against the Turks when he trained his troops to fight it was in bow, spear and sword. No slings are mentioned. Thus, my theory is that if slingers did in fact exist, they would probably be used in small scale by least trained militia units (basically shepherds pressed into service) and against armored knights either foot or on horse, as they wouldn't be able to retaliate as much as the light cav/HA would.

    All in all, I believe they did exist, and were used but not extensively as in Hellenistic era. I would consider them a dirtcheap unit which could do substantial damage to armored opponents as the slings wouldn't need to penetrate the armor, but from a protected place, and without anyone standing in front. They would be eaten alive by light cav, which was the mainstay of all armies at the time.
    Last edited by keravnos; 08-29-2007 at 15:38.


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    EB annoying hornet Member bovi's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by CBR
    They were much cheaper to make than crossbows
    Really? I would think that a musket required more time to make, and more metal? What makes the crossbow so expensive?

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  14. #14

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    good points keravnos.

    The sling has survived to this day in its non-militaristic uses. The Baelarics still maintain the tradition and train in its use extensively, competitions are held on the island and on Spain. Apache natives in North America hunted with them and some are still very well trained in its use, though i dont know if they still use it for this purpose. They employ their own slinging technique and style of construction.

    a lot of good info can be found at slinging.org: they have pics of spanish infantrymen using it during WW2 to launch granades, and more recent military uses

  15. #15

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Both Sling and Bows take a lifetime of training to become good at. However, of the two, Bows are a lot more effective. Not just in killing power, but arrows can be loosened much faster, about 10 arrows per minute, than slinging stones. And u can put men closer together and loose arrows. Additionaly, arrows can be fired with a high angle and then fired straight, and BOTH vollies will land at the SAME time. One overhead, one straight on. Very effective and deadly.


    On the subject of crossbows and fireweapons. Both of them took a very short time to become good at. Thats why they were used all over and hated. However, u gotta remember both weapons were used together at the same time. Even the Spanish conquistadors had fire weapons and crossbows. Both Crossbows and fireweapons were very good at penetrating armor and BOTH were used. BUT, as time passed as gun poweder technology was further refined, the fireweapon started being better and better than a crossbow until the crossbow was dropped completely. Also, add a long knife to a rifle and you have a PIKE!

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    Member Member Chris1959's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    One can argue the pros and cons of a weapons effectiveness against others ad-infinitum, i.e. slig to bow, regarding range, killing power training etc.

    For one to fall out of favour then it is probably less easy to use effectively on the battlefield.

    Without being an expert it would appear the sling has a relatively flat trajectory and needs more room to swing, so one could field more bowmen on the same frontage and in a deeper formation as they can fire over head on a higher trajectory.

    Also in a siege a bowman would have to expose himelf less to fire from a crenallation or arrow slit.

    Otherwise why stop using a weapon that is very effective, cheap to manufacture and a secondary supply of ammo just lying on the ground.
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    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by bovi
    Really? I would think that a musket required more time to make, and more metal? What makes the crossbow so expensive?
    AFAIK both composite and steel prods took more labor to make than an iron tube. The lock mechanism of a crossbow was also more complex than what was used on a arquebus and had to deal with the strong draw weights of a crossbow.

    Its not so much about the weight of materials as how many manhours were needed, but I actually think a steel prod did weigh more than the barrel of at least handguns, but I'd have to check to be sure.

    The biggest cost issue for guns was gunpowder which saw a continuous decrease throughout the 15th century (IIRC costs were reduced by 50% in that century). Of course lead balls were cheaper to make than arrows/bolt so overall the difference of cost of ammunition might not have been that big.


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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by keravnos
    The main reason, as I added earlier, is that now the enemy had a lot more cavalry than in Hellenistic times and the main slingers' targer, phallanx was only used by Byzantines.

    Bows can be used with infantry (spearmen mostly) screen, slingers can't. Thus they fell out of use, as it was no longer feasible to have units out in the open as light cav, which was prevalent at the time, would eat them for breakfast.
    Ah, thank you. That makes good sense.

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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Foot
    Have you ever seen what a musket ball did? It pancaked out and made a very large very round hole in the person hit. It didn't cause incapacitating wounds, it killed them outright. You could survive a bolt, you couldn't survive a musket ball. The only saving grace of a musket was its inherent inaccuracy (until they got the rifle).

    Foot
    Foot, I replied too:

    Quote Originally Posted by bovi
    I would guess the balls provided more reliable killing of armoured enemies, IE a greater chance of penetration?
    Which is not the case.

    Argue as much as you want, but a little physics dictates that equal force spread out over a larger area means less penetration. (Provided all other factors, such as mass of the missile are equal.) Hence arrows shot from a crossbow have more "AP" than a bullet from a sling or musket. In fact a modern crossbow, outperforms many a modern handgun if it comes to "AP".

    The main thing why a bolt/arrow is generally speaking not quite as lethal as a bullet is the fact that a bullet causes lots of internal bleeding; if it comes to the worst the bullet shatters on impact, puncturing a large area of organs/veins. An arrow is more of a 'clean shot'.
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    Member Member geala's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    I concur with most of the posts before.

    Slings were however used on a certain level through the middle ages by the rural population. There are f.e. reports from HREGN from the 17th c. AD about pesky youths shooting at everything with their slings. That was seen as normal behavior.

    Slings were no longer used in war on a broader scale because warfare had changed and/or better alternatives existed. There are of course some astonishing reports from the ancient times about slings (Roman ships with additional protective curtains near the Balearics f.e.). On the other hand numbers of slingers were often relatively low even in the ancient times and other than at Eknomos 311 I never read about decisive use in a battle.

    Energy and momentum of sling shots are not greater than that of arrows, bolts and javelins. It was indeed never the mass dead weapon as it appeared in EB. For example, remember Xenophons mention about the bad sling missiles which enter the body so that the skin closes behind. Cruel...or not? Everybody who has spent only a little bit time with modern handgun ballistics knows that projectiles without deep penetration are normally very bad performers. If a sling shot/bullet enters the body for perhaps 3 or 4 cm that is not sheer devastation but a minor wound presumably without incapacitation (if it hits the throat or the spine it is another case but these are very small areas). Nearly all important human organs are deep in the body. So sling shots must rely on their (rather low) impact energy to wound, maim or kill. This is not a very reliable way to incapacitate a person. An arrow was a much better projectile, capable to penetrate unprotected body parts even near the end of its trajectory.

    Of course slings could kill people. Mardonios at Plataia was probably killed by a sling stone hitting his head. But even head shots were not always deadly. At Cannae Aemilius Paullus was hit in the face by a sling shot in the first phases of the fight but later we see him still fighting in the center of the battle.

    Why did the Greeks, Celts, ... used the sling? They had many people with skills with the sling and often no better alternative.
    Last edited by geala; 08-29-2007 at 19:24.
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Hmmm, yes. When Civil War era armour was "proved" a pistol was fired at it at close range, if the armour only dented it was good.

    Early muskets were probably cheaper than crossbows but the fireing time would have been close to the difference between bow and crossbow, i.e. poor. Even in Napolienic times the British were the only ones who could fire four rounds a minute.
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by geala

    Energy and momentum of sling shots are not greater than that of arrows, bolts and javelins. It was indeed never the mass dead weapon as it appeared in EB. For example, remember Xenophons mention about the bad sling missiles which enter the body so that the skin closes behind. Cruel...or not? Everybody who has spent only a little bit time with modern handgun ballistics knows that projectiles without deep penetration are normally very bad performers. If a sling shot/bullet enters the body for perhaps 3 or 4 cm that is not sheer devastation but a minor wound presumably without incapacitation (if it hits the throat or the spine it is another case but these are very small areas). Nearly all important human organs are deep in the body. So sling shots must rely on their (rather low) impact energy to wound, maim or kill. This is not a very reliable way to incapacitate a person. An arrow was a much better projectile, capable to penetrate unprotected body parts even near the end of its trajectory.
    I think you're underestimating the amount of kinetic energy a fist sized rock will have on impact. They are dense and will have a lot more energy at a similar distance when compared with arrows.

    If I had to put forth an educated-guess as to why they fell out of use, it would because of their simplicity they could not benefit much from technological advancement. As composite bows became more widely used and arrowheads were refined they could outperform slings, which could not benefit from any other new advancement.
    and of course, include the others' points from before:
    -requiring extensive training
    -slower rate of fire
    -larger formations
    when compared with archery.


    One thing of note is the use of 'staff-slings' in seiges, which was being done during the medieval age. These were basically man powered trebuchets which could fire head sized rocks onto or over battlements.

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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elthore
    good points keravnos.


    a lot of good info can be found at slinging.org: they have pics of spanish infantrymen using it during WW2 to launch granades, and more recent military uses
    sry 2 be off topic but



    Spain was in WW2???????????

  24. #24

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    oops, spanish civil war, right before ww2...the socialist vs facist deal

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    Abou's nemesis Member Krusader's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by K COSSACK
    sry 2 be off topic but



    Spain was in WW2???????????
    No and yes. Either Elthore is thinking of wrong nationality or wrong war...or he could be right and think about the Blue Legion (was it?) a SS division or brigade made up of Spanish volunteers.
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    Member Member geala's Avatar
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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elthore
    I think you're underestimating the amount of kinetic energy a fist sized rock will have on impact. They are dense and will have a lot more energy at a similar distance when compared with arrows.
    ...


    We don't have to estimate the energy and momentum of sling shots, arrows and bolts, we can calculate it. They have roughly the same performance. We can get the data from reconstructions of ancient and medieval weapons. A typical glandes has a weight of between 30 and 70 grams. Due to human construction and physics such a weight can not be accelerated ad infinitum with a sling. A velocity of the glandes of about 50-60 m/s is normal from a common sling. If we take 60 m/s (which is rather fast) for a glandes of 50 grams we get an E0 of 90 Joule. A typical arrow (not of a Skythic bow but of other composite or strong self bows) weights about the same and travels with about the same velocity when shot from a strong bow of perhaps 100 lbs. It is no magic that it has the same energy (and btw momentum).

    Heavy arrows from strong English bows reach perhaps up to 140 Joule. Same for strong crossbow bolts. Maybe also heavy sling shots (the fist sized stone you mentioned, with far fewer range however) reached such an energy. That is however still a very low energy compared to the projectiles of muskets or modern guns. Even a medium handgun bullet has an E0 of about 500 Joule (9 mm Luger or .45 ACP). What do you think happens if you would be hit by such a handgun bullet on an aramid vest? It hurts a lot and you get a bruise, nothing more. Then imagine the impact of a glandes/stone on a linen or bronze armour... maybe the warrior would have noticed the noise (exaggerated ). And please take into account that a heavy low velocity projectile like a sling shot looses energy rather fast, and the enemy was not 0 metres away. Only the very good aerodynamic performance of arrows and glandes allow for the reaches of 200 to 300 metres.
    The queen commands and we'll obey
    Over the Hills and far away.
    (perhaps from an English Traditional, about 1700 AD)

    Drum, Kinder, seid lustig und allesamt bereit:
    Auf, Ansbach-Dragoner! Auf, Ansbach-Bayreuth!
    (later chorus -containing a wrong regimental name for the Bayreuth-Dragoner (DR Nr. 5) - of the "Hohenfriedberger Marsch", reminiscense of a battle in 1745 AD, to the music perhaps of an earlier cuirassier march)

  27. #27

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    There are some very rounded opinions here, and I think they all contribute to the abandonment of certain weapons.

    However there is one argument left to be discussed.


    Energy - Human Energy


    You can always count on human beings trying to find the easiest/most efficient way to do things, it's in our genes to try to conserve our own energy. Who after all wants to spend years in training, or hour upon hour pulling back a 140lb bow, or getting a bad back hunched over a crossbow trying to get the drawstring back?


    From sling to gun, you can see the human mind at work finding the easiest most efficient way to kill from range.


    And the gun truely is the lazy mans most deadly weapon - energy saving, easy to learn, easy to make, easy to kill.




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    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by Krusader
    No and yes. Either Elthore is thinking of wrong nationality or wrong war...or he could be right and think about the Blue Legion (was it?) a SS division or brigade made up of Spanish volunteers.
    There was legendary spanish warriors of the ancient era that was painted blue also right? could that SS division be like a homage to their predecessor?

  29. #29

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Quote Originally Posted by K COSSACK
    There was legendary spanish warriors of the ancient era that was painted blue also right? could that SS division be like a homage to their predecessor?
    Sounds like it...



    Back on topic.

    I don't know about you guys but bows are NOT easy to master. The English longbowmen practiced SINCE childhood to fire arrows, and almost everyone was required to learn the skill. This is why the French (or any other European country) could never field an effective Archer force like the English. So the French and the rest had to stick with crossbows, and later bring in more guns and cannons.

    Hell, even the Romans had to "import" their "Quality" archers from either Crete, or other locations in the East.

  30. #30

    Default Re: (Historical) Why did slingers disappear?

    Waitaminute... you are talking about the longbow; which indeed requires quite a bit of practice. (And despite the myths surrounding it, isn't such a great weapon anyway.) The main reason is that you've got to develop the muscle & technique to use a longbow.

    On the other hand, cheap and cheerful bows only require you a few months of practice to get as far as to allow the unit to shoot a volley. And that's all there is to archery (or any other kind of missile-based warfare, save for the siege engines): firing lot's of rounds reasonably quickly and hope that some missiles will hit the mark. You will not be able to fire at the same range a longbowman would, but then again you will not have to practice as much.

    Now the crossbow provided the inexperience archer with a powerful long range weapon which had a much improved accuracy at that. However it took considerably more time to load, shoot and reload than any other type of bow would. And the bow was more expensive.

    The only reason the English had a particular effective archery was that unlike many other medieval armies; the English army had to be payed for by the King. And the King went cheap and cheerful: preferring the 5 pence archer over the 40 shilling nobleman (day wages). (Figures are to give the impression, not to be accurate!) So the English armies simply featured a lot of them, increasing the amount of firepower. Which didn't mean much as soon as steel plate armour was worn: the longbowmen use iron arrow heads, which would bend on impact instead of penetrating the armour.
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