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Sturgeon's House

Longbow vs. Armor Testing


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If the English longbow wasn't a game-changing, armor piercing, murder weapon, I doubt the British would have been able to achieve the military success that they had over a century-and-a-half. And I doubt the English would have been keen to rely so heavily on archers.


I've always thought the tests trying to disprove the efficacy of the longbow against armor were flawed. I'm glad we live in an age where we have the technology to recreate old technology to test it's effectiveness using new technology...

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This is interesting and pretty much in line with my own (less scientific) tests. A few caveats should be mentioned, however.

One is that the longbow itself is not special. Although there is a considerable cult of the longbow whose members hold it up as some sort of perfectly crafted superweapon, the reality is that its only really unique feature (a d-section form) has been proved by testing to be worse than either a round section longbow or flatbow. In terms of energy retention and velocity, the longbow is nothing special.

What was special was the archers. Not that they were superhuman or could all draw ridiculous weights, but that they were all uniformly well trained and suported by a dedicated production and logstical infrastructure.

The second caveat concerns the real purpose of the bow: the arrows. There is considerable disagreement over whether needle-nosed bodkins (aka: the best overall performers in those tests) were used as specialist armour piercers or as xheap munitions. If the latter, than the hardened steel tips go out the window. This won't really affect the cloth or mail results, but will make the brigadine and plate results even worse.

Finally, I am somewhat skeptical that longbows were routinely fired with draw weights of over 100lb. My personal take is that the bows that have been recovered so far represent a good sample of weights (50 -90lb), while the Mary Rose bows represent unfinished weapons intended to be retillered upon issue. Others have covered the same ground:


What this test represents, then, is a best-case scenario conducted at point blank range rather than the combat-range scenario the author was envisioning.

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In actuality the Apaches were pretty weak sauce when compared to their immediate neighbors the Comanches who, in the early 18th Century, had acquired the horse. The Comanches banished the Apaches from the Southern Great Plains to the relatively undesirable wastes of New Mexico and Arizona where they were left to their own devices until the late 19th Century. The Apaches just never really had the numbers to seriously threaten their neighbors other than by psychologically galling raids. And the Apaches were just as ready to war against their fellow Apaches over scarce resources and bloody minded feuds..


The Comanches were the REAL badasses of the Great Plains and were pretty much the single reason for thwarting Spanish/Mexican expansion into Texas. This led the Spanish/Mexican authorities to turn to American settlers (mainly from the South) to help them settle Texas which ultimately led to the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas. With the advent of the six-shooter and the no-nonsense attitude taken by the Texans towards all matters Indian, the writing was on the wall for the Comanches who were led at that time by Quanah Parker (one of my favorite Indian "chiefs") who quite rightly sold out, managed to hammer out a treaty with reservation land, became a rich rancher, married a bunch of wives and did a lot of peyote. A lot of peyote.

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