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Arrows vs armour

Discussion in 'Research' started by Aldarion, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    Inspired by statement in "Bullets vs armour" thread.

    That is... well, it depends. On the armour, and on the arrow. Properly made and maintained plate armour was more-or-less impervious to arrows even at point-blank. Problem is, medieval armour would have impurities, and was not always well maintained.

    This is the only really accurate video I know of (as in, replicates properties of both arrows and armour of the period):


    Most other videos make mistakes which result in biased outcome (either too weak bows - low draw weight, inexpert archer, wrongly-made arrow heads; or else too strong or too weak armour - inaccurate materials, inaccurate shaping etc.). This test however:
    1) Guy shoots a 200-lbs longbow. As I recall, Mary Rose longbows were about 150 - 200 lbs draw weight. So, historically accurate.
    2) Arrows are made by a full-time fletcher and arrowsmith, by medieval methods.
    3) Armour is also made by an armourer who specializes in smithing with 15-th century smithing methods, and who also does conservation metalwork.

    They first did some test shots. At 25 meters, arrow has energy of 109 joules. He also states that he shoots at 160 lbs, but can shoot at 200 lbs; however, 160 lbs bow was more likely the one used for warfare, as a 200 lbs bow tires archer out too quickly (so what I got from that is: you train with 200 lbs bow so that you can actually utilize 160 lbs bow in battle). Both bow and arrows are based on the Mary Rose finds.

    Armour is based on 1390 breastplate; it has physical design and carbon content of the original, as well as its weight and dimensions. Thickness is 2,5 mm in the center, and tapers off to 1,5 mm at the sides. Original breastplates would max out at 0,6% carbon content, while this piece has 0,5% carbon content so it is closer to the average. It is also made the same way as the original (e.g. air-cooling). Plate is backed by riveted mail and arming doublet. Everything is placed on ballistic gel, which compresses like human body would; the only shortcoming I can see is that ballistic gel has no bones, and even bullets can deflect off e.g. ribs.

    In tests, arrow penetrates mail and padding as if it weren't there, but simply deflects off the plate.

    Also, arrows are not reusable. Unless they miss, the head breaks off at the impact. However, case-hardened arrowheads do bite more than non-hardened arrowheads.

    EDIT:
    Later part of the test includes addition of textile armour over plate. It acts as "arrow catcher", and stops arrows from exploding. It also reduces impression on the armour - there are no deep dents from when textile armour was used over the plate

    At 10 meters, with no textile again, arrow makes deeper impact but still fails to get through.

    This is good addition to the video by scholagladiatoria:
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Anything like this for mail? I dislike using plate in my stories.
     
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    None that are as well-done as this one, but I recall a few being out there. I will try to find something reasonably accurate and get back when I do.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    And now it's got me thinking. What about magic armor? Not armor that is itself magical, though that's an option, but how would armor have developed if there were people on the battlefield who could throw fireballs? Or iceballs or mudballs. Airballs don't seem too scary. Or against magic missiles, or any of the other standard D&D-type magical attacks. More generally, if you grow your own magic, you can't just take the armor for granted.

    I may have to wrestle with this one in my WIP. Thanks fer nuthin' Aldarion. <g>
     
  5. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    OK, first for mail vs armour. In the video I discussed above, there is actually one moment where arrow deflects off the lower edge of breastplate into the mail. It very cleanly penetrates both mail and gambeson.


    I also found this video, and it is a clear penetration:


    As for magic armour, that depends on what magic can do. In my setting I opted for magic hardening of armour to better resist missile attacks (so no gundpowder weapons, now or ever: when they develop ironclads, it will be ram-to-sink type only); similar can be used against purely-magical attacks as well. If spells can extend past armour, then I do not see much difference in armour development. If they cannot, then you will see an effort to minimize (even more) exposed parts which can only be covered by chain mesh; so no open-faced helmets, better underarm protection (larger shoulder plate or else earlier appearance of roundels), and in general earlier appearance of full plate armour and similar styles which do not leave million small holes for flames to pass through (so if you do not have technology for full plate armour, you will see various types of lamellar or brigandine armour be widely utilized).
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Thanks for that. WRT mail, much depends on the power of the bow and the range. And a bunch of other variables.

    As for magic, I'm still chewing over that one. It's up in the air not least because I don't have clearly defined magic rules. Makin' it up as I go, me.
     
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Figuring this stuff out with any accuracy is difficult, so I appreciate the videos you've uncovered.

    If the materials are hard to replicate, battle conditions are even more difficult. Most of the time you fire an arrow up into the air to hit a random target from a mass of infantry a hundred feet away. Most of the time those infantrymen are in old, cheaper versions of armor. The arrows come unpredictably from above, not straight on into the chest where your armor is strongest, nor with precision aim into the eyes of your visor. Can you dodge an arrow falling from above? But what if there's soldiers standing all around you panicking about the arrows coming at them? And does an archer fire at full draw on the twelfth shot after a half day of marching on meager rations?

    I also wonder if the longbow would really be the bow of choice if you were, say, hunting poorly armed goblins in a dungeon. The extra draw strength seems like a way to tire out with slower, overkill shots. Can a bow be designed to let you adjust the draw strength right before the boss fight? Kind of a serious question.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Kind of a serious reply: magically, yes. I can conceive of a spell--or maybe it's a magic bow--that knows the current battle conditions and adjusts accordingly. Within limits, of course. It might only be simpatico with its owner and be able to adjust to that person's limitations and strengths. But it might also know physical parameters like range, crosswind, elevation, humidity. Many people might think it's the archer himself who is magic, or maybe is just really skilled.
     
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  9. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    On magic, there are a number of factors. Like expense, how expensive is it to enchant an item if the system allows that. And, of course, if you bolster your defenses with magic than it makes sense for others to try and come up with ways to bypass or break through that protection.

    Depending on the forces opposing one another, it might be that their mages cancel out the efforts of the enemy's spellcasters. And then it becomes a matter of figuring out how to take them out so you can use yours effectively.

    In short, if magic is used in war, I would expect to see a magical arms race right alongside the regular one. Or entwined with it.
     
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  10. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    True. There are accounts of Crusaders in mail walking around looking like pincushions from all the arrows they had sticking out of them. Though in that case, arrows apparently penetrated mail, but got stopped in padding. But yes, it depends on type of mail (butted vs riveted), link diameter, link thickness, link density, arrowhead type, bow type, arrow weight, range etc.

    RE: Magic, you may start with a bunch of basic characteristics. Do you want magic to be obvious, or not? What do you want it to do, and what are its limitations? Can it do completely original stuff, or only enhance physical tools? Etc etc.

    Actually, straight flat shot is the optimal way of penetrating armour. And when you look at depictions of English longbowmen, that was actually the exact way in which they were utilized: shooting straight from basically point-blank range:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Crossbowmen too, as can be seen in the previous picture. For utilization of crossbowmen, I would recommend you study tactics of Janos and Matthias Hunyadi. I could not find any good picture online, but their way of utilizing troops was rather sophisticated - e.g. rotation of crossbowmen behind the pavise wall, who would shower enemy with arrows until enemy got close, upon which crossbowmen would get replaced by heavy infantry (armati). This rotation is important, as crossbowmen - and archers - did not shoot at the enemy from over the heads of their own infantry. Such utilization was only common among powers which faced lightly armoured enemies - Byzantines IIRC had archers shoot over the heads of heavy infantry and so on.

    Some of their tactics owed to Hussites and Hussite wars:
    Prague History - Hussite wars

    Other links:
    Hungarian Army Composition
    The Black Army - Hungarian Infantry (1450-1500) by Vladarms on DeviantArt
     
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  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Ohh that's cool. Thanks for setting me straight. Do you happen to know whether it was different in earlier periods? I recognize that would be pre-longbow, but also possibly a time with weaker armor. (edit: And now I see that last sentence...)
     
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  12. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    It seems I was actually mistaken about Byzantines; good thing I decided to check it out. Maurice's Strategikon specified only two front ranks as having lance and shield, while next two or three ranks are archers; so it is possible they would crouch and let archers shoot flat over their heads. EDIT: Discussion in Sowing Dragon's Teeth appears to support that interpretation (pg. 270 - 272).
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  13. Jan Conradie

    Jan Conradie Scribe

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    This kind of discussion is really helpful, thanks.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Magic is very much a work-in-progress for Altearth. But in The Falconer there absolutely has to be some set-pieces involving magic, so this is all going to have to get sorted. I can see some basic outlines.

    As others have noted, defensive adaptations tend to happen in response to offensive innovations. In this case, the innovation is magic, since magic makes a distinct historical appearance in the Altearth timeline, before and after. The change isn't abrupt because magic was unreliable almost to the point of being unusable from a strategic point of view. It was centuries before schools and methods developed to produce even a 50% success rate. So I get to dodge the issue for quite a while.

    I'm going to have to figure out what sort of magic gets used on the battlefield, then figure out how that developed (slow increase of skill, revolutionary discoveries), then figure what sort of measures soldiers would take to counter or evade. It will take work and will have significant effects on subsequent stories. Oh the labors of the historical fantasist.
     
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  15. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Aldarion!

    Thank you for sharing those videos with us, which has started a wonderful thread. You are right, the quality of the experiments carried out by that channel is impressive and unique. There are so many myths about Medieval life, and it's great to learn more about Medieval realities whether we apply the knowledge to a story or not.

    I still believe that a breastplate of poor quality could get pierced by a lucky arrow, though. Also, a scene in which a powerful arrow shatters against armor, and after that the wooden shrapnel hits a Knight in the face would be great in a story!

    I believe that arrows should not be underestimated, even if they could not pierce most armor.

    The longbow tactics proved to be devastating enough to start a change in Medieval warfare, starting at the Battle of Crecy if I am not mistaken. It was then when the very best of France's Knights were defeated by the English longbow, and yeah the weather and ground conditions played a great role too, but definitely there was something that the arrows were doing really well.

    Was it just blunt force impact? The psychological effect of having hundreds and thousands of arrows shot at you? Lucky arrows that were hitting at exactly the right place?

    I am quite fascinated by this kind of things, even if most of my stories do not take place in a Medieval setting.
     
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  16. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    It is unlikely shrapnel would hit knight in the face, though that depends on the armour. But gothic armour had additions to prevent deflecton of arrow into chin, and head was very well protected:
    [​IMG]

    However, visor was typically carried raised up, for better vision and ventilation. And that is actually the primary impact of arrows: by forcing knights to lower visors and walk through arrow storm (many did not have armour for horses) it increased exhaustion.

    See above. Arrows, in vacuum, were useless. What longbow was successful at was not killing French knights, per se, but inducing tactical constraints which made them more vulnerable to other weapons, such as light infantry armed with polearms.

    Also, late 14th century plate armour as used at Crecy is a far cry from late 15th century Gothic plate. Former still had significant vulnerable areas that were covered only in mail and padding; latter often abandoned mail completely because it simply wasn't worth utilizing (with few exceptions such as underarm which would not be vulnerable to arrows anyway).

    All of that combined. And keep in mind, it was still not enough to stop the charge. While missile fire did cause some casualties and massive disorder, in the end the charge was stopped in hand-to-hand combat, by English men-at-arms and archers utilizing polearms.

    Also note that longbowmen actually ran out of arrows, and had to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Now, there were 5 000 longbowmen in English army. Longbowmen usually marched with 24 arrows in a quiver, I believe, and would carry a total of 72 arrows; so a total of 360 000 arrows. French army had 12 000 men at arms. Even assuming 100% casualties from missile fire, arrow Pk would have been around 3,3%. But no more than 4 000 men-at-arms were killed, more likely around 2 200, and most of them were killed in melee. That being said, French army did include large number of less armoured troops which would have been more vulnerable to missile fire: maybe 6 000 crossbowmen and 12 000 common infantry. Of these maybe 10 000 died, many in melee or trampled by their own cavalry. So even assuming all casualties (12 000 - 14 000) were by arrow fire you get Pk of 4%. More likely estimate is less than 2%, possibly less than 1%.
     
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  17. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    OK, this guy from what I have seen does very good videos. Maybe not as good as Tod's workshop, but still quite good.


    Unlike Tod's Workshop, this test utilizes recurve short bow with 80 lbs draw weight. Armour is butted chain with flat stamped rings, which - as he mentions - is rather historical. First arrow does not appear to have metal head, however. When shot at mail, it simply bounces off. Second arrow has steel broadhead and fails against mail. Razor head cuts right through gambeson.

    Second video, utilizing longbow, confirms with results of Tod's Workshop:

    Arrow goes right through the mail armour, but that still does not mean armour is ineffective: as he notes, wound is not as deep, nowhere as deep as it would have been without armour. In fact, rear of arrowhead remains sticking out of gambeson. However, he also points out that bodkin works by forcing apart rings, so while it can easily push apart a butted mail ring, riveted mail is much more resillient.

    He also tests plate armour - of a rather shitty quality, I might add - and it stops bodkin arrow right in its tracks.
     
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  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Thanks for all that. Now it has me thinking about making magic parallels to different types of armor. Whatever the magical equivalent of rivets would be. I usually just think of "magic strengthening spell" right? More fun would be that a specialist has to essentially construct the armor with the magic being right down at the level of the rivets and the rings. Also fun would be having magic worked into those marvelous engravings for ceremonial armor.

    More to think on.
     
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  19. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    You need to figure out why use magic instead of armour at all. Unless magic literally takes physical shape and stays that way no matter what, normal armour - perhaps with magical reinforcement - would still be preferable. You do not want armour which becomes useless as soon as your concentration falters, or enemy cuts off energy supply, or something like that.

    Maybe have armour which is conctructed by magical means really take physical shape - be it materialized magic or simply magically-imbued metal; but that such armour has to be constructed by magical means, from start to finish.
     
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  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I wasn't picturing magic instead of armor; rather of how magic would be used to reinforce armor. Rather than just a spell cast over the whole thing, I was envisioning having to do as much work in the spellcraft as in the metalcraft.
     
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