1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Ask me about archery, longbows especially.

Discussion in 'Research' started by John McDonell, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    302
    156
    43
    Regarding that video - which I agree, is totally amazing, and I respect that guy's hard-practiced skill! - but here's some discussion of that in the wider context of historic archery usages: Regarding Lars Andersen.

    In short: what Lars is doing is high on mobility and lone-ninja application, especially against an unsuspecting or unarmored target, or from horseback. But in larger groups and against armour, you probably want different things from your archers that will require a different sort of bow and shooting.
     
  2. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    Thinking about it, you're right. I remember one test of the battle of Crécy showed that even the full English longbow would only pierce mail at the closer ranges too.
     
  3. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    I imagine he used a different bow for the shots where he pierced mail, not to mention the fact that during jumping shots etc. it's unlikely he draws it back very far.

    Minus the flips, however, a character could use the arrow in hand technique with a big ol' warbow still?
     
  4. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    Is it usually the string that snaps before the wood of a bow?
     
  5. Tom

    Tom Istar

    2,726
    1,146
    163
    Um...usually the bow, I think, unless it's the string that's weak or fraying. Even then, bows usually don't break when their strings do. Usually bows snapping is the result of the integrity of the wood being compromised in some way, so it's the bow component that would snap first.

    I actually had a self bow that snapped. It was the result of storing it in my garage over the winter. The winters here are extremely cold, so the wood of the bow first shrank, and then expanded again when the spring thaw came. All in all it was too much for it, and the next time I went to use it it broke neatly in half with this almightly crack.

    I hand-crafted that bow out of seasoned hickory, and was very upset when it gave up the ghost...
     
  6. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    That's what I wanted to hear. Thank you and I'm sorry for your loss aha.

    When it comes to whittling basic arrows from sticks (say you were in the wild), how quickly do you guys think somebody could do this? Could it be done with sticks that are still living?

    Edit: Bare in mind the trees in the location I'm thinking will generally be based on bamboo and other native Chinese trees.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    A related point to making your own arrows:

    Mythbusters (pause for the cheering) did a test that found that arrows that just used their sharpened tips as points were nearly as good as those with stone heads, and a lot faster to make.

    (This led to a fun debate of why archeologists still find so many arrowheads. Conclusions: 1) even a slight edge might be worth it if it kept you fed, 2) prestige, or as they called it "caveman bling, baby!" and 3) stone arrowheads last longer than sticks, so who knows how many more headless arrows there were for every arrowhead that survived for us to find?)
     
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,120
    1,284
    163
    I have heard that argument made about ancient China/Cambodia/Vietnam and why there seems to be little/less evidence of a Stone/Bronze Age given the complex societies that have been found.... They had Bamboo... Stone and softer metals were not as much as an advantage to them as they had access to almost limitless supplies of Bamboo that could be cut to shape and sharpened far more quickly. Once discarded the item quickly rotted away or were used in some other format.
    I've also had it put forward that many of the Stone Axes that have been found were Trophies ["Caveman bling" as it were] as there is usually no evidence of their being used... Okay, that could be why they survived and the used ones are the broken bits that we've been ignoring...
     
  9. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    So my character should be able to quickly make bamboo arrows with little effort. Awesome.

    How plausible does it sound to be able to make these arrows and use them before the bamboo has even fully died?
     
  10. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,120
    1,284
    163
    I've never made a bamboo arrow but I would guess that they would need a tip as Bamboo is hollow [or at least really blunt ended] and the arrow would need fletchings [and straitening ? - but maybe not so much], so they would still require a fair amount of work... but maybe less that spending hour chipping away at a flint... been there done that, its hard work for someone not skilled... and I am really not skilled at flint knapping.
    Do you mean dried bamboo?
    I guess you could use green bamboo as long as you were going to use them quickly... I think their tube-ness would make then stiffer than a green twig of similar dimensions... And I'm guessing that they would not be a durable a a more traditionally created arrow... but if you wanted fast and dirty... maybe.
     
  11. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    The fletching is going to be a pain in my arse, but if I avoid that then my story would be less plausible than I'd like. I don't suppose there are any fletchings you'd be likely to find in the same area as bamboo? Any suitable birds?

    On a separate note: how much blunt force could an arrow apply if it hit me in the head while I was wearing a mail coif or plate helmet? (Riveted mail or I'm assuming most well placed arrows would go straight through.)

    Could a shot from a 150lb war bow knock someone out through either of these helmets? Or a 40lb bow for that matter?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  12. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,120
    1,284
    163
    Almost any flight feathers would work as fletchings as far as I know. They just have to be relatively straight and stiff. I think Goose was only favoured because it was very common... In use I have seen Pigeon, Magpie, Raven and Eagle [but that was a Native American Tribal made arrow and might have been just for show... I've forgotten what tribe I an sorry to say]
    I have never been hit in the head by an arrow :p so everything is guess work for me.
    At short range [where the head could be aimed at] I would think that any arrow loosed would be a stunning blow. A mail coif would offer little protection without a padded inner to distribute the impact. A more solid helm might even make things worse by not absorbing any of the force but transferring it all to the neck or head. I could be persuaded that a huge 150lb bow might just snap your neck if you were unlucky. It would make your ears ring I would bet.
    I had a great deal of fun learning to fire a bow at a local archery club. Most offer starter courses [of a few hours for a few weeks] at a fairly cheap rate. Highly recommended way to spend a Saturday morning or three...
     
    Laurence likes this.
  13. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    Good stuff! Snapping necks is what I'm all about.
     
  14. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    Here's another analysis on the Lars Andersen archery video. According to Elizabeth Bear, probably the most respected military fantasy writer today:

    It's a long post (and it has some interesting related links at the end too), but its upshot is that Andersen is using high-speed techniques that sacrifice all the power real archery would need. Ah well.
     
  15. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    I understand that he may lack the power for armoured foes but surely he could still do some very cool hunting.
     
  16. John McDonell

    John McDonell Dreamer

    24
    28
    13
    I remember reading in "The Witchery of Archery" something about making their own arrows from long saplings, sorry I don't remember which type, and they were very effective. They were hunting I believe in the southern U.S. and they fire-hardened the tips. Mostly used for hunting birds I think.
     
    Laurence likes this.
  17. John McDonell

    John McDonell Dreamer

    24
    28
    13
    Sorry the above post was in reference to this.
     
  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,162
    1,129
    163
    On the question of how much "force" an arrow might apply to a plate helmet, I and many others have been struck by arrows with heads replaced with empty 9mm casings fired from traditional longbows with draws from 40-80 pounds at shorter than traditional use ranges. On a plate helmet it is pretty much a noise and you almost cannot feel it. I don't think an arrow from any draw of bow could render someone in a plate helm unconscious.

    I have not worn, nor does anyone I know wear a plate helm without a good padded lining. Mine is made traditionally with horse hair.

    But with a real point I would sure not feel particularly safe even if I was wearing my riveted maille. A plate helmet is a very rounded and tough target though for any arrow. But do watch out for those damned eye slits!
     
  19. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    I feel like an arrow with the right tip would apply a lot more force as it would bite in to the metal rather than glancing off.

    I hope so, anyway. I was looking forward to crumpling some helmets and snapping some kneels with a bow in my story!
     
  20. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    197
    43
    Concerning arrows vs armor, there are many variables: the bow's draw weight, the type of arrow head used and what it's made from, the armor it's being used against. War bows typically had draw weights that started at 80 pounds and went up from there. English long bows could go 120 lbs. I've heard of some that were around 150, and I can't remember where I read this but I could swear I once read of one that was estimated to be 180 lbs. Asian composite bows would go 160. Then there's the arrow head. There were broad cutting heads used for hunting and narrow pointed armor piercers (bodkins). Arrow heads made of steel would perform better than those made of iron. Plate armor was usually made of iron. It wasn't until the 15th century that they were able to make it out of steel, and there was huge variation in quality, so an arrow might pierce an iron plate but not a steel one. Moreover, armor was of varying thickness. Armor for the limbs was thinner than armor for the chest. Visors on helms were usually thinner than the top of the helm, and there are accounts of archer deliberately aiming for the visors for this very reason. Plate armor was rounded for two reasons - to conform to the shape of the human body but also to present a curved surface so a blade would glance off. It was also usually polished to make it smoother and therefore more difficult for a blade to grab a purchase on.
     
    wordwalker likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page