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October 01, 2019

Added: Crossbow vs. Longbow!!!

Crossbows are also briefly mentioned.

A little change-of-pace post.

There's a belief in some that English archers defeated the French knights at Poitiers and Angincourt because English war-arrows, fired from a six-foot longbow, could penetrate knights' armor.

Below, experts in medieval arms and armor put that belief to the test, firing a genuine, made-via-historical-techniques longbow armed with heavy war arrows at a breastplate made with the sort of steel common during the period, and made to resemble actual recovered historical armor from the era.

After that, some context from Scholaglatoria.

I'll describe the results of the demonstration after a spoiler warning/spoiler gap, in case anyone wants to see the test unspoiled.




If you don't want to watch the videos (which are good) but for some reason still want to know what the conclusions are, here's what the demonstration shows:

There is no way in hell even a 160-pound-pull longbow, firing heavy arrows tipped with armor-piercing (supposedly) bodkin heads, can penetrate breastplate. All of the arrows deflect harmlessly off the armor (which has a pronounced rounding to deflect arrows away). Those that hit the breastplate straight-on simply shatter.

The armor is not pierced. It only has dings in it from the straight-on shots, and those dings look like they'd come out with some hammering.

The one "wound" inflicted is only due to the archer missing the breastplate he was aiming for and hitting below the ribs, where the gelatin body is only protected by mail. But everyone knows that an arrow could penetrate mail. That wasn't the test, as it wasn't in any doubt.

This proves that it's really only very lucky shots that hit gaps in the armor, or are deflected along the body to hit a gap or weak point, will bring down a knight.

One interesting point: The V-shaped guard from the shoulders to mid-breast is critical. Arrows that hit high on the breast will be deflected upwards -- right into the knight's unprotected under-mouth or throat. The V-shaped guard helps stop arrows from just skittering right up to kill the wearer, and deflects them away.

So, does that mean English archers were no big deal?

No, Matt from Scholaglatoria argues in the second video. He points out that breastplate is very thick armor, as it can be made thick without reducing movement, and it protects your second-most vital area, but that limb, side, and back armor was thinner and might be more easily breached.

Plus any lucky shot that finds a chink in the armor.

Plus, only 30% of French troops were plate armored knights. Most French forces would be wearing mail, or brigandine, or gambeson (thick layers of linen glued together). That stuff provided some protection against arrows, but a lot of arrows would pierce them.

Also, he points out that archers were Cavalry Killers. The French's best advantage was their armored knights, riding right up though the gut of the enemy, but English archers killed the hell out of French horses and made the French wary of using cavalry at all, and changed their preferred approach to attacking from the flanks.

He makes a good point: Obviously archers were effective, and so was armor, or else kings and fighters would not invest years and huge amounts of gold in them. They were effective... just not to the point where a longbow could kill a knight with a chest shot, or to the point where an armored knight was completely, totally invulnerable to all arrows or other arms.

He also points out that we already pretty much knew this, because the word "bulletproof" originally came from certifying by direct testing that breast armor was "proof" against arrows and crossbow bolts, and later to pistol bullets.

But all of this does scotch the very simplified (and, as it turns out, wrong) myth that English archers just killed French knights through bow-fire. It's more complicated. The longbow was in fact very important, but mostly not a direct Knight Killer.

Bonus: FLAMING ARROWS!!! (are 98% bullshit)

Another Bonus: Asian bows versus the highest quality type of Asian armor (lamellar, like samurai wear):

Crossbow v. Longbow:

digg this
posted by Ace of Spades at 05:27 PM

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