Anything about bows and crossbows

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,333
Florania
#1
We all know that bows and crossbows persist today, even though mostly for sports and hunting.
During the Battle of Agincourt, English longbows beat French crossbows completely (note: these were NOT repeating crossbows).
The one disadvantage of Chinese crossbow was they were not particularly powerful.
What are the advantages of contemporary bows and crossbows?
Are there still any advantages of them over firearms?
Should bows and crossbows be treated similar to firearms?
 
Feb 2011
6,379
#2
The one disadvantage of Chinese crossbow was they were not particularly powerful.
I would say the opposite, due to their long power stroke. Chinese crossbows were quite powerful until the Ming, in which case crossbows became very very small (and their power decreased correspondingly)

Projectile Energy
Heaviest 8 stone Han crossbow power = 4902 inch lbs * 60% efficiency = 2941 inch lbs = 332 Joules
Typical 6 stone Han dynasty crossbow power = 3676.5 inch pounds * 60% efficiency = 249 Joules
Andreas Bichler's 1200 lb composite crossbow = 4488 inch lbs * 39.04% efficiency = 1752.3 inch lbs = 198 Joules
Heavy Song dynasty bow made to pierce armor = 1840 inch lbs * 75% efficiency = 1380 inch lbs = 156 Joules
Tod Todeschini's 1250 lb steel crossbow = 4062.5 inch lbs * 30.5% efficiency = 1239 inch lbs = 140 Joules

Below, the yellow lines show the length of each crossbow's powerstroke:



^All three crossbow pictures are adjusted so that their dimensions are correctly proportional to each other. The Ming crossbow might be small, but its short stock length meant you can shoot without having your line of vision to target becoming obstructed by your crossbow stock when you are making an arched shot.

You can see how I derived my equations from this video starting from 14:17



A French guy apparently made a replica of a one stone Han crossbow, the weakest version of Han crossbows: [FONT=&quot]http://www.webarcherie.com/index.php?/topic/22505-arbalète-chinoise-classique-pas-repetition/&page=2[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Brace height seems pretty high being ~30% of the full draw length from eyeballing it.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Draw Weight = 61 lbs[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Arrow Weight = 30.1 grams[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Velocity = 54 m/s[/FONT]
Potential Energy = 61 lbs * ~19 inches /2 = 579.5 inch lbs = 65.5 Joules
[FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot]Energy[/FONT] = 54*54*.0301/2 = 43.9 Joules
Dynamic Efficiency = 43.9 Joules / 65.5 Joules = 67%
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Note that the typical Han crossbow have draw weight of 387 lbs, and the above 61 lb replica is already shooting at 65.5 joules. Todd's replica of a medieval steel crossbow of 450 lbs draw weight reached 54 joules in comparison, as shown in the video above. So a 61 lb ancient Chinese style crossbow would probably have equivalent power to a medieval steel crossbow of 500 lbs or more. One of the main reasons for this is due to the very long powerstroke.

They were able to achieve this long powerstroke because the compact trigger mechanism allowed the trigger catch to be put at the back of the stock, which lengthens powerstroke given the same length of crossbow stock:



On draw weights:

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[FONT=&quot]Yang Hong in Weapons of Ancient China:
Records mentioning 8-dan crossbows were also discovered in the Han tomb at Juyan. In addition, it is recorded in a Han bamboo that there were crossbows of 8 different tensile strength, namely of 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 dan. The most widely used is a crossbow of 6 dan which has a shooting range of about 260 meters, about a quarter of a kilometer

^I should mention that the crossbow which shot 260 meters had decreased in draw weight to 4.42 dan when it was shot.

[/FONT][FONT=&quot]Slip 36.10: [/FONT][FONT=&quot]官第一六石具弩一今力四石【四十】二斤射白八十五步完([/FONT][FONT=&quot]The words in [/FONT][FONT=&quot]【】[/FONT][FONT=&quot] is used to display what the word on the slip means, but the actual word cannot be typed by computer as the word is no longer in use)[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
Translation: Number one 6 stone crossbow, fully assembled, present strength is 4 stone 42 chin (285 lbs), and it will shoot to the end of 185 paces (259 meters).

I translated [/FONT][FONT=&quot]石 as stone, Yang Hong translated it as "dan", same thing. This shows how heavy six stone is by converting to modern units (1 stone = 120 jin):




[/FONT]Book is The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art: Companion and Commentary by Kangshen Shen, John N. Crossley, Anthony Wah-Cheung Lun, Hui Liu

So 1 stone = 120 jin = 30,000 grams = 66.14 lbs. My measure of 64.5 lbs is actually slightly lighter than that. The most widely used crossbow of 6 dan means ~387 lbs.

By the early Song dynasty we have the following quote from 翠微先生北征錄 (Cui Wei Xain Sheng Bei Zheng Lu), describing the dimensions of Divine Arm crossbows as thus:

桩牙里一尺八寸,葫芦头四寸,镫二尺,桩长二尺三寸,角檐长四尺五寸。
Within the stock's teeth it is 1 chi 8 cun (22.7 inches), the gourd head is 4 cun (5.4 inches). The stirrup is 2 chi (25.2 inches). The stock have length 2 chi 3 cun (29 inches), the horn prod have length 4 chi 5 cun (56.7 inches).

And then he moves on to describe crossbows in general:
臣闻番长于马,汉长于弩,制骑以弩。此旧说也。然近日诸军弩手,皆欠指版,人身通以五尺为率。 上顶至项一尺 ,则下止四尺;泥泞五寸,则上止有三尺四五寸。弩手进则蹋弩以射,退则肩弩以归。檐长若过六尺 ,桩长若过三 尺,肩弩则檐梢拄地,而下有绾绊之忧,蹋弩则桩头拄胸,而上无牵挽之力。草莱藤蔓之地惧其牵绾 ,必弃弩而空 走;涂潦泥堑之地被其踢绊,必为弩而丧躯。今欲使弩斗力自二硕至三硕,不许太硬,令久疲之兵易 于蹉蹋;使弩 檐自五尺至六尺,不许太长,令矮短之兵易于肩射。夏暑之月,梅雨蒸润,筋角易脱,则用木弩。秋 冬之月,风色 严冷,木索重滞,则用角弩。其锹头等桩檐太长者,悉令诸军减,令短捷,则庶无废 器。是谓弩制。

The foreign advantage is in horses, the Han advantage is in crossbows, subduing cavalry with crossbows. This is an old saying. But in recent days the various crossbowmen of the armies all lack 'finger plate' (hand cushions?). All owes their types to the human height ratio of 5 chi (63 inches = 5 feet 3 inches), with the top to the neck being 1 chi, and everything below being 4 chi. NiNing?? is 5 cun, and the upper portion is 3 chi 4-5 cun. When crossbowmen advance, they tread on the crossbow to shoot, and carry the crossbow over the shoulder when withdrawing. If the prod is longer than 6 chi and if the stock is longer than 3 chi(38.8 inches), then at the shoulder the crossbow prod will tip toward the ground, and below there is the problem of tripping, when stepping on such a crossbow the stock head will reach the chest, so above there is no pulling strength. [with such a big crossbow] in regions of grass and vines it will impede pulling, and the crossbow will be abandoned. In muddy regions it will cause tripping, and the [crossbow’s] body will be lost. At present day we want to use crossbows with draw strength of 2 stone to 3 stone (
~264 lbs to ~397 lbs), and [the prod] cannot be too stiff because tired soldiers are prone to mistakes; The crossbow prod should be 5 chi(1.6 meters) to 6 chi(1.9 meters), and cannot be too long, so that short soldiers can easily shoot it at the shoulder. During the hot summer, when it’s raining and there’s steam, the horn [composite prod] should be easily taken off, and use a wooden [simple prod] crossbow. During the spring and winter, where there is wind and bitter cold, the wood (simple prod) is heavy and sluggish, and horn [composite prod] crossbows must be used. For those crossbows in which the prod and stock are too long, they must all be quickly ordered to be shortened, so there is no wastage of weapons. This is the proposition on the way of crossbows. (Note Song era unit of measurement for stone is much greater than that of the Han era)
 
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Feb 2011
6,379
#3
When Andreas Bichler made a 1270 lb crossbow with 14.76 inch powerstroke (a far longer powerstroke than typical Medieval European crossbows), it was too big to be handheld. So I would regard it more as field artillery. You can compare it with his 1200 lb crossbow with a much shorter powerstroke (and hence small enough to be handheld).

Great Crossbow (1270lb), shot at roughly +25 degrees Celsius
Powerstroke: 14.76 inches
Stored potential energy: 1059 Joules
155 g bolt – 67.96 m/s – 357.94 J - 34 % efficiency
260 g bolt – 57.74 m/s – 433.41 J - 41 % efficiency
348 g bolt – 52.92 m/s – 487.79 J - 46 % efficiency

Cranequin crossbow (1200lb),
shot at around -6 degrees Celsius
Powerstroke: 7.48 inches
Potential energy (linear): 507.12 Joules
81.1 g bolt – 69.85 m/s – 197.84 J - 39 % efficiency
98.1 g bolt – 64.17 m/s – 201.98 J - 40 % efficiency
105.1 g bolt – 61.47 m/s – 198.56 J - 39 % efficiency

Same Cranequin crossbow (1200lb), shot at around +30 degrees Celsius
Powerstroke: 7.48 inches
Stored potential energy:
507.12 Joules
82 g bolt – 64 m/s – 167.94 J -
33 % efficiency

Notice that despite that small difference in draw weight, the change in power is very significant.Anyway, this is the first recorded description of measuring draw weight that I know of:[FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]谓若干胜一石,加角而胜二石,被筋而胜三石,引之中三尺。假令弓力胜三石,引之中三尺,弛其弦 ,以绳缓擐之 ,每加物一石,则张一尺[FONT=&quot]
Translation: For a bare bow-stave with draw weight of one stone (64.5 lbs), adding sinew will increase draw weight to two stone, and adding horn on top of that will increase it to three stone. The draw length is 3 chi (1 chi is about 9 inches). If the present draw weight of 3 stone (193.5 lbs) with draw length of 3 chi (27 inches), then if strung with a relaxed string on both sides of the bow, each additional stone added will cause it to be drawn by one chi. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]-From Zheng Xuan Zhu of the Han dynasty

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[FONT=&quot]
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[FONT=&quot]The picture isn't from the same book, but it helps with the visualization.[/FONT]
 
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Aug 2014
4,343
Australia
#4
During the Battle of Agincourt, English longbows beat French crossbows completely
Crecy, not Agincourt. The only reason why Genoese crossbows were outranged was because they got wet in the rain. The English carried their bowstrings under their hats to keep them dry.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,811
Dispargum
#5
Modern advantage of bows and crossbows over firearms - stealth. Bows and crosssbows are still quieter than firearms.

In some jurisdictions bows and crossbows might be less regulated than firearms. If one believes that governments should not regulate non-existant problems, then bows and crossbows should not be regulated. If mass murderers start using crossbows, then we'll have to re-examine the regulatory question.
 

SSDD

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,900
India
#6
I always wanted to know if infantry armed with bows and arrows in line infantry fashion could defeat infantry armed with muskets.
 
Aug 2017
72
USA
#8
The only way this could happen is if there was a heavy rainstorm and the gunpowder was too wet to ignite.
I disagree. If the English (or whoever) had managed to keep a secret stash of trained archers into the post armor musket era, then rate of fire, range advantage, and the fact that wool coats are no impediment to sharpened arrowheads (as opposed to bodkins which would have problems), I think a group of archers could destroy a musket formation. The problem comes from paying to keep all the useless archers around for a century on the off chance hope that armor will go away, which at the time probably didn't seem very likely. Also it would only work for a limited time before armor came right back.
 
Nov 2011
8,862
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#9
Although the last major battle of the Hundred Years War, the Battle of Castillon in 1453, when English longbowmen were ripped to pieces by French artillery is considered the demise of teh weapon, the Longbow continued to be used right through the Wars of the Roses against hand-cannon, notably at Towton and against Arquebus's at Flodden. It was still a standard weapon for yeoman into Elizabethan times and all but two examples still existing of original longbows were recovered from the Wreck of Henry VIII's "Mary Rose"
As a skilled bowman could range a shot at 200-300 yds or more and loose six or seven flights in the time it took to reload a musket with inferior range, was much lighter and never mis-fired, one wonders why it died out so quickly. The answer is usually put forward that it took a lifetime of weekly practice to create an archer who was any use on the battlefield--boys starting as young as seven and graduating to a full-size longbow by twelve. A serious bowman could command a high wage. On the other hand a "musketeer" could be trained in a few days and was both cheap and expendable.
 
Oct 2013
6,192
Planet Nine, Oregon
#10
I disagree. If the English (or whoever) had managed to keep a secret stash of trained archers into the post armor musket era, then rate of fire, range advantage, and the fact that wool coats are no impediment to sharpened arrowheads (as opposed to bodkins which would have problems), I think a group of archers could destroy a musket formation. The problem comes from paying to keep all the useless archers around for a century on the off chance hope that armor will go away, which at the time probably didn't seem very likely. Also it would only work for a limited time before armor came right back.
deleted.
 
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