How far did Longbow archers starting shooting from?

Jul 2019
46
Victoria
Are their any accounts describing how long a longbowman might starting from in battle? I've seen accounts of distances achieved in flight archery but never how long a man could shoot and hit his target. There used to be a dedicated longbow blog but i can't seem to find it anymore.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,182
Canary Islands-Spain
I can't answer that, but some interesting accounts on the battle range of longbowmen exists

In Nájera, 1367, the Castillian light cavalry composed of mounted javalrymen approached the English flank defended by longbowmen. They were subjected to a terrible punishment and couldn't even close with their enemies; when they stept back to reorganize, they were even more badly mauled

Probably, at closer ranges lesser archers could loose their arrows, while at certain distances backside men could perform parabolic shooting

Also the fact that Castillian cavalry wasn't showered with arrows at first probably point to English archers delivering a more deadly volley at closer range, instead of loosing arrows at the moving target with uncertain effect

But we need the first hand accounts to clarify this
 
Last edited:
Jul 2019
46
Victoria
I can't answer that, but some interesting accounts on the battle range of longbowmen exists

In Nájera, 1367, the Castillian light cavalry composed of mounted javalrymen approached the English flank defended by longbowmen. They were subjected to a terrible punishment and couldn't even close with their enemies; when they stept back to reorganize, they were even more badly mauled

Probably, at closer ranges lesser archers could loose their arrows, while at certain distances backside men could perform parabolic shooting

Also the fact that Castillian cavalry wasn't showered with arrows at first probably point to English archers delivering a more deadly volley at closer range, instead of loosing arrows at the moving target with uncertain effect

But we need the first hand accounts to clarify this
Hmm its interesting that Castilians were "still" using javelin armed horsemen in 1367. I know very little about javelins in general except for the fact that the irish were using them as late as the 16th century. I don't want to derail the thread so early on but im guessing they were employed to counter the arab riders down south?
 
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
'Bowshot' is a term generally used in contemporary literature to describe the distance that armies would first engage. A bit unhelpful as it doesn't explain exactly what distance it's referring to. Based on the distances achieved by modern heavy bowmen using historically accurate bows and 'livery' arrows then 200-250 yards would seem to be an appropriate distance that medieval archers would start engaging enemy front lines. However there were lighter arrows to 'gall' enemies at a distance and this could have been 300 yards or so. I'm sure there'll be some original sources that might detail the actual distances, but as in a lot of cases medieval sources can be woefully inaccurate.
ACHIEVEMENTS - WARBOW WALES is a good starting point to checking out how safe you'd feel standing 200 yards away from an English/Welsh bowman.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,006
Dispargum
I've seen accounts of distances achieved in flight archery but never how long a man could shoot and hit his target.
This can be problematic. What do you mean by target? The distance at which a bowman can hit a man-sized target is going to be much shorter than the maximum flight distance of an arrow. However, when formations of bowmen shot in vollies they didn't aim at individual men. They shot at large, area targets such as troop formations. They aimed at center of mass, but if their arrow drifted a few feet or a few yards to the left or right, that arrow would still hit an enemy soldier. The bowman didn't care who he hit so long as he hit someone. If you're asking for maximum range a formation of bowmen could engage, that would be very similar to the maximum flight distance.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,148
Australia
You also have to define "flight arrow". A flight arrow in a competition is completely different to a flight arrow used in war. The former can exceed 800 yards. The latter, around 300 yards.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,182
Canary Islands-Spain
Hmm its interesting that Castilians were "still" using javelin armed horsemen in 1367. I know very little about javelins in general except for the fact that the irish were using them as late as the 16th century. I don't want to derail the thread so early on but im guessing they were employed to counter the arab riders down south?
I used to consider this a cultural and technology matter: in Iberia and North Africa, people were used to the javelin, and technology didn't allow to employ more powerful bows

I'm sure now the second point is totally wrong. Since the 11th century composite bows were employed in Al-Andalus, in the 13th century Turkish troops from the East were employed as well. Neither led Andalusi troops to stop using javelins, nor the Christians did so. Not even the introduction of crossbows of increasing power displaced the old weapon.

Javelins have some advantage: they can deliver a devastating damage at short range, they can be thrown very quickly, they are cheap and easy to use. In the context of constant skirmish and ambush in the broken terrain of Iberia, they were very useful. Only fire weapons, with their lethal effectivity at close range could put the javelins to a good end.

The limited usefulness of this weapon was made clear by the English, though: in open battlefields, firepower and range of longbows would overpower any unit armed with javelins
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,515
South of the barcodes
Are their any accounts describing how long a longbowman might starting from in battle? I've seen accounts of distances achieved in flight archery but never how long a man could shoot and hit his target. There used to be a dedicated longbow blog but i can't seem to find it anymore.
Harassing fire against groups of men could go out to 400 yds, picking off specific targets you wont be able to get close to individual men beyond about 75 metres but you wont be able to do much damage to a lightly armoured target beyond about 25 metres.
 
Jul 2019
46
Victoria
This can be problematic. What do you mean by target? The distance at which a bowman can hit a man-sized target is going to be much shorter than the maximum flight distance of an arrow. However, when formations of bowmen shot in vollies they didn't aim at individual men. They shot at large, area targets such as troop formations. They aimed at center of mass, but if their arrow drifted a few feet or a few yards to the left or right, that arrow would still hit an enemy soldier. The bowman didn't care who he hit so long as he hit someone. If you're asking for maximum range a formation of bowmen could engage, that would be very similar to the maximum flight distance.
For example the Chinese and Japanese archers practiced by shooting at a 2x2m target 90 at 90 meters whilst the korean at 145 meters. And hence when it came to sieges there are accounts of officers of Korean stock firing their majras at individual targets (often enemy officers) and eliminating them. So did the english practice individual shooting or just firing into the mass?
 
Jul 2019
46
Victoria
You also have to define "flight arrow". A flight arrow in a competition is completely different to a flight arrow used in war. The former can exceed 800 yards. The latter, around 300 yards.
I did not realise that there were different types of flight arrows. Were the ones designed for war smaller then a "normal arrow"