How far did Longbow archers starting shooting from?

Jul 2019
46
Victoria
'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.
Thats an incredible record but im not sure i understand the information in the website. Were the men shooting a men sized target at 50 yards or at 200+ yards under the chart below?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,006
Dispargum
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?
Your Korean officers sound like the Medieval equivalent of modern-day snipers. Yes, snipers will pick off a few key targets, but most casualties are not inflicted by snipers. A two meter by two meter target at 90 or 145 meters is much larger than a man-sized target. These archers appear to be training for area targets. I won't deny the possibility that a few English longbowmen took aim at particular targets like modern day snipers, but the great mass of English longbowmen shot at area-sized targets such as troop formations.
 
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Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
Thats an incredible record but im not sure i understand the information in the website. Were the men shooting a men sized target at 50 yards or at 200+ yards under the chart below?
I'm not absolutely sure how the Warbow Wales archers set up their shoots, but usually you'd attempt to achieve the longest distance your bow was capable of shooting with a given arrow type (in this case all livery arrows, which are constructed to guidelines supplied to the archers). Typically you'd be asked to shoot down a marked lane so not attempting to hit a target.
Chlodio is quite correct, the main aim is to get your volleys dropping onto a large body of the enemy, initially at the longest practical distance. The archer wouldn't be trying to hit a particular target at 250 yards. The angle of elevation of your bow arm to get the arrow to travel 250 yards would obscure any potential target anyway.
 
Jul 2019
46
Victoria
I'm not absolutely sure how the Warbow Wales archers set up their shoots, but usually you'd attempt to achieve the longest distance your bow was capable of shooting with a given arrow type (in this case all livery arrows, which are constructed to guidelines supplied to the archers). Typically you'd be asked to shoot down a marked lane so not attempting to hit a target.
Chlodio is quite correct, the main aim is to get your volleys dropping onto a large body of the enemy, initially at the longest practical distance. The archer wouldn't be trying to hit a particular target at 250 yards. The angle of elevation of your bow arm to get the arrow to travel 250 yards would obscure any potential target anyway.
That seems like a pretty good answer to this thread along with chlodio. Its a shame i can't find any historical footnotes mentioning longbpw practices though.
 
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
I know, it's a great pity that there are so few historic sources on longbow practice regimes. There is a website detailing the practice routine used by archers towards the end of the medieval period called the Finsbury Marks. The distances shot seem excessive compared to the distances achieved today, but I have a hunch that archers would be permitted two arrows/shots to reach the distances involved. Of course, I may be wrong!
Here is the web address which might provide more of an insight. The Worshipful Company of Bowyers
 
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Jun 2015
1,309
Scotland
I know, it's a great pity that there are so few historic sources on longbow practice regimes. There is a website detailing the practice routine used by archers towards the end of the medieval period called the Finsbury Marks. The distances shot seem excessive compared to the distances achieved today, but I have a hunch that archers would be permitted two arrows/shots to reach the distances involved. Of course, I may be wrong!
Here is the web address which might provide more of an insight. The Worshipful Company of Bowyers
I watched a documentary some years ago which described the deformed upper body skeleton of medieval archers. It would appear at least some trained to a degree that gave them huge upper body strength and the ability to pull very heavy bows. This could well mean contemporary archers were capable of distances beyond most modern archers.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,148
Australia
It is an exaggeration to call them "deformed". There are skeletal irregularities that enable one to tell that they were archers but the irregularities are no more severe than what you find in the skeletons of modern professional athletes. Modern warbow archers have the same skeletal irregularities. The longer they practice, the more noticeable the irregularities. Physicians warn these people to stop before a certain point if they don't want problems in their old age.
 
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May 2019
385
Earth
I won't deny the possibility that a few English longbowmen took aim at particular targets like modern day snipers, but the great mass of English longbowmen shot at area-sized targets such as troop formations.
Weren't crossbows or even ballistas more commonly used for that kind of pinpoint shooting than longbows? Or am I completely wrong...
 
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
I watched a documentary some years ago which described the deformed upper body skeleton of medieval archers. It would appear at least some trained to a degree that gave them huge upper body strength and the ability to pull very heavy bows. This could well mean contemporary archers were capable of distances beyond most modern archers.
Yes, you are correct. 'Os acromiale' was a common condition of the medieval longbowman. Prolonged use of heavy bows led to this peculiar symptom of the distal acromion failing to fuse, due to the pressure exerted on the shoulder joints. These bones usually fused in adolescence. So not only were they much stronger but would probably have very painful back and shoulders in later life (if they ever got there!). Not unlike many modern athletes as mentioned by Dan Howard.
If you look at the bows salvaged from the Mary Rose, there are many with very high draw weights. However, modern 'warbow' archers like Joe Gibbs and Mark Stretton are used to shooting these draw weights and the evidence of the distances they achieve, would suggest that their medieval equivalents would be achieving the same results ie approx. 250 yards plus, depending on the arrow type shot.
Weren't crossbows or even ballistas more commonly used for that kind of pinpoint shooting than longbows? Or am I completely wrong...
Not completely wrong, just that a longbow in the hands of a competent archer would be equally as lethal as a crossbow. Sources state that the English/Welsh archers at Agincourt were taking aim specifically at the visors of the French, with some success. Not an easy target but one that was thought viable by the archers.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,148
Australia
Not completely wrong, just that a longbow in the hands of a competent archer would be equally as lethal as a crossbow. Sources state that the English/Welsh archers at Agincourt were taking aim specifically at the visors of the French, with some success. Not an easy target but one that was thought viable by the archers.
Sources say that some arrows hit the visors, not that they specifically aimed for them. If you shoot enough arrows at someone, eventually one of them is going to find a weak spot regardless of whether you deliberately aimed for it or not.