How far did Longbow archers starting shooting from?

Dreamhunter

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
7,544
Malaysia
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.
Korean longbow? Wow. That's an amazing distance.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,128
Australia
The Japanese also claimed that there is no point trying to penetrate armour with a bow at a range greater than 15 meters.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
I'm impressed that you both claim not to do something and then do it in the same paragraph. As for your middle sentence, that's just pure no-true-scotsman fallacy. I can claim that any weapon was never defeated by only counting the battles were it was used properly.

It seems to me common sense that if a longbowman could easily kill a fighting man at 200m (I'm converting all distances to m in my posts to make comparisons easier), then every English battle would be a complete walk over and the 100 years war would have been over in a few months.
Thanks Olleus, I impress myself sometimes...however, I never said a longbow could easily kill a fighting man at 200m, but that you would 'hurt' a lot of people. I suppose 'hurt' would cover fatal wounding to denting their helmets.

Mamaluk manuals I think say 70 meters was the starting engagement distance. The problem I see with shooting at 200 is that the arrows will be missing a lot with little damage and your wasting ammo and energy doing so
I agree, 70 metres or so would be a logical distance that your 'arrow shot' would start to have a big impact on the opposition. Once the enemy got to 40 metres/yards or less, then the effects would become much more damaging. I guess you could argue that it's a waste of arrows taking on the enemy at distance, but it was a well used tactic of English armies, mainly to persuade the enemy to advance. I don't suppose modern armies worry too much about bullets missing their targets, it's just a cost of waging war.
It's also worth remembering that archers of the period would train in the heavy bow from childhood (6-7 years of age). The 'arrowstorm' would only last a relatively short time, say half an hour...definitely not a big deal for a competent archer, he'd still be getting warmed up!
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,128
Australia
Half an hour IS a big deal. Shooting heavy warbows is exhausting. They start to tire after the first shot and get more fatigued after each one. At Agincourt they were exhausted before they even started. In a war it is likely that archers did not shoot the heaviest bow they could, both because of fatigue and because arrows were mass produced to specific standards - they would be made for the most common bow-weight not the heaviest ones.
 
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
Half an hour IS a big deal. Shooting heavy warbows is exhausting. They start to tire after the first shot and get more fatigued after each one. At Agincourt they were exhausted before they even started. In a war it is likely that archers did not shoot the heaviest bow they could, both because of fatigue and because arrows were mass produced to specific standards - they would be made for the most common bow-weight not the heaviest ones.
Apologies, what I meant with the 'half an hour' time period, was that this could probably be a typical maximum for a mass of armed men to advance to contact. Obviously if an archer is shooting continually for 30 minutes then he'd be looking around for more arrows after a few minutes...assuming 2 sheaves (48 arrows total) per archer, at the unrealistic (for some) but documented rate of 10 arrows per minute. Whether the archers are shooting in volleys during this period is not (to my knowledge) documented, but is a distinct possibility. The regulated mass shooting in volley would have more impact on the enemy and would also allow those in charge to control the likely effects that extended periods of shooting would have on the archers. Although I stand by my statement that shooting for half an hour may be tiring, but it's not going to a huge problem for most longbow men. Those that were likely to wilt would be weeded out well in advance. It's a shame I seem to be the only archer on this forum, I think if someone like Joe Gibbs/Ian Coote/Mark Stretton et al could contribute then the playing field may level up somewhat.
I agree that most archers would not be shooting the heaviest bow they could draw. You shoot a bow you are comfortable with and can shoot for an extended period of time. If you drew a fresh bow from 'stores' and it was too heavy, most archers would be entirely capable of shaving off a few pounds with a draw knife or archers 'float' until they were happy with the weight. And yes, you're correct Dan, the arrows shot during the period would have been to a standard pattern, although there would have been a few pattern types...bearing /livery/standard not forgetting the mystical 'quarter pounder'.
 
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Jul 2019
44
Victoria
The Japanese also claimed that there is no point trying to penetrate armour with a bow at a range greater than 15 meters.
Can you provide me the source? I know there is a severe difference in Long Siyah composites and Shot Shiyah composites but 15 meters is a shockingly low number, considering what the Chinese wrote of the Yumi. The Koreans also said that majras were fired over the distances of normal arrows and yet it would still be expected to pierce iron(?) armor.
 
Jan 2019
34
Northumberland-England
They used a bow almost identical to the Turks and Mughals.

I'm about to try shooting one at the local TKA soon so i'm very excited.
Well, I hope you enjoy the experience, it's a great way to spend time. Is this your first experience of archery?...if so then be warned, it can become an obsession, as I well know!!
 
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Jul 2019
44
Victoria
Well, I hope you enjoy the experience, it's a great way to spend time. Is this your first experience of archery?...if so then be warned, it can become an obsession, as I well know!!
Yes it is my first time but i think it's too late for me... i haven't even shot anything yet and i can already feel it...
 
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Mar 2016
77
Germany
I don't think that volley shooting at great distances had such a great physical effect. A lot of the arrows would not have hit and armor, even mail backed by cloth, would have presumably stopped the arrows. Most medieval pictures of archers, especially English archers, show them shooting straight. That means that the target couldn't have been far away if we take the slow and heavy projectile into account, leading to quite an arc for distance shootings and such the need for aiming high.

That does not mean that far range volley shooting did not occur. We know from the battle of Towton that long range shooting was done at the start. It was stormy and cloudy winter weather and most of the Lancastrians arrows felt short without the archers noticing this. Even with the bad vision on the day that story needed some distance between the archers and so distance shooting. Maybe it were the magical 220 yards which were mentioned in some training treatises? Or even more.

Both armies at Towton had a lot of (lightly armored) archers, maybe that led to shooting first and at distance. But also at Agincourt distance volley shooting must have be seen. The sources tell that the archers shot during the whole advance of the French vanguard, so they started shooting at greater distances, and that they shot all the time. Why? In the vanguard were the best armored French knights and nobody could expect to penetrate plate armor. Would the hope for lucky hits into weak points justify the waste of thousands of arrows? I don't think so, but the arrow shooting had additional benefits. It hindered and slowed French movement while at the same time impacting moral. People don't like to be the target of missiles, and who knows wether your armor works as intended. The shooting seemingly resulted in the concentration of the French columns before the English men-at-arms, away from the archers, which in the end led to a compact and pressed mass of people where a lot could not move and fight at all.