190lb English warbow

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EnglishArcher
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190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:41 pm

There are some who believe the bows on the Mary Rose must have been unfinished staves because of their staggering draw-weights.

Here's a brief video of Joseph Gibbs demonstrating how to shoot a 190lb warbow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nPNxTcaZPc

Joseph makes it look remarkably easy; but he's immensely strong and has near-perfect technique. He's probably the closest to a true medieval English archer we have today.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Fox » Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:02 pm

I have a couple of genuine questions:
  • Is the current estimate of Mary Rose bows as large as 190lbs, or are you just making a point?
  • Is there any evidence to suggest that the bows on the Mary Rose are representative of typical medieval longbows?
  • Does the data show a noticable improvement at such a very large poundage over other similar, but less powerful, warbows, say 140lb?

I ask those questions because the physics, I believe, would tend to indicate that increasing the power on a bow is an improvement of increasingly small increments.

But I know you warbow chappies keep making progress and learning more, and I find that regularly asking (and sometimes asking again) the stupid questions allows me to keep up with the new news.



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Colin Middleton » Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:08 pm

Our group rescently had a talk fromo Pip Bickerstaff about war bows. Unfortunately I missed it, but apparently he doesn't agree with the 190lb estimate for WAR bows. It might be worth getting in touch with him.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Gagglewrangler » Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:50 pm

speak to James from Fairbow UK, he shoots a bow with a silly poundage (& looks like he has s&!t himself to do so :D )



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:09 pm

Fox wrote:I have a couple of genuine questions:
  • Is the current estimate of Mary Rose bows as large as 190lbs, or are you just making a point?
  • Is there any evidence to suggest that the bows on the Mary Rose are representative of typical medieval longbows?
  • Does the data show a noticable improvement at such a very large poundage over other similar, but less powerful, warbows, say 140lb?

I ask those questions because the physics, I believe, would tend to indicate that increasing the power on a bow is an improvement of increasingly small increments.

But I know you warbow chappies keep making progress and learning more, and I find that regularly asking (and sometimes asking again) the stupid questions allows me to keep up with the new news.



Some of the bows on the MR could well have been heavier than 190lb. A recent replica made by Master Bowyer Steve Stratton came in at over 180lb - and it was 4 inches longer than the original bow (add about 5lb per inch shorter!)

Two independent mathematical models, and replicas crafted to exact dimensions of high altitude Yew of similar density and ring count, all support the fact that the bows were massively heavier than originally thought. Current thinking is the average bow weight is around 150lb.

You are quite right - the physics of stacked bows means there is a diminishing return as the bow weight increases. As the bow weight increases the limb mass increases and more energy is required to accelerate the limbs. There is a limit to how fast the the limbs will accelerate. This can be compensated to a some extent by shooting a heavier arrow. Eventually, though, you lose performance because of the massive arrow. There is a 'sweet spot' of around 140 - 150lb bow weight, and arrow weight of around 65g, that gives the best combination of arrow speed and distance (although some models predict it is more like 120lb)

The only thing we can be certain of about the MR bows is that they are representative of bows found on a Tudor warship in 1545. We have no (late) medieval bows to compare them to. All the usual speculation still applies:
- They could be elite weapons for elite archers (since the MR was Henry's favourite ship). At the very least the bows could be 'best quality'
- There is no reason to suggest medieval bows were different, because the design had matured and didn't need to be changed.
- Medieval bows could well have been even more powerful; since the MR was long past the Glory Days of English military archery.
- Earlier (pre-plate armour) bows could well have been much lighter, since they didn't have to face heavily armed opponents.
- And so on...


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Fox » Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:33 am

Thank you.



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Zachos » Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:40 am

I always thought that generalizing the weight of warbows found on the Mary Rose to other areas of use was pushing the evidence a bit too far. It seems similar to generalizing the guns on the HMS belfast to the soldiers in Iraq.

That's personal opinion though.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:45 pm

Personally, I think the MR bows are fairly typical of military bows of the late medieval / early Tudor period; or the period where plate armour was prevalent. There is nothing to suggest they are extraordinary in any way.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby wulfenganck » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:54 am

I have no experience (and to be honest no real interest) in archery, but it's really an achievement to pull a drawweight like this. I tried out a bow from a friend with something around 40 or 50lb, 190lb seem to be REALLY soemthing else....
Apart from that I'm astounded how much Mr. Gibbs looks like period illustrations when pulling. I always thought it was some artistic stylisation/impression to show archers with that "twisted" body, obviously it's vital part of the technique to pull a bow like that, thanks for the link!



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:31 pm

When you get up to the military weight bows, the 'twisted body' is the only way to handle the weight.

There are several (subtle) variations in how to achieve this; and most of them can be identified in period artwork. Rather than artists having some peculiar stylistic way of representing archers, I do believe they painted what (think) they saw.

As an example, there is a very famous image of an archer standing cross-legged while shooting:

Image

It's unlikely the archer actually was standing like this. However, look at this picture:

Image

If you didn't know anything about archery (or didn't care) you could easily confuse this as standing cross-legged


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby wulfenganck » Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:34 pm

@EnglishArcher: exactly! The period illustration has simply flaws concerning the perspective as it seems he's got his legs crossed instead of his actual stance as shown in the modern foto, thanks for both. In fact it's a hint to examine battle illustrations more careful to look for familiar stances, moves and the like concerning other weapons; the illustrator of the period picture has obviously watched archers performing.



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby randallmoffett » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:23 pm

EA,

I agree that the Mary Rose bows could be average draw weights for the period. That said we really have no real idea as there are no other bows to compare with. The MR was supposed to be a key part of Henry VIII's navy so we can perhaps assume that he put the best of the best in there. So to my mind the bows could be somewhat heavier than the bulk of warbows in use in medieval and early modern England but it could not be drastically lower if used for the basic distance needs Various king's required.

The Earliest declaration ordering mandatory archery practice is from the Statutes of the Realm volume I. Takes place during Edward III's reign.

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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:46 am

Randall,

I know of no evidence of draw-weights being specified in any orders for bows. The only differentiator seems to be "painted" or "unpainted" - whatever that means.

We could assume that the King's bows were made of superior - Spanish, Portuguese or Italian high-altitude - Yew which, if made to the 'standard' pattern, would yield heavier draw-weight bows.

Of course, this is all speculation until we find another source of bows to compare the MR bows to.

GBC

PS: I've just been informed Weapons of Warre - the second part of the MR artefact finds - has been released.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:41 pm

Surely the point about the warbows is that they were mass produced to hand out as needed during a campain. If that's the case, I would expect them to all have a similar draw weight.

We've debated the painted/unpainted thing on here before. I suspect it relates to wether the bow has a protective finish (wether 'varnish' or paint) or not.

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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:10 pm

Colin Middleton wrote:Surely the point about the warbows is that they were mass produced to hand out as needed during a campain. If that's the case, I would expect them to all have a similar draw weight.


It's not quite that simple. All the bows on the MR are within a few millimetres of each other in terms of dimensions, which points to standardisation of manufacture. However, variations between staves can lead to a significant difference in draw-weight and performance of the bow.

I've shot 130lb bows that were like soggy knicker elastic and others that I could barely move. Draw-weight is only a very loose indicator of a bow's performance.

In any batch of bows there would be those bows that the archer considered 'good' and those bows the archer thought were crap. I suspect they'd hang on to the good bows but the others would meet an untimely (and completely accidental - honest!) end.


We've debated the painted/unpainted thing on here before. I suspect it relates to wether the bow has a protective finish (wether 'varnish' or paint) or not.


Yep, that's the obvious conclusion.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:19 pm

EnglishArcher wrote: All the bows on the MR are within a few millimetres of each other in terms of dimensions, which points to standardisation of manufacture. However, variations between staves can lead to a significant difference in draw-weight and performance of the bow.


I suspected that might be the case. That's why I said 'similar draw weight'. Didn't know that it could be that dramatic though! I'm impressed that the dimensions were so close.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby gregory23b » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:23 pm

Draw weights are simply that, the weight needed to draw the bow, not indicative of speed of the cast etc.

If we take the distance required to shoot by statute - 220 yds or so, then any bow that reaches that distance with a measure of accuracy - to hit a butt, then the 'draw weight' (in modern understanding) of the bow is whatever it happens to be. I suspect that much lower draw weights can hit that distance, I know they can.

I was shooting this weekend, with a friend, she has a laminated yew bow, smaller in cross section than my ash bow, yet hers draws harder and shoots faster than mine, they are both similar in draw weights. I accept that laminated is not a like for like comparison, but size is not an indicator of performance, necessarily.


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:47 pm

gregory23b wrote:If we take the distance required to shoot by statute - 220 yds or so, then any bow that reaches that distance with a measure of accuracy - to hit a butt, then the 'draw weight' (in modern understanding) of the bow is whatever it happens to be. I suspect that much lower draw weights can hit that distance, I know they can.


Shooting 220 yards with a bow less than 190lb? Absolutely. No question.

Reaching 220 yards with a light, modern flight arrow is almost trivial. Just about any competent archer should be able to do that. Achieving that distance with a medieval military-specification arrow is quite another matter.

The best warbow archers in the world today require a bow of around 100lb draw to achieve 220 yards, with the lightest conceivable military-spec arrows. Once you get to the sort of arrows found on the MR you need a pretty high-performance bow to start hitting those distances regularly.

That said, all of the flight distance records for warbows were set with bows under 140lb, which suggests the extremely heavy bows were more for bravura than for actual effectiveness!


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby randallmoffett » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:47 pm

As well something to keep in mind is that we are likely dealing with a minimum distance requirement.

The Commission of arrays were brought together in a hub for a county and men would come to be 'tried, tested and arrayed'. The feel I get from the primary sources is that this is likely square one for the archers processing, evaluated, placed in his unit of 20 and then equipped. So where as you had to be able to shoot the specific distance this was the basic qualifier to be accepted in.

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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby gregory23b » Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:06 pm

EA -indeed, I was referring to war arrows, not the target stuff we shoot ;-)


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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby randallmoffett » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:38 pm

Found another requirement by Edward III ordering archery practice in June 1363 in the Close Rolls for 1360-1364, p. 534 while I was rereading my Thesis.

Seems Edward III knew the peace with France was already over by this point even though war would not technically break out until 1369.

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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Simon Atford » Sat Jun 04, 2011 7:58 am

randallmoffett wrote:Found another requirement by Edward III ordering archery practice in June 1363 in the Close Rolls for 1360-1364, p. 534 while I was rereading my Thesis.

Seems Edward III knew the peace with France was already over by this point even though war would not technically break out until 1369.

RPM


It could be argued that the statutes concerning archery practice were an overreaction. Medieval governments seem to have to constantly wooried the lack of trained soldiers whilst in reality the wages offered were a great incentive.



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby randallmoffett » Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:01 pm

Certainly could be. To be fair we see such demands for archery practice fairly often from this period on so it likely is simply government creating somewhat longterm laws for providing archers whenever they needed. Now is it an overreaction? No idea. Being in a constant state of war nearly for decades might have something to do with this, sort of shifts one's mentality.

Seems to not have been an issue as the period where these demands on archers are common is one where the balance of archers to men at arms is greatly shifting to favor more and more archers.

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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Simon Atford » Sat Jun 04, 2011 7:30 pm

It's also probbally that whilst most men would have done their required archery practice those with a real talent for it would have done more. Not everyone would have the skill to be a war archer. That's why they were paid more than other footsoldiers.

From what I've read the balance in English armies serving in France seems to have shifted from a mixed force of knights/men-at-arms, archers and spear or bill men in the C14th to armies consisting of mostly of mounted archers with a few men-at-arms by the early C15th (the Agincourt campaign).



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby randallmoffett » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:26 pm

Simon,

Very true. I suspect the average Englishman did what he needed to meet expectations, perhaps more depending on how ingrained in the culture it was but it is highly probable that many of the archers at war were professional or semiprofessional. There are some gents that seem to have literally decades of time in the field or in garrisons where they likely practices a great deal.

The shift starts either late in Edward III's reign or in Richard II's reign. Earlier on the ratio is nearly one to one, usually slightly more archers. There are some exceptions to this like Crecy with 2/3s plus the total army being archers, but since most of the groups were somewhat smaller and closer to the 1-1. The battle of Poitiers for example actually had more of other troops that archers present. By Henry V's and Henry VI's reign the ratio goes up 5-20 archers to one man at arms.

Andrew Ayton and Anne Curry are likely the best resources on this, though Adrian Bell has a great book out on English Armies if Richard II's reign.

Randall



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Simon Atford » Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:05 am

I've also heard it said that there was something of a "craze" for Archery n C14th. A bit like hula hoops or deely boppers. Only more deadly :wink:



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Re: 190lb English warbow

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sun Jun 05, 2011 8:23 pm

You've no seen me with the hula hoops then?


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