Arrows versus Armour: Medieval Myth Busting
October 9, 2019 12:55 PM   Subscribe

A YouTube video of medieval armour and arms enthusiasts, academics and re-creators firing a medieval longbow at medieval plate armour. Who wins, bowman or knight? Happy few or most excellent horse? Arrows versus Armour

Lots of nice links on the video for references. They are trying to use the 1415 Battle of Agincourt as a reference point.
posted by alasdair (21 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm really fascinated by the process for case-hardening the wrought iron arrow heads. I'd been led to believe that bodkin points were more square than those they used for the test, and I wonder if that would have changed the penetration of the armor.
posted by hanov3r at 1:03 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


They are trying to use the 1415 Battle of Agincourt as a reference point.

Bah. As everyone knows, the potency of the longbow as a dominant weapon on the battlefields of Western Europe was established in August 1346 during the Battle of Crecy.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:09 PM on October 9 [15 favorites]


Yeah, thanks for the reminder of the question I was 100% sure I was right on in the last season, Huffy Puffy.

Couple of things I would love to see them investigate further on this:
-bodkin points, as mentioned above;
-the effectiveness against leg & arm armour, as they mentioned;
-an exploration of what the ripple on effects of the strike are - I was fascinated to see how the armour protected against the arrowhead/shaft breaking upwards, but the ballistics gel behind it all was also vibrating. What does that mean, in terms of the person behind the armour? The men at arms at Agincourt advanced into "a terrifying hail of arrowshot" which may not have penetrated, but did it still cause damage?

Interesting stuff, interesting channel. A couple of weeks ago they posted a video of a longbow vs. a windlass crossbow in terms of speed & accuracy...I would love to see what the crossbow could do against the breastplate.
posted by nubs at 2:17 PM on October 9


goddammit huffy
posted by Etrigan at 2:55 PM on October 9


Oh, Tod's Workshop is one of my favorites! Here is Tobias Capwell talking about this experiment and the Battle of Agincourt Capwell on Agincourt
posted by jadepearl at 3:11 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


If you dig weaponry I recommend the Scholagladitoria channel for very good discussions on weapons, fighting technique and historical perspective.
posted by jadepearl at 3:14 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


> I was fascinated to see how the armour protected against the arrowhead/shaft breaking upwards, but the ballistics gel behind it all was also vibrating.

The whole stand was rocked back by the impacts of the arrows, so I assume the ballistics gel was vibrating because of that. There's a lot of force in those shots. I'd bet that the best you could hope for enduring a torrent of arrows is to come out bruised all over.
posted by ardgedee at 3:31 PM on October 9


Longbow, Schrombow... The chief weapon of the English was poor leadership on the part of the French, who, in their three large defeats (Crécy, Poitiers and Azincourt), attacked prematurely when they didn't have to. The attention given to the longbow is mainly English nationalistic hokum.

The French had only to wait it out; the English were hungry and had nowhere to go. Unfortunately for the French, Charles VI was mentally ill and nobody present could rein in the idiot nobles who wanted to charge.

Otherwise, if there was a chief weapon, it was in the hands of the French: the mason's chisel and hammer. Well, two chief weapons. Until the French started using artillery seriously under Charles VII the Victorious, a largish city surrounded by a wall was almost impregnable, like Orléans, which the English couldn't surround properly, or Paris, which they never besieged.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:44 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I'd seen this video made by Lindybeige a couple years ago, so I had a clue what was going to happen. The arrow having ~100 foot-pounds of kinetic energy is very interesting (and you can see the jolt it gives to the "torso" of the target). Those arrows are a hell of a lot thicker and heavier than you would think!
By comparison the modern .22 LR has about 150 foot-pounds of energy and a .223 from an M-16 has over a 1000 foot-pounds.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:09 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


-an exploration of what the ripple on effects of the strike are - I was fascinated to see how the armour protected against the arrowhead/shaft breaking upwards, but the ballistics gel behind it all was also vibrating. What does that mean, in terms of the person behind the armour? The men at arms at Agincourt advanced into "a terrifying hail of arrowshot" which may not have penetrated, but did it still cause damage?

*sighs* The terms you’ll be wanting to start your search are hydrostatic shock and cavitation. Warning: the former is a bitterly, bitterly disputed topic amongst people who are into terminal ballistics (of modern firearms), and there’s an enormous amount hokum, anecdotes, and bullshit you’ll have to wade through. It’ll be particularly taxing to filter in your case because - like most pistol rounds but unlike many rifle rounds - arrows never exceed the speed of sound within the medium of flesh (which is much higher than in sea-level atmosphere because density). In the interests of keeping the peace I won’t opine beyond throwing out the terms, other than to note I wouldn’t do even that if I thought there was nothing whatsoever to it. Good luck and godspeed.
posted by Ryvar at 6:25 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Longbow, Schrombow... The chief weapon of the English was poor leadership on the part of the French, who, in their three large defeats (Crécy, Poitiers and Azincourt), attacked prematurely when they didn't have to. The attention given to the longbow is mainly English nationalistic hokum.

I occasionally make fun of longbow fandom, and the French engaging was certainly a mistake, but the remark about poor leadership doesn't show what you think it does. If the maxim of good leadership is "under no circumstances directly engage an English army using longbows" that kind of speaks for itself.
posted by mark k at 8:28 PM on October 9 [5 favorites]


Yeah I’m interested to know would these hits knock someone over or something?
posted by aubilenon at 9:09 PM on October 9


The longbow is why I always play as the Brits in AOE2
posted by Chaffinch at 3:27 AM on October 10


The chief weapon of the English was

...surprise. Surprise and fear. Their two chief weapons were...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:42 AM on October 10 [13 favorites]


Capwell sounds like Ron Swanson / Nick Offerman.

Thanks for the channel lead.
posted by terrapin at 6:19 AM on October 10


If the maxim of good leadership is "under no circumstances directly engage an English army using longbows" that kind of speaks for itself.

I would say that the maxim, as practiced successfully by Du Guesclin, was to not engage an English army unless you have a clear advantage. It was awful in some ways, but the most successful the French were at defending against chevauchées was a using a Fabian strategy: garrison the walled towns, let the villages burn, possibly have armies shadowing the English army to block its path and force it towards less valuable land, like in 1373 against John of Gaunt. It's not Chivalrous, but Chivalry is for idiots like John the Good.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:32 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


It's not Chivalrous, but Chivalry is for idiots like John the Good.

I know chivalry is bullshit, but I still found this kind of shocking:
The Oriflamme (from Latin aurea flamma, "golden flame") was the battle standard of the King of France in the Middle Ages.... When the oriflamme was raised in battle by the French royalty during the Middle Ages, most notably during the Hundred Years War, no prisoners were to be taken until it was lowered. Through this tactic they hoped to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy, especially the nobles, who could usually expect to be taken alive for ransom during such military encounters.
So they had a standard symbol for "we're ignoring the rules of honorable combat" and yet people still believed in chivalry? We really have always been this dumb.
posted by The Tensor at 10:55 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


would these hits knock someone over or something?
The masses and speeds of these arrows (and therefore their energy and momentum) are within a factor of two of a major league fastball. So not something that would for certain incapacitate you, but not a collision that a normal person would casually ignore.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:23 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


> So they had a standard symbol for "we're ignoring the rules of honorable combat" and yet people still believed in chivalry?

It's at least a tiny bit chivalrous. They didn't have to announce their intentions.
posted by ardgedee at 6:58 PM on October 10


To complete my point, I would say that the longbow did make English armies close to invulnerable in pitched battles, but that it wasn't that big of an advantage given the context.

Keeping an army in the field was prohibitively expensive in those days, even for the richest polities; English kings had to constantly argue with Parliament to avoid getting their funding cut off, which would have led to their men abandoning the campaign. And once the army was inevitably dismissed for lack of funds, the enemy could start slowly gnawing at any gains made during the campaign.

Logistics were very difficult, and English armies had thousands of horses to feed and keep (they would need acres and acres of land just for the horses to stand at rest, never mind pastures to feed). Bridges were rare and could be demolished, while fording points could be staked and defended to prevent a crossing.

Finally, walled towns with garrisons were very hard to attack. The defenders would empty the countryside of food and fodder, so that the attackers needed logistic support to keep a siege for even a few weeks. Bringing siege engines to the town was also very difficult.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:15 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Look at Henry VIII's failed expedition into France, for example.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:01 PM on October 12


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