Crossbow > Chapter 3 > General
Dimensions of Crossbows > p.14
The General Dimensions of Crossbows
The formidable Siege Crossbow of about 18 lbs.
weight, which was only employed in the attack or defence of a fortress,
though it could be supported and aimed by a man of very strong physique,
was usually discharged either as it rested on a parapet, or when pivoted
on a small tripod.
Not long since I was fortunate in obtaining from Nuremberg a fine example
of one of these large weapons.
The woodwork of its stock was naturally much damaged by age and neglect,
and this, and the lock and other fittings, I found it necessary to renew
; all of which I had carefully done by mechanics in my workshop. The steel
bow is, however, the original one and of as good temper as ever, though
it was made in Genoa over four hundred years ago.
The bow is 3 ft. 2 in. long, and at its centre 2 1/2 in. wide and I
Shooting this crossbow from the shoulder, with
a bolt 3 oz. in weight and 14 in. in length, I have attained a range of
460 yards, and at 60 yards I have sent a bolt right through a deal plank
3/4 in. thick.
By suspending the crossbow in a perpendicular
position from a beam, and then attaching heavy weights to a rope fastened
to the centre of its bowstring, I was able to determine its strength of
pull. The total weight required to draw the string of its bow 7 in., or
from a state of rest to the catch of the lock, is 1,200 Lbs. or over half
a ton. This, of course, gives the power of the crossbow
in question, just as 50 Lbs. represents the strength of an ordinary longbow,
or the weight required to draw its string the length of its arrow.
Notwithstanding its immense strength of pull, by the aid of its portable
little fifteenth-century windlass, the string of this crossbow can be stretched
to the catch of its lock by the fingers of one hand, showing the great
power and cleverly designed efficiency of the windlass of a mediaeval crossbow.
It is, perhaps, worth recording here, that in the autumn of 1901 I shot
several bolts with this weapon across the Menai Straits, from the battery
of Fort Belan to Abermenai Point; this was done in the presence of a number
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