Crossbow > Chapter 5
> Range of the Medieval Crossbow
it is curious to note, is just the range that can be reached by an unusually
strong and skilful archer of the present day.
The Crossbows for Killing Deer - such as the one described in
Chapters XVIII-XXVIII - were somewhat lighter and less powerful than those
intended for war, their bolts being of course also smaller.
I find that these sporting crossbows send
their bolts at furthest 350 yards, their average length of flight being
from 330 to 340 yards. The point-blank range, so called, of a good sporting
crossbow, with a steel bow, was from 50 to 60 yards, which was no doubt
sufficient in the days before animals had been made wary by the report
of handguns, and when the hunter with his noiseless crossbow, could lie
in wait for deer as they wandered across the glades of a forest, or visited
their feeding and drinking haunts.
The extreme range of the Smaller Sporting Crossbow
(Chapter XXXII), which shot a light poisoned
bolt, was from 270 to 280 yards.
In the ' Dunstable Chronicle' Henry V. is described as approaching the
town of Rouen ' within a distance of 40 rods or within shot of a quarrel
from a crossbow.' Forty rods is 220 yards, and 'within shot of a quarrel'
suggests the range of a quarrel to be further than 220 yards. This distance,
however, doubtless implies merely a shot with an effective aim, and not
one made to test the extreme range of a crossbow, which would certainly
be far more than 220 yards when the weapon was pointed upwards at a high
I have never been able to test a crossbow with a composite bow of horn,
yew, and sinew, but this variety must necessarily have been much inferior
in power to a crossbow with a thick steel bow.
There are few weapons with composite bows in existence, and these are in
such a dilapidated condition that no experiments can be made with them.
It may be taken that the ordinary longbowmen of the days of Crecy and
Agincourt, could not shoot the heavy-headed war arrow to a greater range
than about 250 yards.1
Whether the English bowman of the fifteenth century could shoot his
lighter arrows further than a flight arrow can be propelled by an accomplished
archer of the present day, is doubtful, particularly when we consider that
it is not one bow in a score that will shoot a flight arrow successfully.
For instance, I have bows of 75 to 80 Lbs. with which I can draw a 30 in.
flight arrow to the head, but which at the same time do not drive it nearly
so far as a bow with a pull of only 60 Lbs.
As I have pointed out, the skilled modern archer, with a flight arrow
1 It is true the English bowmen sometimes carried
several arrows with much lighter heads and shafts than the others in their
sheaves. They used these to harass an enemy, and especially his horses,
at a distance which was beyond the reach of the ordinary, and heavier war
arrow. Though these lighter arrows probably, in some degree, resembled
modern flight, or roving arrows, they must have had heavier heads than
the latter to have been of any use in warfare.
> Chapter 5 > Range
of the Medieval Crossbow > p.22
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