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Trebuchet Catapults - Fully Assembled Working Model Trebuchets , Trebuchet Kits , Trebuchet Plans

The Crossbow   >  Chapter 5   >  Range of the Medieval Crossbow   >  p.22

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

The 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 angle.

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.

The Crossbow   >  Chapter 5   >  Range of the Medieval Crossbow   >  p.22


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Inspired by the great war machines and siege catapults of Leonardo da Vinci , this all Red Oak hardwood trebuchet features an open counterweight cabinet for range and trajectory adjustment. 

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