How Far Can A Medieval Longbow Shoot

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Have you ever wondered about the remarkable abilities of medieval archers to launch arrows over long distances using a longbow?

Longbows were crucial weapons in many epic battles of yesteryear, and the tales of skilled bowmen have been passed down through generations.

The short answer is that a medieval longbow could achieve an effective range varying from 450 to 1,000 feet, contingent on the arrow’s weight. The longest mark shot on the London practice ground of Finsbury Fields in the 16th century was 345 yards….

In this article, we will explore just how far a medieval longbow could shoot, separating fact from fiction along the way.

So sit back, relax, and delve into medieval warfare as we uncover what made the longbow a formidable weapon in its time.

When Was The Longbow Invented

The longbow existed in the 12th century due to the requirements of siege and guerrilla operations in the Welsh Marches. A couple of centuries later that the crossbow

Subsequently, the longbow made its way to European battlefields in the 14th century.

Crossbows vs. longbows became a significant debate as they both had their advantages, with arrows being more versatile than bolts and offering different armor types penetration capabilities.

Bow materials played a crucial role in these weapons’ effectiveness, with yew wood being the primary choice for longbows due to its flexibility and strength.

Accuracy differences between crossbows and longbows depended on skill, distance, and weather conditions. With that knowledge, let’s explore how far an English longbow could shoot.

How Far Could An English Longbow Shoot

“An English archer could shoot six aimed shots a minute, and his effective range was about 200 yards, though an arrow could go twice as far in the right hands.”


The English longbow was renowned for its impressive range and accuracy, striking fear into the hearts of opposing forces.

  1. Longbow accuracy: A well-trained archer could hit targets at distances over 200 yards away with remarkable precision.
  2. Arrow trajectory: Bowstring materials, bow construction, and arrowhead design contributed to each shot’s ideal flight path and piercing capabilities.
  3. Archer training: To ensure mastery of this powerful weapon, aspiring longbowmen underwent rigorous training from an early age – honing their technique through countless hours of practice.

The English longbow played a crucial role in shaping warfare tactics during the medieval period.

Now let’s delve further into another aspect related to these iconic warriors: did archers wear armor?

Did Archers Wear Armor

While the English longbow had an impressive range, it’s also important to consider the protection that archers themselves used during battle.

Armor was essential for their survival on the battlefield, and various armor types were worn by archers throughout history.

Archers typically wore lighter armor than other soldiers to maintain mobility and flexibility while using their bows.

Leather or padded gambesons were common choices for arrow defense, as they absorbed some of the impacts from incoming projectiles.

Some more advanced archery techniques required greater bow strength and precision, which heavier armor types could impact.

Bow materials also played a role in determining how much protection an archer needed; stronger materials like yew wood allowed for better performance at longer ranges, potentially keeping them away from immediate danger.

Armor TypeDescription
GambesonA quilted jacket made from layers of fabric or leather, providing cushioning against arrows and blunt force trauma.
Leather ArmorMade from hardened animal hides, leather armor offered moderate protection while remaining relatively lightweight.
MailInterlocking rings of metal created a flexible but strong barrier against cutting attacks; however, its weight restricted movement for archers somewhat.

As we can see, there was a balance between maintaining optimal performance with their weapons and ensuring adequate protection on the battlefield for medieval archers.

Next is understanding how many arrows these skilled warriors would carry into combat.

How Many Arrows Did Archers Carry

Archers during medieval times typically carried sheaves of arrows, which were bundles of arrows bound together for easy transport and storage.

These sheaves typically contained around 24 arrows each, although the exact number varied depending on the specific military unit and equipment.

It was common for archers to carry multiple sheaves of arrows, usually on their person or on a cart or wagon, to ensure they had enough ammunition for extended periods of battle.

What Was The Draw Weight Of A Medieval Longbow

The range and power of a medieval longbow were significantly influenced by its draw weight, which pertains to the force needed to draw back the bowstring.

This force, in turn, determines the arrow’s speed and, consequently, its travel distance.

Previous estimations of draw weights ranged between 90 to 110 pounds until the discovery of the Mary Rose, a ship that sank in Portsmouth in 1545.

The longbows found on the ship, and newer estimates suggest that draw weights were more likely to have been in the range of 150 to 160 pounds, which is quite remarkable.

Factors such as archery technique, fletching materials, strain injuries from heavy bows, and arrowhead types played significant roles in maximizing this potential.

  1. Archery technique – A skilled archer could shoot farther by employing proper body positioning and leveraging their strength.
  2. Fletching materials – Lighter feather fletchings allowed for improved aerodynamics and greater distances achieved.
  3. Arrowhead types – Different designs catered to specific purposes; lightweight broadheads could travel further than heavier ones for piercing armor.

While these aspects contributed significantly to an archer’s success with a medieval longbow, another important consideration was the bowstring quality.

Good strings were essential for maintaining high tension on the arrows and preventing them from losing energy during flight.

As we delve deeper into our exploration of medieval longbows, let us examine what determined their draw length.

What Was The Draw Length Of A Medieval Longbow

Again. The findings of arrows on the sunken “Mary Rose” brought more certainty into that discussion. Arrows found on that ship, indicate an average draw length of 30 inches.

Why Was The English Longbow So Effective

The effectiveness of the English longbow can be attributed to several contributing factors.

Firstly, the extensive and rigorous training that each archer underwent was crucial. The archers were expected to have a high level of physical fitness and undergo training from a young age to develop their skills in handling the bow and arrow. This ensured that they could shoot accurately and with consistent power, even during extended periods of battle.

Another crucial factor was the use of high-quality materials in constructing the longbow. The best longbows were crafted from the wood of the yew tree, which had the strength and flexibility required for the bow to be durable and effective.

The skill of the archer was paramount in the success of the longbow. A skilled archer could deliver high accuracy and consistency in their shots, making the longbow an effective weapon even at considerable distances.

Before you go..

The medieval longbow was a revolutionary weapon that changed warfare during its time. Depending on the type of arrow and arrowhead, it had an estimated range of up to 350 yards.

The longbow’s range and accuracy allowed armies to engage their enemies from a safe distance, giving them a significant advantage over other armies using less advanced weaponry.

  • Recurve bows are popular for their elegant design and efficient energy storage and release.
  • Archers have been used worldwide for centuries and remain prevalent in modern archery competitions and recreational shooting.
  • Recurve bows balance power and maneuverability, making them versatile for various skill levels.
  • Historical designs inspire modern longbows and offer a unique shooting experience with simplicity and traditional construction.
  • They are made from natural materials like wood and benefit from modern manufacturing techniques.
  • Compound bows are technologically advanced, featuring pulleys and cables that reduce the force required to hold the bow at full draw.
  • They offer high arrow speeds and accuracy, making them favored by hunters and professional archers.
  • Maximum range and distance depend on factors such as bow type, arrow weight, environmental conditions, and the archer’s skill level.
  • Lighter arrows and modern compound bows can achieve impressive speeds and longer maximum distances, but air resistance and accuracy over distance impact effective range for hunting scenarios.
  • Longbows played a significant role in ancient battles involving Henry VIII’s English army.
  • They were made from a single piece of wood or wood laminates and were powerful enough to penetrate armor and strike game animals from a distance.
  • Longbow ranges could reach up to 250-300 yards, while an effective hunting range for an average archer is around 40-50 yards.
  • Famous archers like Robin Hood gained legendary status for their skill with the longbow, showcasing exceptional accuracy and precise angle shooting.
  • Archery has evolved with various bow types and modern versions of historical designs, allowing archers to choose equipment that suits their preferences.
  • Today’s average archer can achieve accurate ranges of several dozen yards, while professional archers and hunters may have a maximum hunting range beyond 100 yards.
  • Bows have played a significant role in human history and continue to captivate enthusiasts, showcasing a blend of skill, technology, and respect for the art of archery.

I am the founder and chief editor here at BowAddicted. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors! It's been an amazing journey so far with some ups and downs, but it's worth it to spend time outside with friends and family.

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