by Steve Bivans
The following video links will take you to tests that myself and a friend of mine, Keith, did a few years ago. As part of a documentary on the Knights Templar that I put together as a senior project at East Carolina University, we did some weapons testing on flesh and bone. The results were interesting to say the least. Disclaimer: No animal was harmed in the making of these videos. Though as I state in the sword post, the pig was ‘harmed’ at some point, because he was dead before we got ahold of him.
The tests are not scientific, for a couple of reasons, though I think they demonstrate well enough that pre-firearm killing was a dirty business, but one that could be quite efficient. The goal was to kill your enemy, and in that regard, premodern weapons were up to the task. No, they could not obliterate hundreds and thousands of people in an instant, but they were deadly nonetheless. The issues of modern vs medieval steel are covered in my post on the sword test, so I will refer you there for that. As for the bows themselves, the ones we used were the ones we had on hand. Our little documentary wasn’t a LOW budget film, it was pretty much a NO budget film, so we did not go out and buy accurate replicas of recurved, Saracen bows, or medieval European crossbows. Keith is an avid hunter, so we used his modern versions. In some ways, the medieval crossbow was probably even more deadly. It likely had more tension, though not as uniform as modern ones, as they were handmade instead of factory produced.
The arrow tips are of course of modern steel, and not at all of medieval style. The crossbow bolts had target points on them, which would make them less sharp than a medieval bolt would be. The arrows we used for the recurve bow were two different types, as you’ll see. First is a target tip, much like the crossbow bolt. Second is a modern razor tip arrow, used for hunting. It is a particularly deadly projectile, as you’ll see. There was no medieval equivalent to this, though a bodkin point, used by longbowmen in the middle ages was probably just as effective, especially against chain-mail, as it was designed to push through the links in armor, continuing through the torso of the victim.
I hope you enjoy them, if enjoy is the right word. We enjoyed making them, as you’ll see.
I hope you will also check out the page about my upcoming book, which is not about medieval weaponry, but about Hobbits and how being one can save the Earth. For more information on my book, see my post on Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth. It will be on Kickstarter very soon. Thanks! Oh yeah, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog (on the right side) so you can get updates when I post them!