Uploaded on Dec 7, 2008
The modern day debate over whether or not arrows penetrated medieval armour in the 14th and 15th centuries is one that is conducted by those "for" and "against" with almost as much passion as the combatants on the fields of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt fought during the Hundred Years War.
What cannot be ignored by either side is that there are contemporary records from eye witnesses to these battles and others, that record both arrows penetrating plate armour, and of arrows bouncing off. No reasonable person should claim that arrows either always defeated plate, or always glanced off. To do so would be naïve at best.
Our video aims neither to prove nor dispel these accounts. It is to be viewed with an open mind and for you to take as you please. All we ask is that you keep in mind the following points:
1. The bows we are shooting are at the lower end of the poundage medieval archers would have used during the period that concerns us. The finds from the wreck of the Mary Rose prove that the medieval longbow used by the military archer, typically referred to as the Warbow, would more likely have been around 120lbs draw weight, and possibly more.
2. The heads on the arrows we are shooting have not been sharpened nor hardened, as was often the case in medieval times.
3. The carbon content of the steel we are shooting at is higher than the average medieval armour, and therefore tougher.
4. The armour of a medieval knight would have been thickest on the breastplate and the front of the helmet. To reduce weight the armour would have been thinner elsewhere. In this video we are therefore shooting directly at the areas of a knights armour that were specifically designed to resist the penetrative effects of an arrow. That they bounce off should come as no surprise, but note that every arrow penetrated up to half an inch before doing so.
5. There are only 3 of us shooting here and we are shooting directly from the front. In a medieval battle the front line would have stretched for many hundreds or thousands of yards. The front at Agincourt was 3/4 of a mile long. With thousands of archers shooting at once into the massed ranks of approaching knights and men at arms it is natural to suppose that not every archer would have shot at a target directly to his front. Hits to the sides of the armour would have been common.
6. In order to have the greatest chance of killing, an archer would have shot to hit the weak points of the enemy's armour, namely the visor slits, the legs, the sides and the joints.
7. Many arrows would have glanced off their intended targets and would have gone ricocheting at crazy angles through the ranks to either side, in so doing quite possibly finding these weak points by accident.
8. Not all the combatants on any field of conflict would have been rich enough, or of the social class, to wear the very best state-of-the-art armour that was available at that time. Many would have worn old armour, handed down armour or just the few pieces they could afford or had scavenged from previous battles. Many would have worn maille (chainmail) or just padded jacks and leather armour.
9. The blunt force trauma from each hit could have been enough to injure alone, or at least severely put the knight off his stride.