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Published on Apr 11, 2009
The purpose of this video is to demonstrate the comparative SPEED of shot between the English longbow and the hand-spanned crossbow. It is NOT an attempt to show which is better. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see in the video, the crossbow wasn't as slow to shoot as many people make out, but please keep in mind that the hand-spanned crossbow is a very quick type of crossbow to span and shoot due to its relatively low poundage, much quicker that the other types of crossbow in use during the middle ages which would typically have been more powerful.
Please also note that while Martin is a very experienced and proficient archer the same cannot be said for myself as a crossbowman. I had only owned the crossbow for a short time when this video was made, but we felt that helped the demonstration as it shows that even in inexperienced hands the crossbow could be shot with some degree of proficiency.
Some users have commented that both of us could have shot quicker but they fail to see the point of the video. We are trying to show a realistic speed of shot, where both the archer and the crossbowman are aiming their arrows/bolts rather than just shooting them off as quickly as they can without any thought for draw length or accuracy.
Due to the heavy construction of the crossbow's steel prod, or bow, and the short draw length along the crossbow's tiller, the crossbow was a very inefficient weapon. Although the crossbow in the video has a draw weight of around 130 lb, compared to the longbow's 110 lb, our crossbow could only manage a maximum range of some 90 yards, compared to the longbow's 250 yards. To compensate, medieval crossbows were often many times the draw weight of the bow used here, and thus required the use of a belt and hook, Goats Foot or Windlass to draw. This made them much slower than the longbow. Due to this slow re-loading crossbowmen often sheltered behind Pavises, or large shields, while re-loading on an open battlefield. These shortcomings were not an issue, however, when the crossbow was used to defend walled towns or castles, a situation where the crossbow excelled.
If you wish to see the longbow compared with the more powerful, but slower, windlass crossbow, then watch the new series of Warriors on the History Channel. In episode 5, on the English Knight, you can see Martin and I going head to head, pitting a 110 lb yew longbow against an 850lb windlass crossbow, while Terry Schappert counts the amount of arrows and bolts we manage to loose in 1 minute. It makes for a very interesting comparison with this video! (The episode was screened in the US on April 2nd, and comes to the UK in the Autumn, but it is available to watch on the History Channel website too).
Here are some answers to the most common questions we receive:
1.The longbow was made by the Italian bowyer Celestio Poletti. It is made of high-altitude Italian Yew, has a draw weight of 110 lb and cost around £700
2.The crossbow was made by Robin Knight. It has a steel prod and a draw weight of around 130 lb. It cost around £250.
3.We do not make crossbows, arrows or longbows for other people.
4.The music is shareware by Jean Paul Grois and Forson Meyer, and can be obtained through the Soundclick website.
5. If you want more information on crossbows or are thinking of buying your own then why not give Chris's site a try at www.bestcrossbowsreviews.org.