Longbows are one of the oldest and best bow designs in history, and their reputation as powerful weapons is almost legendary, which has, in turn, prompted many famous stories both truthful and fictional of the longbow being put to lethal use by many figures and armies throughout history.
Robin Hood, the army of Henry V, and many others have benefitted from the immense power of the longbow. Historians believe that the design was of Welsh origin, and it became one of the main weapons of war throughout the Hundred Years War and into the 16th century.
The best longbows were traditionally made of yew and took years of training to properly master, meaning that the longbow was gradually phased out when crossbows started to become widespread, as they were almost as powerful and capable of being used without such extensive training.
That being said, the longbow has played a crucial role in various battles throughout history, including Crecy, Poitiers, and of course the infamous battle of Agincourt.
True to their name, longbows draw their power from their immense size and height. Very often they would be made as tall as their intended user, which meant they could be drawn a very long way and generate enormous amounts of force.
A trained longbowman using the famous armor-piercing bodkin arrowheads could penetrate the most advanced and expensive armors with a well-placed shot, indicating the strategic value of the longbow at a time when knights and armor were dominating feudal battlefields.
In terms of raw power, longbows were in a league of their own for a very long time. While the power would vary slightly depending on factors such as the size and strength of the bowman, the weight of the arrow, and the thickness and height of the bow itself, they were very powerful and may have required a force of as much as 150 or even 200lbs to draw.
This means the draw weight would be anywhere from 360 newtons of force to more than 650 newtons, however considerable training and years of practice would be required to accurately control and fire arrows of this strength.
While modern compound bows are of course much more accurate and powerful thanks to their various modern materials and technologies, longbows marked the highwater level for traditional self pulled bows, which is one of the reasons why they are so enshrined in legends, myths, and fictional tales of heroes and fantasy.
Is a longbow hard to shoot?
Longbows are most definitely much harder to shoot than modern bows, and are probably one of the most difficult bow designs to use out of all the different variations throughout history.
They require a lot of very precise techniques to fire even short distances at large targets, and it is also said that they also give very raw and intense feedback to the archer which makes them difficult to control and hard to use safely.
Quite often modern versions of these historic bows are designed to be much more forgiving than their traditional ancestors would have been, however even a modern longbow made using the latest materials and technology can be cumbersome and hard to use effectively.
One of the key reasons for the difficulty in using a longbow is its sheer size. Longbows are typically at least the same size as their user, and this makes them hard to aim, and even harder to pull as they require a lot of force to be drawn to any meaningful level.
Practiced archers and those with decent strength and coordination may find things a little easier, however, there’s a reason why longbowmen were often professionals who grew up learning to shoot and continued to earn a living using their bows into their adulthood.
There are a few benefits to using a longbow, however, and one of them is that they are thought to be much quieter than other types of bow, so if stealth is important to you, they definitely offer something in this department.
It’s also important to remember that the payoff for the awkwardness and difficulty of shooting a longbow accurately is that it can outrange most other historical types of bow, and in warfare, in particular, this would’ve given a massive advantage as was demonstrated countless times by the English and Welsh soldiers of the Hundred Years War.
How far can a longbow shoot?
There would’ve been, and still are, many factors that can affect the range of your longbow. One of the key factors is the wood that the longbow is made out of. Typically it would be made out of yew, however, some were made out of elm, oak, hickory, ash, hazel, and even maple.
Another key factor is the size of the bow and the weight of the arrow, heavier options providing much more power and range, with lighter versions being better for shorter range shooting and hunting.
A longbow with a 30lb draw weight would be able to reach out and hit 150 to 200 yards depending on the strength of the bowman, the arrow, and the weather conditions.
A 35lb bow would be able to hit anywhere between 240 and 260 yards, while a 40lb bow would be able to hit anywhere between 250 to 300 yards with an effective or accurate range of 40 to 50 yards.
For reference, a 40lb recurve bow would have a range of around 260 to 280 yards and an effective range of around 25 to 30 yards.