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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentlemen; as this is my first post on the forum I would like to take this opportunity to say hello and that i'm very impressed with the knowledge I've gained from reading your posts. Just my two cents but everything I have read from Oakeshott to well researched historical fiction has asserted that 1. arrows from an English longbow could penetrate platemail given a straight-on hit (not a glancing or angled strike), 2. that peasants, unarmored and with only farm utensils often fought in conflicts and were easily cut down with swords. As to ringmail or chainmail, I have read much about mail haubergeons or shirts being taken as battlefield trophies, but had rents and tears from battle. Now, these could have caused by spears or lances, but I believe that given the proper angle of attack a sword could have caused such damage, especially if the blow was delivered from horseback to an opponent on foot. Your comments appreciated. Thanks and glad to be a part of such a knowledgeable group!
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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK, the previous post made me think of something I had been told, I'll let someone else comment on the mis-terimnology used in more detail. Though I do not believe "platemail" is accurate in any way.

The point of a sword could be thrust into the mail, and then with a wedging motion you could effectivly break a few links in the maile and then thrust the sword into the individual wearing mail. Is this true?

However, to take the time to actually wedge your sword around, while the tip is paritally in the maile and with the guy wearing the maile, he would be moving around of course... So wouldn't this actually be unlikely or a rarity of some sort?

Kind of like a guy standing still while he see's a piano about to fall on him... lol

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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher; You are absolutely correct. I misspoke, I meant to say "plate armor" as opposed to "platemail"....to my knowledge there is no such thing as platemail. That's what happens when you try to type too fast and don't edit your post. My apologies. It does seem logical to me that with the evolution of broadswords from nearly parallel sided, roundish tipped blades to profile and distal tapered blades with acute points, that the earliest blades were intended for slashing, chopping blows and the later tapered blades were intended for cutting and thrusting. given that mail was one of the earliest forms of armor it would stand to reason that swords were used in a cutting fashion against mail.....how successfully is open to debate.
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J.D. Crawford




PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
J.D. Crawford wrote:
Can someone take up this challenge? It could not be that hard if you are willing to sacrifice some materials for knowledge.


There's a not a compelling need for such tests


Well, we'll just have to disagree on that point. There must be some reason why swords changed when people switched from mail to plate. The evidence I have seen so far is what we would call in my profession 'anecdotal'. I would like to see some systematic tests. This, to me, is 100% better than any amount of interpretation and speculation.

The test by Julio posted above is nice, it tends to confirm the historical reports of what happened when light bows were used against mail in the crusades. However, a trained bowman with a heavier bow can do more damage. I recall seeing an English longbow put a bodkin 3-4" through a breast plate (Weapons that Made Britain bow & arrow episode), so I doubt it would do less against mail. But then again, the giving nature of mail against a soft padding changes the whole dynamic, so it has to be tested. But I'm no archery expert and that is not my interest.

I would really like to know why cutting swords went out when plate came in, and how these different types of armor altered styles of fighting. If swords were completely ineffective against Mail, then there's apparently no reason why people shifted from broad cutting swords to stiff thrusting swords when plate came in, and the whole mainstream theory of Medieval sword development is shot down.
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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, I don't see the issue here. The later broadswords with acute points were used for finding the joints, chinks, and openings in plate armor. Also, it must be remembered that when full plate armor came into use, weapons such as maces, flails, war axes, warhammers, pikes etc. were more often used than swords. There were still combatants that were more lightly armored such as some men at arms and the sword would have been useful against them. Additionally, I would submit that any testing could not be done under original conditions. It would, of course, be performed without the mental stress, fear, adrenaline, and confusion of actual medieval combat, and modern steel would be used in both sword and mail. The results of such a test, to my mind, would be questionable at best.
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Harry J. Fletcher




PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why is it so hard to accept that maile was an imperfect defense? that it could not stop arrows from from piercing it to inflict wounds upon the wearer? The same for axe blows which could sever the maile links, limbs, and heads as well as inflict ghastly wounds? Test after after test conducted have the effect of moderate strength bows, let alone recurve bows or even English long bows of yew.

As for swords causing blunt trauma rather than neat nuts so beloved to modern day sword enthusiasts, just consider the beating the edge of sword would take from hitting the maile, sheild, helmets or other objects which all serve to blunt that nice keen edge very very quickly. So the sword very soon became a blunted sort dull edged club used to bludgeon one's opponent. The mace, axe, flail and finally the sword were used after the lance was used to break the enemy formation and general melee commenced. Exclamation Exclamation

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of course mail is imperfect. But it saved your ass more often than not. As any other armor. In the age of mail still most warriors didn't have mail or any other metal armor so swords were ideal melee weapon. They were reasonably effective against mail too, though more through concussion than real cutting. But even with padding and mail, strong cut will damage the flesh beneath the protection in a way that will look more or less like a cut. I think we all experienced a cut by some accidental happening which cut our skin although our shirt or anything else we wore remained without a mark. Longbows and composite bows of 100lb+ of course could pierce mail and padding, but of course not always. Conditions must be perfect for them to succeed and many arrows will fail before one succeed in doing the job. If not, crusader army at Arsuf in 1191 would not live 5 minutes under the shower of Saracen arrows. English archers laughed at the Scots at the battle of Standard in 1138 who didn't wear proper armor and died in heaps under English arrows. As far as I know, English writers specifically said that such outcome was because scots didn't wear mail like English did. At least Scottish spearmen who did the first charge against the English lines.
Edit: I forgot axes. Wink Why do everyone claim axes cut mail? Battle axes have thin broad blades perfect for cutting flesh and would of course be effective against mail in the same way heavy cutting swords were, with blunt force. They didn't need to cut mail to be successful. They just did what swords did but better. With some disadvantages of course so they didn't replace swords but their cut was more effective than sword cut. But you can't cut iron. Maybe break some links in the mail but not cut them.
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Gary Cain




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 5:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The reason why swords changed is as described above, plate was far more effective by weight as a defence against sword cuts. When discussing sword cuts against mail you have to first realise that a single handed broadsword does not generate enough blade speed to penetrate more than one link of armor. The vast majority of holes in armor that were seen during the medieval era occurred when someone was finishing off his opponent who was lying flat on the ground. Then it is very easy to place the point in a likely part of the armor and use your whole weight to punch a hole through.

Two handed broadswords generated a bit more bladespeed but in general according to some very interesting research I have seen were more commonly used like quarterstaffs. In mass combats (like that the Landsknecht engaged in) the sword was used with the point toward the ground and the target was the foot and the back ranks would finish off the victim.
Halberds were a truly effective weapon against even plate armor however and rapiers were designed to target the joints as has been pointed out before. Once the techniques and the skill of fencing were developed to a suitable level the plate armor was obsolete. At that point you see breastplates and helmets being used but almost nothing else because you have to remember ransoms were still being paid...on live prisoners!

I think it is a common problem to focus on one aspect of persoanl combat and forget about all the other aspects that are involved. Many people think that mail was very prevelant in the middle ages but it was not.. Most commonly it was only the knight and a few of most valued men who had a hauberk, the rest simply had padded armor....if they were lucky!

When speaking of the defense against arrows when one reads through the historical record it becomes apparent that longbows weilded by very strong archers (capable of pulling a 125lb+ bow) were in fact able to penetrate mail armor out to about 100 or 150 yards given a straight impact. There are also reports of archers with particularly keen eyesight and skill able to hit particular rings out to some pretty ridiculous ranges (though I have to admit I find those accounts rather fanciful) but when one is talking about the "average" archer 25 yards was a more likely range at which an arrow could reasonably be expected to penetrate mail armor.

Cheers!
Gary


J.D. Crawford wrote:
Steven H wrote:
J.D. Crawford wrote:
Can someone take up this challenge? It could not be that hard if you are willing to sacrifice some materials for knowledge.


There's a not a compelling need for such tests


Well, we'll just have to disagree on that point. There must be some reason why swords changed when people switched from mail to plate. The evidence I have seen so far is what we would call in my profession 'anecdotal'. I would like to see some systematic tests. This, to me, is 100% better than any amount of interpretation and speculation.

The test by Julio posted above is nice, it tends to confirm the historical reports of what happened when light bows were used against mail in the crusades. However, a trained bowman with a heavier bow can do more damage. I recall seeing an English longbow put a bodkin 3-4" through a breast plate (Weapons that Made Britain bow & arrow episode), so I doubt it would do less against mail. But then again, the giving nature of mail against a soft padding changes the whole dynamic, so it has to be tested. But I'm no archery expert and that is not my interest.

I would really like to know why cutting swords went out when plate came in, and how these different types of armor altered styles of fighting. If swords were completely ineffective against Mail, then there's apparently no reason why people shifted from broad cutting swords to stiff thrusting swords when plate came in, and the whole mainstream theory of Medieval sword development is shot down.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 6:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harry J. Fletcher wrote:
Test after after test conducted have the effect of moderate strength bows, let alone recurve bows or even English long bows of yew.

I'd like to see even a single one of these tests you speak of. I have read every published test I can find and there are very very few that go close to replicating historical mail.
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Cain wrote:
The reason why swords changed is as described above, plate was far more effective by weight as a defence against sword cuts.

The change in sword designs had nothing to do with the transition from mail to plate. It doesn't matter what kind of sword you have you simply can't cut through mail with it and the later typologies were just as effective at thrusting through a 12th century mail hauberk as a 15th century mail voider. So why weren't these sword typologies more prevalent centuries earlier? It has nothing to do with mail armour. It has nothing to do with lack of technology or skill. The most likely reasons are the social ones I already outlined.

Quote:
rapiers were designed to target the joints as has been pointed out before.
Hardly. Rapiers were civilian weapons. Civilians fought largely without armour.

Quote:
Once the techniques and the skill of fencing were developed to a suitable level the plate armor was obsolete. At that point you see breastplates and helmets being used but almost nothing else because you have to remember ransoms were still being paid...on live prisoners!
Plate was rendered obsolete because of firearms and modern logistics. It had nothing to do with rapiers and fencing.

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When speaking of the defense against arrows when one reads through the historical record it becomes apparent that longbows weilded by very strong archers (capable of pulling a 125lb+ bow) were in fact able to penetrate mail armor out to about 100 or 150 yards given a straight impact.
And there are just as many or more accounts stating that mail could resist the longbow. It depends on the type of mail, the type of arrow, the type of bow, the skill of the archer, the range, etc, etc. The only thing that really matters is whether armour penetration occurred often enough to affect to outcome of a battle. The answer is a resounding NO.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 6:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
[I recall seeing an English longbow put a bodkin 3-4" through a breast plate (Weapons that Made Britain bow & arrow episode),

That "breastplate" didn't have much in common with historical armour. A far more accurate and well-written test conducted by the Defense Academy produced far more useful data, though this, too, was heavily biased in favour of the bow.
http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=79261
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The only thing that really matters is whether armour penetration occurred often enough to affect to outcome of a battle. The answer is a resounding NO.


I wouldn't count on that. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Walid al-Tartushi, an 11th-century Andalusian Muslim author, wrote that the elite archers would be able to pierce hauberks. Why would this be mentioned if it weren't militarily relevant?
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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
When speaking of the defense against arrows when one reads through the historical record it becomes apparent that longbows weilded by very strong archers (capable of pulling a 125lb+ bow) were in fact able to penetrate mail armor out to about 100 or 150 yards given a straight impact.
And there are just as many or more accounts stating that mail could resist the longbow. It depends on the type of mail, the type of arrow, the type of bow, the skill of the archer, the range, etc, etc. The only thing that really matters is whether armour penetration occurred often enough to affect to outcome of a battle. The answer is a resounding NO.[/quote]


......Then the historians are mistaken when they report that the battles of Crecy and Agincourt in the Hundred Years War, where the cream of the French nobility, many of whom would have been wearing plate armor, was wiped out.......was decided by the English longbow? The English were badly outnumbered and it was the longbow and the English and Welsh exclusive expertise with it that defeated the French on both occasions. I can't, of course, know the details because I wasn't there but I prefer to believe the historians in this matter.

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Nathan Quarantillo




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that you are believing some very common misconceptions about the longbows penetrations. popular to the point where i have to often correct my history teachers when it comes to this.
the french nobility at agincourt were many indeed. but the arrows loosed were much more. statistics show, that if only 1% of the estimated arrows shot at agincourt killed a man, the french would have been utterly decimated. but most of the casualties for the french occured during the melee and when the french knights charged a group of protective stakes that were errected by the english for this purpose. many homemade and "scientific" tests show that a longbow arrow cant penetrate plate armour. in fact, the longbowman after shooting most of the french (and not so well protected) horses, had to support thier men-at-arms and threw down thier bows and joined in the melee (the french were in very muddy ground, which gave the archers a fighting chance in the melee) in fact, after the french got some artillery and tactics together, the english longbowman were almost always on the losing side of battles after agincourt. remember, the french won the war. and in the 14th cent, the full siut of plate hadnt been developed yet, and since i have not viewed satisfactory tests myself on longbow vs mail, i will not comment onto that point. btw, most of theese test you might have heard of, were carbon copies of the Warrior show on history channel. the guy takes his 120-pound or so bow, and shoots from bad breath range a crappy looking breastplate that mas no medieal ridges or other fairly common features, places it w/o a gambeson or arming coat up agianst a TREE and puts a 1/4 in hole in the breastplate. and then refers to it as "Total penetration" Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud

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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 1:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Quarantillo wrote:
I believe that you are believing some very common misconceptions about the longbows penetrations. popular to the point where i have to often correct my history teachers when it comes to this.
the french nobility at agincourt were many indeed. but the arrows loosed were much more. statistics show, that if only 1% of the estimated arrows shot at agincourt killed a man, the french would have been utterly decimated. but most of the casualties for the french occured during the melee and when the french knights charged a group of protective stakes that were errected by the english for this purpose. many homemade and "scientific" tests show that a longbow arrow cant penetrate plate armour. in fact, the longbowman after shooting most of the french (and not so well protected) horses, had to support thier men-at-arms and threw down thier bows and joined in the melee (the french were in very muddy ground, which gave the archers a fighting chance in the melee) in fact, after the french got some artillery and tactics together, the english longbowman were almost always on the losing side of battles after agincourt. remember, the french won the war. and in the 14th cent, the full siut of plate hadnt been developed yet, and since i have not viewed satisfactory tests myself on longbow vs mail, i will not comment onto that point. btw, most of theese test you might have heard of, were carbon copies of the Warrior show on history channel. the guy takes his 120-pound or so bow, and shoots from bad breath range a crappy looking breastplate that mas no medieal ridges or other fairly common features, places it w/o a gambeson or arming coat up agianst a TREE and puts a 1/4 in hole in the breastplate. and then refers to it as "Total penetration" Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud


First of all let me say that I am aware of the specifics of the battle that you mentioned above, however The battle occurred on Friday 25 October 1415, which would be the 15th century. Secondly, the bodkin was designed for penetration and was not a barbed arrowhead which was designed for unarmored killing. I agree that it would be difficult to penetrate plate armor without a dead flush hit, but it was possible. Remember we are talking about archers whom it took 10 years starting in childhood to develop, very strong shoulders and back muscles, and a six foot bow with an arrow a yard long drawn to the cheek. Certainly, if out of range an arrow would not penetrate, however they did not fight long distances apart as we do today with firearms. I do agree with you about some of these modern day "testers" , and the "History" channel to me is inaccurate and misleading to those who don't know better. So, we are not so far apart in what we are saying.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 3:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
The only thing that really matters is whether armour penetration occurred often enough to affect to outcome of a battle. The answer is a resounding NO.


I wouldn't count on that. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Walid al-Tartushi, an 11th-century Andalusian Muslim author, wrote that the elite archers would be able to pierce hauberks. Why would this be mentioned if it weren't militarily relevant?

As I said, it depends on the mail, the type of arrow, the type of bow, the skill of the archer, etc etc. That statewent does not imply that all mail was susceptible to arrows. Nor does it imply that all bowmen were elite archers, nor does it imply that all bows were powerful enough to compromise mail. Even if your statement is taken at face value I seriously doubt that any army could produce enouigh of these "elite archers" to affect the outcome of a battle.
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J R Johnson wrote:
Secondly, the bodkin was designed for penetration and was not a barbed arrowhead which was designed for unarmored killing.

How is this relevant? Show me a study of the numbers and types of arrowheads that were deployed at Agincourt. How many arrows did each archer loose at the enemy? How many were "bodkins"? How many were broadheads? At what range were most of them loosed? At what distance did the archers drop their bows and adopt hand weapons? None of these questions have been satisfactorily answered.

Quote:
I agree that it would be difficult to penetrate plate armor without a dead flush hit, but it was possible.

So? Anything is possible. The question is whether it occurred often enough to affect the battle. The answer is NO. Otherwise mail would not have been the preferred type of armour for the best part of two thousand years by virtually every metal using culture on the planet. Arrows and spears were by far the the most common threat during this time. Why bother with the expense and burden of this armour if one did not expect it to protect against these weapons?

and yet again a nice thread about one subject has been derailed by longbows and plate, both of which are irrelevant. If you wish to continue this please start a relevant thread. This is supposed to be about swords and mail.
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i will stop with this correction. JR, i was referring to why i was ignoring crecy, which you also mention as proof of longbow o'er plate superiority. i know that agincourt was in the 15th cent. when suits of plate became common with the nobility. if you wish to continue our discussion, please start a thread and i will be more that happy to debate there.
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J R Johnson




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
J R Johnson wrote:
Secondly, the bodkin was designed for penetration and was not a barbed arrowhead which was designed for unarmored killing.

How is this relevant? Show me a study of the numbers and types of arrowheads that were deployed at Agincourt. How many arrows did each archer loose at the enemy? How many were "bodkins"? How many were broadheads? At what range were most of them loosed? At what distance did the archers drop their bows and adopt hand weapons? None of these questions have been satisfactorily answered.

Quote:
I agree that it would be difficult to penetrate plate armor without a dead flush hit, but it was possible.

So? Anything is possible. The question is whether it occurred often enough to affect the battle. The answer is NO. Otherwise mail would not have been the preferred type of armour for the best part of two thousand years by virtually every metal using culture on the planet. Arrows and spears were by far the the most common threat during this time. Why bother with the expense and burden of this armour if one did not expect it to protect against these weapons?

and yet again a nice thread about one subject has been derailed by longbows and plate, both of which are irrelevant. If you wish to continue this please start a relevant thread. This is supposed to be about swords and mail.


This debate has become sophomoric and thus no longer interests me. I did not start the subject of arrows and armor, I merely replied to others' statements. I don't need you to tell me to start my own thread. Go start your own thread. If advice is being given, then I would advise you that if you can't handle someone disagreeeing with your statements then don't participate. As far as the subject of arrows and mail or armor is concerned, I really have no interest in either, however it is historical fact that the English longbow defeated the French at Crecy and Agincourt and you can deny it until you're blue in the face, but the facts remain. I thought this was a place for intelligent debate and not personal attack. Perhaps I was misinformed.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 12:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nobody is denying that the longbow helped the English win at Agincourt. The effectiveness of English longbow tactics had nothing to do with whether an arrow could punch through armour.

These threads cover the subject in more detail.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8233
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=15454


Last edited by Dan Howard on Sun 06 Sep, 2009 12:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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