Why was the long bow the weapon of choice for battle during the medieval times?

From the 13th to the 16th centuries, the long bow, a bow longer than the four-foot regular bow, was the official weapon of the British army.

It could fire off 10 to 12 arrows a minute and was almost as powerful as the crossbow. Be assured, it won many a war during those days and was viewed in much the same way we view machine guns for military battle.

Of course, if you were an average foot soldier or a knight, you relied on the weapons that produced the hardest and most damaging blow but weren’t too heavy or difficult to wield.

This meant a sword was usually your best bet, and a two-handed sword was your weapon of choice. They could not only cut through chain mail but could also serrate the ends off pikes and axes.

Other hand-held weapons included regular bows, spears, axes, daggers, flails, and maces, not to mention poles and pikes.

For demolishing structures, catapults, battering rams, trebuchets (those slinging machines), and ballistas (giant crossbows) were the ticket.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

2 thoughts on “Why was the long bow the weapon of choice for battle during the medieval times?”

  1. No wonder the long bow was the preferred weapon during the medieval times. Shooting 10 to 12 arrows per minute have proven to be more lethal than the usual slash and hack method. It’s definitely nice to see replicas of these medieval weapons.

  2. as the starting question does not state “in britian” i feel compeled to point out that the longbow WASN’T a weapon of choice for battle in medieval period out side of england and wales, and even there they were the weapons of the lower class. while they were an important weapon, they were not the weapon people who had the choice really prefered.

    “It could fire off 10 to 12 arrows a minute and was almost as powerful as the crossbow”
    battle field firing rates however droped to between 6-8rounds to avoid tiring and extend amuntion supplies, and while it can compete to some crossbows, others can throw out up to 2.5x the power. and while it is the closest medieval equivalant to a machine gun, it was used more as artilery and in elite hands, sniper rifles. if you want a true medieval machine gun you need to look to the repeating crossbows of india and china

    and the weapon of choice for a knight or man at arms (low noble and professional well equipted solder respectively) started out as an arming sword, a 3 foot one handed sword but devolped over the years into a bastard (or hand and a half) sword, two handed swords don’t truely gain large numbers until the Renaissance and were set against platemail more then chainmail as certain single handed designs (kopis, flachion, and a handful of others) could deal with chainmail already.

    of the poles (which are much more common then flails, and more common then axe or mace) the halberd was among the most effective along with its close relitive the pollaxe, there were also glaives, voulge, maul billhook and many others.

    the catapults where of onager designs, both with a sling for power and with a cup to launch multiple smaller projectiles. also the balista fell into disuse with the roman empire. the trebuchet and mangonel where better at seiges (trebuchet powder by gravity; flinging stones in a high arc over the walls and, mangonel flinging rocks straight at walls), and crossbow and longbow where better snipers. these where all simpler to make, easier to maintain and much cheaper.

    now problems with the longbow, 1) has to be made of yew, which is a slow growth and rather twisty tree, just england and wales managed to make a massive dent into the yew population in europe 2) requires a life time of training 3) you have to stand up to fire 4) you can’t really hold your shot well as a full draw longbow can have a draw strenght of up to 200lbs… these problems made the crossbow, with its own faults (slower reload, less efficent, generally less range) the domant long range weapon through out most of Europe.

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