The bow and arrow were central to medieval warfare. In 1252, the Assize of Arms ordered men between 15 and 60 years old to arm themselves with bows and arrows. The Archery Law of 1363 mandated archery practice on Sundays and holidays. Great battles were won and lost as a result of improvements in bow and arrow technology.
The first bows and arrows used in the Middle Ages were short bows, which were mainly used for hunting. William the Conqueror introduced the crossbow to England in 1066. The long bow originated in southern Wales around 1150, and dominated warfare until the mid-16th century.
The short bow was less than 5 ½ feet long. The mechanically-cranked crossbow was armour-piercing, about four feet across and had a range of 370 to 380 yards. It could only release about two bolts per minute. The long bow was about 70 inches long and could pierce armour at 200 yards. A skilled archer could release between ten and 15 arrows per minute.
Early arrows had broad heads that bounced off or broke when they struck armour. To address this issue, bodkin point arrows were invented. Long bodkin points were designed for piercing mail; short ones for piercing armour plate. Crossbow bolts were shorter and slightly thicker than regular arrows.
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