Different types of Bows
Before we answer the main question we must learn how bows work. There are different types of bows and each bow has it’s own unique arrow set. If we compare medieval and ancient times we can add the following types of bows:
- Longbow, this bow was really long hence the name and it had longer arrows that went with the bow. These arrows were accurate and had a very long range. It was the most powerful bow for a period of time.
- Shortbow, the same as the long bow but slightly shorter, could be used from horseback and was more flexible. This bow dominated for a period of time as well, and it’s the oldest bow in the world. The arrows were smaller compared to the Longbow.
- Crossbow, the crossbow was a short bow with a mechanism on it. It could be used by less skilled people and you only had to do is aim and shoot. The reload process was tricky but almost everyone could do it. The arrows were short but had more girth. They were piercing arrows and caused some problems for many armies.
- Etc. There were more types bows out there but these three were the most used throughout medieval and ancient war history so we shall focus on them.
Each bow has its own unique arrows and arrow heads. If you look at the many types arrows out there you will realize that every arrow has its own purpose. Some arrows were made for piercing, some were made to get stuck inside your enemy and when pulled they ripped tissue, some rotated and cut inside making it hard to be treated, etc.
But back in the middle ages and ancient times they didn’t have machines to create arrows for them, they created the arrows by hand. A decently skilled longbow archer could fire around 10 rounds per minute. If a battle took place for many hours he could waste a lot of arrows, but he wasn’t alone there were hundreds like him spending lots of arrows. So they needed to have a huge portion of arrows in stock for this purpose only.
How Did They Create Arrows so Fast
An arrow usually consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end, with fletchings and a nock at the other. So the quality of the arrow depended mostly on the speed of the arrow’s production. The lower quality arrows were used for volley attacks because they were less accurate.
Because arrows needed to be made out of metal the smiths were making constant arrowheads and each of them needed to be sharpened separately and had to be thinned out of wood plus feathers needed to be applied. This was a big process for that amount of quantity and you couldn’t focus much on quality.
Every army had its own arrowsmith, they were known as fletchers. They were professionals when it came to arrow development and they were working constantly. A good fletcher could create around a hundred arrows per day, and because there were a lot of them, they could create a lot of arrows for a small amount of time and ready your stockpile for a war.
Why Create When You Can Take
One of the great advantages of winning a war was taking the armor and weapons of the defeated army, and if it was in good form it could be reused by the victor, or recycled in some other way, this was a damn good way of collecting a large portion of arrows that the enemy used or was going to use, and also collecting the ones that the victorious army used.
But the main problem was if you faced a large enemy and the war was going to last for hours there was a high probability that you could run out of arrows. So people came up with the idea of using teenage boys that couldn’t fight, they were called arrow boys. Their task was to go on the battlefield and gather the arrows from both sides and bring them back for their reuse. This was very dangerous considering the fact that they were not armed and armored, so they were an easy target but also a distraction to the enemy, this was proved to be an efficient war tactic.
The best strategic way to have arrows was to have a pre-ordered pile of arrows as a prewar strategy. For example, the Tower of London could often hold up to 500,000 pre-ordered arrows.