What Made the Longbow so Effective?


In the Medieval period every kingdom was at war, everyone was fighting against everyone and it was just a mess. As technology developed a lot of things changed.

When it came to war there was always a search for the best way to murder your opponent, a lot of gruesome weapons were invented for destroying your opponent, but as the attack grew so did the defense. A lot of armor was distributed across Europe.

Yet today we are going to talk about a weapon which is very simple and was used before for centuries yet with a little bit of entrepreneurship it became more deadly terrorising the battlefield.

What is the Longbow?

Before we continue, the longbow is also known as the Welsh longbow. The name comes from the length of the bow, which is around 1.50 m and could even get around 2 m, but on average I would suggest it takes around 1.80 m. This is bigger then the archer that handles the bow, but with this huge length comes a lot of pros but as well as cons.

There is a process or a tradition in creating this bow. It needs to be created of the selected materials: Yew, Ash or Elm. After you have selected the wood you must cut some pieces and let it like that for 2 years. This is a long process but the end result is what made the weapons so great. It took two parts of the wood which made it flexible and strong.

At the tips horns were added on them, or it could be done without them as well.

With a length this big the arrows should be made longer as well. This made the arrows look real big and with the bow gave them a huge draw power, the arrows were around 60 to 80cm in length plus the tip.

The range of the longbow is very big, it is anywhere around 200 meters to 400 meters. This is a huge number and the average short bow and crossbow were much smaller in range. This is what made the longbow men unique. They could shoot over so high range, it took some time until their opponents reached them, by the time they get there they are wounder, scared or dead.

If you think the range was scary, the rate of shooting was even scarier. By average it could be fired around 5 – 7 arrows in a minute, combined with the range it made a rain of hell to the enemy.


With a bow this big it had a lot of power as well. The draw was real strong and only trained people could used it effectively. This bow was tested in a lot of ways today. When it came to the medieval warfare you had all types of soldiers. You had well dressed knights with plated armor and less dressed soldiers with mail, etc.

The bow was tested on a mail armor and it pierced it without a problem, it went through killing the man instantly. But when it was tested on a plate armor, breastplate exactly it pierced into the armor hurting the opponent, but not killing it. With the advance in armor the longbow became less effective. But keep in mind that the longer range the more power and the faster the opponent the more power as well.

With shields it wasn’t effective at all, but it could still cause trouble. So what made this to become a weapon for people to fear from it?

Before we continue on that topic, let’s make a little image view. You have trained archers on one site with longbows which we know they kill people with and you have knighted French nobles on the other side. They are charging to the archers and they shall get decimated, but with a strategic place of the longbow men they could get destroyed without a problem. Image if a volley of arrows were to hit the horses, they would die or get hurt and throw off the heavy person on them, when the person with armor falls off his horse he might break something or heavily injure himself. Also they can make a wall with the fallen horses and knights which would made the other horsed units unable to charge over them, this is a very useful thing when you are losing the horses charge.

Also if the targets weren’t well armored they were as good as dead to the longbow men. But this weapon was so simple and so poor, everyone could use them.


The Training

This is a really good thing with the longbow. If we were to compare the English and French forces in the 100 years war we can see a big difference. The french were counting on their heavy noble knights in order for a victory while the English could also count on the cheap units which were the “longbow men”, they had little to no armor on them and were very cheaper then to purchase plate armor, horse, etc.

People had to train in order to learn the longbow, it took strength and technique to master it. A person couldn’t handle this without any skill and that made it difficult.
Once the longbow was adopted in the English kingdom the king himself wanted to get more out of this. It made them adopt archery in order for him to get archers out of normal people.

Once its effectiveness was known, laws were passed making its practice compulsory; the Assize of Arms and Archery Law of 1363 and other laws were passed as well.

Boys were practicing from a small age to master the bow and with the constant use of it, the back of the human was a little deformed because of the pull. It took a lot of strength to make a full pull, but after that it has a force of around 80 to 150 pounds.


About the origins, it’s known that it was first invented in Wales, as the defenders fought off the Anglo Saxon conquest. After that it was adopted and it was scattered across all of Britain.

The use of this bow was most effective in the XIV and XV centuries, especially in the hundred years war. It made it so effective it even won battles to the English. This was the advance that the English had over the French.

When it comes to Pro’s and Con’s I just mentioned all of the pros, but the cons were the length. The length was so messy, it couldn’t be used while mounted. Here the short bow was victorious and the Mongols invasion had a huge benefit from the Archery and use of a mounted short bow.