Before we answer the main question we must learn how bows work. There are different types of bows and each bow has its 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 it got 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: it was the same as the long bow only slightly shorter. It was used from horseback and was more flexible. This bow dominated for a period of time and it’s the oldest one that it ever existed in the world. The arrows were smaller compared to the arrows of the
  • Crossbow:it was a short bow with a mechanism on it. It could be used by less skilled people since what you only had to do was to 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 certain problems for many armies.
  • There were many other types of bows out there but these three were the most commonly 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 of 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 ancient times they didn’t have machines to create arrows for them, so 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 throwing lots of arrows. They only needed to have a huge portion of arrows in stock.



An arrow usually consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end with flitching 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.

Arrows needed to be made out of metal, so the smiths were making constant arrowheads and sharpened them separately. Then, they had to be thinned out of wood. Afterwards, feathers needed to be applied. This was a big process for that amount of quantity which is why you couldn’t focus much on the quality.


Every army had its own arrow smith and 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.


One of the great advantages of winning a war was taking the armor and weapons of the defeated army, and if it was in a good form, it was later reused by the victor or recycled in some other way.

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 called them 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, nonetheless, these arrow boys proved to be an efficient war tactic.

The best strategic way to have arrows, however, 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.