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Saturday, November 21, 2020

How Armies Manufactured so Many Arrows for a Battle

How Armies Manufactured Many Arrows for a Battle

Before we answer the question of how armies manufactured so many arrows for battle, we need to first understand how bows work.

There are different types of bows and each bow has its own unique arrow set.

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If we compare medieval and ancient times we can see a wide range of bows.

Different types of bows

  • Longbow: this bow was 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:  slightly shorter than the longbow. It was used from horseback and was more flexible. This bow dominated for a period of time and it’s the oldest one that ever existed in the world. The arrows were smaller compared to the arrows of the longbow.
  • Crossbow: it was a short bow with a mechanical release on it. It could be used by less skilled people, as you only had to aim and shoot. The arrows were short but had more girth. They were piercing arrows and caused many problems for many armies.
  • There were many other types of bows out there but these three were the most common ones used throughout medieval and ancient wars, so we shall focus on them.

Each bow has its own unique arrows and arrowheads.

If you look at the many types of arrows above, you will realize that every arrow has its own characteristics and purpose.

Some arrows were made for piercing, some were made to get stuck inside a soldier, some rotated and cut inside making it hard to be treated.

Making arrows in ancient times

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 arrows per minute.

If a battle took place for many hours he could waste a lot of arrows, but he wasn’t alone.

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There were hundreds of archers shooting thousands of arrows.

They needed to have a huge amount 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.

Arrows needed to be made out of metal, so the smiths were constantly making arrowheads, then sharpened them separately.

Then, they had to be thinned out of wood.

Afterward, feathers needed to be applied.

This was a long process, which was why there was more often a focus on quantity and not quality.

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The lower quality arrows were then used for volley attacks because they were less accurate. Better quality arrows were used for longer shots.

Every army had its own arrow smith and they were known as fletchers.

They were professionals when it came to arrow development, and they had to work constantly to ensure that there were enough arrows for the army.

A good fletcher could create around a hundred arrows per day, meaning that a group of fletchers could create a lot of arrows in a small amount of time, preparing your stockpile for a war.

Reusing arrows for a battle after it finishes 

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, armies 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 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.

Nonetheless, these arrow boys proved to be an efficient war tactic.

However, the best strategy was to have arrows pre-ordered, for example, the Tower of London could often hold up to 500,000 pre-ordered arrows.

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