How to Make a Medieval Crossbow

You'll watch the first part, and think, "Oh, sure, chisel, chisel, stock removal from a piece of wood." But hang with it, and enjoy the metal forging and assembly.

The thing is a monster. A hundred seventy-five pound draw. With the right bolt and angle of impact, that thing will punch through modern steel.


MikeD said...

175 lbs and it's hand drawn. That's actually quite impressive. And it got me wondering, what kind of pull there is on a heavy, cranequin drawn crossbow. I found my answer here. It's 450 lbs.

And then I found this!

raven said...

Originally the draw weight on these heavy weapons was limited by the prod construction which was of thick section wood laminates. There is a function called hysteresis dealing with internal resistance of the wood spring, which makes ever thicker sections have a diminishing return on "springiness", for lack of a more educated term. The steel prod , being of much thinner section, allows much higher draw weights before this effect sets in, IIRC.
These bolts, and in fact any bodkin point arrow, will defeat modern soft body armor with no trouble.

E Hines said...

Without knowing what kind of padding lined the helmet, it looked to me like the helmet did its job, with the possible exception of the shell casing-tipped bolt. The bodkin penetrated, but it didn't look far enough to do more than scratch the soldier's head.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Here's a video of "the world's most powerful crossbow" -- I'm not going to dig into that claim too deeply -- against level IV body armor. Modern composite armor comes out looking pretty good. Soft armor, even IIIA, doesn't slow it down.

MikeD said...

Yesterday was a good day for crossbow videos. I love the Hall.

raven said...

In his book "Longbow", Robert Hardy goes into detail on the relatively intact bows recovered from the wreck of the English warship Mary Rose. Longbows being a yeoman's weapon, were disposable- when they broke, they got tossed in the fire, hence, very few originals survive. The first examination of the Mary Rose trove lead the researchers to conclude they were blanks, not yet finished, because no one could pull the calculated draw weights of the heavy sections of yew. Then they noticed the traces of where the horn nocks had been and realized these were indeed complete fighting bows. After testing and cracking a few of the relics, Bowyers were enlisted to measure the bows , examine the wood, and build as exact a replica as possible. Draw weights of these bows ran from 100- 180 lbs, in accordance with the estimates. Finding modern day archers capable of pulling them was difficult. Hardwood arrow shafts were necessary to stand the force, and the arrows were nearly double the weight of a modern wood hunting arrow.
Hardy goes into great detail in his book, I recommend it for those who are intrigued by the bow. Fascinating discussion of Agincourt, etc, from an archers perspective. The efforts the English went to to establish an armed and capable citizenry is amazing- mandating fathers provide bows for their young sons, mandating archery practice and specifying the minimum target distance, etc.