Date: Sun, 7 Mar 2004 10:51:21 -0500
Subject: [SCA-AS] Links: Historical Crossbows

Chronology of the Crossbow
(Site Excerpt)
*986 CE --- 'Lock bows' used in the battle of Hjorungsvag.
ca. 1000 CE --- The crossbow comes into wide use.
11 th. century CE --- Tiller is grooved to hold bolt (Wilkinson-Latham, p. 170)
*1066 CE --- Crossbows reintroduced into England by the Normans.
*1096 CE --- Anna Comnena records the use of crossbows in that year by the Normans.

Crossbow History and Information Copyright 1997-2003 Archery Society
(Site Excerpt) Literary and physical evidence suggest that the crossbow first appeared in China during the 4th century BC. It wasn't until the 10th or 11th centuries AD that the crossbow became a significant military weapon in Europe. It passed from general military service in the 16th century, but its use for hunting and target shooting has continued to the present day.
The most of following chronology is abridged from GUIDE TO THE CROSSBOW by Paterson:

Articles from the Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries
18 articles including a bibliography. Not necessarily cross-bows, but it's a terrific site so I couldn't resist!

BBC Online: Beyond the Broadcast--Making History
Richard the Lionheart and the crossbow
(note: does not appear to have a copyright notice but is specifically NOT copyrighted by BBC)
(Site Excerpt) Brian Parker from Pontypridd wanted to know whether the archers who accompanied Richard I on the Third Crusade (1189-1192) were armed with longbows or crossbows. Making History consulted Wendy Hodkinson, Keeper of the Simon Archery Collection at Manchester Museum. The crossbow goes back at least as far as the sixth century BC in China, though bows and arrows were used for hunting (and probably for war) as early as Palaeolithic times. The Romans knew of the crossbow but its use was not widespread in Europe until the end of the first millennium. It was supposed to have come to or been reintroduced to Britain with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. For the next century at least armies all over the continent had crossbowmen. Pope Innocent II called the crossbowman's skill a 'deadly art, hated by God'.

The Crossbow in the Medieval Period copyright The Beckoning ? 2004
(Site Excerpt) A BRIEF WORD ABOUT CROSSBOWS The crossbow played an important role in the late Medieval period. The crossbow was really the first hand-held weapon that could be used by an untrained soldier to injure or kill a knight in plate armour. The most powerful crossbows could penetrate armour and kill at 200 yards. Crossbows are easier to aim than longbows because the crossbowman doesn't have to use a hand to hold the string back while aiming. (For more information on crossbows versus longbows, go HERE.)
On a similar note, a crossbow can be loaded long before the bowman might need to shoot. In this way, the bowman would be able to shoot immediately if surprised. Crossbows require less upper body strength to operate as well. One can use both arms to span (draw back) a crossbow. Crossbows do, of course, come with a price. That price is in efficiency and in the firing rate. Efficiency is a more technical problem.'s Cross Bow Aiming and Hunting Techniques
History and terms are also included ont his site. (Site Excerpt from Crossbow Terms:)
Crossbow terminology is not altogether standardized and one should not be too pedantic about it.
ARBALIST Latin language term for crossbow, derived from arcuballista (also spelled ARBALEST).
ARMBRUST German language term for crossbow which is often preferred in international circles.
ARROW Synonym for bolt which is preferred by some modern crossbow manufacturers.
BACK Side of bow or lath facing target.
BALLISTA Roman seige engine similar to oversized crossbow.
BARREL Section of the stock between the latch and lath; sometimes used as synonym for track.
BARRELED CROSSBOW Crossbow having a tubular barrel rather than a track; used to shoot balls, usually of lead; synonym for slurbow.
BASTARD STRING String to brace a crossbow for installation of bowstring; synonym for bracing string.
BELLY Side of bow or lath facing shooter.

Reccomended Reading:
The Book of the Crossbow by Ralph Payne-Gallwey
ISBN 0486287203 currently in print Dover Publications

AG Pitts Crossbow Page (copyright A.G.Pitts m/k/a Aileen)
(Site Excerpt) Crossbows have been maligned, hated, outlawed, and condemned at all stages of history by one group or another. Yet they survive because they work! But to get the most out of them, you will have to put time into them. Probably 80% of handbow scores are accomplished at the range itself. 80% of crossbow scores are done in preparation at home before you ever get to the range. Setting things up right and being consistent is everything in a crossbow. Medieval Crossbows Copyright 1994 - 2004 Knights Edge Ltd
(Note that there are some great tiny reproductions (decorative, w/photos) on this page but I can't vouch for their quality. Site Excerpt) Romans used crossbows as early as the forth century, however evidence of their use has be found in other parts of the world as well. Crossbows were first brought to England by the Normans in 1066 and soon became an important weapon in history. These Medieval Crossbows were used in open warfare as well as for hunting and were widely employed in England through the time of Elizabeth. In fact, the large crossbow was more powerful than any longbow and whereas the lighter crossbows were quite effective for use in the field by armor clad soldiers, the large and giant crossbow were used in the attack and defense of fortified places such as castles.

(Site Excerpt) In the manner of handbows of the same period, early Western crossbows featured wood laths and long power strokes (compared to later examples.) The most common latch mechanism was a rotating nut of bone, ivory or antler. To achieve greater power, massive "composite" laths made from sinew, horn or baleen, and wood came into use; these were shorter and much stiffer than earlier wood laths. As draw weights increased, new methods and devices for spanning had to be employed, which included the cord and pulley, belt claw, "goat's foot", bending lever, cranequin and windlass. Steel laths later provided even greater power. Spanning devices made reloading a slow process compared with hand bows. Crossbows were more useful for hunting and siegecraft than in open battle, where their slow rate of fire was a serious handicap.

[gurps] Question about crossbows & longbows (From an archive of messages)
(c) Volker Bach, 2000
(Site Excerpt) A crossbow, at the simplest level, consists of a bow mounted transversely on a stock fitted with a trigger mechanism to hold back and release the bowstring. These elements form the 'cross' (more commonly a T-shape) that gives it its English name. Many crossbows are equipped with grooves to guide their arrows or bolts, nocks or spring mechanisms to hold them in place and various mechanical devices to draw back the bowstring. Some have sights or, in the case of very modern weapons, scopes mounted on them.



Here's part two of the Historical Crossbows Links List---that'll teach me to hit send on accident! Darn pernicious pop-ups!

I hope you enjoy this information, which was rather hard to come by. There isn't a ton of info on the web that I could find (a broad hint to all you excellent cross-bow archers out there to start webbing)! A notable exception is the Aethelmearc Archery Page at: from which I gleaned all sorts of great info. Way to go Cap'n Mac! In fact, after a search of *every* kingdom's archery webpages, I found Aethelmearc's to have the most information about historical archery, SCA archery, and thoughtful articles on the subject. Congratulations, Aethelmearc archers and web-ministers for being so well-researched and for sharing that research widely.

As always, please share this Links List with those who will be interested.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon

SCA: Combat Archery
How to Construct a Tennis Ball Golf Tube Arrow or Bolt
The Cétach Fitzgibbon Method
(Site Excerpt, how-to article)
a.. Golf tubes come in different sizes. For this method to work, you need to use the narrow tubes that have an inner circumference that fits the bottle caps.
b.. The bottle caps should come from soda bottles (20 oz, 1 liter and 2 liter). Caps from bottled water usually have a lip and will not fit down into the tube properly.
c.. The pipe insulation or a similar polyethylene substance is to be used to stuff the tube to give it some body. DO NOT use Styrofoam or spray foam. Both will break down into small particles or dust and pose an eye hazard.

Combat Archery Crossbow Designs for the SCA
(Site Excerpt of non-profit copy-right free article) A crossbow is essentially an improved handbow. The handbow (your classic stick with a string) requires years of training and conditioning to use properly. You can train someone to use a crossbow fairly well in under a week. The advantages of the crossbow are: it can make use of mechanical advantage (the lever, pulley, or crank) to make possible extemely strong draw weights (i.e. a crossbow might have a draw weight of 600lbs, to draw an equivalent longbow the archer would have to be able to lift 600lbs one-handed [yes, again not entirely true but sufficient to illustrate the point]) for long distance and very flat flight trajectories, the archer can fire while completely relaxed (not while holding a hundred pound stress under tension as you would be with a handbow) which improves accuracy, and the archer can sight down the shaft (handbow arrows actually curve around the bow, look it up, fascinating stuff).

Society Combat Archery Webpage

SCA Cross-bow makers list

SCA Archery List

Popinjay_open List (the SCA top-crossbow-man contest)

SCA Combat Archery Mailing List (A Yahoo Group)

Kingdom of Aethelmearc Archery Office: Links to Archery Resources:
An Excellent and informative list of links

SCA Archery Marshal Handbook copyright SCA, Inc.

Order of the Scarlet Guard
The archey community forum!

More Suggested Reading:

The Medieval Archer Author: Bradbury, Jim Pub. date: 11/1985
ISBN: 0-312-52665-2 St Martin's Press

Crossbows Author: Bilson, Frank Pub. date:1974, 1983
ISBN:0-88254-701-1 Hippocrene Book

Treasures of the Tower: Crossbows Author: ? Pub. date:1976, 1981
ISBN:0-11-670445-4 Publisher: Government Bookshops. London

Magazine Articles:
Foley, Palmer, and Soedel. "The Crossbow." Scientific American. January, 1985
Weis, Norman, and Anderson. "A Modern Crossbow You Can Make." Mechanix Illustrated. December, 1976