The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > A Study of Bows and Arrows > Penetration of Arrows

Penetration of Arrows

The question of the penetrating effect of arrows shot from the bows of aboriginal peoples and ancient archers has caused considerable speculation. We all have heard of the wonderful deeds of past heroes with the bow, but very few accurate data are extant. A few of the state­ments of historians are as follows:

Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in the twelfth century, relates that a Welsh archer, shooting at two men who were fleeing toward a tower for refuge, missed his mark, and that two arrows penetrated right through the oak gate, which was almost a palm in thickness.[11]

In the journal of King Edward VI[12] occurs the follow­ing entry:

May 14th, 1550. There mustered before me a hundred archers, two arrows apiece, all of the guard; afterwards shot together, and they shot at an inch Board, which some pierced quite, and stuck on the outer board; divers pierced it quite through with the Heads of their arrows, the boards being very well seasoned timber.

Hansard[13] quotes some Spanish historian, probably DeLery, to the effect that one of the early explorers in Florida, wishing to test the power of the native archery, offered a young Indian captive his liberty if he could shoot an arrow through a coat of mail. The garment was hung on a wicker basket and the Indian, standing 150 paces distant, shot a flint-headed reed clean through the armor. A second coat of mail was placed over the first, and the Indian shot an arrow with great force through both. After this the Spaniards held their armor in con­tempt, and devised a protection of felt or padded cloth which shielded them and their horses much better than chain or steel corselets.

C. J. Longman, the modem English archer, conducted a few experiments with the following results: An Eng­lish target arrow, of an inch in diameter, weighing 1 ounce, made of pine, footed with beefwood and tipped with a conical steel pile an inch long, shot from a 65- pound bow at 7 yards, penetrated an oak board 1 inch in thickness so that its point projected through the wood, or a total depth of 2 inches.

A similar shaft, armed with a long spear-shaped steel point, 5¾ inches in length, ¾ of an inch wide, weighing 1% ounces, shot from a 65-pound bow, penetrated 4 1/3 pads or 140 sheets of Pettit's field gun penetration pads. Each pad consists of 45 sheets of heavy brown paper. A good penetration for a 14-gauge shotgun charged with powder and shot is 35 sheets.[14]