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Thread: Using a bow in full plate armor

  1. #1 Using a bow in full plate armor 
    Time Lord
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    Was playing an RPG video game, and it struck me how ridiculous it seems that a character would be able to make full use of a bow while wearing plate armor.

    But I should probably ask before dismissing the idea. Historically, did individuals wearing full knight plate armor ever wield bows in combat? I can see maybe using a cross bow, because you don't need the full range of motion to aim it. But a bow?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    I couldn't see them doing much for long with all that armor weight and discomfort in movement but using a bow is understandable although it would be rather hard as you point out. They would be used more in close combat situations I think rather than using bows at all.


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  4. #3  
    Genius Duck Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    A bow wasn't a "knightly" weapon.
    It was for commoners.
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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    If I recall correctly, most knights wouldn't even utilize ranged weaponry. Those that did, were designated crossbow units. By the time a bow was standard in ranged infantry, it was the longbow, and the archers wouldn't have worn plated armor. Also, the Samurai used the bow "recurve?" for hundreds of years with heavy armor, though it was considerably more maneuverable armor than you would see with medieval plating.
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  6. #5  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Here's some pictures of both types of armor. I wouldn't want to have to use a bow with either of them.

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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Here's some pictures of both types of armor. I wouldn't want to have to use a bow with either of them.

    Psssh, shooting a bow with those on is easy. Using the bathroom is the hard part.
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  8. #7  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    I wouldn't think you would even have the range of motion in your shoulder to properly draw. Would be fun if the string got caught on your visor when you released. Well, fun until the guy you were trying to shoot ran you through...
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  9. #8  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Psssh, shooting a bow with those on is easy. Using the bathroom is the hard part.
    They have to wear astronaut diapers.
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  10. #9  
    Anti-Crank AlexG's Avatar
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    The English Longbow can punch an arrow right through plate armor.

    Archer+lineup.jpg
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    The English Longbow can punch an arrow right through plate armor.

    Archer+lineup.jpg
    Another good reason not to wear plate armor. Being a knight had it's downside for sure.
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  12. #11  
    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    The English Longbow can punch an arrow right through plate armor.

    Archer+lineup.jpg
    Yeah but who makes their armor out of common dinnerware?
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I wouldn't think you would even have the range of motion in your shoulder to properly draw. Would be fun if the string got caught on your visor when you released. Well, fun until the guy you were trying to shoot ran you through...
    The range of motion couldn't have been too awful or else it would have impaired the wearer's ability to fight in sword combat also.

    But there must be a reason they didn't trouble themselves to carry bows. Perhaps a short bow was simply too ineffective against other armored opponents? Maybe the armor made them confident they would never need a bow, because they could close on foot without being too afraid of getting killed by arrows on the way (unless those arrows were coming from X-bows at short range, or Longbow men)?

    Maybe it's because most of the time the armored knights were on horseback anyway?
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  14. #13  
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    The Wiki has an article on the Battle of Agincourt. A few hundred English longbowmen totally owned a few thousand armoured French.
    Battle of Agincourt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  15. #14  
    Forum Sophomore Phlogistician's Avatar
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    I wouldn't think plate armour would restrict movement so a bow could not be drawn or aimed, the entire point of it was that it was well articulated, to allow the wearer as full a range of motion as possible. I doubt the weight is an issue either, I don't have plate armour, but I do own a couple of sets of chainmail, and all in it weighs a decent fraction of my bodyweight, and moving is not a problem. Stopping or changing direction however takes some forethought. I would have thought the two obstacles using a bow in plate are first the gauntlets, as you require to be able to feel the arrow, and the bowstring to nock an arrow and the overlapping plates could easily catch and hamper that process. Not all gauntlets had individually articulated fingers, many had armour 'mittens' which means an arrow could not be held at all. In a swordfight, 'mittens' are an advantage, as even an armoured single finger is quite vulnerable. I saw a guy lose one at a re-enactment event fyi. Secondly the helm, as visibility is somewhat restricted, sighting down the arrow and still seeing your target (for a volley) would be tricky.

    But anyway, it's what Dywyddyr said, bows are for plebs, while shiny plate armour was really, really expensive.
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  16. #15  
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    I think it depends on the armor. Many Medieval European suits of armor had stiff necks. Not good for aiming a bow with.
    Armor could easily add 60 pounds to your over-all weight.
    It might be technically possible. But it wouldn't be ideal.
    Either way, unless someone on here opts to dress up in full armor, using many different styles and designs and grabs a bow for tests, it's all speculation.
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  17. #16  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    The range of motion couldn't have been too awful or else it would have impaired the wearer's ability to fight in sword combat also.

    But there must be a reason they didn't trouble themselves to carry bows. Perhaps a short bow was simply too ineffective against other armored opponents? Maybe the armor made them confident they would never need a bow, because they could close on foot without being too afraid of getting killed by arrows on the way (unless those arrows were coming from X-bows at short range, or Longbow men)?

    Maybe it's because most of the time the armored knights were on horseback anyway?
    I've worn plate before and the range of motion is pretty miserable in some of it. It all depends on the armor.

    That having been said, I think it was mentioned earlier that knights didn't carry bows because they didn't want to. It was considered a hunter's weapon. Like a farmer fighting with a hoe or pitchfork. A knight just wouldn't carry one.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I've worn plate before and the range of motion is pretty miserable in some of it. It all depends on the armor.
    But it wasn't made for you. To get the full articulation, it needs to be custom made, and that was why it was expensive.
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  19. #18  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    It was. It was for reenactments and cost $3k. It was too bulky and visibility was too limited to hold a bow properly. It was so heavy that swinging a sword was not graceful or pretty, either.

    One of the joys of living near Ohio is getting to participate in their Renaissance Fair. Plus, in a helmet, no one can recognize you later in the grocery store.
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  20. #19  
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    I had been hoping to hear from somebody who had done Renaissance Fair. It's about as close as a person will likely get to first hand knowledge. Certainly a knight in antiquity would have been practicing in armor from their childhood, so they'd have a better sense of how to fight in it from that, but if using a bow isn't practical for a layman under conditions outside a real battle, then one might only imagine how complicated it gets inside of a real battle.
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  21. #20  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    I had been hoping to hear from somebody who had done Renaissance Fair. It's about as close as a person will likely get to first hand knowledge. Certainly a knight in antiquity would have been practicing in armor from their childhood, so they'd have a better sense of how to fight in it from that, but if using a bow isn't practical for a layman under conditions outside a real battle, then one might only imagine how complicated it gets inside of a real battle.
    When I lived in Southern California I went to 3 or 4 Renaissance Fairs, but I never saw any examples of full plate armor. But then It was always very hot where and when they had the Renaissance Fairs and nobody in their right mind would put on a full suit of plate armor. Hell I felt bad for the employees that had to wear the clothing they did.
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