The Medieval Bushmaster

To all of those with their panties in a bunch over the possibility of losing your right to own more Bushmaster-type assault weapons, might I suggest switching to the English warbow.

Believe me, it's a lot cooler. Fewer missiles per minute, granted, but the effort to master one of these babies will give anyone who does so a sense of power and expertise that no modern day Bushmaster can match. For one thing, it will take about 10 years to develop the necessary musculature, not to mention the ability to train your muscles to follow your eye. Because you don't sight along the arrow. You look at what you want to hit and then you pull that bow cord to your ear and release.

The following is taken from Frank Wilson's review in the Philadelphia Daily News of Bernard Cornwell's :

Estimates differ, but the draw weight of an English war bow seems to have been somewhere between 90 and 140 foot-pounds (draw weight means the amount of force in the bow when its string is pulled to the max). Further explanation would get rather technical, but rest assured: The bow packed a wallop, and an arrow tipped with a bodkin point could easily penetrate mail armor. There are also historical accounts of bodkin-tipped arrows penetrating steel armor at close range.

The bowmen could fire about six arrows a minute, and at that rate were pretty soon out of arrows. They would then march out onto the field of battle and dispatch their opponents with knives, maces, and the like. (The commonest cause of death at the Battle of Agincourt was a knife wound through the eye.)

But before you get all enamored of medieval warfare and decide that a sword would be even cooler than a bow, Cornwell tells us that in battle,

few men carried swords. A sword would neither thrust nor cut through armor. An armored man must be beaten down by lead-weighted weapons, beaten and crushed and pulped.

Not only would that be exhausting work to carry out, it would really suck to be on the receiving end. Whenever you picture a knight in shining armor, picture him face down in the mud. A cautionary tale in many ways.