Getting the best bows, and why Rathori have problems

From: Joerg Baumgartner (
Date: Sun 16 Apr 2000 - 17:15:21 EEST

Peter Metcalfe

> And much of the criteria you listed had little do with either
> range or penetration, the topics at hand.

True - you had me going once again, and I thought why not toss out extra

>>>>The Turkish (and Mongol) composite bows were nearly as
>>>>good, if not as good, as the longbow.

>>The best of these were superior to the best longbows in terms of
>>penetration and range.

> But the CharUn are not uniformly wielding the best of these bows.

Very true. Neither do the Rathori uniformly wield the best longbows.

> I would expect the best bows to be in the hands of the strongest
> and wealthiest clans and even then limited to the chief or his
> henchmen.

I would expect the best bows to be in the hands of the clans with the
best bowyers. People who craft high quality weapons will be warriors (at
least in standing in the clan) or magicians, and they will be clan

Unlike the Orlanthi, I don't think the Char Un chieftains have
companions taken from other clans as well, so only those clans who have
excellent bowyers will have useful numbers of excellent bows.

As an aside: the bowyers with the access to the best material will
likely be those close to the streams and forests near Rathorela, where
lumber and raw material for fish glue can be obtained.

>>Every Asian horse nomad invasion, e.g. the Huns, used bows not too
>>different from these.

> Which merely indicates that they would have had some type of
> composite bow (hunnish archaeological remains are rather sparse),
> not that their bows were the equivalent of turkish or mongolian
> composite bows in range and firepower.

Right - in case of the Turkish bows, no 1000 yards range, but surely
some 200 yards. Anything less, and the effort involved in building a
composite bow would be nilled. A mediocre self bow will reach 200 yards
in (highly) ballistic curve.

> The Athenians in their heyday had ready access to Scythian
> mounted archers whom they used to keep public order and
> could call upon similarly equipped Thracians. If their bows
> were comparable to the turkish or mongolian, then one would
> expect the Athenians to have made greater use of those troops
> in their wars and not javelin-throwing Peltasts.

Peltast javelins have the advantage of great weight compared to arrows.
This will make it difficult to hold the line in the following
hand-to-hand push-and-shove, and as Alex and others pointed out in the
other thread, succeeding to break the line was the big winner.

>>I fail to see why the Char Un should use vastly inferior
>>composite bows compared to the real world.

> Considering that they don't have stirrups and work with an
> army that uses phalanxes, I find it more appropriate to
> model CharUn military technology on the Scythians.

The English longbows worked with phalanxes (of dismounted knights) as

I don't quite recall - weren't it the Scythians who introduced the
stirrups to Europe?

>>Try shooting a Parthian shot from the saddle with a longbow,
>>and you'll change your mind about "better".

> But the Rathori don't shoot from horseback, so what's the relevance?

Your blanket statement was not only useless, but also misleading in
future discussions.

In this specific discussion, Rathori cannot do anything like a parting
shot without slowing down. If caught on the march, they have to make a
stand, at a disadvantage of not being able to choose the terrain, giving
the mobile archers the advantage. If the mobile archers spread wide, the
Rathori range advantage will be cancelled since it is nigh impossible to
hit an individual moving target at near maximum range with anything but
lots of luck or arrow guiding magic, and in the latter department the
Char Un get a slightly better deal from their solar spirits.

>>The horse archers will likely lose badly against well-positioned
>>foot archers, but foot archers on the march are as likely little
>>more than target praxis for horse archers.

> And a Rathori in ambush or a Rathori sniping upon a lone outrider
> is what?

As much in advantage as a Char Un surprising a lone Rathori.

Rathori raiders will be at a significant disadvantage on their way back
to the shelter of the forest. Unless they have the foresight and high
degree of military organisation to have lots of fellow Rathori waiting
in ambush on their way back, or split in several smaller companies
rushing ahead to occupy good positions for the others to fall back to,
the mobile Char Un don't have too much to fear from their distance fire.

Also consider that the Rathori will have less ammo after their raid than
the fresh Char Un. In a ranged combat, you don't usually recover enemy
arrows, and even if you do, it will most likely be a bad fit to your
bow, decreasing your chance to hit. If you are running away, and that
was what I wrote about, I see no chance at all to replenish ammo.

I do agree that while on the offensive, with surprise on their side, the
prudent money would be on the Rathori. On the chase back, not so.

It is very hard to run and stop, giving exact fire. If your pulse is up
and you are panting, getting an aimed shot is nigh impossible. Biathlon
pros are admirable in their ability to slow their pulse before shooting.
I doubt that someone with the temper of an enraged, possibly wounded
bear would be able to do so.

To recapitulate again:

Even in the specific conflict between Char Un and Rathori, there's no
such thing as the better bow. If you doubt me, try some archery at a
local club, and then come back to the digest.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.7 : Fri 13 Jun 2003 - 21:17:56 EEST