Into the Fray... So to Speak
- Greetings All,
Regarding the crossbow/longbow discussions and usages: Back in
the '60s while living as an adolescent in Clark County outside of
Las Vegas...when there WAS an open desert outside of Las Vegas... an
afternoon local television show had a sheriff's deputy as a
lecturer. His discussion specifically covered the "ballistic"
differences between the two methods of "missle delivery from a
compound weapon system"... a neolithic term for atlatls, bows, and
blow guns. To date myself, this was in black and white. This Clark
County deputy was a bow hunter and his family did indoor archery
competion... gee, I guess that's why those 3 target competitions are
called "Las Vegas" rounds.
Anyway, he and a couple of other archers were discussing the
crossbow because the Crossman 80 pounder was rapidly becoming
popular. This was leading to some problems with "plinkers" around
town thinking crossbows weren't as dangerous as the classic .22's or
traditional longbow/recurves. The team set up four targets...junked
automobiles...at a short range of about 25 yards and a longer range
of about 80 yards. One must remember these "junked" cars were
mid '50s models we now commonly refer to as "medium tanks". The
deputy had a standard "plinker" 100lb. crossbow with a wooden stock
and a simple bent wire rear sight with the snipped rubber tube
adjusted to windage. The other members of the team were archers
using what appeared to most of us as Bear "Kodiaks" and were rated
to about 70 lbs draw weight. Both bolts and arrows were tipped with
matching heavy broadheads.
The first round was crossbow then recurve at 25 yards both head-on
at the windshield between the steering wheel and rear view mirror.
Each "archer" had a fresh car for a target. Crossbow first:
Impressive. The windshield shattered completely on the driver's
side, a hole the size of a tennis ball was ripped through the
driver's seat, and the bolt was embedded in the rear seat. I had
just purchased a Crossman 80lb crossbow and this really got my
attention...as well as my dad's, who was also watching the show.
The recurve archer loosed his arrow at the same make second car.
The arrow shattered the windshield and was broken up. The broadhead
and foreshaft were embedded in the driver's seat with fletched
tinder scattered all over the rest of the interior.
One of the team members was a professor of physics at UNLV (Then
called NSU...Nevada Southern University...changed when many Nam vets
came home with NSU as a slight genital discomfort from
extracurricular studies) discussed the military purpose for the
longbow. He put forth the arguement that many archers and siege
machine operators really did have a "splendid" knowledge of
physics. The most effective use of the heavier arrow shaft and
stone missles was not at close range. The ballistics of the object
after reaching its "apogee" becomes apparent at the receiving end.
The team members started laughing in agreement and began round two.
The crossbowman shot off his first bolt and it dropped a bit short.
He alluded to the "badminton" effect, elevated a bit a got off the
second bolt. It hit the windshield and shattered the driver's
side. However, the bolt splintered and bounced away from the
glass. The recurve archer let his arrow fly at his car 80yds down
range. The television camera zoomed and a feint "crunch" sound was
heard. The windshield was intact with a hole about an inch in
diameter just above the steering wheel. The team went to the car
and opened the doors. A hole was through the driver's seat.
Another hole was through the rear seat but no arrow was found.
Scratching their heads looking for splintered fletching they opened
the trunk. Ouila! The intact arrow minus some fletching was laying
on the floor of the trunk with its broadhead buried in the carpeting.
The deputy spoke up and gave the crossbow credit. He mentioned the
heavier prodded war crossbows were a force to be feared.
The "crannequin" mechanism allowed these to cocked with a bow weight
of 150, 200, and heavier weights. These bolts wreaked havoc on
cavalry, infantry, and fortified defenders. They closed with
admonitions about crossbows and any archery equipment being used
safely and at proper locations. They reenforced this with the then
current definition of a firearm. Anything propelling a missle or
projectile at velocity from igniting and/or compressed gases, a
bowstring, or rubber bands and/or tubing shall be considered to be
defined as a "firearm". My dad wrote this down and gave me that
It was a short little 20 minute show but it planted crossbow bug
inside my little old head. I have a David Balbirona MAS 14th
Century Flemish 90 pounder with irons at home. My longbow is still
my favorite when able to "play" when away from my scattered work
schedules. My bolts are in the 16 to 19 inch length range. They
just seem to be more accurate. There is a groove cut in the bolt
track to facilitate a 3 or even 4 fletched quarrels. OK, so I
remembered that little groove's advantage on my original Crossman's
A week later I was hiking down the county road to the arroyo we used
in the desert as a shooting range. It was about 3 miles out from
our spread out county housing. I had previously used my backyard
with 3 acres of no houses on all sides. I had a small target, my
crossbow, bolts, canteens, and hat. The local sheriff's deputy car
rolled up and stopped. He was a neighbor and knew our family well.
He also my penchant for "missles, projectiles, and anything that
went bang". He asked where I was going and offered a lift to
the "range". I told him I had seen the show about crossbows. He
chuckled and said he thought it was very effective. Their office
had been deluged with calls from parents and sporting merchants for
information. He let me out at the arroyo and wished me "good
shooting". I should add that he and his family were all archery
target shooters and hunters. Nice neighborhood for pre-SCA training.
Philip of Kent the Obscure