There are questions online about whether Mongolian horse archers could hit a target accurately over 500 meters with effectiveness. However, we have to be mindful of how history and recounts of one’s tales usually are over-exaggerated.
In truth, Mongolian recurve bows are most effective at around ~100 meters range, and anything further than that, archers had to use special types of arrows that are light and bows with significantly heavier draw weights.
Mongol Bow Draw Weight
The Mongol bow was an essential piece of equipment for every Mongol. From a young age, boys were taught to hunt and even women were expected to know how to wield one if need be.
When starting out, 20-40 lbs draw weight is fairly common. In fact, check out our Mongolian bow catalog if you are interested in buying a Mongol bow yourself.
However, as they got more proficient, most soldiers used anything around 70-100 lbs of draw weight, which is more ideal for horseback archery.
There are exceptions though, some Mongol archers used bows that were close to or above 150lbs in draw weight. However, they would mainly shoot on foot, since it’s almost impossible to use such heavy draw-weight bows on horseback.
Range of Mongol Bow
Depending on the arrow, the skill of the archer, and the quality of the bow, a Mongol bow can shoot a few hundred yards or meters, on average being 200-300 meters or about 300 yards.
However, a skilled archer with a light arrow and a heavy draw-weight bow can shoot more than 400-500 meters / 500 yards if the wind conditions and other factors are right.
However, soldiers didn’t usually shoot from such distances at enemies.
Due to their mobility, Mongol warriors got in close as possible to inflict a heavy hail of arrow fire.
Why ~100 meters is the most effective?
If you look at English longbows, a typical war bow draw weight ranges from 80lbs to 150 lbs. Heavy draw-weight longbows can shoot a bit over 300 meters, but typical archers in the medieval period used the longbow most effectively at distances less than 200 meters, but the closer they are to their target, the more penetrative power they had.
The Mongolian bow does rival the English longbow when it comes to how far it could shoot, but the arrows that were used by Mongolian warriors didn’t have the same penetration power nor the size as English longbows. It’s almost impossible for an arrow shot from a Mongolian bow to penetrate plate armor head-on.
Hence Mongolians most often used Parthian tactics by getting in close and feigning a retreat whilst shooting arrows. The main goal was not to necessarily penetrate armor but to hit between the gaps of armor and cause disarray in their enemies.
The Mongolian bow is made out of wood, horn, sinew, and animal glue whereas the English longbow is made only out of wood. The combination of materials in the Mongolian bow makes it more durable than the longbow and gives it a longer lifespan.
The draw weight of a typical Mongolian bow ranges from 60lbs to 170lbs, whereas the draw weight of a typical English longbow ranges from 80lbs to 150lbs. So the Mongolian bow has a higher draw weight, meaning it can shoot arrows with more force.
The length of a typical Mongolian bow is around 130-180cm whereas the length of a typical English longbow is around 190-210cm. So the Mongolian bow is shorter than the longbow, making it easier to carry around and maneuver in tight spaces.
Mongolian bows are recurved, meaning the ends of the bow curve away from the archer, whereas English longbows are not. The advantage of a recurved bow is that it can store more energy than a straight-limbed bow, meaning the arrow can be shot with more force.
The Absolute Farthest a Mongolian Bow Could Shoot
If you are talking about shooting an arrow as far as possible disregarding effectiveness and penetration power, then shooting more than 300 meters, and even up to 500 meters is possible.
Ivar Malde set the world record for the farthest distance shot with an all-natural Turkish-style bow at 566 meters, so it is most likely that Mongolian archers in medieval times did shoot as far since Turkish and Mongolian bows are rather similar in build and construction.
Are Mongols Bows Accurate?
Yes, they are incredibly accurate in the hands of an experienced archer. I might even go on to say that they are more accurate than the English longbows because of how the bow is designed and made.
During the Naadam Festival archers from great distances shoot at targets with great precision.
How To Shoot A Mongolian Bow?
If you want to know how to shoot a Mongolian bow, you can read about it here.
In short, you need to:
1. Nock the arrow
2. Draw the string back to your jawbone
3. Take aim
4. Release the arrow
As the Mongolian bow is heavy and sturdy, if you are not used to the draw weight, your arms will start shaking after a while. That’s why Mongolian archers were often able to shoot for long periods of time because they had strong forearm muscles from all the training and hunting they did from a young age.
So in conclusion, the Mongolian bow is a powerful and effective weapon, but it has its limitations. It is not as effective against armor as the English longbow, but it is more maneuverable and easier to carry around. If you are interested in learning more about bows and archery, please check out our other articles.