Advantage of Mongolian Bows
- Can be used on horseback
- Efficient and better made
- Faster reload & shots
- Shoots farther
The Mongolian composite bow was an integral part of a Mongolian warrior’s equipment. From a young age, young Mongol kids were taught to ride a horse and hunt with a bow, so archery was an essential part of their youth.
From an early age, they are taught to take care of their bow, repair if need be, and fletch their own arrows, which is why Mongolian armies had ample supply of arrows during their campaigns.
One of the main advantages of the Mongolian composite bow is how it’s made to be as efficient as possible. Compared with the English Longbow, it can pack more punch for its draw weight and size. When used on horseback, it can further add to the deadly nature of the bow.
Most often Mongolian archers used their bows on horseback and applied Parthian hit & run tactics which resulted in minimal losses for the Mongols while devastating their enemies.
Depending on what role the soldier had, they carried different types of arrows. Scouts and messengers carried lighter arrows for delivering messages or whistling arrows for signals and orders. Poison and flesh piercing arrows were employed as well.
However, the main type of arrow for regular soldiers were bodkin-type arrows that had more penetrative power.
How Mongolian Bows Were Made
The process for making a Mongolian bow is much longer than English bows because the Mongol bow is comprised of layers and different parts that were glued together. Layers of wood, sinew, horn, are glued together to make the Mongolian bow.
The way the Mongolian bow is strung allows for a faster release and efficient transfer of energy, which made it pack more punch for its weight and size, but it was a pain in the ass to maintain the integrity of the bow.
When exposed to humid and wet climates, the Mongolian bow does wear out and break more easily than the English longbow.
Mongol warriors used their thumbs rings to loose arrows, so it allowed them to hold multiple arrows in hand, so they could shoot 3-4 successive shots within a few seconds.
The Mongols used the Mongolian thumb release not the Mederterrain finger release. The thumb release uses the thumb and a strap to pull the string back, this permitted the Mongols to carry one arrow notched in the bow, and three more between their fingers of their right hand (if they were a right handed shooter). This permitted four quick shots, for all four shots were already in their hand (and some how was seen as carrying their arrows in their month by western reports).
The Mongolian release relied on a notch attached to the string for your thumb to pull the string back with. You wore a “ring” on your thumb to protect the thumb, the ring was made of metal or bone. Without the ring, your thumb will suffer from pulling the string. These rings were custom made to protect the thumb while pulling the bow string.
Farther Shot Distance
While there are stories about Mongolian archers shooting more than 500 meters, it’s a little bit exaggerated and in actual warfare, Mongolian soldiers wouldn’t shoot from that distance.
While Mongolian bows are more efficiently designed, the arrows that Mongolian composite bows use are lighter and don’t have the same penetration as English Longbow arrows.
Advantage of English Longbows
- Durable and cheap to make
- More penetrative power
- Can be mass-produced
The English Longbow is considered one of the most deadly weapons of the medieval period. While they were originally called Welsh Longbows because of the common use in Wales, the English soon adopted the longbow into their armies as well and it has proved to be one of the key factors in winning important battles with the French such as Agincourt and Crecy.
But what made the English longbow the staple weapon of choice?
Durable and cheap to make
Unlike the Mongolian bow which was made of different materials and layers glued together, the English longbow was made out of a single yew log. The mainframe or body was carved out of the yew, so there wasn’t any need to tinker with intricate parts.
Almost every peasant knew how to make a yew bow and the English law at one point required the practice of the longbow.
More Penetrative Power
A well-made breastplate of the late medieval period could withstand any type of projectile from a bow. There is a misconception that English longbows could penetrate plate armor, but in truth, a newly forged breastplate could withstand the impact without a scratch and even shatter arrows, which is why good smiths and armorers were valuable assets in any army.
Mongolian composite bows, while transferred kinetic energy more efficiently, used lighter arrows, so in most cases, Mongolian archers wouldn’t be able to hurt a fully armored knight.
However, English Longbows could penetrate chainmail, gambeson, and thin plate armor. Militia, crossbowmen, and peasants were easy targets for English archers, but the reason why most of Europe favored crossbow over longbows was that how easy it is to train someone with a crossbow, whereas a longbow requires skill, practice, and strength.
Can Be Mass Produced
During the medieval period, it was required by law for every English household to practice archery. Because of the readily available supply of yew and wood, longbows were easy to produce on a mass scale and most English households/peasants knew the basics of bowmaking and maintaining one.
Since it was a part of the English culture, longbows could be made on a mass scale more easily than the rest of Europe. There are accounts of peasants with longbows being a key factor in winning over armies with more numbers and better equipment.
Which is Better?
If we are talking about the better bow overall, it would have to be the Mongolian composite bow. It is the flexibility of use, portability, design, and efficiency that are superior to the English longbow. While they lack penetration power, the speed at which they can be reloaded and shot with accuracy gives them the edge in battles.
However, if I were to raise an army within a limited period of time, I would choose the longbow over the Mongolian composite bow because it can be mass-produced more easily, is durable, and requires less training than a composite bow on horseback.