Bows Didn’t Outrange Muskets

Myth 1: Bows outranged muskets

Bows and muskets co-existed on the battlefield for hundreds of years and during that time, there were plenty of battles between the two weapons. This blog was started mainly for the purpose of cataloging eye-witness accounts of those battles. There are some common threads running through all these accounts, facts and eyewitness opinions that keep coming up, and one of the strongest is this: in every case where one weapon is said to outdistance the other, it is the musket which has the range advantage.

I have not found a single instance of a battle where the musketeers were unable to return fire because the archers outranged them. This true of battles everywhere in the world. Some examples:

Capt. John Underhill of the Massachussets colony made a contested landing on Block Island in 1646, enduring a spray of arrows from the Pequot warriors on the  beach. Upon making it to the shore, Underhill reported that the Pequot were forced to retreat by the greater range of the New Englanders’ muskets.

…once having got up of our legges, wee gave fire upon them, they finding our bullets to out-reach their arrowes, they fled before us… [Link]

Captain John Smith had a similar experience decades earlier while navigating his shallop on the Chesapeake Bay. Eight canoes of Indians attacked, lodging over a hundred arrows in his boat and his men’s shields. None of the English were hurt, and they were able to force the Indians to abandon first their canoes and then the river shore.

Our Muskets they found shot further then their Bowes, for wee made not twentie shot ere they all retyred behind the next trees. [Link]

In Europe, the most famous archers by far were the English and their longbows. Virtually all extant longbows come from the Mary Rose, an English warship which sank in 1545. A French soldier named Blaize de Montluc left an interesting account in his memoirs regarding a battle he fought against English archers a few days after the Mary Rose sank. Montluc’s soldiers were outnumbered, but they were not worried about the English archers- the Italian harquebusiers supporting them were the real threat. Montluc ordered his own harquebusiers “not to shoot, till they came within the distance of their arrows,” and then, “so soon as they were come up within arrow shot, our Harquebuzeers gave their volley all at once, and then clapt their hands to their swords,” and ran the English archers off the field. Montluc remarks:

They all carried arms of little reach, and therefore were necessitated to come up close to us to loose their arrows, which otherwise would do no execution; whereas we who were accustomed to fire our Harquebuzes at a great distance, seeing the Enemy use another manner of sight, thought these near approaches of theirs very strange, imputing their running on at this confident rate to absolute bravery. [Link]

The English were not slow to notice that their national weapon had been outclassed by modern firearms. Barnabe Riche, a warrior poet who had the distinction of living to be the oldest captain in the English military, spilled more ink that anyone else in his time on the bow vs. musket topic, and was the first to opine in a published work in 1574, where he argued:

I dare undertake that if one hundred of those thousande [archers] doo shoote above ten score [200], that ii hundred of the rest, wyll shoote shorte of ix score [180], and is not this a piece of advantage thinkest thou ? when every Calyver that is brought into the feelde wyl carry a shot xviii score [360] and xx score [400], and every Musquet xxiiii [480] and xxx score [600]. [Link]

Some of the fiercest bow vs. musket combat occurred during the Imjin War, a Japanese attempt to invade China by first passing through Korea, which lasted from 1592-1598. When the war began, the Japanese had large numbers of muskets and were well-trained in their use. Chinese handguns were mostly still of the pipe-on-a-stick variety, and the Koreans lacked muskets at all. A Korean minister who was there at many of the battles, Ryu Seong-ryong, wrote a book about the invasion known as the Book of Corrections.

After a short while a number of enemy soldiers suddenly emerged and started attacking us with ten or more muskets. The ones hit by the bullets were killed instantly. Yi immediately ordered the archers to counterattack using their bows, but their arrows fell far short of their target. [Link]

Today, the Japanese exclusively use muskets to attack fortifications. They can reach [the target] from several hundred paces away. Our country’s bows and arrows cannot reach them. [Link]

If anybody can find an example of a battle where musketeers were helpless to fight back against archers who outranged them, please let me know! Right now, the evidence seems pretty clear that that musketeers always had the range advantage.

Saukamappee: Plains Indians Use Guns in Battle for the First Time

This is an account by the Peigan Indian Saukamappee, whose life and times were recorded by the explorer David Thompson. Saukamappee describes the radical effect of firearms on Plains Indian warfare. Before, battles were fought with stone clubs and bows, and ended in stalemate unless one side was much larger. With only a handful of guns, Saukamappee’s side was able to turn what looked like a sure defeat by a numerically superior enemy into a victory.

After some singing and dancing, they sat down on the ground, and placed their large shields before them, which covered them : We did the same, but our shields were not so many, and some of our shields had to shelter two men. Theirs were all placed touching each other ; their Bows were not so long as ours, but of better wood, and the back covered with the sinews of the Bisons which made them very elastic, and their arrows went a long way and whizzed about us as balls do from guns. They were all headed with a sharp, smooth, black stone (flint) which broke when it struck anything. Our iron headed arrows did not go through their shields, but stuck in them ; On both sides several were wounded, but none lay on the ground ; and night put an end to the battle, without a scalp being taken on either side, and in those days such was the result, unless one party was more numerous than the other.

Later, when they had guns:

When the War Chief had viewed us all it was found between us and the Stone Indians we had ten guns and each of us about thirty balls, and powder for the war, and we were considered the strength of the battle. After a few days march our scouts brought us word that the enemy was near in a large war party, but had no Horses with them, for at that time they had very few of them. When we came to meet each other, as usual, each displayed their numbers, weapons and shields, in which they were superior to us, except our guns which were not shown, but kept in their leathern cases, and if we had shown[them], they would have taken them for long clubs. For a long time they held us in suspense ; a Chief was forming a strong party to make an attack on our centre, and the others to enter into combat with those opposite to them.

We prepared for the battle the best we could. Those of us who had guns stood in the front line, and each of us had two balls in his mouth, and a load of powder in his left hand to reload.

We noticed they had a great many short stone clubs for close combat, which is a dangerous weapon, and had they made a bold attack on us, we must have been defeated as they were more numerous and better armed than we were, for we could have fired our guns no more than twice ; and were at a loss what to do on the wide plain, and each Chief encouraged his men to stand firm. Our eyes were all on the tall Chief and his motions, which appeared to be contrary to the advice of several old Chiefs, all this time we were about the strong flight of an arrow from each other. At length the tall chief retired and they formed their long usual line by placing their shields on the ground to touch each other, the shield having a breadth of full three feet or more. We sat down opposite to them and most of us waited for the night to make a hasty retreat. The War Chief was close to us, anxious to see the effect of our guns. The lines were too far asunder for us to make a sure shot, and we requested him to close the line to about sixty yards, which was gradually done, and lying flat on the ground behind the shields, we watched our opportunity when they drew their bows to shoot at us, their bodies were then exposed and each of us, as opportunity offered, fired with deadly aim, and either killed, or severely wounded, every one we aimed at.

The War Chief was highly pleased, and the Snake Indians finding so many killed and wounded kept themselves behind their shields ; the War Chief then desired we would spread ourselves by two’s throughout the line, which we did, and our shots caused consternation and dismay along their whole line. The battle had begun about Noon, and the Sun was not yet half down, when we perceived some of them had crawled away from their shields, and were taking to flight.

https://archive.org/stream/davidthompsonsna00thom/davidthompsonsna00thom_djvu.txt

Bows Vs. Muskets in the Imjin War, part 2

More incidents from the Imjin War. These are taken from Firearms: A Global History to 1700 by Kenneth Chase. Bizarrely, Chase takes the typical position that bows were a superior battlefield weapon to firearms despite his book being full of evidence to the contrary. This quote by the Korean official Yu Song-nyong, for example, is pretty damning:

In the 1592 invasion, everything was swept away. Within a fortnight or a month the cities and fortresses were lost, and everything in the eight directions had crumbled. Although it was [partly] due to there having been a century of peace and the people not being familiar with warfare that this happened, it was really because the Japanese had the use of muskets that could reach beyond several hundred paces, that always pierced what they struck, that came like the wind and the hail, and with which bows and arrows could not compare.

The Japanese were in agreement that their musketry was a great advantage. One of the Japanese commanders wrote home in 1592:

Please arrange to send us guns and ammunition. There is absolutely no use for spears. It is vital that you arrange somehow to obtain a number of guns. Furthermore, you should certainly see to it that those person departing [for Korea] understand this situation. The arrangements for guns should receive your closest attention.

More from Yu Song-nyong:

However, the musket is a very intricate instrument, and very difficult to produce. The Jixiao xinshu [written by Qi Jiguang in 1560] says one month for boring the barrel is optimal- that is, one musket takes the labor of one person for one month before it is ready for use. The difficulty and expense are like that. In recent days, the muskets used by the supervisorate have all been captured Japanese weapons. There are not many and they frequently burst, becoming fewer by the day.

I wonder why the captured Japanese muskets were bursting. Maybe the Koreans, lacking instructors to teach them how to safely use the muskets, were overloading them with powder or were failing to fully seat the bullet against the powder.

Although the musket is superior to the bow and arrow, it is slow and clumsy when loading powder and shot, lighting the match, and aiming and shooting. As for advancing and withdrawing at will, responding to opportunities with leisure or haste, being convenient for both infantry and cavalry, and being suitable for all situations, then it is not equal to the bow and arrow.

When Yu Song-nyong talks about firearms being inconvenient for cavalry, keep in mind that he is talking about matchlock weapons. In Europe at this time, cavalry firearms were of the far more convenient snaphaunce or wheellock variety.

Today, the Japanese exclusively use muskets to attack fortifications. They can reach [the target] from several hundred paces away. Our country’s bows and arrows cannot reach them. At any flat spot outside the walls, the Japanese will build earthen mounds and “flying towers.” They look down into the fortifications and fire their bullets so that the people inside the fortifications cannot conceal themselves. In the end the fortifications are taken. One cannot blame [the defenders] for their situation.

When the Japanese invaded Korea for the second time, there were more firearms on both sides.

The Japanese vanguard of a hundred or more arrived under the fortifications. They fanned out and took cover in the fields in groups of three and five. They fired their muskets at the top of the fortifications for a while, then stopped. They left and then returned again. The men on the fortifications respond with [Chinese-style] “victory guns,” and the Japanese main body sent out skirmishers from a distance to engage them. They advanced cautiously so the guns fired but did not hit them, while the Japanese bullets hit the men on the fortifications, many of whom fell dead.

The combined Korean and Chinese army launched a failed attack on the Japanese base at Ulsan:

At the foot of the hill were rotting fields; our soldiers had no place to plant their feet. The Japanese used their guns from the loopholes, and every shot struck its target…. If [the besiegers] lay prone the guns could not reach them easily; if they stood up they had to move in a crouch to avoid [being shot]. And those who lay prone suffered from the mud that covered their knees. Night and day they surrounded the fortress, and the ice and snow cracked their skin.

The Japanese commander Asano Yukinaga wrote home to his father:

When the troops come [to Korea] from the province of Kai, have them bring as many guns as possible, for no other equipment is needed. Give strict orders that all men, even the samurai, carry guns.

Christine de Pizan, The Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry, 1410

Christine de Pizan, a French noblewoman, is notable not only for her poetry, but for having written this book on the virtues of martial training. The work is largely based on Vegetius’s De Re Militari, but Christine adds in plenty of commentary unique to the military situation of 15th century France.

Most interesting is her section on archery, as the book was coincidentally written just a few years before the disaster at Azincourt.

Vegetius says that as carrying a sling is very light, it is a very useful thing. It sometimes happens that a battle takes place on stony ground, or that it is necessary to defend a mountain. Even in the assault or defense of a fortress a sling can be very useful. It was formerly held in such high esteem that in some of the Greek islands mothers would not give food to their children until they had struck their meat with a slingshot blow. Along with this they taught them how to shoot with a bow or crossbow. Their teachers instructed them to hold the bow on their right side with the left hand, and then the cord was drawn by the right hand with great force and skill, the arrow near the ear, the heart and eye fixed steadily on the mark and attentively aimed. In this art young Englishmen are still instructed from early youth, and for this reason they commonly surpass other archers. They can hit a barge aimed at from a distance of six hundred feet. Vegetius says that this art must be practiced constantly even by skilled masters, for practice is necessary. Cato says in his book of arms that good archers are very useful in battle. Claudius testifies to this when he says that archers and those trained in throwing darts overcame their enemies with relatively few men; so does the valiant fighter Scipio the African.

It is rare to find a contemporary source which gives quantitative information on just how accurate archers were, or were expected to be. It is not clear if Christine had ever seen an English archer first-hand, or was repeating received knowledge. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable that an experienced archer would be able to consistently hit a “barge” from 200 yards. How big was a medieval barge? Certainly bigger than a man, probably smaller than a formed battalia.

This is practice-range accuracy, however. On the actual battlefield we could expect accuracy to drop precipitously. In the age of musketry, the percentage of bullets which could be expected to hit, both on the practice range and on the battlefield, are well documented. There is scarce information for either on arrows.

Bows Vs. Muskets in the Imjin War, part 1

The Imjin War was an invasion of Korea by the Japanese between 1592-1598. Although the Koreans were initially no match for the Japanese armies, the Japanese were eventually driven out thanks to Chinese military assistance and several decisive naval battles.

At the beginning of the war, the Koreans had virtually no firearms. The Japanese, on the other hand, had large numbers of them, and had trained their musketeers to perfection in their own civil wars. As a result, we have a lot of accounts of battles between the two weapons. The results are consistent with what happened elsewhere in the world: the bow was handily outperformed. Like the English, the Korean’s experience with firearms caused them to slowly but completely phase bows out of their armies and replace them with muskets. For a great write-up of this transition, see “A Korean Military Revolution?: Parallel Military Innovations in East Asia and Europe” by Tonio Andrade, Hyeok Hweon Kang, and Kirsten Cooper.

To start with, here are some exerpts from Choi Byonghyon’s translation of “The Book of Corrections”. The Book of Corrections was a collection of memoirs from a Korean minister, Yu Songnyong.

p. 27

At last, our envoys left for Japan in April 1590 [March 1590 lunar] with Yoshitoshi and others. At the moment of their departure, Yoshitoshi presented His Majesty with two peacocks, a spear, and a sword as a gift. His Majesty  ordered the peacocks to be freed in the islands of the Bay of Namyang and the musket to be kept in the armory. This was the first time that Korea came to possess a musket.*

*At first, King Sonjo and his officials and military commanders did not realize the importance of muskets, the major weapon of the Japanese army. That is why the king simply ordered the musket presented by the Japanese envoy to be put away in the state armory. A few years later, however, King Sonjo’s view of the new weapon radically changed. When Minister Kim Ungnam said that bows were superior to muskets in power, the king tried to correct him with this comment: ‘The power of muskets is five times greater than arrows’.

p. 60

The officer rode on a horse, and two soldiers from the post station walked by him slowly, holding the bridle of the horse. Hiding in ambush under the bridge, Japanese soldiers with muskets shot down the officer from his horse and cut off his head and ran off with it. Upon seeing this, our soldiers lost all their fighting spirit.

After a short while a number of enemy soldiers suddenly emerged and started attacking us with ten or more muskets. The ones hit by the bullets were killed instantly. Yi immediately ordered the archers to counterattack using their bows, but their arrows fell far short of their target.

p. 88

Han Kukham, the provincial army commander of North Hamgyong province, led the soldiers of the Six Garrisons and met the enemy at the Haejongch’ang warehouse. Our soldiers of the northern province being skilled at archery and horsemanship, and its flat and wide ground good for riding horses, those who were on horseback discharged arrows at the enemy, attacking them by turn from the left and right. Unable to withstand our attack, the enemy retreated to the inside of the warehouse.

By that time, it was already dark. The general opinion was that our troops should rest for the night and continue their attack on the following day, waiting for the enemy to come out. However, Han Kukham would not listen and commanded his army to surround the enemy. Using stacks of grain from the warehouse for their cover, the enemy defended themselves from flying arrows and rocks and simultaneously fired their muskets at our forces. Our troops surrounded the enemy standing close together like the teeth of a comb or stacks of firewood. Therefore, when the enemy muskets were fired, they never failed to hit their targets and, furthermore, knocked down three or four men at a time. So our army at last collapsed.

p. 101

Six or seven of the enemy took their position at the edge of the river and discharged their muskets toward our fortress. The sound of their muskets was terribly loud and intimidating, and the bullets crossed the river to fall down in the fortress. Some of the longest shots, flying over a distance of more than a thousand paces, fell on the roof tiles of Taedonggwan Hall. Some of them even drove as deep as several inches into the wooden columns of the battlements.

The enemy soldiers with red uniforms approached and saw a small group of our people sitting at Yon’gwangjong Pavilion. They mistook us for our military commanders and, crawling over a sand hill, fired their muskets, hitting two among us. However, because of the long distance, the two were not hurt seriously. I ordered Officer Kang Saik to retaliate with p’yongjon arrows*, protecting themselves with a shield. As his arrows flew all the way to the sandy beaches on the other side of the river, the enemy was surprised and eventually retreated.

* A small arrow so sharp and fast that it was able to easily penetrate armor and helmets.

p. 119

At midnight of the same day [1592.7.19 lunar], Zhao set out from Sunan and launched an attack on P’yongyang. There was heavy rain, and no guards were seen on the walls of the fortress. The Ming army entered through Ch’ilsongmun Gate, but the roads inside the walls were so narrow and circuitous that it was hard for them to pass through while riding their horses. The enemy soldiers concealed themselves and viciously discharged their firearms at their opponents. The showering bullets hit General Shi Ru and killed him, as well as many of his soldiers along with their horses. Zhao Chengxun finally ordered a retreated, but the Japanese did not chase them speedily. However, some of the soldiers who were in the rear, especially those who were stuck in the mud, were all caught and killed by the Japanese.

The last one is interesting because the Japanese were able to overcome the Chinese soldiers despite the heavy rain.

I will add a few more incidents from the Imjin War in a future post.

Barnabe Rich- A right exelent and pleasaunt dialogue, 1574

I was surprised to find that this one was published in 1574. The arguments are extremely similar to those of Roger Williams, whose Discourses were not published until 1590. The argument takes place in the form of a dialogue between Mercury and an English soldier. Since speaker tags have been forgotten in some places I’ve added them in for clarity.

 

 

Soul. But if without presumption I might but demaund this laste question wherein I greatly desire to be satisfied, and this it is, whether the Calyuer, or the long Bowe as we tearme them heare in Englande, be of greatest force I haue harde this question diuers times to be argewed on & some that haue bin supposed to haue had good experience haue preferred the the Caliver to be of greater force in seruice then the bow which I think few wisemen wyll beleeue, and our enemies can witnesse to the contrary that from time to time haue felte our Archers force, and how many noble victoryes haue bin by them achiued, Cronicles are ful, and Histories can well make mencion, and I am of that mind that one thousand good Archers would wronge tow thowsande shot, yea and would driue them out of the feeld and there be a great many of that opinion beside my selfe.

[Mer.] What hath bin don in time paste maketh nothing to the purpose for the time present for the order of the warres is altogether altered, and in an other manner then they haue bin in time past, but now to answer to thy demaund and breifly to satisfye thy desire, thou must first consider to what perfection shot is lately growne unto ouer it hath bin within these few yeares, when paradnenture if there were one that sarued with ah Halfhaake or a Hagbus as they termed them which were peeces to small efect, unlesse it were euen hard at hand, ther is now ten for that one, which serueth with that Caliver or Musquet which, peeces ar of a new inuention and to an other effect. So lyke wise they haue a better composition for the makynge of their powlder and the Souldier is grown by practise to a greater celetrity in the using of his peece then in the paste he hath byn of. Thus the effecte of the one by practise is increased, and the force of the other by nature is deminished, for the strength of men is generally decaied, whereby they are not able to draw so stroung a bow, nor to shoote so stronge a shotte as in the olde tyme men haue bin accustomed.

But to the ende thou mayest the better perceaue wherein the aduantage or disaduantage doth growe. I wyl use this comparison (wherby) I doubt not but thy owne reason shall perswade thee.

Suppose one thousande Archers shoulde be leuyed within two Shiers in Englande let them use no further reagard in the choice then of ordinary they ar accustomted: In the seruice of the Prince, let these Archers be apoynted with such liuery Bowes as the Country generally useth to alow, let these Archers continnewe in the feelde but the space of one weeke, abidynge such fortune of weather, with their Bowes and Arrowes, as in the mene time might happen. I would but demaunde how many of those thowsand men were able at the weeks end to shoote aboue x. score. I dare undertake that if one hundred of those thousande doo shoote aboue ten score, that .ii. hundred of the rest, wyll shoote shorte of .ix. score, and is not this a peece of aduantage thinkest thou? when euery Calyuer that is brought into the feelde wyl carry a shot xviii. score and .xx. score, and euery Musquet .xxiiii, and xxx. score.

Besides this euery Bushe, euery Hedge, euery Ditch, euery Tree, and lamost euery Moalhil is a sufficient safgarde for a shotte, where the Archer is little worse, but on a playne, when the shotte wyll conuay them selues into euery couerte, that the Archer shall not see whereat to shoote, and yet hee himselfe remayne a fayre marke for the other, or els can use no seruice.

Now whether part hath the aduantage, I thinke may well be deemed, and whether weapon is of greatest force, a man mays easlye perceaue, when the shotte shall be able to preiudice the Archer, who shal not be able to shoote halfe the grounde towardes him agayne. Farther when the Shotte shal take aduantage almost in eueri ground to shrowd himselfe, where the Archer must remaine an open mark uppon the plaine or els to occupy his Bow to smal efect.

[Soul.] But let it be that one thowsand Archers and one thowsande shot should meete in the playne feelde where no vantage were to be taken by the ground, & admit they were ioyned in skirmish, within .viii or .ix score where the Archer is able to shutte twice to the others once, wherby the Arrowes comming so thick amonst them, wil so astone them that the contrarye part shall not well know where at to shoote.

Mer. But those that frame this argument hath little practise in the use of the Calyver, and lesse experience in the order of a skyrmishe for if a thowsand Archers were brought into the feelde I trust all woulde not be brought to shootte at one instant for yf they were, some of them would shoote to small auauayle, as he that hath experience can well say.

And yet if there were no other aduantage to be used in skirmishe, but who can shoote fastest he that is a ready shoote I dare say, would be loth that an Archer should shoots aboue .viii times to his .v

And this aduantage in often shootyng is not so great in the one but the difference is much more in the other, considerig their force for where the one doth but gaulde the other doth either mayne or kyll.

But to shew thee what farther aduantage the shot hath of the Archer thou shalt undertstand that where the Archer may shoot both wide short and gone, the other may shoott but wyde onely. But because thou mayst the better perceaye my meanynge thou must consider that when the Archer shooteth any distance of grounde, the Arrowe commeth compasse of a great height, so that when it commeth where it should indanger, which is, with in the compasse of mans height it falleth presently to the ground and hath but as it were one lightyng place and paraduenture may come directly ouer one mans head and fall right at an other mans feet which standeth but .iii, yeardes behind, where if it had falne but one foots shorter, it had indaungered the firste so yf it had gone but one or two foote farther it had hazarded the last.

Thus as I haue saide the Archer, though he shoote right yet he may shoote both ouer and under, where the other can shoote but wide onely, considering that the shot is styll carried away within the compasse of mans height, which aduantage to such as hath reason to decerne it arighte shall perceyue, that one shotte from the Musquet or Calyuer, is of greater possibilytie to indaunger then fiue that shall come from the beste Archer that is brought into the feelde.

Soul. I understande the meanynge verye well, and doo nowe perceaue the Calyuer indeede to be of greatest force, and yet I had a great deale rather beleeue it my selfe, then to undertake to make a great many of others to beleeue it.

But now I perceaue we may hange our Bowes uppon the walles for I can not perceaue how they wyll nowe stande us in any great steede to serue in warres.

Mer. Nay not so neyther, was it any part of my pretence to absolutlye to objecte the Archer nor yet to make hym of so small effect, but that his seruice is to be commended, and not to be forborne, for so it mighte as well be sayde what should Horsemen do in the feelde where the enemye hath picks to defende them against whom they coulde yet neuer preuayle: yet no man doubteth but Horsemen are seruisable for manye causes, although it be not to run against the picks, so likewise Archers maye do verye good seruice, althoughe it be not to inconnter with shotte.

But my wordes tended to this ende that I woulde not haue thee to be ignoraunt in the use of so principall a weapon, but rather woulde wyth it might be practised, considering it asketh tyme, or many haue the ready use of it, for lyke as it is a specyall Weapon to hym that can use it in good order, so it is as defused, untowarde to hym that hath not the practise of it, and shal sooner indaunger hymselfe, or his friends that standes nexte unto hym, then hurte his Enemye. Therefore I woulde wyshe that those which shoulde use this Weapon, to be very expert and wary in the use and orderyng of the same.

Robert Barret – The Theorike and Practike of Moderne VVarres, 1598

Barret is another military writer critical of “inueterate conceirers of bowes and blacke billes”. Barret asserts the superiority of the firearm over the bow, the corselet over the jack, and the pike over the bill (halberd). I have skipped over the sections dealing with the bill and jack.
Pages 2-3
Gent.

You haue touched many pointes vnder a few termes, but (Captaine) all this and much more will hardly perswade our rurall sort; and I thinke many of vs Gentlemen not farre better minded: for in executing her Maiesties commands, for trayning our men, prouiding of armour, I heare many say, what neede so much a do, and great charge in Calliuer, Musket, Pyke and Corselet? our auncestors won many battels with bowes, blacke Billes, and Iackes. But what thinke you of that?

Captaine.

Sir, then was then, and now is now; the wars are much altered since the fierie weapons first came vp: the Cannon, the Musket, the Caliuer and Pistoll. Although some haue attempted stifly to maintaine the sufficiencie of Bowes, yet daily experience doth and will shew vs the contrarie. And for that their reasons haue bene answered by others, I leaue at this instant to speake thereof.

Gent.

Why, do you not like of our old archerie of England?

Capt.

I do not altogether disalow them; true it is, they may serue to some sorts of seruice, but to no such effect as any of the fierie weapons.

Gent.

Will not a thousand bowes handled by good bowmen, do as good seruice, as a thousand hargubuze or muskets, especially amongst horsemen?

Capt.

No, were there such bowmen as were in the old time, yet could there be no comparison.

Gent.

Your reasons.

Capt.

First, you must confesse that one of your best Archers can hardly shoot any good sheffe arrow aboue twelue score off, to performe any great execution, except vpon a naked man, or horse. A good Calliuer charged with good powder and bullet, and discharged at point blanck by any reasonable shot, will, at that distance, performe afar better execution, yea, to passe any armour, except it be of prooffe, & much more neare the marke then your Archer shal: And the said Calliuer at randon will reach & performe twentie, or foure and twentie score off, whereunto you haue few archers will come neare. And if you reply, that a good archer will shoot many shots to one; Truly no, your archer shall hardly get one in fiue of a ready shot, nay happely scarce one; besides, considering the execution of the one and the other, there is great oddes, and no comparison at all.

Gent.

But our bowmen may shoot by vollies, as thicke as hayle in the ayre.

Capt.

They may shoot thicke, but to small performance, except (as I said) vpon naked men or horse. But should there be led but eight hundred perfect hargubu∣ziers, or sixe hundred good musketiers against your thousand bowmen, I thinke your bowmen would be forced to forsake their ground, all premisses considered: and moreouer a vollie of musket or hargubuze goeth with more terrour, fury, and execution, then doth your vollie of arrowes. And againe, against a resolute troupe of horse, either Pistoletiers, Hargulatiers or Lanciers, they will stand lesse time (except they be well fronted with hedge, ditch or trench; or seconded with a strong stand of pikes,) then either Hargubuze or Musket, considering the execution of the one & the other. And what souldier is he, that commeth against a weapon wherein there is little hazard of life, which will not more resolutely charge, then against a weapon, whose execution he knoweth to be present death? Many more reasons might be alledged for the sufficiencie of the one, and the insufficiencie of the other, but others haue answered the same already, besides the proofe which dayly experience bringeth: and thus you heare mine opinion of your Bowes; desiring you (Gentlemen and others) not to conceiue sinisterly of me for this mine opinion, as not held of me for any dislike I haue of our old Archery of England: but that common experience hath made it most manifest in these our later warres: well wishing in my hart (had it bene Gods good will) that this infernall fierie engine had neuer bin found out. Then might we boldly haue compared (as our auncestors did) with the proudest Archers in the world.

But you must note this by the way, that the fierie shot, either on horsebacke, or foote, being not in hands of the skilfull, may do vnto themselues more hurt then good: wherefore the same is often to be practised, that men may grow perfect and skilfull therein.

Pages 4-5
Gent.

Your proportion I like well, but our countrey people are loth to be at the charges of so many costly weapons, although her Maiestie and her honorable priuie Counsell, haue giuen orders and directions for the same.

Capt.

I perceiue it to be so, whereat I grieue not a litle, considering, how dangerous is the time; how malicious, strong, & politike is the enimie; how carelesse, yea senslesse are we; and how vnwilling to our owne weale? But should these your secure men once heare the Alarme of the enemie, (from the which God defend vs,) then should you soone see them alter their copies, chaunge their colours, forget their great bragges of blacke Bills and Bowes, and stand at their wittes ende what course to take; and should they yet recall their courage, and plucke vp their spirites, and dare to looke the enimie in the face, what guides (I pray) haue they? It is not enough to say downe with them, downe with them, Lay on Billes and Bowes: they should encounter strong squares of armed Pikes, gallant squadrons of Muskets, braue troupes of shot, conducted by skilfull Leaders: then should they soone see the difference of weapons; the danger of the one, the litle doubt of the other, with repentance (perhaps) for not taking them to other weapons in time. Thus much I speak to our inueterate conceirers of bowes and blacke billes.