Crossbows vs Longbows – A Close Look At These Historical Weapons

admin Last updated on: May 8, 2023

Archery had been one of the most extraordinary war art of medieval times, and bows were among the deadliest and most powerful weapons of that era. Over that time, archery has seen many variations, and different types of bows have been used in different war situations against various knights.

If you are curious to know about Crossbows Vs. Longbows, here we have explained everything to you. In this article, we have discussed their strengths, weaknesses, performance in battles, and learning process. So let’s begin!

Crossbows Vs Longbows

The Main Difference Between Crossbow and Longbow is, When it comes to hunting, both kinds of bows were thought to be the most fantastic tool for perfect hunts as these were powerful enough to hunt buffalos. 

Construction Of Longbows

The most significant difference we notice while comparing these two types of bows is their construction. Longbows, as their name suggests, are longer and bulkier in structure. Medieval English longbows were around 6 feet or even more, and most of the archers using them were shorter than them.

They are made of wax-protected dry wood. A long wooden piece was dried to take a D-shape, and the whole process took more than a year. The longbows used by the military used strings made of either silk or high-quality flax. Also, some powerful knights and people of that time used crossbows containing hemp strings.

Construction Of Crossbows

Crossbows used in the medieval English period were shorter than longbows and were famous for their handy structure and low draw weight. In general, a crossbow was around two feet or even shorter. Bowsmiths at that time used various materials like yew wood, olive wood, steel, and limbs in the construction of crossbows.

Crossbows used in the military were made of yew wood and were among the most expensive crossbows of the medieval period. The strings of the crossbows were made of either hemp or animal sinew.

Crossbows Vs Longbows Training

Crossbow and longbow recruits were among the highest rank holders in militaries of the medieval period. The time required to train an archer in a crossbow or longbow is different. Since longbows were longer than 6 feet and bulkier in structure, the military only recruited strong archers for this weapon.

To fire a crossbow effectively, an archer requires a significant amount of time. The archer was trained under strict discipline, and the process usually took several months to complete the training. On the other hand crossbows, training was a less time-consuming task since they were pretty easy to handle.

Since a crossbow is lighter and shorter than a longbow, almost all the recruits were able to hold and fire them efficiently after a specific training period. Comparatively, a little effort is required to draw the bowstring of a crossbow, and therefore recruits usually master this skill within a period of three to four weeks.

Longbow Advantages And Usage

Longbows are more powerful and faster than crossbows. The crossbows were used against the most powerful knights of the medieval period since arrows fired from a longbow could penetrate the most formidable armor of the time. Longbows were the superior attacking weapon in the open battles. The longbows can fire around 12-18 arrows in a minute, making them exceptionally faster. So we can see that longbows have many advantages in open-field battles, especially in attacking strategies.

Longbows Disadvantages

Longbows are larger in size and require strict and long training periods to master the skill. Training a longbow archer was a costly and time-consuming process. Also, it was a massive loss if a trained longbow archer was killed on the battlefield. Also, longbows are expensive and involve complex manufacturing processes. Another disadvantage of longbows is that they are not suitable for defensive strategies on the battlefield.

Crossbows Advantages And Usage

The significant advantage of the crossbow is that they are easier to learn. An archer can efficiently fire the arrows after a training of a few weeks. Also, they were handy, and most of the military men were able to learn them. Crossbows were among the best weapons used in defensive strategy on the battlefield. Although they were not as efficient as longbows on the battlefield, they played a significant role in strategic wars and the defensive mechanism of the castles and forts. Also, they are less expensive and are easier to make than the longbows.

Crossbow Disadvantages

The significant disadvantage of crossbows is their shorter range and slow speed. The medieval crossbow range was around 70 yards which are pretty short compared to its long counterparts. Also, in earlier times, a well-trained archer could shoot only 7-10 arrows in a minute, making them less efficient in open field battles.


Is a longbow better than a crossbow?

A longbow is better than a crossbow in many ways. A longbow has better firing accuracy, long shooting range, and high firing rate than a crossbow. A well-trained archer can fire around 12-20 arrows from a longbow in a minute.

Are crossbows stronger than longbows?

No crossbows are not stronger than longbows. There is no significant difference between the firing velocities of crossbows and longbows. However, longbows have a better firing rate and accuracy than crossbows.

Does a crossbow do more damage than a bow?

Yes, a crossbow does more damage than a bow since it has greater attack damage than bows. Also, crossbows have better firing accuracy and speed than bows, and therefore they can do more damage than bows.

Are crossbows easier than compound bows?

Yes, compound bows are more portable and handier than crossbows. They are easier to carry around the field and have less recharge time, making them more dependable than crossbows.

Is a crossbow more accurate than a bow?

Yes, a crossbow is more accurate than a bow. A bow has a short recharge period and has a higher firing rate, but its firing accuracy and damaging ability are much smaller than a crossbow.

Final Thoughts

In the discussion of a crossbow vs. longbow, a longbow is a real winner in terms of power and damaging ability. However, if we compare the ease of handling and portability, a crossbow is much better than a longbow. Both of these bows were among the crucial weapons in medieval times. Despite the advent of longbows, crossbows remained popular among the hunters and archers for their lightweight structure and handy mechanism.

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