Arrows vs Armour2

Arrows vs Armour2

The story

Arrows Vs Armour is back, it has been three years, but that has just given us time to think the whole film through and get organised, but as you would expect after three years there have been changes.  Our original armourer Kevin Legg is unavailable due to work commitments so we have recruited Augusto Boer Bront.

So starting with Augusto. He is an amazingly accomplished armourer, but also a great researcher of medieval armour specifically and material culture in general, so really understands the artefacts and their place in history.  But also importantly he absolutely agrees with the Arrows vs Armour philosophy.  Source the best equipment we can, use it in the best way we can and then show and talk about what we see.  No scripts, no pre-determined outcomes, no TV faking or cheating, just real observational fact.

Joining Augusto is the original crew, of myself and then of course we have Will Sherman our full time fletcher.  Joe Gibbs our bowyer and archer.  Toby Capwell our historian and amour expert.  But many others have been involved in making pieces for this film and you will find all the details about our equipment and suppliers in the notes.

So today we are going to shoot at our French knight from the early 15thC, so lets dress him and talk you through the many layers.  Tod and Toby.

Knight is mounted on an aluminium armature wire stand, this will allow some movement with the man, so head and arms will be both position able and not ‘hard’ fixed.  Show long lingering shots of the armour, making sure the layers are shown, so the cote, the mail shirt as well as the breast, arms and helmet and the mail collar and aventail.  Whilst we dress him, we talk about the pieces.  At the end we have the arrows and bow leaning against him so that a whole collective of our equipment can be shown. 

Our first film really just addressed one question, “Can we penetrate the breastplate from the front with an arrow”.  A single, specific question and a relatively simple film and we did this because, in media, both modern and indeed pictures from the period, you see arrows being shot through breastplates and our first film was really made to address this, with no further exploration.   

This time we have a new breastplate, arms, helmet and all the neck defences to go with it and it is time to test it.

Move to the range with Joe standing in place, our knight 15m away (correct?) with his head up and Tod and Toby.  Tod explains, the distance is short because we need a certain level of accuracy and in fact the arrow velocity is very similar to that at 25m.

Toby reads the Agincourt “feared of coming through the sights and breaths” quote – lets find out if he was right to be afraid.

Joe shoots 3 or 4.  We exclaim etc and walk forward to examine the damage, joined by Augusto.  I have no idea what we will talk about here, but I guess it will be obvious.  Augusto talks a little about variable thickness.

We basically keep repeating this format but swap out Augusto for Joe or Will depending on who is more relevant for the results at that time.  But we will either repeat the set up or move onto the next.

Set up 1 – Knight facing Joe, with head upright; shoot into the face.  Some will likely hit the breastplate and the neck.  If not then Joe also shoots for breastplate and neck, trying to get above the V.  We also need to try and get around the arm holes to see if we can get an arrow through there and also straight at the arms.

Set up 2 – Knight facing Joe with head lowered.  Shoot at the crown, and again at the neck, noting that the helmet now largely obscures the neck.  Again some arrows are likely to go where we do not want them to go, but are interesting anyway, so there will be strikes to arms, armpits chest etc to be discussed

Joe will have shot many shots by now and will be getting tired and so the longbow simulator could be introduced before he is completely spent, so that for the remainder of the filming Joe shoots a round at the helmet for example and the simulator shoots the next two rounds for example and in this way Joe and the simulator finish the filming together.

We have to be aware that the simulator may be necessary and if so, then it would look better if the two run side by side.  We may not need to do this, but we also need to be prepared.

Talky bit.  Tod and Toby.  As we have discussed the armour is designed to protect best from the direction of the strongest or most common attacks.  This makes complete sense and even today body armour and armoured vehicles are designed in exactly thjs way, but just like now, weapons designers and tacticians, try to exploit the weaker areas.  So in the case of Agincourt the archers were deployed on the flanks and it seems Henry took position front and centre to lure the French forward and whilst they largely ignored the flanks.   This allowed the archers to deploy and shoot flat and close from the front 3/4, sides and possibly even from behind.

Set up 3 –

Our knight is set up on the three quarter and Joe shoots again to the side of the helmet and visor trying for the breathing holes and there will again be inevitable hits to the neck, armpit and side of the breastplate and arms.

Tod and toby talk and bring in the others as required.

We all then sit around a screen and watch some of the highlights and discuss.  This will be or should be a great climax to the film where we give the viewers insight into what we are really thinking and understanding.  But it may be a little dry to end the film on this, so we then choose one last set of shots and then deliver our conclusion.

As we decide

Set up 4

The ultimate reality of this whole test is that the quality of armour would vary, the distance would vary, the power of the bow, quality of the head, angle of shot, placement of shot… infinitum; meaning that a definitive conclusion is impossible.  However it should be able to give us a good insight in the to the mechanism of how these guys were shot and that may be something like “The plate armour is very good at protecting the vital areas, less so other areas, and the mail hardly at all (well, we’ll see) so death was largely delivered through the gaps, essentially through lucky shots or poor armour and the desire to shoot anything but full frontal is clear.  Battles like Agincourt must have driven the movement toward more plate coverage”.   Or whatever we see and discover.

During the course of the various set ups we need to try to cover the following points as they become relevant.

  • Variable thickness in relation to direction of attack
  • Mild steel as an analogue
  • Different material for breastplate
  • Protective features/structures – V, beading, returns near the eye slits
  • Mail around the neck – collar and aventail
  • Padding/cloth armour under mail
  • Mail over arming cote
  • Mail type/density/weave
  • Lucky shots
  • Thinness of arms
  • Apparent role of the Jupon
  • Shrapnel off the breast when looking down
  • Psychological effect of arrow strikes
  • Volume inside the helmet
  • ‘Getting knocked off his feet’ – momentum and impulse
  • Arrow head material and treatment
  • Armour material
  • Anything else that becomes apparent or I have missed


This potentially gives us a vast amount of material to cover and realistically we cannot film it all.  However all of this equipment already made means that if we choose to come back for follow up films it will be far easier and cheaper to make them.

Piers and Rob on main cameras, Holly on Piers second camera and GoPros, Mike on Chronos, Jon on reportage.

Tod and Toby doing the hosting, Will, Joe and Augusto coming in as required.

Shoot from 15m

Two camera shield sets will be required.


  • 2 x Solid hide
  • 2 x Camera hide
  • 2 x go pro
  • Straw boss back stop
  • Ballistic gel torso
  • Wheeled stand and base board
  • Armour armature
  • Wooden target stand
  • Helmet and GP armature
  • Arrow hospital
  • Metal detector?- Will/Joe, do you have one?
AvA1 Arrow heads

Arrow head material test


Plate armour material test


Mail penetration test


War bow weight test 


Force of impact test

Joe Gibbs

Joe Gibbs and the Longbow simulator