Les Archers du Genevois

Specifications of the medieval military arrow

The remains of King Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, (read our article entitled The Mary Rose Longbows) was raised from the muddy depths of the Solent some twenty years ago. The arrows recovered from the ship's wreckage have shed light upon a question that archery historians have been asking for many years : exactly what was the specification of a military arrow from the end of the middle ages ?

138 longbows and some 2500 arrows made of aspen survived and were recovered from the wreckage of the ship that sunk over 450 years ago ! Meticulous scientific study and experimentation now allow us to describe the military arrow with much greater precision than ever before. Here are the major characteristics of that deadly weapon :

Stele (arrow shaft)

Length: 32 inches in length measured from the shoulder to the nock
Shape: Bob-tailed, straight taper, half-inch at shoulder to 3/8 of an inch at nock
Horn insert : At least two inches inserted in the nock serving as reinforcement

Arrow head

Hand-forged Type10 bodkin, 1/2 inch shank

Bodkin type 10

Bodkin type 10 (forged by Hector Cole) - Click to enlarge the image


Length : 7.5 inches
Height : at least 3/4 inch at highest point
Triangular shape with straight edges
Trailing edge left cut at natural spline angle (ie, not squared off)
Whipped on with red silk, minimum 4 turns per inch


Total weight : at least 75 grams

Inch - centimeter conversions :

32 inches = 81.2 cms
1/2 inch = 12.7 mm
3/8 inch = 9.5 mm
7.5 inches = 19 cms
3/4 inch = 1.9 cms