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An explanation
By Stephen Francis Wyley 


Projectile combat is to me and many other people the most enjoyable form of re-enactment combat. The use of various 'safe' missiles depicts more closely the types of battles which seen during the Middle Ages. The only other thing which a projectile combat is lack is horses but that is another story. Projectile combat is not just for archers, its for all combatants. All an infantryman needs is to provide the extra armour requirements (helm with visor and neck protection) and they to can join in the fun.

It was Guard members (Mountains garrison/Dismal Fogs) who first set out the rules for the SCA and now after many years of toil other re-enactment groups have or are taking up the past time (Islendiga, Companie of Knights Bachelor and Nordmannia to name the most prominent).

Projectile combat are much more complicated affairs, lasting longer (up to ten times longer than an average general combat) with protracted missile exchanges and tactics to over come the effect of missile fire.

This article is set out to help the novice combatant or commander to understand the intricacies of projectile combat, the topics covered are the; major considerations, armour, arms, weapon combinations, technical advice and wounding and killing blows.


[1] There are no off target areas when using projectile missiles in projectile combat.

[2] Hand thrown missiles must leave the hand to count and there is no minimum distance for their use. If hand thrown weapons are used as a normal hand weapon the blow must be pulled and on a legal target area.

[3] Extra armour is always recommended but remember more armour means more weight which will slow you


[4] Minimum loosing distance for bows and crossbows is five metres.

[5] Where State laws make crossbows and other weapons illegal or restricted, those laws must be followed.

[6] At all times the NVG Inc. National Combat Rules and Standards must be followed by all participants and if

a rule is found to be flawed or an area not covered common sense must prevail.

[7] Finally, the safety of the all the people in the area (participants, spectators or passers by) of the combat must

be held paramount.


The armour requirements are relatively simple; normal combat armour (groin protection, breast protection for females, body armour, hand protection) plus a helm with projectile proof visor coupled with neck protection which does not allow missile penetration and no bare skin showing (extra armour is recommended). See NVG Inc. National Combat Rules and Safety Standards for details.

In most cases the visor can not be disguised so it is accepted as an exception in regard to historical authenticity for the sake of safety. The visors should be blacked for better visibility and this also reduces the visor's notability.

As stated extra armour is always recommended because bruising can occur if hit on an under-armoured site on the body, usually the arms and legs. Gambesons with long sleeves and extending down to the knees are highly recommended. Also leg armour such as greaves or padded quisses (leggings) are highly recommended.


The specification of the bows used are:

- that they are either longbows or recurves;

- without sighting or stabilization aids;

- the bows must be at or below 30 pounds (draw weight) at 28 inches (draw length).

The specifications for arrows used in Projectile Combat are:

- the maximum length is 28 inches measured from where the string sits in the arrow nock to the back of the blunt;

- the shaft must be wooden (recommended size is 11/32", as 5/16" are too light and breaks easily and 23/64" is to heavy and flies like a log).

The arrow shafts must be longitudinally taped with fibre glass stranded packaging tape (reducing the likelihood of splinters) downwards from the fletches to the end of the shaft. While holding the arrow by the nock with the other end hangs downwards attach the corner edge of the start of the tape to the shaft at the bottom end the fletchers, un-roll the tape down the shaft to the tip, press the edge of the tape to the shaft along the complete length un-rolled, cut the tape 0.5 cm passed the end of the shaft, roll the tape onto the shaft using a flat surface, fold the excess tape at the tip back on its self. Once the arrow is taped attach the rubber blunt.

The rubber blunt must be the only head attachment (no putting the rubber blunt over a field point). 'HTM' blunts fly better because of a rounder profile but cost more ($1.50-2.00 each) while 'Riverhavens' are the only type allowed when fighting in SCA combat and cost less ($0.70-1.00). Supplier.

Javelins are handy projectiles, a javelineer with a shield can make a huge impact to a battle being able to close with an enemy and hurl javelins while obtaining protection from returned fire from their shield. Javelin shafts are made of wood but need not be taped like arrows, due to their lower velocity. The maximum shaft length is six foot. A suitably soft rubber stopper must be firmly affixed to the head of the javelin.

Note: Normal general combat weapons must never be thrown in any form of combat.


It should be noted that your weapon combination you use in projectile combat should reflect your presentation (eg. Vikings and Anglo-saxon used long or flat bows while Turks and Byzantines used recurve bows)

Examples of the different combinations which can be used are;

- Archer,

- Archer/Infantry,

- Crossbowman,

- Crossbowman/Infantry,

- Javelineer,

- Javelineer/Infantry.

Archers and Crossbowman only need to be touched by a infantry weapon to be killed. Archer/Infantry and Crossbowman/Infantry may be killed in the same fashion if still holding their bow or crossbow. This is done to reduce the likelihood of damaging the bows or crossbows.


Missiles with rubber blunts have a greater wind resistance that the original so more height is required to reach the proposed target, so aim higher.

With the addition of a visor the nocking point (where the nock is drawn to) is moved away from the usual position, a siting correction will have to be made. When aiming an arrow without a visor the point of aim (where you aim to bring the arrow onto the target) is usually above and to the right of the target, with the addition of a visor the point of aim will have to be moved further right (further left for lefties).

Arrow and bolts should have a noticeably different fletching pattern from those used for target shooting, mistakes can then be avoided.

Keep missiles clean so that material does not fly off through someone's visor when hit.


Arrows, crossbow bolts and javelins all have a similar effect;

[1] Arrows, crossbow bolts and javelins kill when they strike the head, neck or torso,

[2] Severe wounding is caused when Arrows, crossbow bolts and javelins strike the inner thigh or arm causing

death in about two minutes.

[3] Arrows, crossbow bolts and javelins striking the limbs causes incapacitation.

[4] A bottom hit will cause embarrassment and severely restricted movement.

[5] All slight wounding will eventually cause death from bleeding.

Shields are protection against arrows, bolts and javelins but not against siege engine hurled missiles or falling rocks.

Siege engine hurled projectiles cause death or complete incapacitation on contact.


Projectile combat is fun and enables more people to participate in a form of combat which is a bit closer to what the original was like while being safe for all those involved.


1. New Varangian Guard Inc. Combat Rules and Safety Standards

This page was last update on the 21st May 2002

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