A little over a year ago, I wrote about a couple of archery speed shooting techniques and posted some YouTube videos. Since then, I’ve come across a few more videos of archers shooting incredibly fast. These videos debunk decades of ridiculously bad archery rules in role playing games and show that some of the archery stunts pulled by the likes of Legolas in the Lord of the Rings movies may not be that far off the mark.

In this video, a fellow named Lars Andersen (I can only assume he’s from the Scandinavian area) has developed his own technique that allows him to shoot three arrows in less than one and a half seconds.

He found all modern techniques for fast shooting to be inadequate to achieve the speed requirement described in the historical work “Saracen Archery,” which is an English translation of a Mameluke work on archery, written in the year 1368. He doesn’t actually show his technique, because he’s still trying to perfect it. I’m not sure if his technique can be done only with three arrows, or if it would work with more.

Update: Lars Andersen (not Anderson) has uploaded a new video that is going viral. In this video he shows that his technique allows him to shoot 11 arrows before the first arrow hits the ground. He also has a few closer shots where you can get a look at the actual technique, although it’s still not very clear.

The next video shows a Hungarian named Lajos Kassai who has perfected the art of shooting arrows from horseback. The video takes a minute to get into the meat, so feel free to skip to about 1:20 to get to the good stuff. With two guys throwing small targets into the air, Lajos fires 12 arrows in just over 17 seconds and hits every single target. The targets are disks about a foot in diameter and appear to be maybe 15 feet away. He shows how he holds the arrows using the pinky finger of the same hand that holds the bow.

After that, he performs a similar feat while riding a horse at 20 miles an hour, firing 6 arrows in 10 seconds and hitting every target.

One thing I wonder about with these videos is how much damage those arrows would do to real people. The arrows don’t appear to be flying out of that bow with incredible speed. With the second video, I also wonder how accurate he would be at greater distances, say 100 feet or so.

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that it’s possible to shoot much faster than most people believe. And since archery was a key military tactic in ancient times and had many thousands more practitioners than we have today, you can be sure they had developed their speed and accuracy to a much greater degree than a few random devotees who posted their videos online.

Update: You might want to check out my other archery posts:

  • Part One — Two videos of fast archery techniques from Russia.
  • Part Two — You’re reading it now.
  • Part Three — Methods for quickly spanning or cocking a crossbow.
  • Part Four — More videos showing some speculation on Native American archery, recreations of ancient Turkish techniques, and more fast shooting from Russia.
Archery: Speed Shooting Techniques, Part 2

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28 Comments on "Archery: Speed Shooting Techniques, Part 2"

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Ing
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That is awesome stuff. Most gun enthusiasts (including me) would be hard-pressed to put 3 shots on target in less than 2 seconds. Although a gunshot would do a lot more damage than an arrow…

One thing that seems like a key factor is a relatively small, lightweight bow and close-range targets. I bet they’d have a hard time damaging a reasonably well armored opponent or anything more than about 15 yards away — but that’s where the English longbow comes in handy. :)

Jeremy Fox
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I can’t site sources, but I seem to remember reading (back when I shot archery) that the original archers were MEANT to be “close” range troops. They only needed to be out of the distance of the sword, lance, etc. to be safe. Their bows were lightweight and were able to do damage to only moderately armored soldiers.; but being up close gave them targets such as the face and other gaps in armor. That combined with this rapid fire technique would understandably be quite devastating!

Ing
Guest
Interesting point. By today’s standards, archers would certainly have been close-range fighters. Before firearms came along, everything in combat happened at much closer range. Inches and feet, not yards. In that context, being able to stand back 50 feet would be huge. I disagree on the inability of arrows to puncture armor. From what I’ve read, longbows were able to penetrate most armor, with only a few exceptions — certain kinds of plate that were fantastically expensive and not very common until the very late medieval era. Although most bows were much less powerful than longbows. It would be kind… Read more »
Riotimus
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I love this stuff. Because my Tales revolved around steppe nomads, I did a ton of research on this back in the day. The English longbow, as you guys pointed out, packed a lot of punch, but not a lot of range. The compound bows used by horsemen of the Eurasian steppe enjoyed a significantly longer range in part due to the longer draw length (hooked thumb instead of index and middle fingers). Their penetrating power didn’t have to be too great because all they really had to do was maim their enemies’ horses in their launch-and-retreat fighting style. Their… Read more »
Riotimus
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Thanks for the kind words. I love the subject, so it’s easy for me to go off on it. I didn’t notice in the video that it said how much time he spends practicing, but if he were a Hunnish, Mongol, Turkish, or other steppe-dwelling male, he would have spent the majority of his life in a saddle hunting with one of those bows. The way the tribesmen were able to easily translate ordinary hunting tactics to the battlefield is one of the reasons why, on occasions when they had a leader strong enough to keep them in line, they… Read more »
Dr. James J. Ripley
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I can’t see how you accommodate the six to twelve arrows in your bow hand. Could you please send me an image. Thank you.
Respectfully,
James Ripley

Dylan
Guest

Plate armor on a medieval battlefield was relatively sparse in terms of total percentage of soldiers. Bow and arrow could mean victory even if the arrows couldn’t pierce plate.

Daniel
Guest

hallo !

I am searched the book “saracen archery” for a long time. Seems to be very hard to get a copy here in Germany. Could u send me a scan? I would pay 4 ur affords.

Cho
Guest
The composite bows used in asia(including Turks and Hungarians) were kind of compound in that the siyah’s at the tip of the bow give a smoother and easier draw but much more power. The English longbow in that respect is less efficient but was not used for close range combat. The warbow use much thicker heavier arrows as its draw weight is much heavier and they were used to fire volleys at a distance. I don’t believe the English were the first to use such techniques but probably used it the most effectively. As for penetrating plate armor, nobody can… Read more »
John
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To Ben’s comment on compound and composite bows; it is true that the technical names for such bows can get a little confusing. Hungarian/Mongolian bows were called ‘reflex’ bows, because when they were stringed, they were flexed against their entire bow ‘body’ when the bow is not stringed. Thus, when people talk of those bows nowadays, they call them “traditional reflex composite bows”. Recurve bows came in later in the medieval era, and are called that because the bow’s body originally curves towards the shooter, but toward the end of the limbs of the bow the limbs curve back out,… Read more »
Giles
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I was always told that in medieval warfare an archers accuracy wasn’t a crucial factor as they were trained to fire in devastating synchronized volleys wish i could try this technique but my bow is compound ( the one with CAMS)

Giles
Guest

also is it just me or is Lars Anderson leaning ridiculously forward and facing the target straight on? I was told to stand straight and be somewhere around parallel to the target

James Griffith
Guest

I have considerable target and hunting experience with recurve and modern compound bow. Im currently adapting my archery to horseback. I’v viewed several of the speed shooting videos and postings and would like to know more. Particularly about equipment like arrow size, fletching and nock indexing, quiver design ect. If anyone has or knows of a source for this type of information please let me know

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[…] or on the horse. He also fired from the right side of the bow, as that can be done in one motion. Saracen archers were required to fire three arrows in 1.5 seconds, and some could fire even faster. Andersen can fire three arrows in 0.6 seconds, and do so […]

Kaven
Guest

I have collected several fast archery techniques, more than this post shows. They are not that hard to learn, and they speed up your shooting a lot (although it IS really hard to be as good as Kassai or Andersen). Check my web dedicated to this topic: http://www.rychla-lukostrelba.cz/en. I describe techniques there, and also many basic principles of fast shooting, that will be usable if you want to create you own style that suits you best.

Kaven
Guest

Thanks. I will do something about that. I’m not sure that images are enough (because it is mostly about motion), I will rather add more videos in english (current videos are in Czech, but described in the web in English). Web is originally in Czech and now is slowly being translated, so you can expect content to grow.

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[…] An examination of two videos posted recently that attempt to recreate the ancient archery techniques that made archers dreaded on the field. http://www.benjaminrose.com/post/archery-speed-shooting-techniques-part-2/ […]