In the battles of the Middle Ages, ranged weapons and projectiles of all types played an important role. They were used as weapons of attack against individual targets on the battlefield and during sieges. In some cases, they were used as weapons against a certain given area on the field.
One of the most popular ranged weapons was a simple bow. The bows used in the Middle Ages were of several types: short-range bows, compound bows and long-range bows. Short-range bows measuring between 1 and 1.20 meters in size, and were fairly simple to manufacture and handle. They were the type of bow used most frequently. They had a medium-range, accuracy and strength, and required a good experience and a perfect training so that their use would be effective.
Composite bows were originating in Asia. They were formed by sheets of wood tied together. The sheets turned them into powerful bows, but required greater strength and training. This relatively short bow was the favorite weapon of archers riders, mainly from the Mongols and other Asian people who were specialists in horse riding. A variant of the composite had outwardly curved ends (which was achieved by heating it to steam and curving the blades during the manufacturing process). This curved bow was more powerful and required a high degree of strength and dexterity.
Long-range bows originated in Wales, and from there went to England. Almost two meters long, manufactured from a single piece of wood. Long-range bow arrows were up to a meter long. The wide-tipped arrows could penetrate the leather armor, causing lacerations, and were used to combat infantry. Also, there were arrows of narrow tip that penetrated the Mesh or Dickies and fired against the armored warriors.
To shoot long bow successfully, it was necessary to have enough training and practice. Men skilled in this type of weapon could shoot six well-directed arrows per minute. This kind of bow could reach targets at long-range and was quite powerful. Numerous contingent of experienced archers were a devastating force in many of the battlefields of the Middle Ages. They could fire both individual arrows and a rain of arrows towards a particular area.
The crossbows were already known in ancient China but apparently invented again in Europe around 900. They had a good reach and were more powerful than most bows, although it took them much longer to load. A crossbowman could fire an average of two arrows per minute.
The bow of the crossbow was held horizontally and triggered by a trigger that released the tight rope. To load it, the fighter pointed with the front of the weapon to the ground, holding it with his foot. He could pull the rope up and back with both hands or with the help of a crank. The crossbows fired arrowheads, which were much shorter than the typical arrows. The arrows had feathers to provide stability in flight and a sharp metal tip.
The crossbowmen used to wear large shields with wooden clamps to protect themselves as they bent down to carry their weapons. In this way, they formed a wall that protected them. When they fired, only their crossbows and heads covered with hooves were visible. If they had to fight against a similar force of long-range archers, they were usually forced to retreat.
The crossbow was a very popular deadly weapon for the simple reason that it did not require almost any training to handle it. The soldiers with little experience could learn their handling very quickly, and a well-directed shot could kill a knight who had spent all his life training in the arts of war. The crossbows were considered unfair in some circles (in the knights, mainly) because they required a little skill. Richard I of England, Heart of Leon, was twice wounded by crossbow firing, the second with fatal consequences. The idea that a man of his greatness was so easily mortally wounded by an ordinary soldier was unbearable to the nobility. In the twelfth century, a Pope tried to ban the use of crossbows as inhumane.