The Crossbow : For piercing through hard things and shooting a long distance, and when struggling to defend mountain-passes, where much noise and impetuous strength must be stemmed, there is nothing like the crossbow for success. However, as the drawing (i.e. the arming) is slow, it is difficult to cope with sudden attacks. A crossbow can only be shot off [by a single man] three times before it comes to hand-to-hand weapons. Some have therefore thought crossbows inconvenient for fighting, but truly the inconvenience lay not in the crossbow itself but in the commanders, who did not know how to make use of crossbows. All the military theorists maintained that the crossbow had no advantage over hand-to-hand weapons, and they insisted on having long bills and great shields in the front line to repel the charge, and made the crossbowmen to carry sabres and long-hafted weapons. The result was that if the enemy adopted an open-order formation and attacked with hand-to-hand weapons, the soldiers would throw away their crossbows and have recourse to those also. A body of the rearguard was therefore detailed beforehand to go round and collect up the crossbows.
The bow : In the Middle Ages the English were famous for their very powerful longbows, used en masse to great effect against the French in the Hundred Years' War, with notable success at the battles of Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356), and Agincourt (1415). During the reign of Edward III of England, laws were passed allowing fletchers and bowyers to be impressed into the army and enjoining them to practise archery. The dominance of the longbow on the battlefield continued until the French began to use cannon to break the formations of English archers at the Battle of Formigny (1450) and the Battle of Castillon (1453). Their use continued in the Wars of the Roses however and they survived as a weapon of war in England well beyond the introduction of effective firearms. The average length of arrow shafts recovered from the 1545 sinking of the Mary Rose is 75 cm/30 in. In 1588, the militia was called out in anticipation of an invasion by the Spanish Armada and it included many archers in its ranks; the Kent militia for instance, had 1,662 archers out of 12,654 men mustered.