Robin Hood Give Us Your Best Shot!!!!!!!

May 30, 2010

Mathspig went along to see the movie, ROBIN HOOD, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. I was interested in the film for several reasons.

Firstly, Cate Blanchett went to the same primary school as Mathspig’s children in Melbourne. Such is our Aussie egalitarian attitude to education we do not single out past students for special attention.  No picture of Cate Blanchett appeared at the school during Mathspig’s kids education and none, as far as I know, to date.

Secondly, I’m amused that two Australian stars featured in an American remake of a British classic tale. I was just a bit disappointed that Russell Crowe didn’t say something like ‘No worries, King John, mate!!!!

Another amusing aside was that the re-engineered history in this Ridley Scott tale meant Robin Hood had a great influence on British History. I am only too delighted to discover that Russell Crowe wrote the Magna Carta.

How Far Could Longbow Men shoot their Arrows?

I was very intrigued by how the long bowmen fired their arrows. Robin Hood begins the film as a long bowman called Robin Longstride. The film critic for the New Yorker suggested ‘Longstride’ was not the ideal name for Russell Crowe’s nuggetty Robin. I think Robin Chunky-Guy might be more appropriate.

When I did some research ( Longbow arrow speeds)I found that Russell Crowe’s build was closer to the original longbow men than earlier Robin Hoods such as the tall and rangy Errol Flynn (Shown).  It is believed that longbow men of the era could draw -a force (on the bow string) of 150 lb-f (pound force) or 667 N (Newton), which is, at least, twice the draw force of bowmen today who, if they are good, can draw 60 – 80 lb-f or 267 – 356 N.

Longbow men used heavy wooden arrows and not the carbon shafts used by archers today. Arrow speeds are estimated for the longbows to be up to 310 f/s (foot per sec) or 100 m/sec.

In the film I noticed that Robin Hood – especially in one dramatic shot at the end, – aimed his arrow at a high angle in the air. ( See Below)

Mathspig believes you should always find the easiest way to do any calculation. so here is the EASY way. Assuming there is no wind or wobbly arrow movement we can split the arrow velocity into its horizontal and vertical components (Using vectors. If you haven’t done vectors just go along with it.) Then interesting things happen!!!!!!!!


We haven’t allowed for air resistance in the flight of the arrow so it would slow down….. BUT Russell Crowe … I mean ROBIN HOOD was right.AIM HIGH and your arrows go a long, long way!!!!!!! Of course, the straight arrow traveling at 100 m/sec would travel 1000 m in 10 seconds or 1 km!!!!!! 

Mathspig finds this amazing.


  1. Maybe left as a reader exercise to find out how high to aim if you want the longest distance? It’s a surprisingly intuitive.

    • Thanks Tommy,
      For your interesting comment. Cheers Mathspig

  2. Great post and calculations. At the beginning i didn`t actually understand what you were trying to find out. but you were calculating how war away this guy was at the end. It is amazing because right now snipers with balanced rifles shoot from that distance,

    • Thanks Kaido,
      It’s amazing what you can work out using a little bit of maths. Cheers Mathspig

  3. […] Robin Hood used a long bow and in the film Robin Hood archers raised their bows at a very high angle to cover long distances. See the diagrams below from Robin Hood Give Us Your Best Shot […]

  4. too anal for a dedicated archer who knows different…

    you obviously know all about clout shooting, the Yew bow and other interesting aspects of Archery..

    so futher comments will be witheld…

    • Hello Ann the Archer, to do calcs like these many assumptions have to be made to keep the maths simple. But the matahs does give some idea about the power of the long bow. Mathspig

  5. The Longbow
    The longbow dominated medieval warfare. Medieval England not only saw the use of longbows in battle but of several types of bows – the short bow, the composite bow and the long bow. In the Hundred Years War, the long bow was used by the English to a devastating effect. The long bow was also effective in naval battles. At the Battle of Sluys in 1340, English archers poured a devastating longbow attack on tightly packed French ships that suffered serious losses. At the land Battle of Poitiers in 1356, the long bow was responsible for the deaths of 2,000 French mounted knights – the elite of the French army. In 1346 at the Battle of Crecy, English archers devastated the French who lost 11 princes, 1,200 knights and 30,000 common soldiers. The English lost just 100 men. In this particular battle, 20,000 English soldiers defeated 60,000 French soldiers. This single battle is taken as proof of how just effective the longbow was as a weapon.

    The kings of England encouraged the use of the long bow by sponsoring tournaments with good prizes for the successful archers. All other sports were banned on a Sunday except for archery. This meant that at any particular time, England would have a large pool of experienced archers ready to be called up for war. Each English shire had to provide the king with a certain number of trained archers per year – this was enforced by law. Many lords also made archery practice compulsory. Those who failed to attend were fined which was encouragement enough to attend.

    It is thought that the first long bow came from Wales and spread in use to England. Edward I had witnessed its use when he conquered Wales in the 1280’s. The long bow was about six feet long and made from a yew tree. However, a shortage of yew trees meant that ash, elm or wych elm were also used.

    The arrows for this weapon were three feet long with broad tips when used against infantry when their armour needed to be pierced and narrow tips to pierce the plate armour used by knights. Arrows were made out of ash, oak or birch.

    An experienced archer could shoot an arrow every five seconds. Many skilled archers could produce a devastating attack as the French found out in the Hundred Years War. The short bow, as its title suggest, was between three to four feet long with a medium range and less power than the long bow.

    How powerful was a long bow?

    One story told in medieval times was that an arrow fired from a long bow could penetrate four inches into oak. Recent tests have shown that this anecdote is true when the arrow is fired close up. From 200 metres, a longbow arrow penetrated over one inch of solid oak – more than sufficient power to penetrate the armour worn by soldiers. Plate armour gave more protection but could still be penetrated from 100 metres. The maximum range of a long bow was 400 metres but at this distance, it was far less effective.

    • Wow! That’s awesome. You know your Long Bow history. Thanks for the contribution. Mathspig

  6. At what range could he say shoot an apple off a man’s head, do you think? And at what range could he kill a man?

    • Hey amichaelschwartz,
      Robin Hood could kill a man at 900 m to 1 km. But the trick would be having such an accurate aim and good luck. Cheerio Mathpig

  7. Great article! I was trying to figure out how a person would calculate the speed of the arrow at different points along its trajectory?

    • Hello Gary,
      I must have been lost in Sherwood forest. Missed your comment. You have to calc the speed using vectors … in other words you need some serious calculus. But entirely doable. See:
      http://physicsofarchery.webs.com/ Cheerio Mathspig

  8. […] 7. Robin Hood Give us your best shot. […]

  9. Sounds like point of aim and kinetic energy.

  10. […] More long bow maths here at ROBINHOOD GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT.  […]

  11. […] The equation for projectile motion also applies to Motorbike Jumps and Longbow Arrows. […]

  12. A check into Longbow history and performance indicates that the estimate of arrow speed used here at 310 FPS is very high.

    Arrow speed for a 150 on. longbow is more likely around 170 FPS.

    Flight records also indicate that actual historical flight records show distances shot of 300 to 400m maximum, not 1000m. Not many hand held bows of any type will cast an arrow 1000m.

    • Thanks Keith, sorry. A bit distracted by the COVID 19 situation. But I’m always interested in more accurate measurements. Mathspig

  13. […] The equation for projectile motion also applies to Motorbike Jumps and Longbow Arrows. […]

  14. […] 7. Robin Hood Give us your best shot. […]

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