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Combat Archers, DO NOT fail your inspections!

So this issue has come up a few times both on and off the battlefield: “Will my ammo pass inspection?”

We have all been there, the moment of fear as the marshal rummages through your ammo and starts making two piles, and you think, “oh great, I failed”. Don’t despair! Knowing the rules and following them to the best of your ability will get you through inspections just fine. In the marshal’s mind, if there is reasonable doubt, remember that the goal is everyone’s safety.

What should you expect during inspections?

Last year at Pennsic, I was in a rush to get to the field, and didn’t have time to self inspect. I was going through inspections, when I turned around I had a pile of ‘dead’ ammo. Some of them rightly so. But during the inspections process I noticed the method was disturbing. Something that I have noticed elsewhere, and have even done myself previously: grabbing the bolt by both end and torquing. This seems reasonable, and can even make sense when reviewing the documentation* (see below)

To speak to the differences, Im going to tell you how I inspect my bolts. I grab the bolt by the shaft with one hand 2-4″ apart from the other on the APD/Blunt. Give it a twist, is there any movement? Just a tiny bit, or too much (1/8″ or more)? Grab the shaft on both end and check for lateral movement, is there any? With both hands on the end give a ‘slight’ twist. Please note we are not checking for twist of the APD or Blunt here, but damage to the shaft itself (I’ll come back to this). Check the shaft by running your hands down it, Any issues? Is there strapping tape the full length of exposed shaft? Check the APD, is it cracked or broken? Does the head have cracks etc? Is the tape intact over the head?

Now back to the ‘grabbing by both ends’ thing earlier… So issues have arisen where someone grabs ammo by the head and APD, and literally torques it! I tell you this, every piece of ammo will fail and or break if put in the hands of someone applying over the top force to this motion. I can make any bolt twist using this method, I don’t care who made it. Further, you can be structurally damaging the fiberglass. The shafts are not meant to twist too much this way. If you are ever in doubt, please contact your local friends DEM or someone who will give you a definitive answer in this regard. But the next time I see someone doin’ the ol’ “Torque Twist Shuffle” on my bolts, you better believe Ill call a “Hold!”

example of how to apply strapping tape
example of how to apply strapping tape

As as additional note, we generally are pushing to use strapping tape over the head as well as the APD. This gives additional strength as well as lateral hold. It also wears far longer in battles, which means less frequent repairs! This is not a requirement as of yet, but if you are making new bolts… well as they say, “An ounce of prevention…”


Thanks friends, look forward to seeing you on the field!

~ Cameron


Combat Archery Supplies

Marshal’s Handbook (source)
XV. D. 3.
a. Based upon the type of ammunition, measure all dimensions for conformance
b. Grab both head and tail and pull with moderate force while slightly twisting.
If either end moves laterally it fails.
c. If the ammunition is with made with foam, check that the tip is constructed in
such a manner that it cannot be forced more than .5 inch (12.7 mm) into a
legal faceguard.
d. Check the shaft for signs of cracking or other failure. Check that it is
properly labeled and taped.
e. Remember that ammunition cannot be more than 10% yellow as yellow is
reserved for siege ammunition.

Atlantia Combat Archery Training Docs (source)
5. Weapons, Ammunition, i-iv
i. Label requirements.
ii. Inspect fiber glass shafted arrows/bolts with UHMW.
– Shaft covered longitudinally with strapping tape.
– APD firmly attached with no movement lengthwise along
– UHMW at least 1.5 inches in diameter with at least .5
inches and at most 1.25 inches of resilient padding on
striking surface.
iii. Inspect fiber glass shafted arrows/bolts with Balder style blunts.
– Shaft covered longitudinally with Strapping tape.
– Balder blunt of approved type. (Single piece balder is not
legal for fiber glass shafted ammunition.)
– Blunt taped on with at least one piece of strapping or
electrical tape.
– No movement lengthwise of blunt along shaft.
– APD firmly attached with no movement lengthwise along
iv. Inspect Siloflex style ammunition.
– Siloflex equivalent tubing with 100 psi rating.
– Head constructed properly.
– No cuts in the tail except for a possible nock less than ½
inch in depth.

Pennsic Requirements (source)
4, f-k
f) Fiberglass-shaft arrows/bolts must be covered from behind the blunt, to the front of the Anti-Penetration
Device (APD), in a sturdy tear-resistant tape, such as strapping, electrical, or duct tape.
g) Grab both head & tail and pull “away” with moderate force. If either head or APD moves longitudinally, the
ammunition fails.
h) Hold the shaft and APD close together and attempt rotation of the APD using minor torque as not to overly
stress any existing glue seal. If any rotation of the APD occurs, the ammunition fails and needs re-securing.
i) Hold the shaft and head close together and attempt rotation of the collar using minor torque so as not to
overly stress any existing glue seal. If greater than slight rotation of the collar upon the shaft occurs, the
ammunition fails.
j) “Slight rotation” has been roughly defined by previous KEM’s to mean no greater than 1/8” lateral
movement around the shaft.
k) If ammunition is a type using foam on the tip, check that the foam tip cannot be forced more than ½ inch
into a legal faceguard. If penetration COULD occur more than ½ inch inside a grill, the ammunition fails.

Simple Advice For Beginner Combat Archers or Engineers

So you want to be a combat archer, or engineer huh…

Northstar archery is a great resource for bolts etc…
You can source your own materials, and use this as a reference as to what to buy. I bought my Baldar blunts from them though. Their customer service is great, and it’s always good to support people who support the SCA.

Nearly Finished Hip Quiver
Nearly Finished Hip Quiver
The tubes cut and honeycombed
The tubes cut and honeycombed

If you do use Baldar blunts, one thing you can do is ‘honeycomb’ your quiver with flourescent lamp tube covers (plain simple plastic tubes) cut to a length (eg: 10″). This can help the bolts or arrows stay more separated, thus easier to draw while in the heat of combat.

Using these bags (http://www.harborfreight.com/round-canvas-bag-94320.html) are a great, quick start for a hip quiver. And can be adapted for either arrows (you need to be a little more creative) or bolts.

SCA Combat Archery is a good FB Group to join. There are many helpful, if not verbose, friends there.

Please take the time to read the Marshals Handbook

(Combat Archery):
http://www.sca.org/officers/marshal/docs/marshal_handbook.pdf (Sections III.D., VII.F-G., XV.D.)

(Siege Related)
http://www.sca.org/officers/marshal/docs/marshal_handbook.pdf (Section VIII)
Study it, know it, love it, this is your bible. Everything you need to know about armor minimums, safe distances, legal shots etc is here.

For getting ready for war I would suggest getting just as armored as you would for rattan combat with the exception of the gauntlets (unless you can get well articulated full gauntlets). But armor is a really big subject. Do you go for cheap to get you on the field, or do you invest the time and money to get armor that fits your persona? Pinterest is a great starting point. (eg: https://www.pinterest.com/theakki/sca-~-armor-craft/). You can make a full set of armor out plastic garbage barrels (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpkBKJLjEvI) the lighting and sound isnt the best, but you’ll get the idea.

I would suggest crossbow for combat for several reasons, but use what you are comfortable with. For crossbow I would also suggest a fiberglass prod. But either steel, aluminum, or fiberglass are perfectly suitable and safe.

There are only two people I would get crossbows from in Atlantia, That is their Excellencies Mors of Stierbach, and Siegfried (http://crossbows.biz/). But talk to people in your Barony or Community, Im sure there are makers that people know and trust.

Thats the shorts of it! If you have suggestions or edits, please let us know!