“A message for you sir!” – Face shots at Pennsic? UPDATED

Prepare for battle!

Recently we became aware of some changes to the combat rules at Pennsic this year. Initial reaction was anger but just getting angry doesn’t necessarily help. So I stopped to consider the issue.

Calibration

We repeatedly hear between battles, “Calibrate you blows!”. This is a general, and good, warning. Things can get heated on the field, and having that reminder echo in your head to remain calm is a good thing. So what is a ‘telling blow’? Well I can ‘tell’ you that I feel a pole arm in arm or chest as much if not less than a combat bolt from a crossbow. Generally a sword strike I can feel more if the individual isn’t calibrating. Generally however, these are telling blows. We have all been guilty of not feeling a blow, and taking a blow in reaction even if it wasn’t a good one. Combat bolts and arrows are however calibrated specifically. The reason they are so, is safety. If a fighter really wants to throw a ’10’, they can. We cannot. With a crossbow, the best I can ‘throw’ is a 4-5. By design!

Plate Proof!

You may hear the term, ‘Plate Proof’. This means something to a few of us, but the general idea is that some are considered to be wearing full plate armor, therefore the effectiveness of weapons against plate should be adjusted.

Here is the glaring problem with this issue: Most all people are not wearing full plate. I think it is reasonable and correct that if one wants to claim ‘plate proof’, they should, in fact, be wearing full plate armor. Historically armies would not all be kitted up with full plate armor. There is no historical or actual reason for claiming “Plate Proof” unless you are actually wearing plate.

When receiving a blow from a ‘sword’ on the arm, is anyone asking the question, “Well Im wearing plate, so would it have actually cut through and damaged my arm”? No? Then why hold missile weapons to a different standard?

Lay On!

It isn’t enough that Combat Archers and Engineers are restricted to very few scenarios to begin with. This falls under two areas:

  1. We can be better organized, and ensure we have more scenarios. We can have Missile Weapon Tourneys, and more. IKCAC are another way to have fun at a war
  2. The larger battles, usually 5, we are told to sit out 2 of 3. Most of us understand the rationale, and for some it gives us the opportunity to cross train and use another weapon form. This seems enough regarding ‘fairness’. For Engineers its even worse

Choose your weapon!

What will be the actual result? Demanding that only face shots count is preposterous on its own, but what is the actual result? Hand bow in the combat realm are far less accurate. This isn’t a reflection in the user, but more a combination of factors. With a crossbow some can shoot people in the face all day long even getting jostled in the front lines. A hand bow, this can be harder to accomplish. So this rule can reduce the effectiveness of a hand bow more, and reduces the effectiveness of the average crossbow-person.

What restrictions are being put on other weapon types? Pole arms limited to 4′? No shields?

What is the Rationale?

What are the real reasons this rule is in effect? My guess based on experience, is that there is some ignorance associated with some particular weapons forms. This generally is not an issue, I am ignorant of a great many weapons. That does not preclude my seeking further knowledge and wisdom. How many in the archery or CA community were consulted in this decision? What were those opinions? My guess is that these decisions were fairly unilateral, and made without the context or wisdom required before forcing this on an entire populace, at one the the premiere events in the world.  Prove me wrong, Im happy to be wrong.

Science!

Lets compare weapon types. Let’s assume a fighter can hit a combatant with the force of a baseball bat. There may be core issues with that assertion but let’s roll with it. The force delivered by a fully swung bat by a professional can deliver up to 270 ppsi. The windlass for example can deliver a blow at around 250 ppsi (at 5″ draw).

A person wearing plate being hit in the arm by a sword at a calibration of 4-5, would not lose that arm. They would continue to use it, and likely would be quite fine. But in the SCA, it’s considered ‘lost’ Why this low bar of acceptance? Safety. So why then would a bow, intentionally weakened for safety, not have the same effect? If we consider real blows, they are equivalent. Only the method of delivery changes, and that shouldn’t be relevant in a conversation about what a telling blow is. It should matter how something hit you in the arm or chest with that force, if in reality, that force is equivalent, take it, and like it.

Historical ‘accuracy’

There were many battles where missile weapons played a role. The use of archers have been used to great effect on the field. The fact that one army over another has more archers than the other may be dismaying, but who’s at fault here? Why are the combat archers being restricted for inadequacies of the opposing forces numbers? If you want an army that can be effective regardless of opponents missile weapons, this strikes me as issue with army training an cohesion, not the archers and engineers.

At the Battle of Agincourt, they may have cried, “Light” as the English arrows pierced outside their grills, but they died all the same. Archers are a part of war, like it or not… but this time, the French called, and the English are going to acquiesce.

Affect on the populous

For those who are new to combat archery for a variety of reasons this places an unnecessary restriction on how combat archers normally play. For some its health issues, others may be new to combat altogether. For those who are not as proficient, for whatever reason, this rule has taken the joy out of playing the game. This will reduce participation, and personally, that feels like the goal.

We authorize and train like any other combatant. We are proud and effective. Arbitrary restriction make the group a target. Commanders are reinforcing the message that we are second class citizens. Which depending on how you view the topic, is provably true. We need to stop targeting specific segments of Society and strive towards an equitable Society.

Conclusion

It isn’t fair to compare bows to swords in the SCA for a variety of reasons, but many do. The reason a hand bow feels weak versus a blow from a short sword should be obvious to all, but without continued context and positive engagement, it is easy to lose that context, or ignore wisdom and knowledge.

If a human were wearing full plate, and you got hit in the chest with a Windlass, you would not idly brush that off and continue, regardless of whether it penetrated or not.

I get it, it’s all a game. But it is a game where the boundaries get fuzzy, and not in any small way as a result of safety issues! We all want to be careful out there and ensure that we are being safe, and having fun. To restrict one very specific group and directly impact the way they play their game is unwise at best, intentional and direct discrimination at worst. Either way, not a good look.

I for one likely won’t be participating this year. Let them win you might say? Maybe but there are other segments of Society I don’t have to constantly fight to be recognized and valued. Sometime we need a break from the negativity. The Valiance Proposal is a perfect example of so much wrong with our Society, but thats another topic.

I am no person in authority, nor considered important surely by anyone who made these decisions. I implore you all to reach out to those who made these decisions, both the community, and our allies. Let them know, this is not acceptable, or simply that you are concerned about the impact.

This line sticks with me, “If your army can’t handle some combat archers, you need a better army.” This is snarky, but really means by closer training together we are more comfortable together. At the very least your armies should be training with them so they are more comfortable with their tactics, strengths, and weaknesses. Every unit brings something, Shields bring protection, poles distance, we have have a role to play on the field.

Treat each other well, enjoy what you do, even if others don’t!

 

References:

  • https://www.quora.com/How-much-PSI-does-a-professional-batter-output-when-he-swings-How-much-damage-could-it-do-to-a-person
  • https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Crossbow

There are more references but these are good starting points.

Making a Quiver – Combat Archery

Hip Quiver Full of Bolts
Hip Quiver Full of Bolts

Greeting friends, a question often asked, ‘what is a good quiver to use’, or, ‘how can you make one’? As with anything this can be a very big subject, but let’s go into some basics of not only construction, but of some of the use cases related to quivers as well.

How many bolts do you have? What kind? In this case the head/APD type is more important. There are several shaft types. So when it comes to choosing the quiver to use and construction methods, it will partially depend on your ammo. If you have a sewing machine (and know how to use it) this will be fairly easy regardless of your method. I hand-stitched mine where necessary and used other simple means of assembly such as glue, and simply running1/4″ leather straps through punched holes. Crude but effective.

Your construction methods may also depend on the type of combatant you are. Are you explosive, running around dodging and weaving? Are you stationary like a turret and meticulously picking off the opposing teams? The type of archer you are can also dictate the type of ammo you use, but that’s another post.

One need not use canvas,  but use a material that is sturdy. Canvas and leather are great, but anything you have available or easily attainable should work. If all else fails, literally use a pillowcase (in your heraldic colors of course ;p). Material should be able to stand up to stepping, dragging, storing, and general wear and tear.

Bolts – Baldar and fiberglass:

Many people love the Harbor Freight canvas bags (fig.1). With a slight modification they can be used right out of the shipping box. Grab a few carabiner clips and some rope or tape. or grommets if you have them.

You can remove the handles so they are not in your way, or remove one and use the other as an attachment point. Or remove both handles, then you can punch holes just under the ring (optionally grommet) then run loops, or carabiners (fig.4).

Keep in mind the tubes will accept the bolts or arrows either end: APD, or Baldar. but the UMHW or padded heads.

Arrows – Baldar, UMHW, or Siloflex

Due to the larger size and bulk of these, something the size of the Harbor Freight bags work great. However they are too short. I have seen everything from pillow case style loose bags with a belt loop, to cutting a HF bag in half horizontally and inserting 12-16″ of fabric, canvas, etc (fig.2). For arrows I recommend making several quivers and not ‘over-crowding’ them. The bags are deep enough one needn’t worry about ammo spilling everywhere. Organization is less important. By not over-crowding, you will spend less time ‘untangling’ ammo as it comes out of the quiver.

If you wish to use the tubes for organization, you only need about 4″ at the bottom to put the ends into.

Make a hip and a back quiver? This greatly depends on your context, perhaps you sling a quiver over your back so you don’t have to go far away to reload. If you have a ‘pillow case’ quiver with a generous strap, this can be easily done. A good reason to have an optional strap with length is for flexibility.

General tips:

Make a few quivers! Either to share or make reloading easier. Also during the construction process you may find better ways of achieving the same goals. Plan your project!

I would really suggest carabiners as attach points (fig.4). Easy to take on and off. And if you have several quivers, and need to reload at a larger battle, you can do it quickly.

Leg straps work really well (fig.4). Aside from belt attach points, have a strap, leather cording or similar that attaches at the bottom of the bolt quiver and ties loosely around your leg to keep the quiver vertical. For arrows this is less important, but one could add an attach point midway so it ties around the thigh. If you run around a lot, this keeps the ammo from falling out

The tubes cut and honeycombed
The clear tubes

If using tubes (fig.3), you can attach them several ways or not at all. In my personal quiver they started off glued but separated over time. They all fit so snugly however that they don’t need to be glued, the tension of the bag holds them in place. There are several option for keeping them together.

  • Fill the quiver with tubes, retain the shape and lift them out, then run duct tape around the outside
  • Staple them together
  • Apply glue in the voids between the tubes while in bag
  • Apply glue to the bottom of the bag, then lower the tubes into place

If you are using a bag with no shape, you can use a plastic Ikea cutting board (or similar) (fig.5) that you trim into the shape of your quiver, and stitch, glue, or simply put into place.

Reference Links:

Northstar Archery

Canvas Bags

White – 4 count

Black – 2 count

Canvas Bag – Harbor Freight

Tubes for Baldar arrow or bolt

Standard clear tube guards

Tube guards in colors!
purpleredgreenlight blueblueyellowambercanarypink

Additional photos by Jonathan Lockwood

Youth Combat Archery – It Should Be a Thing!

Youth combatants in Aethelmearc

There have been several discussions over the years regarding youth combat archery, and though I have not been privy to them all, I have engaged in a few. As the Score Keeper for the IKCAC it has become more of an issue lately as youth who wish to participate must use ‘adult’ equipment. We have to date had at least one youth score entered, but using equipment they aren’t required to use in their own combat (for those that enjoy the sport) it is a real change. For those that are trying it for fun (including adults) it is different to have a helm and gauntlets on regardless of course.

What are the concerns?

So what are the blockers for creating rules for CA for youth? Initially the concerns are in the area of poundage of certain bows. For instance my crossbow hits fairly hard at ~520 ppsi (pounds per square inch). This would simply be too much given the armor requirements that youth is currently using. Not to mention Baldars hit a little harder than UMHW.

So whats the solution?

The overarching goal is to not replicate work. If this is already underway, let’s work together to promote the idea. The more we all work in concert, the more quickly this will become a reality. This is totally achievable, if not, why not. I truly hope we can open discussions about this across the known world and address any potential pitfalls or concerns. Please comment below with your thoughts and there is a draft document as a supplement.

It strikes me however (see what I did there?) that limiting youth to recurve would do the trick. Perhaps limiting the head type to UHMW as well. This more resembles ‘archery tag’ rules/equipment. Perhaps even requiring more padding as is required for Rapier.

Remember that for the IKCAC it isn’t as relevant, but what we might be looking for is consistency and standards. Regarding combat though, we should afford youth the same fun that adults enjoy! Combat Archery is so much fun and many youth are attracted to archery (target and combat). Being able to bridge this gap can be an important tool in broadening their horizons and opportunities. Not to mention the differing skillsets and related arts.

Call to action!

Please share your thoughts and concerns in the comments and the shared doc.

References:
https://sca.org/officers/marshal/docs/marshal_handbook.pdf (VII.G.6.e.ii)
https://www.sca.org/officers/marshal/youthcombat/docs.html
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oZhjBQZJVWCfeczqZS006fPK0LSsGmU-W5Y3TxpeJCY/edit?usp=sharing

Thinking outside the (IKCAC) box

With a recent refresh of the rules for a new 2019 (and future) seasons, an interesting idea was put forward by a friend in An Tir…

During the distance, and close range, there is no issue, you can set up multiple targets (30 and 10 yds) and simply switch targets. The interesting part comes in regard to the ‘advancing round’.

What if there are three targets set up on the range (30, 20, and 10 yds), and in lieu of advancing forward physically, there is a point or post 5 yards behind the (green) shooting line.

How the range might be set up using the post method
How the range might be set up using the post method

After shooting the two rounds at the thirty, you move to the ‘Advancing Round’. Once you get your two shots off at 30, you may advance and shoot at the 20, and repeat. What if instead of advancing, you physically walked/ran to a post behind the line, returned to the line, then shot normally?

How the participant would travel around the post
How the participant would travel around the post

Its an interesting concept, and one that I think would work… However there are some potential issues..

Loaded behind the line:

One should not have a spanned crossbow/bow or arrows/bolts loaded on their bows behind the line for any reason. This is especially true in a mixed line. One can argue that a shoot, solely dedicated to IKCAC, in a safe space, where all participants are aware, this can be done safely, that is not the scope of this post.

I prefer to load as I walk. The same way I perform in combat: always moving, always loading, always hunting. Using this method, one should not be loading while traveling to and from the post, to the line. It creates a safety hazard. What if the prod should break while in action and the bow is pointed ‘down line’ towards other participants? If using the post method, shoot, move to post and back, get back on the line, load and shoot.

Comfort of archers

It is the case that most archery lines are not comfortable, nor familiar with the type of explosive movement that can occur in combat archery. People leisurely shooting their Royal Rounds 10 feet away, may be greatly distracted by someone suddenly running off the line and back.

If one were to attempt this method, make sure all participants are not only aware this is happening, but are ok with it. All the line marshals as well as the MiC should be aware and be assuaged of any safety concerns.

Additionally, make sure the participants of the IKCAC are comfortable with the set up! Some may refer the physical advancement. If it can be run either or both ways, do what is best for the populace and participants!

Elbow room

Space can always be tight, but if there is room to run the IKCAC on its own, that may be a better fit. Though in some cases, a mixed line may be preferable. A mixed line also affords greater visibility to the IKCAC to participants who may not otherwise know it exists. If there is loaner gear, it also makes it easier for someone to walk up and try it out the same we afford in target archery! That said, make sure there is plenty of space for all activities. We want to ensure we are working together!

Conclusion

We all need to make sure the thing we love, is what we do. Talk to your Autocrats, and your Marshals in Charge. It is our job to not only make sure our thing is happening, but that it is advertised, has space, and is done safely!