“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

Reach Out and Touch Someone – Pole Arm Construction

As a combat archer, there are times when there simply isn’t any combat archery, or there are alternating scenarios, whatever the case may be… So I thought to myself, ‘Self, you should take up pole arm!’

Im no stranger to rattan having made made throwing daggers, and other things out of it. So I sought the help of the community and got some great assistance from Vlad Iliescu, and John Hutchings. Vlad was kind enough to send me some videos, I won’t repost without permission, but I will document what resulted from the assist!

Using the image below as a reference…

Materials Used:

  • 12′ rattan or lengths fit to use
  • fiberglass strapping tape
  • duct tape (colors of choice)
  • leather cording
  • cell foam (the kind used for padding armor or similar)
  • saw or other method for cutting rattan
  • sander, planer or other method for shaving rattan
Step by step construction of a polearm for use in SCA armored combat
Step by step construction of a polearm for use in SCA armored combat

Let’s dive in!

Cut the total length yo your Kingdom maximum length, take away 6″ which we will make up later. The remaining piece cut to 18″ (or to suit, see below).

  1. Cut a notch about 1/3 total diameter depth as long as you like for the blade length. Make sure to leave enough for strength. In this case as I recall the length was about 18 (as noted above).
  2. Fit the additional piece in place. The tighter the fit, the better.
  3. Notice the grading on the top part of the laminated piece. This helps decrease the sharp edging as looking more like a period weapon.
  4. I tend to overdo this part. Ya know, safety… Wrap it up and down with (fiberglass strapping) tape. Pay extra attention to the joined ends and ensure a tight, secure taping job.
  5. Now for the thrusting tips. Check your Kingdom rules, but mine are a full 3″ of padding. I start by cutting a series of discs that are the same diameter as the pole. Stack them up. You can additionally create two long strips about 1″ wide and about 8-10″ long, cross them over the end. After assembly side wrap top to overlap onto the pole by at least 3″. Cross tape over the top. Side wrap again even deeper down the shaft.
  6. Repeat for the other end.
  7. Now for the rondel. You can employ several methods for this part, in my case I used leather. Using 3/16″ leather I cut three discs, and center punched to as tightly fit the shaft as possible.
  8. Laminate the pieces together using strapping tape. Use as much as you like to make it safe and ensure it stays together.
  9. In my case I used purple duct tape to mask the ugly fiber tape.
  10. Here I use leather cording (stripped from the same leather used in rondel). these are about 12″ long. One small piece of tape to hold one end down. Tightly wrap and secure with tape.
  11. Place rondel and then repeat step 10 on the other side to secure the rondel in place.
  12. Here I tape the shaft all up to ensure its all as secure as possible. Continuous taping ensures strength. Many little piece can fail more easily.
  13. Taping with my base colors to make it puurrrty.
  14. More puurrrrty and adding red tape for the striking edges.
  15. Red for the thrusting points
  16. (Not pictured) I used a sander and planer for indexing the handle. This is so that no matter what I know which way my blade is facing.

Thats about it folks, not much to this. In my case I needed a few friends to help me get started. Access to tools always helps. Lean on your community for tools, advice, space, whatever you need.

Happy Hunting!