Medieval Arrows

Arrow is one of the first types of the projectile in history and a very important weapon in the middle ages. It is launched by a bow, and in medieval times, it was either longbow or crossbow. Longbow arrows were long and lightweight, and crossbow arrows – or bolts – were shorter and heavier.

An arrow is a long straight firm shaft, stabilized with fin-shaped fletchings (such as feathers), and a weighty pointed arrowhead on the front end. The rear end has a slot called the nock to fit the bowstring.

An artisan who made arrows was called a fletcher. Arrowheads were made by arrowsmiths. People who used this weapon were archers.

Elements of the medieval arrow

Shaft – In medieval Europe, the arrow shaft was mostly made of wood, and it was about 75 cm (30 inches) long. In other parts of the world, it was also made of reeds or bamboo, and the size varied. For example, an Ottoman Turkish shaft was very short, and such arrow could fly further than longer, heavier arrows. Other elements of the arrow were attached on the shaft.

Arrowhead– another important part of an arrow was the arrowhead, which was the point of the projectile. There were many kinds of arrowheads. The simplest one was made by sharpening the tip of the shaft. Most other arrowheads were made separately, and they were used for different purposes.


Broadheads were the most popular arrowheads. Medieval archers used them in battles and for hunting. Those were often made of steel and had several (mostly two or four) sharp blades. Such blades could make serious injuries, and the removal was hard. Broadheads were not used for practice, as they were too expensive and they also damaged most targets. In the late middle ages, broadheads were useless in fight, because they could not go through plate armor.

Bodkin points were not that expensive, as they were made of iron that had not been hardened. Those points were chisel-shaped, could penetrate chain armor (but not plate armor), and were launched by a crossbow.

Barbed arrowheads were popular in medieval England. They had sharp points and edges, as well as two long barbs, which made the arrow almost impossible to remove from the target.

Fletchings– Also known as feathers or flights, fletchings were attached at the back of the arrow to stabilize the flight. Their purpose was to keep the arrow in the right direction. Fletchings were usually made from goose or turkey feathers. There were normally three feathers on an arrow. An arrow without fletchings is called bare shaft.


Nocks– a nock is a little slot at the back of the shaft. It was either made by cutting the shaft’s rear end or premade and attached to the arrow. The nock keeps the arrow from slipping from the bowstring during the draw and release. That’s why the expression “nocking an arrow” means preparing for a shot. The nock is useful for other things too. It keeps the arrow properly rotated, and it enlarges its energy. That is because the nock helps an archer put the arrow at the right spot on the bowstring.


What was the difference between a medieval arrow and bolt?

Arrows were long and lightweight, and they were launched from the longbow. Bolts were short, heavier than arrows, and launched from crossbows.

What was the title of a craftsman who made arrow shafts with fletchings?

It was a fletcher.

Who made arrowheads?

A craftsman called an arrowsmith.

What were the two main uses of archery in the middle ages?

Archery was used in war and for hunting.

Why arrows stopped being useful war weapon near the end of the Middle Ages?

That’s because it could not go through plate armor, which became widely available.