the Sun Falls

Until the Sun Falls


In the thirteenth century the Mongol hordes swept out of Mongolia to over-run half the world. This novel follows Psin, a Mongol general, through the military campaigns in Russia and Europe, among his own family and in his own heart.

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World’s fastest archer – Reinventing the fastest forgotten archery.(r/videos)

A few points on the controversy raging over this video.

He’s shooting a Mongol-style bow, albeit with a low draw weight. This is an entirely different shooting system from that of the English longbow, which is the tradition that gives us most modern tournament shooting and is the first thing most westerners think of when we think about “archery.”

The English longbow was a powerful weapon…designed to put arrows down the field as far as possible, with as much force as possible, while maintaining a high degree of accuracy. A full-length longbow could have draw weights up to 180lbs., which is more than most of today’s professional archers can handle. It had power, but what it lacked was mobility. Impossible to fire from horseback, the longbow isn’t very good at firing with any kind of movement. Instead, the archer is supposed to plant his or her feet in order to draw, aim and shoot. Obviously, archers were foot soldiers, and lightly armed ones at that. They were vulnerable to cavalry and infantry attacks, and were most effective when they could be positioned a few hundred yards from the action and direct concentrated fire on enemy formations. It was used, in other words, as a kind of fixed-position firepower, kind of like artillery.

Mongol archery is a whole different animal. Designed to be used on horseback, mobile firepower is the name of the game. The Mongol bow has no aim points or reticules, and all aiming is done “instinctively” (i.e. using the hands as aiming points). This wasn’t a problem since young Mongols began learning to shoot around the same time that they learned to ride a horse (say like 5). The draw weight was said to be around 160lbs, but Mongol cavalrymen rarely used a full draw.

Instead, they would make quick snap draws, pulling the bow to half or a third of its draw length, then quickly loosing an arrow with deadly accuracy. Kind of like Lars Andersen here. Mongolians used a “thumb draw”, pulling the string with a thumb ring (which partly explains how they were able to handle such a large draw weight). Mind you this was often done at full gallop, in the middle of a pitched battle.

Mongol light cavalry would wheel and charge, loose arrows at the enemy and then veer away before counterfire could reach them. After harassing, pissing off, confusing and killing many of the enemy in this way, Mongol heavy cavalry would come crashing in, smash through the enemy lines and basically make people have a very bad day. They did this all the way across the Asian steppe, conquering China, Persia, Northern India, Russia, Turkey and quite a bit of Eastern Europe, using this exact system to win hundreds of battles against some of the finest armies on earth at the time.

Mongol military tactics and organization. Fascinating read.

All the talk here about “effectiveness” is ignoring the essential question: effective for what? For high-speed mounted combat where quickness and instinctive accuracy is more important than power, range and systematic aim, this is the way to go.

tl;dr – Lars Andersen’s using a highly effective, militarily proven style of archery, and he’s mastered a fairly sick multiple-arrow draw system on top of that. By increasing the draw weight on his bow just a little (say, to 50-60 lbs.), he’d slow down a bit on the draw but would have a fairly lethal weapon. And he’d be a hell of a lot more mobile than classic western-style archers.


UPDATE – anyone interested in Mongols should read Cecelia Holland’s Until the Sun Falls. I don’t read much historical fiction, but that book should be better known.

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Cecelia Holland

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Until the Sun Falls

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World’s fastest archer – Reinventing the fastest forgotten archery.

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