How Far Can A Longbow Shoot An Arrow? (You won’t believe it!)

by | Jul 27, 2022

Standing at over 6ft tall, the English Longbow was famed for its power and range. Crafted from the wood of a Yew tree, and with an average draw weight of 150lbs, it took an archer several years of training just to build up enough strength to fully draw the bow. So just how far can a Longbow shoot an arrow?

There are many accounts detailing the legendary firepower of the English Longbow. Archery competition records from the 15th century show that the longest distances being shot were around 430 yards with a 36-inch arrow. The modern distance record has been set by Joe Gibbs who shot a heavy 1000-grain arrow 300 yards from a longbow with a draw weight of 170 lbs. With a lighter grain arrow, the distance would have been around 450 yards.

The pull of the bow and the strength of the archer, as well as the weight of the arrows, were all key factors in determining distance. In this article, we’ll break down these factors in more depth and find out just what went into racking up those huge distances.

How Far Can An English Longbow Shoot An Arrow?

The range of any bow depends on the following:

  • Bow Design
  • Draw weight
  • Arrow Design
  • Angle of release
  • Archer’s Expertise
  • Weather Conditions

With ideal practice conditions and using the heaviest Longbows with the lightest flight arrows designed for distance, the furthest anyone has ever shot an arrow from a Longbow is a little over 400m (437 yards).

However, the effective range of a Longbow is more likely to be closer to 200m.

The bows discovered on The Mary Rose had a maximum draw weight of 190 lbs, with the average estimated to be around the 150-160lb range. The Livery arrows or War arrows that they would be required to shoot were much heavier than Flight arrows.

So from the heaviest War bows, the lightest War arrows would fly just over 300m. The heavier arrows, of course, much less.

Sustained firing ranges during battle would have been around 180-200m due to the physical demands placed on the archer.

Although the longbow was capable of shooting average distances of 250 yards with a certain amount of accuracy, those long distances mainly came down to the expertise of the archer, not to mention a massive amount of strength. The rate of fire from a skilled archer of the time has been estimated at 6-8 arrows per minute.

Longbow Arrows

Major Factors Affecting Arrow Distance

Bow Design

Longbows were typically crafted from a single piece of Yew. This made the bow much stronger, enabling it to produce the energy needed for distance shooting, for that was the longbow’s main purpose. It was little more than a slightly curved stick

This was a long-range weapon and wasn’t designed with accuracy in mind. Although over shorter distances, archers could be extremely lethal. The heavy draw weight provided little time for the archer to aim, so getting the arrows on target at greater distances came more from instinctive shooting than direct aim.

Draw Weight

Draw weight is the amount of force (lbs) needed to pull back the bowstring to the fully drawn position.

Until the discovery of the cache of Medieval bows and arrows found on the Mary Rose, estimates of longbow draw weight were put at 90-110lbs.

The bows found on the Mary Rose, however, after being tested were found to carry draw weights of up to 185lbs. An immense amount of strength would have been required to repeatedly draw bows of that weight in battle.

Deformed Archer Bones
Archer with a deformed left arm

Skeletal remains from English and Welsh archers show the deformed arms and shoulders from years spent honing their skills with the bows.

The elongated left arm is evidence that the archers weren’t focused on drawing their bows back. Instead, they were pushing the bow staff away from their bodies.

Arrow Design

A crucial part of getting the longbow to shoot great distances was the design of the arrows. The lighter the arrow, the greater the distance.

Arrows recovered from the Mary Rose were tapered conically at the shoulder (the point where the shaft begins after the tip) to maximize flight time. Glue remnants on the shafts indicate that the length of the fletchings was roughly six inches.

Medieval Arrow Design

The arrows were typically made from ash, poplar, and oak.

As is the case today, arrows are made to match the draw lengths of the archers, so the arrows recovered were of lengths ranging from 28 – 31.5 inches. The weights of the arrows were between 35-60 grams, which would be suitable for draw weights of 70 – 140lbs.

Angle of Release

According to World Record Archer Barry Groves, the perfect angle of release for shooting the greatest distances is just under 45 degrees, adjusting a degree or so, either way, depending on wind direction.

That angle would have aligned perfectly with how Longbowmen were shooting back in the middle ages. Their enemies would approach on horseback. The angle of release would cause the arrows to rain down on the approaching masses hundreds of yards away like modern-day artillery fire.

Related: Find out how fast a Longbow arrow can fly by clicking here

The Archer’s Expertise

When it comes to shooting arrows for a distance from a Longbow, probably the most important factor was the skill of the archer.

In the Longbow’s golden age during the Middle Ages, it was made mandatory that the English Yeoman class practised archery for 3 hours per week. This made it possible for the King to always have a steady supply of recruits ready for war.

The archer’s skills with the Longbow were, therefore, honed over a lifetime. But it wasn’t necessarily accuracy that was the main requirement. Just handling the bow itself took an immense amount of strength.

The arrow was immediately shot once the archer had drawn the bow. Holding the anchor point for enough time to aim was simply not practical. Even then, firing off any more than 10 arrows per minute would still leave the archers completely drained.

Weather Conditions

When the Longbow arrow was shot, it would be at the mercy of the weather. Temperature, humidity, and wind speed would hamper or assist the distance of the arrow.

Aerodynamic drag is dependent on the density of the air. The higher the temperature, the less drag there would be on an arrow’s flight. This meant more distance could be achieved on warmer days.

Wind direction would also be a major factor in shooting distance. In order to achieve great distances, longbow archers were shooting with lighter arrows 35-60 grams. The downside to this is that any headwind would disrupt the arrow’s flight, reducing overall distance.

This was compensated by a huge draw weight on the arrow in order to maximize the arrow’s velocity.


Modern bows today can now easily out-distance the Longbow. But there is still something spectacular about crafting a single piece of wood into a 6ft bow. Then taking that bow and launching an arrow close to half a kilometre.

With distances of 300 yds and possibly 450 yds with the right kind of arrow, we think that answers the question of how far a longbow can shoot an arrow.

Not bad for something nearly 700 hundred years old!