NBM Blog

The Penetration Power of a Projectile

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This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

As for the warrior, in principle he was nothing specific, just a character in these circumstances, so I didn’t put too much into him: partial body armor was less work and one supposes that it is enough if he protects himself with his shield. At that time, I already had experience drawing armor and all kinds of weapons, of which I am a big fan. Years before, in 1978, I had written and illustrated a monograph about this topic called Universal History of Weapons. In these supplements you can see some of the illustrations from that book.

For the sample, I had to do something spectacular and I inserted this scene. An arrow goes cleanly through the shield and then the warrior’s head.

This is not an exaggeration: the penetration power of a projectile, if it has sufficient velocity, mass, and tip, is massive. In fact, an arrow has more penetration power than a high caliber bullet from a pistol or revolver.

Bullets are always made of soft materials like lead to adapt to the rifling, therefore when they impact they flatten and deform. But although their penetration power is low, the impact and take down power of a bullet is very high. One shot from an old Western Colt 45 can take a rider out of his saddle and thrown him to the ground.

Conversely, as you can see here, the sharp point of tempered steel of an arrow would give a very different result, especially if the bow were sufficiently powerful.

In the 14th century, there were some two-meter-long bows of such power that, in the battles of Crécy and Agincourt, the Welsh, English, and Flemish archers decimated the French nobility protected by shining, heavy armor.

Gerald of Wales, a clerk of the era, testified to the power of these bows during the battle of Abergavenny: one of William de Braose’s mounted soldiers was shot by one of these arrows, which punctured the soldier’s armor, chain mail, thigh, breeches, the chain mail again, the armor again on the other side, and the saddle tree wood, before sinking deeply into the horse’s flank, killing it.

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