How deadly would Longbows be in the age of modern medicine?

Supposing that we still were fighting Agincourt, with scores of sturdy English longbows, and little to no gunpowder weapons. However, we have modern medicine, completely up to date c2010.

How deadly would the longbow be? Even better, supposing that street gangs were using longbows, or crossbows, what would the fatalities be, assuming the same reasonable access to trauma centers and hospitals as there is now? (Antibiotics, morphine, germ theory, et al). So if some gangster takes out his Genoese crossbow and nails a single bolt into someone, (or an English longbow) is it pretty likely he’ll live? How deadly are these things? Am I being to complimentary to the strength of the human body and the skills of Kaiser Permanante if I assume the odds are there will be few fatalities by longbows at a modern Agincourt battlefield?

I don’t really know this one, but I would ask for clarification as to whether or not we’d be using the old style arrowheads or modern ones with those longbows. I’ve had some deer hunter friends talk about some really horrendous wounds made by some of the nastier heads.

I’ve also read of some rubber/latex/? sleeves that go on behind the arrowhead that contain some sort of poison powder that peels back as the arrow goes in. I’ll assume these would not be allowed in your scenario.

It would depend on where you were hit - in the heart or a major artery, you’d probably bleed out real fast.

It’s a shaft of wood, not a tumbling & fragmenting hunk of metal, so you’d tend to get a single hole. That said, without body armor, it would be a pretty long hole, possibly through the body entirely. If it hits you in the head, it may kill you instantly, maybe not - people survive penetrating head wounds from nail guns, or even real guns. If it hits you in the center of the thorax, it may penetrate your heart or a major vessel, and kill you more-or-less instantly. A hit in the lung probably won’t kill a young gangster-type, he’s got another. If it hits you in the abdomen, unless, again, you’re hit in the aorta, you run a risk of peritonitis, but many abdominal organs are pretty resilient, and you’ll probably bleed slowly enough that you’ll make it to the hospital. My understanding of gunshot wounds is that much of the danger comes from the high energy transfer - so they blow a big hole in the person - plus fragmentation, increasing the odds of hitting something important - plus range, so they’ll hit you further away, - plus multiple shots in a short period of time - although the team at Agincourt were probably pretty good with this, and may have greater accuracy than the theoretical gangster. So I’d say there would be a few fatalities on the field, but very few in the days immediately after the battle, due to paramedics, trauma training, antibiotics, radiology, general and vascular surgery

I like how Cabela’s is advertising in this thread, just in case we decide to go for it.

I’ve gotta think that body armor would be adapted to protect against melee weapons and reduce deaths and severity of injury .

How long are we talking before medical attention? Most deaths would probably be due to blood loss, and if you get to the ER quick enough, that can be pretty much completely nipped in the bud. If medical attention is available immediately, I don’t think you’d be able to kill with anything other than a direct hit to the heart or head.

Or aorta. Never forget the aorta. It can’t be trusted.

Well with the Teflon coated “cop killer arrows”, …

Arrows kill by hemorrage and lack the expansion cavity created by a bullet impact. Many people hit by arrows way back when would die from blood loss many hours later or infections a week or two later. Basic antibiotics and surgical repair of the wound would brobably make combat a hell of a lot more survivable. I would be willing to be a hefty percentage of those who would have died (say 60-70% I’d bet) would be salvagable with access to advanced medical care within an hour or two.

Some of these arrows look REALLY deadly.

With modern arrow tips, I’m not sure exactly how much less lethal some of them would be than firearms. Obviously, you couldn’t hit multiple targets as quickly, but I don’t think most of the goal of “ganstas” is to hit targets. If it was, they’d hit them a lot more often.

You greatly underestimate the number who could be saved.

Something like 99.9% of individual bullet wounds these days aren’t lethal if treatment is available within the hour. Based on Army hospitals something like 98% of bullet wounds are non-lethal and something better than 95% of abdominal wound and 85% of chest wounds are non-lethal. The Army survival figures are artificially low because many bullet wounded are shot more than once by automatic weapons and many are brought in well after an hour. We can reasonably assume that >90% of chest and abdominal wounds would have been fatal 500 years ago and better than 50% of all wounds. So probably something greater than 90% of those who died could have been saved.

Bows of course don’t fire real fast, so very few people are going to be shot more than once. We can add to that the lack of any significant impact/shock wounds from an arrow. So I’d expect the actual number of deaths from (treated) arrow wounds to be very low in the modern world. If bullets are less than 0.1% lethal then we have to expect less than that from bows.

However that doesn’t mean the number of deaths in warfare will be low. Tactics will vary to accommodate for the different weaponry and the overall mortality rate will likely remain the same. Remember, even today bullets account for just a tiny, tiny fraction of the deaths in warfare. Far, far more soldiers are killed by bombs, grenades, shells etc than are ever killed by a bullet.

The only ones that I can see that are deadly and haven’t been around for a thousand years are the expanding broadheads. And they aren’t any more deadly than the 10o0 year old solid broadhead, they are just supposed to be more accurate at longer ranges.

The rest of the arrows you linked to are actually designed not to be deadly to humans, they are designed for small game.

Well you don;t have the shock damage of a bullet. And the inability to hit fire as fast means you can’t hit *anything *as rapidly: target, bystander, your own car window. So that makes them much less lethal. If the shot is never fired it can’t kill anybody.

Shock damage? Could you clarify?

I believe he’s referring to hydrostatic shock.

They’d lose accuracy by holding the bow sideways.

Depends on the circumstances, too. IIRC, part of the problem at Agincourt was that the wounded knights, knocked off their horses, were sitting ducks while arrows rained down… multiple holes! Anyone trying to help them would also be hit; there was no “medic” rule back then, just wait until nighttime halted the festivities.

I thought I read somewhere that the looting footsoldiers also went man to man slitting throats of the injured French; a guy dying of infections or blood loss was more hinderace than a lucrative hostage. Throat slashes are still effectively lethal, especially when the people doing them have years of hands-on experience killing livestock in their spare time.

How lethal are arrow wounds? I suspect a lot of the horror of gunfire is the speed at which it travels - youthink you can dodge an arrow somewhat, even if you can’t; certainly not a barrage of them. Plus, even at an extended range, gunfire can be much more lethal. The effectiveness of the longbow was it’s ability to kill at a longer-than-normal range.

Even guns are not that lethal, unless a critical organ or blood vessel is hit or the intestines are punctured causing internal infections. OTOH, I don’t know how the holes made by a crossbow bolt compare to those of a smaller-caliber handgun… plus the mess made pulling it out.

As an ex EMT I understand the whole Golden Hour concept. but as you stated, if they recieved care within an hour. Battlefeild casualties are sometimes not even successfully triaged for that long and thats assuming you are the winning side. I know the US Army has some of the best feild medical operations in the world, but even we lose people.

But if we select a bunch of Mirin Dajo type warrioers, they’d be almost indestructible!.

I thought they were killing them with long thin blades through the slits in their helmets. That would be the face rather than the throat.