Crossbows can pierce plate armor, especially at extremely close range. It also plays a vital role in ending their use decades ago.
Plate armors were critical body protection for knights and local men during the period when war and colonization were apparent worldwide. Compared to crossbows, plate armors came into existence before them, but soon enough, the former played a vital role in ending the latter’s use.
In the modern era, plate armors are merely historical items displayed in museums and collectors’ galleries. On the other hand, crossbows continue to be the most desired weapon for hunting besides rifles and guns.
Crossbows’ popularity consistently overshadows other bow types because of their incredible penetrating power, high speed, and unique mechanics. However, some may wonder whether they are capable of piercing plate armors or not.
The answer is that even medieval crossbows can pierce plate armors, but sadly, they don’t hold much power compared to modern crossbows. As a result, they need to shoot at a significantly closer distance to be able to pierce plate armors.
Nevertheless, to be able to come up with a better understanding, let us first have a recap of what plate armors are.
A plate armor mainly composes of either steel, iron, or bronze. It can also have a specific thickness; over time, changes happened to increase its reflective power against other more deadly weapons.
On the other hand, crossbows played a vital role during the late Medieval period and surpassed longbows in penetration power. Because of this, crossbows have a long-term influence on warfares and have been the primary stimulus behind the development of thicker and more resilient plate armors in the 13th century.
Unlike longbows during warfare, crossbows are less dependent on lengthy training and physical strength. It is also known for its versatility, even though it is not a fast-shooting weapon.
In the 15th century, crossbows became deadlier as metal became its primary composition, resulting in increased power, ballistic impact, and farther range.
Hence, crossbows successfully pierce the best plate armor during the 15th century at a maximum range of approximately 500 yards, making them the most dangerous non-gunpowder weapon.
If you follow the timeline, during the first few centuries of crossbows invention, archers needed to pierce the place armor at distances, not more than 20 meters. When the 15th century came, the range increased, which allowed archers to have the ability to penetrate plate armors at longer distances.
As a result of the rapid developments of crossbows, the weapon ended the use of plate armors and now became not more than a mere display or a costume for historical plays.
What factors affect a crossbow’s ability to pierce plate armor?
Plate armors are a force to reckon with because of their material composition. However, how a crossbow pierces a plate armor depends on factors such as the latter’s thickness, distance, quality, and type of crossbow.
Plate armors are no longer a primary body protector material than they used to be centuries ago. They were formidable body armor that inspired the invention of modern body armor, like bulletproof vests.
Nonetheless, it is not without downsides that make it not impenetrable to crossbows. If you want to dig deeper into the topic, here are several factors that determine whether a crossbow can penetrate plate armor, including:
- Plate armor thickness
- Distance between crossbow and plate armor
- Plate armor quality
- Crossbow type used
As mentioned, plate armors come in different thicknesses. You can expect that some are thinner than 2mm, while some are thicker by about 3.2mm.
A plate armor typically has a standard thickness of 2mm, which is difficult enough for medieval crossbows to pierce. Moreover, its breastplates usually come with an extra thickness of 1.2mm to provide additional protection, especially for the heart.
If the plate armor has a thickness of over 2mm, medieval crossbows won’t likely be able to pierce it. However, if you shoot it with a heavy-duty or modern crossbow, it can penetrate successfully even if its thickness is over 3.2mm.
You have to consider those modern crossbows have a higher penetration power that can even break the bones of large animals like elk or moose.
Therefore, it is safe to say that plate armors were impenetrable when shot by medieval crossbows but could get pierced easily by modern crossbows.
Among the four factors listed, distance is the most important that can determine a crossbow’s ability to pierce the plate armor or not.
Medieval crossbows see the need to shoot at a distance of fewer than 20 meters to be able to pierce a plate armor. For instance, a medieval crossbow shooting a plate armor at a distance of 50 meters can only put a dent on it or would likely bounce off instead of penetrating it successfully.
Remember that crossbows are not for shooting farther distances because of their design. Therefore, you cannot expect it to retain the same penetration no matter the range.
Unlike longbows and other vertical bows, crossbows have a disadvantage regarding distance. In the past, crossbow archers see the need to get closer to their opponent to inflict damage.
Nevertheless, if we compare it to a modern crossbow with 400 fps, it can put a fatal blow to the plate armor at a maximum range of 5000 feet or 1524 meters.
In the past, knights wore plate armor during warfare and local men who wanted to help and support their kingdom’s military. Despite this awe-inspiring effort, local men and knights wore different quality plate armors.
Knights wore high-quality ones made of pure materials like bronze, steel, or iron that have the same thickness and density at each point. Meanwhile, local men wore low-quality plate armor containing a mixture of two materials at once that wasn’t safe from weapons such as crossbows.
As a result, it doesn’t take too much effort for crossbows to pierce plate armors with low-quality material. At the same time, high-quality ones made it challenging for crossbows to penetrate because of their thickness and density.
Lastly, a crossbow’s ability to pierce a plate armor depends on its type. Medieval crossbows are not as advanced as modern crossbows. They can pierce plate armors but with limited distance and minimal thickness.
Although they can shoot at longer distances, the energy is not enough to deliver a penetration power that can give lethal damage.
On the contrary, modern crossbows can shoot at longer ranges, provide more energy, and deliver enough penetration power to pierce plate armors easily.
Based on the factors enumerated above, you now understand how powerful crossbows can be against plate armors, especially the high-performance and more advanced ones.
Besides the factors mentioned, plate armor possesses disadvantages that make crossbows more effective:
- Vision and breathability
Moving while wearing plate armor is difficult because your maneuverability gets relatively limited, especially since the armor joints are stiff. It’s also bulky, making it difficult to engage in fast combat.
A typical plate armor weighs between 40 to 60 pounds which poses a significant disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat. Furthermore, there is a possibility that wearing it can get the knight fatigued before he can reach the battlefield.
If you have noticed, a helmet made of a large piece of metal covers a knight’s entire head with only two tiny holes for the mouth and eyes. Hence, there is only a little room for the wearer to see and breathe, which gives a significant disadvantage during battles.
A knight would have to remove the helmet to see and breathe clearly, which makes his face an easier target for enemies with weapons like crossbows and swords.
A plate armor contains many layers, mostly metal, making the suit quickly generate hot. The heat makes it challenging to remain calm throughout the battle. It also increases the chance of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Plate armor gives protection and identification but has too many disadvantages that make it a not feasible armor as time goes by, leading inevitably to its end.
Which modern crossbows can pierce plate armors?
Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X, Barnett Ghost 400 CRT, and Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405 are a few of the numerous modern crossbows that can pierce plate armors.
Compared to the crossbows made in the 13th to 15th centuries, modern crossbows are superior in every aspect, thanks to the consistent, rapid development of high-performance crossbows annually.
If modern crossbows were to pierce plate armor at some point on the battlefield, they would have the chance to prove how they can powerfully penetrate them with lesser worries.
Thus, below are a few of the countless modern crossbows that can pierce plate armors:
- Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X
- Barnett Ghost 400 CRT
Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X is another crossbow model from one of the most notorious crossbow manufacturers in the world, Tenpoint. It weighs 18 pounds with an unprecedented speed of 440 fps.
Even though it is second only in speed and power to the company’s Nitro XRT crossbow model, Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X boasts a center-mounted riser providing a silky smooth shot and unmatched balance.
It also has RX7 cams that generate devastating power. On the other hand, it has a Vector Quad 4 cable system that ensures precision downrange accuracy.
If you buy it, a TenPoint STAG hard crossbow case and Evo-X Marksman Scope come in the package. The Evo-X Marksman Scope of Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X is the most accurate scope with an infinite-position rheostat that controls the intensity of red and green light.
The model also boasts an entirely silent and fully integrated into the stock cocking mechanism.
Aside from Tenpoint Carbon Nitro X, you can also check Barnett Ghost 400 CRT known for being among the lightest bows the company has produced. It boasts a weight of a little over 7.5 pounds, thanks to the Carbon Riser Technology (CRT).
The material composition of this model is metal and carbon and has the following:
- Whiplash cams
- Crosswire strings
- Anti-Dry Fire metal injection that molds the trigger to provide precise and quiet shots in a compact fit
Barnett Ghost 400 CRT also has a complete crossbow sling and four custom Gamecrusher arrows. Additionally, it has Barnett’s AVI technology molded over laminated limbs, reducing vibration and noise up to 30%.
Another impressive thing about Barnett Ghost 400 CRT is its 400 fps speed and a Metal Injection Molding trigger system.
Here are its additional specifications:
- Draw weight: 185 pounds
- Power stroke: 15.75 inches
- 151 foot-pounds of energy
- It measures 24 by 38 inches
Buyers are eligible for a five-year warranty.
Lastly, you may want to check out Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405, weighing 12.3 pounds with an ambidextrous hand orientation. It has a 290 pounds draw weight and a speed of 405 fps.
The crossbow model features an ergo-grip thumbhole stock and comes in a mossy oak tree stand color. It also features the company’s Guardian Anti-Dry-Fire System, BCY Dynaflight 97 string, and the infamous REDS string suppressors.
Uncocking it will be easy, so there is no need for you to fire a bolt. Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405 also has the following specifications and inclusions:
- 13.9 inches power stroke
- 36.2 inches overall length
- Twilight DLX Scope and 30mm rings
- Four-arrow quiver with bracket
- Rope cocking aid
- 150-grain field points
- Diablo bolts
You can also check the following modern crossbows that can also pierce plate armors aside from the ones mentioned:
It is safe to say that all modern crossbows can pierce plate armors, but it takes a high-performance and high-quality crossbow to do it successfully without worrying or exerting too much effort on the user.
Crossbows are formidable weapons that can pierce metal-made objects like plate armor. However, to become a deadly weapon for centuries, crossbows underwent significant changes and developments that kept them at the top.