English Longbow Arrows – What was the ‘Standard Arrow’?

Back in the day, the English longbow was a serious war and hunting weapon. Some people have even described the English longbow as the “machine gun of the medieval era”. The draw weight ranged from 80 pounds to as high as 150 pounds.

A powerful bow like that needed a heavy arrow—like the Standard Arrow.

The Standard Arrow Contest

The practice of archery began to decline during the reign of King Henry VIII. So he imposed a statute that every male child above the age of 7 be issued with a bow and two longbow arrows. They also had to be taught how to shoot.

On top of that, he encouraged contests that involved sports like archery and wrestling.

In 1521, it was proclaimed that for the first time, archery should take pride of place as the first of these events.

Here is where the Standard Arrow comes in…

In the annual distance shooting contests, English archers shot the Flight, Standard, and Bearing arrows. The archer whose Standard Arrow made the most ground was given the principal award.

What Was the Standard Arrow?

Many people believe that this was the name given to the war arrow.

The Standard Arrows were equal in length and weight. They weren’t like the Bearing arrows which, possibly, were personalized in length.

The exact length of the traditional Standard Arrow is debatable. But using the arrows recovered from the Mary Rose as a guide, the shaft was 31.5 inches long. Its weight was approximately 800 grain and the thickness about 3/8 inches.

It was important for an archer to be able to take a Standard Arrow and shoot as far as he could. This is because it was the most likely arrow choice in battle.

What Were the Standard Arrows Armed with?

It is widely believed that the heads known as London Museum Type 8 were commonly used on Standard or war arrows. 

But it is also possible that people used other types. So Type 15 or 16 broad-heads and Type 9 or 10 bodkin points are all acceptable on Standard Arrows. What matters the most are the weight criteria.

What Was the Profile of the Standard Arrow and What Was It Made of?

There isn’t much information about the profile, but it was most likely either a ‘parallel’ or a ‘bob-tailed’ shaft.

Roger Ascham mentions Ash, which he favors as a battle-shaft, and Aspen (Poplar) which he does not. 

Arrows of both kinds of wood were recovered from the Mary Rose. Many other kinds of wood were also used for arrows in past times.

The use of a dense and stiff wood is recommended as suitable to stand in the heavy bow with which the Standard Arrow should be shot.

What About the Military Arrow?

The Military Arrow is another arrow used with powerful longbows. It is even heavier than the Standard Arrow.

This arrow is for those who felt like they could shoot at the high draw weights of the powerful longbows.

The weight of a Military Arrow is at least 1200 grain and its shaft is about 0.5 inches

Because of how heavy this arrow is, it should be shot using a bow with a draw weight of 110 pounds or higher.


The Standard Arrow is significant in the history of the English longbow and archery, in general. Many believe that it was the standard war arrow back in the day. No wonder whoever shot his Standard arrow the farthest received the principal award in the contest.

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