Merreth and the women in her world use crossbows as their primary missile weapons. While they do use bows, the mounted female and male troops prefer crossbows because of their ability to store energy for release when needed.
A bow needs to be drawn for use and used almost immediately lest the wielder’s arms become tired.
The problem is that the most effective crossbows are heavy, ungainly things. They are certainly nothing like the modern, tactical version of a crossbow:
Unfortunately, the medieval variety of crossbow looks more like this:
Looks aside, they are best cocked while standing on the ground using both hands with one foot positioned in a “stirrup” to stabilize the weapon. Some of the heavier varieties require special equipment (a “windlass”) for cocking. The sad fact is that repeated use of a medieval type crossbow requires significant upper body strength.
However, there may be a solution for my mounted troops in the Chinese repeating crossbow:
This is an ancient weapon complete with magazine holding quarrels. It can be cocked while sitting astride a horse. The trade-off is reduced range and power. The Chinese repeating crossbow had an estimated effective range of 80 yards (and a maximum range of between 180 yards and 200 yards). Projectiles were light with poor penetrative power. Typical medieval crossbows had a range of up to 380 yards, with some able to reach 500 yards. Effective range was approximately 150 yards, though this varied with size, draw weight and other factors.
The true strength of the Chinese repeating crossbow was its ability to put a lot of projectiles in the air quickly – effectively becoming an area-effect weapon.
So, I think my female troopers will likely carry a variation of the repeating crossbow.
Merreth, however, is sooner or later going to wind up with the 18th century equivalent of this because it just looks so damned awesome:
Here are some links on ancient and medieval crossbows for those who would like to know more:
- Crossbows on Wikipedia
- History of crossbows on Wikipedia
- Chinese repeating crossbows
- Crossbows on Engineering the Medieval Achievement