The Crossbow

Published: March 10th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: Mike Loades, Illustrator: Peter Dennis
Reviewed by: 
Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2460-8
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472824622
Other Publication Information: Soft Bound; 7.3” x 9.8”, 80 pages
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: Weapons 61

Mike Loades is a respected author, broadcaster, director, and action arranger who has made numerous television appearances as a historical weapons expert and military historian. Mike founded the first horse archery club in California, the California Centaurs. You may have seen his work on the History Channel or on National Geographic. One of his recent projects was the movie, Assassin's Creed, which ended up grossing over 241 million against a 125 million budget. He has several DVDs available: Archery: Its History and Forms (1995), and Going Medieval (2014). He is the author of Swords and Swordsmen (2010), The Longbow (2013) and The Composite Bow (2016). Check him out at

The cover painting by Peter Dennis is a clip of the painting that appears on page 55 in the book. It illustrates crossbowmen in action during a castle siege circa 1200. Born in 1950, Peter Dennis is an accomplished illustrator having contributed hundreds of books, including many Osprey Publishing titles. Peter studied at the Liverpool Art College and has been working as a professional artist and illustrator since 1991. Peter Dennis is also afflicted with the modeling bug and is a keen war-gamer terrorizing other war-gaming aficionados near Snowdonia Nation Park in North Wales. Check out his website at .

Osprey's 61st book in the Weapon series is a square back soft cover includes 80 gloss paper pages. The top of the front cover features a photograph of a 15th century crossbow from The Wallace Collection in London. This crossbow features a steel lath that has been blackened, covered with gilded parchment, and painted with red floral motifs. I counted 51 color photographs, eleven color illustrations, and 21 black and white drawings. Peter Dennis contributes the four battle scene color paintings, including one that is a two page spread.

Mike Loades covers the development and use of the crossbow in this latest Weapon series tome from Osprey. Although the crossbow was developed and used in many countries across the ancient world, Mike has focused in on the military crossbow of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance period. He does start off with a discussion of the Chinese crossbow which was a bit different than that of the European crossbow. A quick guide indicates that the Chinese crossbow had a draw of around 20 inches versus the European crossbow draw of around 5 inches - a huge difference in power. Either crossbow had a huge advantage over a regular bow in that very little training was required. Mike Loades covers the development of the crossbow, including all the components and accessories that made up the crossbow as a weapon. The next major section describes the use of the crossbow, again with a short introduction on China before diving into European combat usage. The crossbow as a favored military weapon began phasing out at the end of the fourteenth century as firearms became the dominant weapon.

The sections include:

  • Author's Acknowledgements
  • Editor's Note
  • Artist's Note
  • Glossary
  • Introduction
    • Terminology
  • Development - Lock, Stock, and Lath
    • Crossbows in the Ancient World
      • Chinese Crossbows [Page 11]
      • Greek Crossbows
      • Roman Crossbows
    • The European Medieval Crossbow
      • The Lock
      • The Tiller
      • Wooden Laths
      • Composite and Horn Laths
      • Steel Laths
      • Deterring Rust
    • Spanning Aids
      • The Stirrup [Page 28]
      • The Belt-and-Claw System
      • The Windlass
      • The Cord-and-Pulley System
      • The Gaffle
      • The Cranequin
      • Spanning c. 1400 (Painting)
      • The Screw
      • One-Foot and Two-Foot Crossbows
    • Other Types of Crossbow
      • The Great-Crossbow
      • The Latchet
      • The Balestrino
  • Use - Steady, Steady, Steady: Shoot
    • The Crossbow in China
      • Crossbows and Chariots
      • Volley-Shooting
    • The Crossbow in Europe
      • Men of the Crossbow
      • Jaffa, 5 August 1192 (Painting) [Page 47]
      • Crossbowmen in the 15th Century
      • Mounted Crossbowmen
      • Shooting the Crossbow on Horseback
      • Arbalist Armour
    • The Crossbow in the Siege
      • Crossbowmen Manning the Hoarding (Painting)
      • Great-Crossbows
      • The Pavise
      • Castle Siege, c 1300 (Painting)
    • Bolts, Booze, and Brotherhood [Page 61]
    • The King's Quarreler
    • Supply: Bolts and Quarrels
    • The Crossbow at Sea
  • Impact - Bolts From the Blue
    • At Long Range
    • Great-Crossbows [Page 73]
    • At Short Range
    • Armour
    • Armour Proofing
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I really appreciated the structure that Mike Loades utilized, starting with the individual components and accessories that really covered a broad range of crossbow utility. I found the section on the use of the Chinese repeating crossbow quite interesting. Essentially a short range defensive weapon, it was light enough that even a woman had enough strength to operate it. It used a large lever to draw the string back to allow a bolt from the magazine to drop into position. A low cost weapon, it typically carried ten bolts, although some variants carried up to 15 bolts. Variants of this repeater could fire two bolts simultaneously and remained in use in China into the 1950s.

Mike Loades provides a very readable text that is well supplemented with photographs and illustrations from Peter Dennis. I was able to read the book easily over a few nights. If you own one the previous releases in the Weapon series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Front Cover
    Front Cover
  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Page 11
    Page 11
  • Page 28
    Page 28
  • Page 47
    Page 47
  • Page 61
    Page 61
  • Page 73
    Page 73

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