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Journal Article


Karger B, Sudhues H, Kneubuehl BP, Brinkmann B. J. Trauma 1998; 45(3): 495-501.


Institute of Legal Medicine, University of M√ľnster, Germany.


(Copyright © 1998, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins)






OBJECTIVE: To provide information on the ballistics and the wounding potential of different arrows or bolts fired from different weapons and to investigate the suitability of simulant media for experimental arrow wounds. METHODS: A longbow, a compound bow, and a crossbow were used to fire a variety of modern and ancient arrows. Fresh corpses of four adult pigs (47 shots) and blocks of gelatin and soap (48 shots) were used as target media, and the resulting wound tracts were examined. The range of fire was 8 m and the velocity was recorded at a distance of 3 m (and 16 m in additional shots) by light screen devices. RESULTS: The mean velocities recorded ranged from 45 m/s (longbow) to 67 m/s (compound bow). The excellent exterior ballistics of arrows results in only a small initial decrease in velocity of O.10 to 0.18 m x s(-1) x m(-1). The penetration depths were reproducible for the same arrowhead fired into the same simulant medium but differed considerably when compared with those in soft tissue. In nonbone tissue, the penetration depth was substantial (17-60 cm) and depended on velocity and especially on the type of arrowhead. All arrows penetrated deeply into the large body cavities and injured organs as long as no thick bone had to be perforated. Flat bones such as ribs were always perforated. Extraction of arrowheads from thick bone proved to be difficult in some cases. The wounding mechanism was a combination of incision and puncture, which facilitated deep penetration of tissue and produced clean-cut wounds. CONCLUSION: Gelatin and soap are not suitable for experimental arrow wounds. Every arrow wound carries a lethal potential. The severity of the wound depends primarily on the target area and the type of arrowhead. Extraction of arrowheads from thick bone has to be performed carefully.


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