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The arbalest (also arblast) was a late variation of the crossbow coming into use in Europe during the 12th century. A large weapon, the arbalest had a steel prod ("bow"). Since an arbalest was much larger than earlier crossbows, and because of the greater tensile strength of steel, it had a greater force. The strongest windlass-pulled arbalests could have up to 22 kN (5000 lbf) of force and be accurate up to 100 m. A skilled arbalestier (arbalester) could loose two bolts per minute.

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A crossbowman or wielder of a arbalest . During the 14th century they generally wore a mail hauberk to defend the body, a bascinet to defend the head, sometimes with a collarette of iron to defend the throat. Almost always a footman, the crossbowman sometimes wore a surcoat bearing the livery of affiliation. During the 15th century the hauberk was generally replaced with a brigandine and the use of a pavaise , a head-to-tow shield, was often brought out as a semi-portable defense that the man could hide behind as he reloaded so that he would not be cut down by arrows, other crossbow bolts, or by charging horsemen.

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