While many will picture the classic Norman as having a sword and kite-shield, archery was actually an increasingly important part of Norman warfare. Duke William himself was a renowned bowman, and both bows and, later, crossbows were put to good use by the Normans.
Sets of medieval figures tend to try and cover all aspects of the infantry, which often leaves room for only about 10% bowmen, but since this set is wholly devoted to this particular type of warrior we find a large number of different poses. All the poses are clearly in the act of shooting - there are no marching or other non-battle poses, but the point of the set is to recreate a line of archers so all the poses can be placed together, much like the shield wall sets in this range. Apart from the fact that some archers are clearly aiming at different targets due to the varying elevations these figures work well together, with all stages of the shooting process being depicted. The second man on the bottom row is particularly unusual as he is holding his bow horizontally while fetching another arrow (a pose that does not show clearly in our picture). This common stance is only achieved by having the bow as a separate piece, but it is a good pose and nice to see here. The man to his front is also holding his bow more or less horizontally but already has an arrow loaded. He has partly drawn the bow, and could be shooting from cover, so it is a reasonable pose although not conducive to standing in close proximity with other archers.
The last man on the bottom row holds a crossbow. It looks fine in our picture but this is a one-piece model, which should tell you that the crossbow itself is extremely simplified. Indeed the bow is quite straight and therefore not at all convincing, so while the pose of the man is great this too should have been a two-piece figure.
As you might expect the costume of these men varies considerably. Some have the mail hauberk while many others are quite unarmoured. Some look better suited to the later Norman period, and there are none that suggest an Eastern influence, so these are best used as Normans for northern Europe. They carry a variety of sidearms, all of which seem reasonable, although several have quivers suspended from a baldric when the waistbelt was more commonly used, although this is a very small point.
The sculpting is fine, with plenty of good textures making it easy to see what sort of garment each man is wearing. Detail occasionally goes a little awry but these figures look pretty good and there is no flash to worry about. Apart from the two separate bows there is also one separate shield, but all these items fit perfectly and do not even need glue to stay rigidly in place - a feature that Strelets have clearly improved greatly compared to their earlier sets.
The bow was much used by the Battle of Hastings, and while there is no conclusive proof of the use of the crossbow at that encounter it was certainly known by then. Both weapons grew in importance, particularly during the 12th century, and it is great that modellers finally have the option of building a Norman army with as large a component of bowmen as they desire without being saddled with vast quantities of unwanted figures with other weapons. This set delivers that flexibility with a very decent range of figures.