The bow and arrow are a fascinating tool that is among the first human inventions which initially enabled us to hunt. The fundamental concept hasn’t changed for thousands of years, while designs were continuously adapted to the specific purposes the archer was looking to achieve. The fact that the bow and arrow have survived for so long despite completely losing its relevance in areas such as warfare, is a testament to the brilliant simplicity of it and its ability to reward skill, precision and focus. That is why today we have bow and arrow configurations that couldn’t be even conceived bach in ancient or medieval times. So what are some of the most common bow and arrow designs used today?
The longbow is perhaps the most famous of the first “mass
produced” bows there are. Unsurprisingly, its name is derived from it’s length.
Traditionally, an English longbow is between 1.5 and 1.8 meters
long. The length of the bow depends on the size of the archer, as they needed
to be able to draw the bow string all the way to their face comfortably. But be
certain that comfort is not what the longbow was about. Today’s archery might
seem like a sport that lacks an athletic element, but hat opinion is usually
held by those that haven’t seriously attempted archery. Medieval bows were not
a matter of sport, but of survival on the battlefield. This meant that the
farther the arrow can travel the better, and the distance the arrow travels
depends on the amount of force in the archer’s draw. Medieval longbows have
said to have had a draw weight of as much as 70 kg of force! That is what
allowed medieval archers to effectively hit targets as far as a lethal range of
a modern assault rifle. The upper body strength necessary to sustain repeated
draws like that meant that the archer was not inferior in strength to their
sword-wielding colleagues. Medieval archers began training at the age of 8,
which had some considerable effects on their bone structure, most notably
making the left arm longer, which now helps archeologists identify archer
remains that much easier. The arrows used in war were of an average length of
70 cm, with bodkin point heads, which just look like a metal spike.
Modern longbows’ draw weight is an average of 27kg of force, and normally doesn’t exceed 40 kg. Understandably, there are very few bowmen today who train for war using the English longbow from the age of 8. The greater the force needed to draw the bow, the more difficult it is to aim. Modern variants are made from ash, elm or yew, the latter being the favourite among medieval archers. The wooden longbow is currently used by enthusiast, especially in the UK where the bow and arrow has a special cultural significance. Compound variants of the longbow also exist and are used primarily in hunting and recreation. These are not to be confused with composite bows, which are bows that use several pieces of wood in their construction, and which did exist in medieval times as well.