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Types of Bows and Arrows

Types of Bows and Arrows

If the sword is king of close combat, then the bow and arrow should be the ruler of long-range warfare. The following article describes the basic types of bows and arrows which have been used in the past and present. To know more, read on...
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Bows and arrows were the early weapons used to fire guided and calculated projectiles. The bows and arrows which have been around for a very long time were initially used for hunting, and even fishing, in some cases. In the later times, they became formidable machines of war. Today, bows and arrows are used in competitive and recreational sports, and in some cases, hunting and in selected combats (rare occurrences).

Construction of a Bow and Arrow

The bow is a simple device and works on the principle of conversion of potential energy into mechanical energy. Essentially, there are three parts of this simple D-shaped weapon. The first one is the string, which is drawn up and holds the arrow till it's released. The second and the third part are the 'limbs' of the bow, which hold the string at the opposite ends. These limbs are flexible and store the potential energy when the string is drawn and tensed up. The ends of both limbs are the holding points of the string, and are known as 'resistance'. The bow is a flexible device, much like that of a very sturdy rubber band.

Depending upon the design of the bow, the limbs may be a single unit. In some cases, the upper and lower limb is held together with the help of what's known as a 'handle' or a 'grip'. This is the location where one hand of the archer is placed when the bow-string is stretched. This hand acts as the resisting arm, whereas the other hand acts as a pulling force as it pulls back the string of the bow. Depending upon their design and construction, bows and arrows can be divided into types. These have been described in the following paragraphs. This knowledge of bow and arrow history, should provide some great insight into the usage of this ancient weapon.

Types of Bows

There are mainly 6 types of bows which go as follows...
  • Bundle Bow: The bundle bow is the most primitive bow design. It is basically a set of smaller sticks that are held together with a small string or reed pieces. The bundle bow and its limbs are together a single device with strings attached to both ends of this bow. This bow is not very durable and also not very accurate, since it cannot accommodate much potential energy. It is used or found in rare cases, mostly in tribal settlements.
  • Recurve Bow: The recurve bow is an ancient design, however, is widely used even today. The limbs of any standard bow are curved, partially forming the 'C' shape. In case of recurve bows, the bow 'recurves' towards the end of the limb, the limb breaks the curve and turns to a completely opposite direction for a short length. Usually, this 'recurving' involves the curve ending in straight line. This design is instrumental in increasing the range of the bow.
  • Long Bow: Popularized by the folks of Medieval Europe, a long bow is simply a machined single long staff with a wide curve that has tapering ends. Often, these bows tend to be as long as the height of the archer, or just a little lower. This kind of bow has a long range. The archer also needs enough time to master such a bow, since there is no grip or arrow rest; a small niche is used to rest the bow.
  • Compound Bow: The compound bow was used by Holless Wilbur Allen in the 1960s, and is a re-engineered derivation of the recurve bow. This bow differs from that of a recurve bow in 3 ways. Firstly, it has 2 different limbs, which can be separated at the time of dismantling the bow. Secondly, at the end of each bow, there is a mechanism that resembles a pulley. The mechanism enables archers to hold the bow and arrow in the drawn stage for a long time. Thirdly, the bow has a 3 string mechanism attached to it instead of the usual one string. Though the bow is attached and shot from one string, the potential of 3 strings is transferred to it by the pulley mechanism. The famous 'Rambo bow' used by John Rambo happens to be a compound bow. Such weapons prove to be deadly if operated in a proper manner.
  • Crossbow: A crossbow is a vertical arrow rather smaller in size and possesses a spring and trigger mechanism; the spring may be absent in some cases. The string is drawn either manually or with a spring and is attached to the trigger mechanism. The arrow is then loaded on the drawn string and the trigger is set off. This is often considered as the most accurate and precise bow.
Types of Arrows

There is not much variety in the arrow section. The arrows are classified on the basis of materials used for manufacturing. Any arrow has 5 primary parts, the first is the arrow-head. Next is the spine which connects the arrow-head to the third part called shaft. The shaft ends with the nock, which is a small depression in the arrow's lower end. It is held in the string and helps the archer to draw and align the bow and the arrow. To maintain the aerodynamics and the direction of the arrow, the lower end of the shaft is attached with straightened feathers or fibers known as fletching.
  • Wooden Arrow: The wooden arrows were the only forms of arrows used for a long time. The aluminum and carbon ones were introduced pretty late in the 1960s. The wooden arrow, made up of bamboo is often considered the best due to its aerodynamic properties.
  • Carbon Arrow: These arrows are made up of carbon fiber. Carbon arrows are a bit lighter than the wooden arrows, however, both possess the same accuracy.
  • Aluminum Arrow: The aluminum arrow is used with a compound bow. Using them together offers maximum accuracy and range. On the other hand, when used with other types of bows, the arrow does not offer that much accuracy; in such cases a carbon or wooden bow is needed.
A Flu-flu arrow is short with broader fletching; it is used for shorter ranges and aerial target shooting. Today, there are several companies which manufacture state-of-the-art bows and arrows.

The design of bows and arrows have undergone many changes with time. These changes have made them much more accurate and lightweight. The bows and arrows were mainly used in ancient times. Though not used as weapons, bows and arrows still find application in the modern sport of archery.
Antique old wooden arrow
longbow on white background
Young archer holding recurve bow