Bows and Arrows – The New and the Old

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Archery started as a hunting and war pursuit but presently, it has come to be limited to only hunting and recreation. It uses a bow and an arrow to shoot a target or prey. It is a game requiring extreme expertise and skill and has evolved a great deal since its birth in the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic periods.

Though structurally, all bows are similar and have elastic limbs attached with strings to store the mechanical energy generated by the action of pulling of the string by the archer, there still exists a huge variety in the detailing with which bows were constructed, both traditionally and in modern times. One area that can be and is experimented upon in terms of design is the limb. On this basis, the variety of bows that are made are- composite bows, self bows and laminated bows. The shape of the limbs when unstrung also determines its category. The tips of an unstrung recurve bow will show a curve that is away from the archer. Even the cross section of a bow is of consequence, a classic longbow will have narrow D-shaped limbs in the cross section. The flat wide limbs in an approximate rectangular shape are attributed to the flat bow. Cords at the back of the bow are used for cable-backed bows. This has the facility of weight adjustment by adjusting cable tension. These kinds of bows were particularly popular with Inuit as they lacked economical access to good wood for bows. Frank Loring also called chief big thunder invented a sister of the cable backed bow in around 1900 and called it the Wabenaki bow or the Penobscot bow. It has a small bow with cables attached at the back of a larger main bow. Apart from that there are many other kinds of bows being used by archers. The design of the compound bow is such that it requires lesser force to keep the string fully drawn; this gives the archer more time to take aim. Elliptical wheels or cams are very widely used to get this effect. For instance, a typical 60 pound bow with a let-off of 80% should require an approximate 12 pound force to hold it at full draw. Generally, a let-off can be anywhere from between 65% to 80%. A let-off right until 90% is a possibility too. This feature has made the compound bow highly popular among North American archers. The kind was invented by Holless Wilbur Allen Missouri; it got a US patent in 1969. The compound bow is fiercely popular in America. Mostly, Dacron and other modern alternatives are used to make bowstrings for their weight bearing quality and strength. Linen and similar traditional material are not used in modern bows, though traditional bows still make use of them. The hide of a young camel for the bowstring is a suggestion from the author of “Arab Archery”. There is even a saga that sings of a wife who refused to let her hair be cut to make a bowstring for her husband’s bow during an emergency. The husband Gunnar Hamundarson then kills the wife and the saga is called Njal’s saga.

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