An important aspect in archery is knowing your bow. More than just a simple piece of equipment, establishing a “relationship” with this partner of yours will help you fly your arrows in an accurate and true manner!
The main types of bows are recurve bows, compound bows, and longbows. Additionally you can think of crossbows too as a type of bow - the mechanics are the same, the way you hold it and aim are totally different. But read on to get all the details!
The Main Four Different Types of Bows for Archery
Choose your weapon. Knowing the different types of bows will help you decide on a partner that will best suit your unique shooting style.
As one of the most commonly used bows (mainly because of the low draw weight requirement), recurve bow usage have actually been recorded across different cultures (contemporary example).
Being a portable and flexible weapon, recurve bows were mostly used by horsemen. Such was the case in Mongolia - warriors from this country were known for their high level of skill shooting arrows horseback with this type of bow!
In popular culture, recurve bows tend to be a big hit mainly for its aesthetic design. Hawkeye of the ever-popular Avengers is known to use a recurve bows to shoot down foes of different shapes and sizes!
Function and Form
What's in a name? The bow's aptly named because of the central portion of this weapon curves towards you; the ends of the limbs outwards. The construction does not only create an appealing aesthetic - this design allows more power to be pushed towards an arrow, without using much of an archer's strength. Because of the simple yet efficient design, recurve bows are also highly-recommended for beginners to use.
Introduced during the 1960's, compound bows were created for archers who just need a stronger oommph when letting arrows fly. With this power, compound bows are a favorite among hunters (especially those who hunt big prey). Nowadays these are very common, and available for beginners too.
Function and Form
You'd know it's a compound bow with all these gears and pulleys on it. The pulley system allows you more power in each shot without having to adjust for a higher draw weight. Also, compound bows only shoot when at full draw. And with the pulley system in place, you would be able to hold the full draw position at a longer length of time - without having to strain your arm muscles.
Unlike other bow types, compound bows are left strung. This just means that you wouldn't need to go through the rather taxing (and even frustrating step) of having to string and unstring your bow during every shooting session.
With a design that is visibly different from all the other bow types, crossbows delivers fast and precise shots without having to go through a long preparation. Given its size, crossbows do have its advantages - historical records show that his bow type served well in ancient China, both as an assassination tool and as a weapon for soldiers or civilians with a low level of fighting skill.
Function and Form
With the ease of use, crossbows do lose out when it comes to range and power. Additionally, bolts are used rather than conventional archery arrows. Still, crossbows do provide a unique and even fun experience on shooting targets! Using a finger trigger mechanism, and not having to hold the draw weight while aiming is a nice feature of crossbows.
Perhaps the simplest or most basic when it comes to both design and functionality, the longbow may also be the most used type of bow. Constantly appearing in numerous records all throughout history, longbows prove that its performance will always be on a different (and exciting) level of archery experience.
Function and Form
Traditionally made out of elm or yew wood, longbows are just one long shaft/piece bound together by a string. Since it is composed of a single part, a longbow's limbs aren't recurved - creating the popular D-shape it has. Contemporary longbows are made of tougher yet lighter material, but still retain the long form that traditional ones are known for (at an average, longbows are 5 feet and above!).
Know Your Bow
Let’s get more intimate - know more about your bow, get to shoot better!
General Bow Terminology That You Should Know
Here are some of the most common bow terms that you should have in mind:
Bows made out of a single piece of wood. The most common example would be longbows, which are just composed of a single and long piece of wooden shaft.
Essentially a bow in its stock or original state, no sights. adjustments, weights, or any other features installed! Additionally, barebow archers are considered to be "pure" shooters - relying on instinct alone, they rely purely on their skills and the stock bow in their hands.
With the onset of modern technology comes mobile solutions for bows. Takedown bows are generally bows that can be disassembled. This method provides an easier way to carry gear - adjustments and customizations need to be considered as well, every time you reinstall a bow to shoot!
Common Bow Construction Terminology by Type
Let us now focus on a typical bow's construction (part, accessories, etc...):
Compound Bow Construction Terms
A compound bow's pulley system comes in several variants:
- Single Cams – these variant is the simplest one, which doesn't need that much maintenance. Basically a cam that is located at the bottom to exude power (called the power cam). Another cam is located at top (popularly called the idler wheel) which keeps the bow string in place. This variant is quiet but doesn't offer that much when it comes to arrow velocity.
- Twin Cams – accurate and faster shots are assured with this variant, at the cost of a noisy bow operation! Instead of one, two cams that distribute power are located at each end of the compound bow's arm.
- Binary Cams – for the accuracy that twin cams offer without the numerous adjustments needed to be made, go for this variant. Instead of both power cams attached to the arms (like what's on a Twin Cam variant), the cams are now all linked together. This then creates a more accurate shot!
- Hybrid Cams – this variant blends the best of binary cams and twin cams into one. The top cam now stabilized the power generated by the bottom cam for a more accurate shot. However, velocity falls short for this variant.
Good to Know:
Compound bows are generally the top bow type for hunting. Do take note that some adjustments need to be made to make the most out of these bows.
Recurve Bow Construction Terms
The main focus of this bow type would be the limbs (more specifically, the tips of the limbs). A recurve bow would have these three major components:
- Riser – the central position of a recurve bow where you attach the bow limbs.
- Grip – this part (located in the riser) is where you hold the bow.
- Limbs – the ends of the bow where the bow string is attached (and in effect, where the actual shooting force whenever you let an arrow fly occurs).
Essentially a takedown bow, recurve bows are assembled in such a way that allows you to get a firm control on the bow's accuracy. As such, compound bows are a favorite in target archery, where accuracy is a huge priority. Although, force (or arrow velocity) may be lacking as compared to other types.
Good to Know:
Modern recurve bows are usually made of carbon or fiberglass materials. As a result, these bows are not only lightweight - they're tough as well. On the other hand, traditional recurve bows are made out of wood or bone. Considering the material used on traditional recurve bows, a high level of archery skill may be needed to make the most out of these prized gear.
On a broader sense (and not being limited to recurve bows solely), modern takedown bows' limbs are made out of fiberglass. Risers come in variants of carbon, aluminum, wood, and alloy materials.
Good to Know:
For takedown bows you can often buy different kind of limbs, each designed to provide different draw weights. This way you can change your bow's draw weight by changing the limbs.
However, and as we've mentioned earlier, takedown bows may take some time tuning and adjusting - after all, you'd need at least unstring, maybe even take apart your bow when not in use.
Crossbow Construction Terms
The main difference (and most visible) this type has among other bows is its firing mechanism. Similar to modern firearms, crossbows have a built-in trigger to launch bolts.
Good to Know:
Range is the biggest issue when using crossbows. Additionally, they are the heaviest among all the bow types!
For Specific Purposes: Common Specialist Bows
There are also certain bows built for specific scenarios. Let’s get to know more about these types below:
Generally speaking, these are bows used by mounted archers. The most common bow for riders are traditional barebows and recurve bows. Think of the Mongolian warriors or native American Indians with this type!
A specialized offshoot, flight archery involves letting an arrow fly to the farthest distance as possible. Involving a greater bow draw and velocity for each shot, customized recurve and compound bows fit nicely for this category.
Essentially a takedown bow customized for quick portability, fast assembly, and still offering some much-needed arrow velocity when the time to shoot arises. This bow is an offshoot from the prepper or post-apocalyptic scenarios communities.
Massive draw weight since you're using your feet to hold the bow, this type is mainly used for flight bow performance. A good reference (in popular culture) for this bow would be the Jet Li movie, Hero.
Blast from the Past: All About Traditional Bows
Lastly, let us take a quick look back on traditional bows that made an impact in history:
Mentioned as one of the main bow types, longbows have made their mark with their iconic design and performance. Intimidating in its appearance, it goes without saying that the longbow has made it a massive cultural significance by being a mainstay in medieval films. Some examples of popular media representations would be The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and of course, Robin Hood. Purists still attest to this bow's power!
The Japanese have their own martial art focusing mainly on bows. Called Kydo (roughly translated as "the way of the bow"), the bows used by practitioners of this martial art are called "Yumi". A Yumi bow is made out of bamboo, which offers a flexible and strong construction enjoyed by warriors and martial artists alike. Yumi bows are also long and comes in an asymmetrical design to switch sides at any given time (makes perfect sense for mounted riders to use this - simply switching the bow to the horse's other side is easy). Additionally, Yumi bows were known to be an evolved masterpiece from Japanese archers and Chinese sharpshooters - getting the best features and practices from these two cultures resulted in this spectacular weapon.
As the ranged weapon of choice among Native American Indian communities, the flatbow is essentially a bow with flat and rectangular limbs, made out of a single piece of wood. This bow's grip, however, is rounded, which offers a smoother and easier way to grip it. Considering the accuracy (and the fingerpicking technique employed by American Indians) of this bow, the flatbow still enjoys a large following among indeginoes communities. Flatbow sizes do vary - some can be as short as a typical recurve bow, while there are some models that come as big as a longbow. Flatbows are also self bows.
Think of this as an opposite to recurve bows. A reflex bow has its limbs bent forward in a C-shape manner. Tension and force can be felt in these limbs, considering the weight placed on drawing the string. However, arrows tend to fly stronger and further with this type.
Get to Know Your Bow, Get a Better Archery Experience
Knowing the many types of bows that you can use will open new doors of opportunity on how to shoot an arrow. Remember: it all boils down to your unique style, so make sure to set some time to know your bow. After all, your bow is an essential in getting that optimum archery experience - best to get to know your bow properly!
Here are more interesting resources on bows: