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Types of Archery Bows
Generally speaking, there are four different types of bows that are still very popular today:
Compound bows: this is what most archers nowadays go for. A compound bow differs from regular bows in that there are wheels located at the tips of the limbs, connected together with a cable system. These wheels give compound bows a distinct, modern look, and it easier to draw and aim the bow. Due to the presence of the wheel system, however, compound bows require more maintenance.
Crossbows: a crossbow is a mechanical version of regular bows (which are often called “vertical” bows). In a crossbow, the drawn string is mechanically held by a latch, allowing the archer to take his time aiming as there’s no need for him to manually maintain tension in the string. Compared to other types of bows, crossbows are very easy to shoot, require basically no tuning, and hold just like a rifle does.
Longbows: this is a bow in its most basic form, and it consists of nothing more than a stick and a string. They require considerable skill and training to properly shoot and hence might not be the best choice for beginners looking to quickly achieve solid accuracy.
Recurve bows: a recurve bow differs from a longbow in that the tips of the limbs curve away from the archer. This seemingly small difference in design makes the bow more energy-efficient, allowing you to shoot fast arrows without as much effort as would be required with a regular longbow.
Forms of Archery
Throughout your journey as an archer, you will come across a few different terms used to describe the specific form of archery practiced by various individuals. Below is a rough breakdown:
Traditional archery: this implies the use of traditional bows that do not come with extra accessories or aids designed to make shooting easier. When someone says they are into “traditional archery,” it most likely means they are using either a longbow or a recurve bow. Someone using a compound bow or a crossbow is not considered a traditional shooter.
Archery hunting: this one is obvious, and it refers to anyone who uses his bow to hunt game animals – be it for sport or food. The most widely hunted game include deer and elk, but if your bow is strong enough you can easily take down larger game, such as cape buffalo and ox. Many people attach a reel to their bow and use it to hunt fish – this is referred to as bow fishing.
3D archery: this involves practicing by shooting at three-dimensional, animal-shaped models, which are usually made of compressed foam material. The main purpose of 3D archery is to improve your skills as a bow-hunter, however many people engage in this activity for pleasure only and without the intent of ever hunting live game.
Competitive archery: tournaments are held either indoors or outdoors, and involve shooting at targets from a predetermined distance(s) – the most accurate shooters of course win. The World Archery Federation is the governing body where competitive archery is involved.
Flight archery: in this form of archery, the goal is to shoot your arrow as far as possible, hence you need to launch it high into the air under a certain angle (usually 45 degrees), depending on weather conditions and terrain layout. A competitive flight archer can usually have an assistant to help him measure his shooting angle. There are different shooting classes, based on bow construction and arrow weight. It’s worth knowing that there are certain bows designed specifically with flight archery in mind, although you are not likely to run into any of them unless you are specifically searching for one.
Mounted archery: not a very popular form of the sport, but those who do practice it are extremely passionate about it. Mounted archery refers to shooting a bow at a target while riding a horse. Bows used for mounted archery are usually shorter than regular bows for easier maneuverability.
A Brief History of Archery
As far as we know, the first archery bow ever used dates back to around 10,000 BCE and originated in Europe. They were used to shoot arrows with tips made from flint. Bows were a very potent and deadly weapon in any army, and were widely used in battles until the first firearms were developed, which despite being slower than a bow at first were preferred due to their superior shooting range and the low volume of training required to properly handle them. Asian countries, particularly China, are credited with having advanced bow design, bringing them closer to what we are used to nowadays.
Historically, one of the most popular bows is the English Medieval longbow. Measuring an average of 6 feet, they featured draw weights as high as 200 lbs, which is almost 4 times the draw commonly found on modern longbows. Obviously, the English longbow required tremendous skill and strength to draw – imagine steadily pulling and holding 200 pounds with one hand every time you want to shoot an arrow! On the flip side, these bows delivered so much speed that it was possible to hit targets from 200+ yards away, and even penetrate a soldier’s body armor (though from a much shorter distance).