Weapons For Survival Part II – Compound Bow

Were Robin Hood and William Tell real people or the figment of a story teller’s imagination? Don’t know for sure, but one thing I do know … they were        exceptional archers, masters of the long bow.


Native American Warrior

The traditional long bow, re-curved bow, has been used as a weapon of war and an instrument for obtaining food for as long as recent history can recount. With the introduction of gun powder and subsequently firearms, bows fell out of favor, at least in the civilized world. Rumors of ancient tribes in the Amazon still using them as a primary weapon is probably still true. However, no different than firearms, modern technology has enhanced the performance and killing abilities of a bow, but today’s modern bow differs greatly from the traditional long bow.

Let’s examine the difference between modern bows and traditional ones:

Today’s bows are called compound bows and utilize the advantage of leverage to store energy in the limbs, which explains why when this energy is released the arrow travels much faster than you can throw it.

In traditional bows this energy is stored directly, which means the farther you draw the arrow back, the more energy is created and the faster and farther the arrow will fly when released. This ancient storage system presented several disadvantages. It demanded great strength in order to draw the arrow back to your ear, where you were holding the entire draw weight, say 80 lbs between your hands. Just go to a lighter draw you say. You can do that, but your killing ability decreases as the draw rate does. (more later on that) In addition to being difficult to draw, it was extremely difficult to hold the draw steady, which results in missed shots.

Technology took the idea of leverage and expanded it exponentially by utilizing large wheels, known as cams. These cams are designed to provide maximum draw weight, but reduces the strength required to pull that draw weight by as much as 60-80 percent. In other words if I’m using a 80 lb draw weight bow, I’m only pulling and holding @ 23-25 lbs. Which is a tremendous difference allowing me to use a stronger bow, hold the arrow longer and keep the bow steady.

Greater Draw Weight – Greater Speed of Arrow

Why does speed matter? The obvious answer is the faster the speed of the arrow, the more force it hits the target with. Look at it this way, a 30-06 caliber rifle is more powerful than a 22 caliber rifle, bigger bullet, more velocity, more stopping power. This is what speed gives you in the arrow.

In reality killing force may be the secondary reason speed is so important. The faster an arrow travels the flatter the arc, which increases the accuracy of the shot. All flying projectiles will fall as they travel losing velocity and momentum, bullets too but they’re not visible to the naked eye. This is called relative accuracy, which means the arrow (bullet) will impact much the same spot of the target when launched from the same distance. Speed and flatter travel increases your distance the arrow will travel accurately.

Learning to Shoot: The very first lesson to learn is Never Dry Fire Your Bow! Your compound bow is designed to transfer energy to the arrow … drawing and releasing the string without the variable of the arrow, could result in a catastrophic failure of the string. (It could literally shred apart)

Many experienced archers will encourage using a mechanical release, called release or aid, as part of the shooting system as it increases accuracy. The benefit of using a release is that it ensures a speedier bowstring release with a minimal amount of torque placed on the string, thus resulting in greater firing accuracy. Bear in mind a release is not required to use a compound bow, fingers will suffice, but you will experience severe finger discomfort as you hone your shooting skills.

Every new bow must be broken in, specifically the string. A rule of thumb is to shoot 150 arrows before attempting to install peep sights or align your sights. (Remember the finger discomfort)

Proper Draw
What is Nocking an Arrow?

When loading the arrow it should only contact the bow at two points, the rest and the string, intended to prevent any contact with something that would send the arrow off course. Place the arrow on the rest, or through it if the bow has a biscuit rest, the nock (end of the arrow) is inserted over the string.(You’ll hear a click when properly seated) When the arrow is touching 2 points only, then it is properly nocked.

Original arrows were fitted with turkey or goose feathers for vanes, or fins. Today the arrow vanes are plastic. Arrows come with three or four vanes. For an arrow with three vanes, one of the vanes will be designated the “Cock” vane and will be the most colorful of the three. The cock vane should always be pointed up when nocked. Arrows with four vanes do not have cock vanes, it doesn’t matter how the arrow is positioned.

Zeroing in Your Sights:

Every sight will work a little bit differently, therefore concrete instructions are not feasible, but here’s some general guidelines to follow:

Begin your distance at 20 yards, setting your 20 yard pin, shoot groups of six arrows while tweaking the sight’s main adjusters. Should your grouping be low and to the left, adjust your pin downward to the left. Once you are able to group 15-20 arrows consistently, move to the 40 yard pin and repeat the sighting in procedure.

Foot Placement

Form: While you are zeroing your sights in you should also be perfecting your form. An archer will begin their stance with the bow in front of the body, fingers gripping the string. Your feet will align perpendicular to the target, shoulder width apart. (It’s acceptable for the front toe to partially point towards the target.) When starting to draw the string, the arm holding the bow ensures the bow is parallel to the earth, do not fully extend your bow arm (Lock it at the elbow) but rather maintain some flex. Don’t grip the bow too tightly as this results in muscle fatigue and cramping. Pull the drawstring straight back toward the face, past the jaw to the ear. This is known as the anchor point. It’s imperative, accomplished only through practice, to draw the string back to the same anchor point every time. It’s important to follow through when taking the shot, which simply means staying focused on your target until the arrow reaches it.

It don’t expect you to remember all the parts of a compound bow, but the more you understand how the equipment functions, the better you can become as one with it.

Riser: This is essentially the bows chassis and holds the limbs and provides places for additional equipment to be mounted to. (arrow rest, stabilizer, etc.)

Limbs: The parts of the bow that flex, storing and releasing the energy required to launch the arrow.

Cams: Components which makes the ability to pull larger poundage possible.

Cables: Lash to the cams enabling them to work together.

Cable Slide: Holds the cables off to one side preventing any interfering with the path of the arrow.

Bowstring: Normally made out of space age material which is very durable. It flexes the bow energizing it and launches the arrow when released.

Brace Height: The distance between the throat of the grip and the string at the rest.

Stabilizers: Helps balance the bow and reduces vibrations.

Quiver: Old time archers and competition archers use quivers, arrow holders, which are hip carried. Most hunters use quivers which are mounted to the bow. This increases speed of loading arrows and helps prevent getting arrows hung up in brush as the hunter moves about.

I assume, or hope, you read my post on using a crossbow. You are now able to see what I meant when I said compound bows require a much more intense and longer training period in order to achieve minimum efficiency. However, a compound bow has every advantage a crossbow offers, stealth, renewable ammo (you can retrieve or make arrows) and accuracy, It makes an excellent secondary or back up weapon to a firearm.


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