Bow, Compound

Bow, Compound

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Compound Bow

A common type of bow in the East during the Middle Ages was the compound bow. It is/ was considerable shorter than the longbow and was mainly a horseman’s weapon as seen used by the Mongols and other nomadic raiders. It worked on the principle that the ends of the bow were bent forwards forcing the archer to use considerable strength to draw the string back to the required point. This type of bow is sometimes called a recurve bow as the shape curves back on itself and it is this design that gives the bow tremendous power compared with its size, although it was still outranged by the longbow. It was used throughout the middle ages by Mongol, Tartar and Turkish light cavalry and also in Hungary, Poland and Russia. It was still ranked among Cossack weapons into the 17th century and some Russian auxiliary cavalry carried them during the Napoleonic wars.

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The First Compound Bow

Digging around the garage last winter I found an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. That friend is my first compound bow — a Bear Archery Alaskan 6-wheel model introduced in 1977. I got mine in 1978, a dumb wannabe bowhunter a year out of grad school with no money and big dreams. It featured dual-needle bearings, “micro click” adjustment and the “hot” C4 eccentric wheels that are all of about 1¾ inches in diameter. Needless to say, I didn’t kill much — but I swallowed the bowhunting bug hook, line and sinker.

It’s all thanks to an obscure Missouri innovator named Holless Wilbur Allen.

In the early 1960s, Allen was fiddling with the first compound bow, hoping to give the bows of the future a mechanical advantage over traditional bows. At first, Allen tried sawing the ends off the limbs of a recurve bow and attaching pulleys, which created a crude block-and-tackle system. This system didn't work well, however, as the bow then had a limited draw length due to the short limb-tip travel. After four years of tinkering and who knows how many design changes, Allen settled on a system of cams and eccentric wheels in place of the original pulley system. Allen filed for a patent in June 1966, and in December 1969 patent No. 3,486,495 was issued. Allen also approached several manufacturers about building and marketing his new bow, but found no one willing to accept the challenge. So, he began marketing the Allen Compound Bow — his "Archery Bow With Force Multiplying Attachments" — in 1967.

“All I was trying to develop was a bow that would get an arrow to a 10- to 25-yard target — a deer — before the target could move,” Allen said.

Image: Google Patents. Click the image to view the larger, readable version of the patent.

This first compound bow was not quickly accepted by the industry or the public, and sales were modest. It may have staggered along quietly, then died a slow death. Enter Tom Jennings.

In the late 1960s, Jennings was technical editor for the old Archery World magazine (now our sister publication, Bowhunting World), and Allen had sent Tom an early prototype of his compound bow to play with and report on. Jennings published his review in the magazine's May 1967 issue, giving it high marks. He said things like "reduction in peak draw weight," "more stable than recurves" and "the first really new concept to come into bow design in a thousand years." In addition to his writing, Jennings also made fine recurve bows. He quickly applied for, and was granted, Allen's first license, then began building and marketing his own version of the compound bow. Archery, and bowhunting, would never be the same.

By today’s standards, the first compound bows were heavy, clunky and expensive. However, they generally shot their arrows faster, with a flatter trajectory and more consistent accuracy than any other bows around. Compound bows had another advantage not readily apparent to shooters — being made from separate parts, they could be tinkered with and improved more easily than carefully crafted traditional bows. Also, they could be manufactured on an assembly line, which made them potentially more profitable than traditional bows to aspiring manufacturers.

In 1972, only two companies — Carroll Archery Products and Olympus — were marketing compound bows. By 1974, eight companies were selling them to an expanding market. It was this year that Jennings “revolutionized the revolution” with the introduction of his legendary Model-T, a two-wheel compound with tip-to-tip cable harnessing. In contrast, most early compounds followed Allen's basic design of using either four or six wheels, resulting in an awkward, bulky bow that was hard to keep tuned. The Jennings Model-T was lighter and much easier to tune, making it ideal for the serious bowhunter. Sales shot through the roof.

By the late 1970s, several archery companies, including Precision Shooting Equipment (PSE), Bear Archery, Darton, Martin Archery, Browning, Ben Pearson Archery and Hoyt, were challenging Allen and Jennings for the compound bow market. By 1976 all states except Georgia legalized their use during bowhunting seasons. About this time the Pope & Young Club began accepting entries of animals taken with compounds. In 1977, Archer's Digest listed over 100 different models of compound bows, compared to just 50 different versions of the recurve. It took less than 10 years for the compound bow to become the dominant force in all of archery.

By the time Allen's 17-year patent expired in the mid-1980s, a truckload of bow companies had tried their hand at building and marketing archery's future star, the compound bow. Sadly, Allen died in a 1979 automobile accident, not living long enough to see how his compound bow would change the face of bowhunting forever.

Modern compounds have continued to evolve, both in bow design and accessories like arrow rests (think drop-away), how they’re shot (think release aid and string loop) and the arrows they launch (think small-diameter carbon shafts). We owe it all to a man who loved to hunt and fish and whose love of machines and desire to know how they worked set the stage for the modern bowhunting revolution — Holless Wilbur Allen.

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History of Archery Timeline

Rock points, which could be used for either arrow or spear inserts are discovered in the Sibudu Cave, in South Africa. Whether these points were used for arrow points is uncertain, however the Sibudu Cave systems also reveal several other relatively advanced human tools including the earliest needle (61,000 years old), the earliest use of heat-treated mixed compound gluing (72,000 years ago), and the earliest example of the use of bedding (77,000 years ago).

Cave paintings depicting archers on the hunt and in battle are discovered in the Iberian Mediterranean Basin (Spain).

Earliest archeological evidence of archery in Europe from Stellmoor in the Ahrensburg valley north of Hamburg, Germany. Among the artifacts were pine arrow shafts with knocks indicate they were very likely shot from bows. Relatively large flint arrowheads were also discovered.

An Ahrensburg arrowhead

Bows discovered in a Holmegård swamp in Denmark in 1940s after the earth was disturbed from WWII bombings. The bows were well preserved in the low oxygen environment of the bogs around the town of Holmegård after which the bows are named. The bows are relatively long (1.5 meters) and are made of a single piece of elm.

Intact bows discovered in a lake settlement at La Draga, Banyoles, Girona, Spain. Much archeological evidence, such as a multitude of arrowheads and the types of injuries on recovered human remains, indicates that archery was a common form of interpersonal violence in Neolithic times (approx. 10,000 B.C. – 4,500 B.C.)

The bow and arrow are well established in Egypt before the time of the Pharoahs. The composite bow and chariot based warfare are copied from their neighbors in the North knows as the Hyskos. Egyptian Pharoahs are depicted riding into battle on chariots with their mighty composite bows at full draw.

Composite recurve bows are in widespread use by both nomadic and sedentary civilizations.

Battle of Kadesh. Fought between the Egyptians under Ramses II and the Hittites under Muwatalli II. It is estimated that 5,000 – 6,000 chariots were used. Each chariot team had an archer on board. Ramses II is depicted riding his chariot, with his bow at full draw.

Archery is recorded as one of the Six Noble Arts of the Zhou dynasty (China, 1146–256 BCE).

Rise of the Scythians. Groups loosely referred to as Scythian would dominate large areas of Eurasia, stretching from the Carpathian mountains in the West to China. They are one of the first groups of people to master mounted warfare, especially mounted archery. The Scythian bow has a very distinct shape and is represented in Greek art.

Earliest depictions of horse archers on Assyrian carvings.

Darius the Great of Persia crosses the Danube to invade the Scythian lands. He is unable to subdue the mounted archers as they do not engage in a direct pitched battle. The Scythians employ a scorched earth tactic, causing Darius to give up the campaign as his supply lines are stretched too far.

The first images picturing the distinct Japanese asymmetrical longbow (yumi) are from the Yayoi period (c. 500 BC – 300 AD)

The early Roman armies do not deploy archers. However, as the Roman Empire grows, it increasingly relies upon archers. Julius Ceasar’s army in Gaul includes Cretan archers.

The Huns are at the peak of their power under their king Attila. They improve on the Scythian bow’s design, adding rigid wooden tips enforced with bone or horn. The Huns devastate many Germanic and Roman armies with their arrow showers. They are finally checked by a coalition of Goths and Romans in the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields in 451 A.D. Their leader Attila dies in 453 and the Hunnic empire quickly dissolves.

Attila the Hun

The Magyars, tribes of mounted archers, settle in the Carpathian Basin. They engage in fast and devastating raids across Europe. Their main weapon was the Asiatic recurve bow.

The Normans defeat the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings. The Norman leader, William the Conqueror, employs many archers in his army. Harold, King of Saxons, had an army that was almost entirely infantry with no archers. The Normans, on the other hand, had about half infantry, and the other half was split roughly evenly between cavalry and archers. Many Norman archers are clearly depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, which was made sometime shortly after the battle of Hastings.

The Mongols under their lead Ghenghis Khan are well on their way to establishing the largest land empire the world has ever known. The Mongol armies consist primarily of horse archers.

Many treaties on archery are written in the medieval Arabic world. A treatise on Saracen archery was written in 1368. This was a didactic poem on archery dedicated to a Mameluke sultan by ṬAIBUGHĀ, al-Ashrafī. A treatise on Arab archery by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr (1292AD-1350AD) comes from the 14th century.

The archers of England with their yew longbows, devastate French armies on many occasions during the 100 Years War ( Crécy (26 August 1346), Poitiers (26 August 1346), and Agincourt (25 October 1415) ).

The value of archery in warfare begins to slowly decline after the invention of firearms.

Several archery societies are formed and tournaments establish archery as a competitive sport.

Mounted archers remained in the Ottoman order of battle until the post-1826 reforms to the Ottoman Turkish Army.

The first archery club on the North American continent is the United Bowmen of Philadelphia.

After the American civil war, confederate soldiers are not allowed to own firearms. Will and Maurice Thompson learn archery from the Florida Indians. Maurice authors The Witchery of Archery.

The National Archery Association (NAA) is founded and begun holding national tournaments. Will and Maurice Thompson are founding members.

Archery becomes an official Olympic event at the Paris Olympic Games.

Bow-sights are first used at an NAA tournament.

The National Field Archery Association is established.

Doug Easton, the founder of the Easton archery company, develops a process for manufacturing aluminum arrow shafts which greatly increase the accuracy of the arrow.

The compound bow was developed in 1966 by Holless Wilbur Allen in Billings, Missouri, and a US patent was granted in 1969.

Hoyt Archery Company makes bows with attached stabilizers.

Release aids for compound bows start being used in NAA competitions.

Archery becomes once again a permanent event at the Olympic Games in Munich.

Archery is still going strong!

Takedown (Recurve)

You may hear the term “takedown” bow when referring to most modern recurves. This simply means that the riser or handle of the bow and the two limbs can be easily disassembled or “taken down”. Many modern recurves are built in this fashion. Various risers and limbs can be mixed and matched together depending on the archer’s preference.


Now a modern sport, archery dates back as far as 20,000 BC.

  • Disciplines
    • Target archery
    • Indoor archery
    • Field archery
    • Para Archery
      • Classification
      • Recurve
      • Compound
      • Barebow
      • Clean sport
      • Archery at the Olympics
      • Archery at the Paralympics
      • Coaching
      • Judging
      • Badge awards

      Archery is one of the oldest arts still practised today.

      The history of the bow and arrow is entwined in the history of humanity. Archery initially emerged as a technique for hunting and then later for warfare. The earliest evidence of archery – arrowheads made of flint – dates back to around 20,000 BC. It’s possible that early humans were using bows and arrows even earlier.

      Distinctive styles of equipment and technique developed in almost every region of the world. In Asia, where warriors were often mounted on horseback, shorter composite bows became popular, while longbows made of yew made England a military power through much of the Middle Ages. Large communities of archers shooting traditional bows remain active today.

      Archery became obsolete in warfare with the advent of gunpowder and quickly developed into a sport.

      The first-known archery competition that we can relate to modern times was held in Finsbury, England, in 1583 and had 3000 participants. Archery first featured at the modern Olympic Games from 1900 to 1908 and in 1920. World Archery was founded in 1931 to secure the sport a permanent place on the programme, which was achieved in 1972.

      Bow and arrow

      Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

      Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.

      The origins of the bow and arrow are prehistoric bone arrow points dating to 61,000 years ago have been found at Sibudu Cave in South Africa. The bow served as a primary military weapon from ancient times through the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean world and Europe and for an even longer period in China, Japan, and on the Eurasian steppes. In the climax of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’s prowess with the bow is decisive in his combat with Penelope’s suitors. In the Old Testament, Ahab’s death is the result of an enemy arrow that “struck the king of Israel between the joints of harness.”

      The armoured infantry of Greece and Rome generally disdained the bow but were nevertheless often beset by skillful enemy archers, especially those mounted on horseback. The Huns, Seljuq Turks, Mongols, and other peoples of the Eurasian steppes were particularly effective mounted archers, wielding powerful composite recurved bows made of thin laths of wood stiffened at the rear with strips of horn and strengthened at the front with glued-on layers of cattle sinew. Incredibly powerful, these were the most formidable missile weapons of mounted combat until the revolving pistol. In Europe it was the development of the crossbow, which had been known in ancient times but was perfected in the Middle Ages, and the English longbow, introduced to European battlefields in the 14th century, that made the arrow a formidable battlefield missile. The longbow, which seems to have originated in Wales, was as tall as a man and the arrow about half that length, the famous cloth-yard shaft. The bow was held with outstretched arm and the arrow drawn back to the bowman’s ear. An English archer could shoot six aimed shots a minute, and his effective range was about 200 yards, though an arrow could go twice as far in the right hands. The crossbow, in contrast, did not require the same physique or training. The crossbow consisted of a short bow mounted horizontally on a stock or tiller, with a sear and trigger to hold the string in drawn position, to be released on demand. Less accurate than the longbow or composite bow in skilled hands, crossbows were highly effective at short and medium range.

      For many cultures, the bow’s importance in warfare has been secondary to its value as a hunting weapon. The North American Indians, the Eskimo, many African peoples, and others used either the regular bow or the crossbow in both hunting and war. Some ancient Japanese wooden bows are 8 feet (2.44 metres) in length the Japanese also made smaller bows of horn or whalebone. Japanese bows and quivers (for holding the arrows) were often elaborately decorated and signed by the craftsman. The natives of the Andaman Islands, between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, produced very large and broad bows. African bow makers generally produced small bows, partly because ranges in the African jungle were usually short. The Eskimo used composite bows of wood and bone backed by sinew, similar to most bows made in Asia. The American Indians’ bows were made either of wood or of wood backed by sinew. Bows have also been made of compositions of several materials, such as wood and horn or wood and metal. Modern composite bows are made of laminated wood, plastic, or fibreglass. Cable and pulleys on the modern compound bow increase accuracy and power. Many sport hunters prefer the bow to firearms others hunt with both weapons.

      The string, too, may be made of a variety of materials, the requisite being toughness. Bowstrings have exhibited an enormous range of variation in materials. The English longbow of the Middle Ages usually had a string of linen or hemp, but Turkish and Arab bows were strung with silk and mohair. Rattan, bamboo, vegetable fibre, and animal sinew or hide have served in many parts of the world.

      Arrows have exhibited even greater variations. Usually the shaft is a single piece, but often two different materials, such as wood and metal, are combined the arrowhead—of metal, stone, bone, or shell—may be affixed by socketing, cementing, or both. Fletches of feathers or of substitutes (leaf, pieces of leather or fur) are nearly always used to stabilize the arrow in flight arrows with heavy foreshafts, however, may be unfeathered. See also archery.

      This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

      What Is a Compound Bow?

      How Bows Work

      All bows work by storing energy in the flexed limbs that transfers to the arrow when the archer releases the bowstring. If you’ve ever shot a longbow or a recurve bow, you know that the further you pull back on the bowstring, the more difficult the pull becomes. There is a certain amount of physicality to drawing and firing a bow. The first few times you attempt it, you’ll feel a soreness in the middle of your back, but the muscle develops quickly, and soon you’ll be drawing and firing with full concentration on your target and no thought to muscle fatigue.

      The Compound Bow

      But what is a compound bow? Compound bows give archers a mechanical advantage by using a system of pulleys and cables to store the energy of the limbs. When drawing a compound bow, there is an initial resistance, and then the bowstring draws back with little perceived exertion of force. Once drawn, you can hold the bowstring in place with very little applied force. This allows you to take your time and aim with precision without worrying that muscle fatigue will make your arms tremble and affect accuracy.

      The History Of The Martin Compound Bow

      Gail Martin was crazy for archery before he went off to fight in World War II and he was determined to come back and turn his hobby into a business when he returned. That was sixty years ago, and Gail Martin and his wife Eva succeeded in building one of the most successful bow hunting and archery companies in the USA that is still thriving to this day. The Martin compound bow is one of the most popular – and fastest bow available today.

      Three generations of Martins have been involved with the Martin Archery Company since 1951 and the bows they have produced over those sixty years are among the finest available. A bow from back then, compared to one of today’s highly innovative Martin Archery bows, is barely recognizable, but Gail took advantage of every new materials innovation that would make his Martin Archery bows perform better than the competition.

      Gail Martin never stopped designing and thinking of better ways to make bows. He invented the first fall away arrow rest, the first single cam and was the first to use riser vibration damping. Each of his innovations carries a patent, and there are approximately twenty-four, and no other archery company has survived as long under one ownership, in the USA.

      The Martin Archery Company’s compound bows claim to be the fastest and most accurate bows on the market today – and there is little doubt that every inch of this bow means business, whether you are hunting big game in Africa or still-hunting deer in the USA, many hunters prefer the Martin Archery compound bow. All 2011 model bows now use the Power Tough Limb system, which are the most durable ever produced. Gail Martin’s patented vibration escape module (VEM) cancels out damper vibration for even greater accuracy. Brand new BCY Trophy material made by Gore, the Hammer Head strings eliminate peep rotation while drawing, which in turn eliminates string stretch so that every ounce of power is transferred to the arrow. Even the arrow shelf offers innovative and patented VEM silencing technology.

      Gail Martin has put his name on the best and highest quality archery equipment for 60 years and all that knowledge has gone into designing and producing the Martin Archery compound bow. A compound made with all those years of passion and experience can only be one of the best in the world.

      The Pro Series of compound bows consists of two choices of Shadowcat bow, a Firecat and a Crossfire compound bow. The Gold series offers seven different bows made for the most serious archers, with names like The Leopard, The Saber and The Silencer. You know these bows are built for business, and with so many sizes and choices, even the cheapest bow will delight any archer or bow hunter – you’ll soon want to move up to on of the Pro Series bows.

      Gail Martin received the Washington State Life Time Achievement Award in 2003, and is a member of the National Bowhunter Hall of Fame. Check out the Martin compound bow that suits you best – you’ll be proud to own one of the finest compound bows on the market today.

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      The bows that were used during the rule of Genghis Khan were smaller than the modern Manchu derived weapons used at most Naadam. Paintings as well as at least one surviving example of a 13th century Mongol bow from Tsagaan-Khad demonstrate that the medieval Mongolian bows had smaller syiahs and much less prominent leather string bridges. [1]

      From the 17th–20th century, horseback archery in Mongolia (and around the world) declined in prominence in proportion to the availability of firearms. Contemporary depictions of the 1768 Battle of Khorgos between the Qing dynasty and the Western Mongolian Dzungars show the mounted Dzungars primarily armed with muskets. Despite changes in bow construction over time, the Mongolian archery tradition has been continuous. The traditions of Mongolian archery were partially kept alive by the Qing Imperial court which maintained a cohort of Mongolian Imperial Bodyguards specifically trained in archery with Manchurian bows. Gradually, construction of composite bows in Mongolia, China and Tibet largely shifted to Manchu derived designs to the point where the "traditional Mongolian bow" used in Naadam festivities is actually derived from the Manchu design. [2]

      Ancient and modern Mongol bows are part of the Asian composite bow tradition. The core is bamboo, with horn on the belly (facing towards the archer) and sinew on the back, bound together with animal glue. [3] As animal glue is dissolved by water, composite bows may be ruined by rain or excess humidity a wrapper of (waterproof) birch bark may give limited protection from moisture and from mechanical damage. The bow is usually stored in a leather case for protection when not in use.

      Birch is a typical material for arrows. The normal length of an arrow is between 80 and 100 cm (30 and 40 inches), and the shaft's diameter is around 1 cm (0.5 inches).

      As for fletchings, crane tail feathers are favored, but tail feathers of all birds are usable. Eagle feathers make a particularly prized arrow, but eagle feathers are relatively difficult to acquire. Feathers taken from wings are said to flow less smoothly through the air, so if given the choice, tail feathers are picked. The Mongols characteristically pay close attention to the minutest details the placement of the fletchings in relation to their size, and what part of the bird the feathers originate from, are of great importance for correct rotation and good balance in the air. Consequently, these factors are painstakingly considered when making arrows after the Old Mongol standard.

      Arrowheads can be everything from wide metal blades used for big game (or in war) to bone and wooden points, which are used for hunting birds and small animals. The high impact force of this bow ensures that a bony point will be lethal when hitting the body of a smaller animal. In addition to these kinds of arrows, whistling arrows are useful during hunting, because the effect on animals of an arrow whistling away high above the ground is often to make it stop, curious to see what is in the air. This gives the hunter time to launch a second arrow with lethal intent. These whistling arrows are made by inserting an arrowhead of bone in which hollow channels have been created. When shot, such arrowheads make a very audible sound through the air.


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  3. Roper

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