In This Article...
In my guide to longbow archery you will learn which arrows can be used, the most suitable type and weight and the ideal arrow length. You’ll understand how to maintain your arrows and you can read my reviews of the Bear Archery Montana and the Ozark Hunter Longbows.
More archers are turning to this tried-and-true bow type to add historical significance and authenticity to their target shooting sessions, and some are even skilled enough to use longbows for hunting small game!
There certainly is a sense of medieval flair added to your archery experience when you use a longbow.
It’s easy to picture yourself as an ancient warrior, or as the infamous Robin Hood, or imagine that Legolas is right beside you, taking down forty-odd Orcs in the Battle of the Hornburg!
Ahem, but I digress…
Longbow archery is mystical and exciting, archery has a history going way back to ancient times and, if you are new to the sport, it can seem a little daunting.
Never fear, my friend; consider this your beginner’s guide to longbow archery.
Here’s what you need to get started:
Longbow Definition and History
Here we go, your basic longbow definition.
A longbow definitely has advantages over current recurve bows or compound bows.
- Generally, it’s lighter
- Takes less time to get ready for shooting
- It’s almost silent when fired
- It’s gorgeous to look at
Both the recurve and compound bow will shoot arrows at greater speeds and they’ll hit a bullseye more often than a longbow will.
A longbow is usually taller than the archer shooting it and as a result, has a rather lengthy draw. Right back to your jaw. This bow has a gentle curve and the limbs are narrower so they form a D-shaped cross-section.
A bow that can match the longbow in length is the Flatbow, the disparity is in the cross-section. The Flatbow’s limbs are roughly rectangular.
Over the centuries Longbows have been crafted from a number of different timbers by many civilizations. In Europe for example they’ve been dated to the late Pliocene and the Pleistocene epochs, or early phase of the Stone Age and, in the Bronze Age were primarily crafted out of yew.
Historically, the longbow was considered a ‘self bow’ carved from wood however today’s longbows are manufactured from a wide variety of contemporary materials and also by fusing various types of wood together.
Competitions run by archery clubs and groups have developed precise definitions for each class. Many longbow descriptions fail to mention medieval samples, materials, and construction know-how.
Based on the British Longbow Society’s description, the English longbow is crafted to achieve a thickness that’s at minimum, is ⅝ of its width.
The same applies to the Victorian longbows, they too are widest at the handle. The Medieval longbow is different with its thickness varying from 33% and 75% of its width.
Both the Victorian longbow and the Medieval longbow do not bend along the full length of the bow. Numerous civilizations all around the globe used longbows for hunting and warfare.
Today, lovers of the traditional wooden longbow would not dare mistreat their prize possession.
The Welsh Longbow
Long before anyone defeated them in war, the Welsh were using the longbow to great effect against their foes.
Evidence of bows and arrows dating back to the Paleolithic era has been found in Germany as far back as 8000-9000 BC http://www.newarchaeology.com/articles/history bow and arrows.php
Around 7500 B.C., Kennewick Man, a contentious skeleton unearthed on the Columbia River banks in Kennewick, Washington, was uncovered. As shown by a CT scan, his hip had a stone-projectile point implanted within it.
A quiver of arrows with flint heads and a longer-than-he-was yew longbow were found in Oetzi’s pack. He was born in 3300 BCE.
From the moment the Normans crossed the English Channel to capture England and Wales, the warriors of Wales employed longbows against them. ‘There is credible proof that Welsh archery existed eleven years before Hastings,’ according to one article.
Archers ambushed the Saxon riders as they rode into the Welsh highlands.
According to the Abingdon Chronicle, the English fled before a spear could be thrown since they were on horseback. According to one estimate at the time, the English lost 500 casualties, while the Welsh suffered none.
The Welshmen’s bows are not fashioned from horn or ivory or yew; they are crafted out of wild elm. They are not elegantly shaped or polished, but they are robust and strong nonetheless. Not only are they able to shoot an arrow a considerable distance, but they also inflict quite serious wounds.
These weapons were extremely effective so what was it that prevented the longbow from being adapted earlier?
Both its size and the amount of time necessary to master its use had a role in its effectiveness.
Yew longbows were often over six feet long (6 ft. 6 in.) with arrows that were over one yard long. It takes a lot of muscle to draw them, as they are quite strong weapons.
They had a range of 200 to 300 yards from a draw weight of 120-150 pounds. Longbow formations fired 10 to 12 volleys every minute during battle with each archer being given with 60-72 arrows, depending on their skill level.
Five minutes is all it would take for 4,000 longbowmen to fire 240,000 arrows.”
The Modern Longbow
A modern longbow (as opposed to a traditional longbow) can make a huge difference in your initial experience, regardless of whether you’re using it for target practice or bow hunting. They utilize a reflex-deflex design that gives even recurve bows a run for their money.
In simple terms the limbs on a normal (reflex) bow pivot from a point in front of the archer’s hand whereas the archer’s hands when shooting a deflex bow are behind the point from where the limbs are attached to the bow.
Once you become familiar with them, you will see added precision and a commanding display of power in your shot.
And you will be able to prepare your shots more quickly (especially compared to a crossbow) to really boost the amount of Orcs you’ve slain…er, bullseyes you’ve hit.
Longbows, in general, are lighter than other bow styles, which can be especially lovely during extended hunting trips. If you find yourself becoming sore or cramped during long sessions with different styles of bows, longbows will be a nice reprieve. Because of their lightweight and ergonomic design, these bows will reduce your fatigue by a long shot!
As a bonus, longbows will help you improve your archery skills overall since they are slightly more difficult to manage when it comes to aiming and shooting. But don’t let this scare you off! Mastering this mighty machine is an enjoyable, fantastical way to become a better archer.
Footnote: If you have the patience and some basic practical skills you could make your own longbow, now that would be a sensational conversation starter!
It's Worthwhile Finding the Right Longbow Arrows
Investing the time to find the right longbow arrows is a worthwhile investment that’s just as important as the investment in your bow.
And… longbows are unique because they can accommodate a variety of arrow types.
While it is possible to use carbon or fiberglass arrows with your modern longbow, it is much more exciting – and historically accurate – to use wooden arrows.
Wooden Arrows Can Be Used in Longbow Archery
Please, please, PLEASE remember that longbows (and a select few wooden recurve bows) are the only kind of bows that you should use to shoot wooden arrows! Other bows, particularly crossbows and compound bows, can break or shatter wooden shafts, and pose a danger to you and your archery buddies.
Wooden arrows should only be used in longbow archery, it’s simply not safe to use them with any other bows.
Also, bear in mind that, just because you have coupled wooden arrows with a longbow doesn’t mean you can throw all caution to the wind.
Inspect your arrows carefully for any sign of damage or too much wear and tear – this can be indicative of an arrow that’s one good impact away from splintering. Make sure you find high- quality, sturdy wooden arrows before you take your longbow out to the range.
When you are choosing which wooden arrows to use with your longbow, there are four key factors to consider: weight, length, the weight of your arrow point, and fletching type.
Typically, you can figure out the ideal weight for your arrows by checking the manufacturer’s recommendation that is often printed on your bow. For length, a good test is to load the arrow into your bow and draw it completely. If the arrow is 1.5 to 2 inches past the leading edge of the bow, it’s ideal.
Any more or less can result in a dangerous situation for you!
Ready to take the plunge and make your first longbow purchase?
Here are two of the best modern bows that spring to mind for longbow archery lovers.
Bear Archery Montana Longbow
Bear is one of the leading names in archery equipment and accessories, so of course, their brand is a great first stop. The Montana Longbow is a fantastic choice for beginners in the longbow game since it is so forgiving and flexible. It’s also an excellent choice for experienced archers who want to switch to traditional archery.
The Bear Montana Longbow capitalizes on the reflex-deflex design we talked about earlier. This makes for a quiet yet speedy shot, so it is especially useful for those small game hunting trips.
If you’re purely sticking with target practice and archery ranges, the Montana Longbow is still a great choice since it limits the amount of hand shock you experience with each shot. You’ll be all set for a long session!
Bear Archery has made this bow for basically anyone. They offer right and left- handed models (lefties rejoice!), and your choices of draw weight range from 30 lbs. to 60 lbs.
That range is especially helpful if you are more petite than the average archer, and it gives you more control while you hone your longbow skills.
OMP Ozark Hunter Longbow
The Ozark Hunter Longbow is one of the most budget-friendly longbow choices on the market, so it’s the perfect starting point for many first-timers.
Much like Bear’s Montana Longbow, the Ozark Hunter Longbow dramatically reduces the amount of hand shock you feel thanks to its limb design.
It also has a built-in arrow shelf, so it is especially beneficial if you are still getting your feet wet in the archery world. While your choices of draw weight are slightly more limited than the Montana Longbow, there’s still a respectable range from 35 lbs. to 55 lbs.
As a bonus, this Longbow is gorgeous. The bow is constructed from walnut, purple heart and maple wood, which gives it a beautiful, traditional look. While it does have fiberglass limbs and reinforced limb tips, it’s still a bow that any longbow archer – even Legolas himself – would be proud to wield.
How to Store a Longbow
The Longbow is the original design of bow, and has a much longer history than any recurve or composite bow. No other bow type has been in constant production for 1,000 years or more.
The oldest specimens still in existence are from the 12th century, but there is evidence that they were already in use in Europe before this and examples have been found in 2nd century Egyptian tombs.
And the Best Place for Storing Your Longbow is…
A closet or a room that has very low humidity, such as your basement, are ideal locations to store your longbow. If you do not have a basement, try a closet that has a dehumidifier. Cedar has properties that repel insects, and so Cedar storage chests are also a good choice if you do not have a basement or enclosed closet.
Remove the string and store your longbow horizontally – if it’s standing vertically, the limbs could bend or warp with time. Keeping the bow horizontal will help minimize this risk.
Cover your bow in a soft cloth bag when storing it and make sure it’s in a place where there are no vibrations.
A longbow that is stored incorrectly will warp and twist out of shape. The most common problem that you’ll run into when storing your longbow is cracking in the wood or the glue, which can also reduce the draw weight and eventually, destroy your bow.