The remark of the old Indian, that anybody could make a bow but it took a great deal of skill to make a good arrow, is equally applicable to the arrows of the modern archer. In fact, the quality and make of the bow is far less important than the arrow itself.
It has been well said that with a poor arrow even Robin Hood himself would have drawn the long bow in vain.
From the large exhibit of arrows presented here to-night, it is readily seen that they are all very similar in their efficient characteristics. From the prehistoric specimen of the Cave-dweller to the latest skillful manufacture of Aldred or Horseman, the arrow is the same in general construction, the great difference being in the material used and the greater or less care bestowed upon them. The differences in modern arrows are very much the same as in those of older date.
I have only time to show the essential features of the modern arrow, and to state that in the change of the use of the arrow from an instrument of warfare and hunting into an instrument of skill and precision in the modern sport of archery, very little change of form has been made except in the pile or head.
In the modern, as in the ancient weapon, two things are essential for a perfect arrow: one is straightness, which is necessary to a correct flight, and the other stiffness or rigidity, so the missile may receive the whole force of the bow without flinching or flirting, as it is termed in archery.
Modern arrows are either self—that is, made of one piece of wood the entire length—or footed—i. e, the front part of the arrow is made of harder wood, into which the main part is set usually in a V shape. The four principal parts of an arrow are the stele, the pile, the nock, and the feathering.
The stele is the body of the arrow, which is generally of the same size throughout its length and about one-third of an inch in diameter. The usual form of the best target arrow has a straight stele—that is, of the same size from pile to nock; the chested form is smaller at the point, increasing to the feathering; the bobtail form is larger at the point and decreasing to the nock, and the barrelled is larger in the middle, tapering both ways. You will notice upon examination that all these various forms are found in nearly all these exhibits, ancient and modern, and that the best of whatever nation or tribe are those conforming most nearly to the modern type, especially in regard to the stele. For target arrows old deal or pine is the best, but for hunting the stele may be of hickory, ash, elm, or pine.