A GOOD bow is nothing to be laughed at; in skillful hands it is a dangerous and deadly weapon as the early settlers, from the standpoint of the men being shot at, had good reason to know. The best results in archery have, so far as records show, been accomplished with the regular long bow of the accepted pattern with arrows to match, the sort of equipment turned out by the best makers of this class of goods. Such equipment has in it the design and experience gained by centuries of experiment; and it probably cannot be surpassed, certainly it is far superior to that of savage peoples. It is not particularly expensive, reminding one of the cost of .22 rifles before the war. The best men's bows, priced in New York City in 1919 cost, for example, $6.50. Arrows came rather high, ranging around ten dollars a dozen, the cheaper sort are mere toys, and the natural inclination would be to buy a few for samples for length and dimensions and make the rest at home.The classical rule as to the length of bow is that it be the same as the height of user. A bow of about six feet in length (total length of bow unstrung) is best suited to the average man and the "weight" or strength of the bow will vary from thirty to fifty pounds or more. The writer shoots a sixty-pound bow. The "weight" is the force necessary to pull the arrow back to its head, and can be measured by a spring scales. More powerful bows than this are used, sometimes requiring a pull of seventy, eighty or even ninety pounds to draw, but it takes an old-timer at the game and a powerful man to use these. The strength of a bow's shooting or its accuracy is by no means to be gauged entirely by the amount of bull strength required to draw the arrow to its head, for the elasticity and "kick" or "cast" in a bow, due to the skill with which it is built, have a considerable bearing in the matter. A well-built fifty pound bow will often send an arrow further than one requiring more strength to draw it, but less skillfully made.
A FEW words as to handling the bow to the best advantage. There are a number of ways but the best shooting is done after the fashion of the old English archers, probably the best bowmen the world has ever known, and the American sportsman is certainly safe in using the method they have developed as a starting point. It is the one generally used by modern archers.
The illustrations show the system perfectly. The bow is grasped firmly with the left hand and held vertically or nearly so. The arrow goes on the left side of the bow and above the hand, but the shaft of the arrow touches the bow midway between its ends for the left hand grasps the bow intentionally just a little below its center to allow for this. Factory-made bows have a hand-grasp placed in the proper position slightly off center and one tip of the bow is usually made different from the other, so there is no difficulty in keeping the bow always right end up. The bowstring is also marked in the center so that the arrow is always placed in exactly the same position.
Pull the string back by the tips of the first, second and third fingers of the right hand, the end of the arrow being between the first and second fingers. The natural inclination will be to hold the bow and arrow at such a height that when the right hand is drawn back the fingers will be on a level with the chin and just under the right eye, and this is the proper position. Draw the arrow clear back to the head. The hold on the bow-cord and arrow just described is a little difficult and seemingly unnatural to a beginner but it is the one with which the best work has always been done and one should learn it in the first place. Releasing the arrow with this hold is simply a case of letting the cord slip off the fingers.
The most natural hold is the "pinch grip," which is the thing one would instinctively do, that is, to take the arrow's end between tip of thumb and tip of forefinger, pull back and "let her go." This answers for a weak bow but no strong bow can be bent this way to the necessary extent. A somewhat better way practised by many Indian tribes was to close the forefinger and grasp the arrow between the middle joint of it and the thumb. Some Indians even made a sort of bulbous enlargement on the string end of the arrow to prevent its slipping when used with a pinch grip.
Some of the Chinese had a radically different, though efficient way of drawing the bow; and this method was practised by several of the allied races. John Chinaman put the bowstring between the thumb and forefinger at the root of the thumb, turned the thumb in as far as it would go and hooked the forefinger around the end of the thumb to hold it that way. The arrow lay above the thumb, simply resting on it. A wide ring of metal or jade was usually worn on the middle joint of the thumb which prevented the bowstring from cutting into it. The whole idea was on the principle by which the American boy "shoots" marbles with his thumb, except that the marble is ahead of the thumb while the bowstring is behind it. Releasing is, of course, done by a combined relaxing of the forefinger and slipping out of the thumb.