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Chapter V
On methods of drawing and loosing the arrow
By C.J. Longman
Part 1 of 2

As there is one primitive form of bow, so there is one simple and natural method of drawing and loosing the arrow which was undoubtedly the earliest practised, but which has subsequently been modified in various ways. This method is to hold the bow in the left hand about the middle, to lay the arrow on the hand to the left of the bow, and, grasping the butt between the finger and thumb, to draw the bow by pressing it against the string. This method is still used by many tribes to this day, and anyone who has ever given a child Its first lessons in archery, or observed a boy shooting who has taught himself, knows that it is invariably the first adopted. In an interesting pamphlet on 'Ancient and Modern Methods of Arrow Release,'[1] Professor E. S. Morse has termed this method the 'primary release.'[2] In discussing methods of drawing the bow occasion will frequently arise to refer to this pamphlet by Professor Morse, as he was the first to investigate this subject. His researches on a seemingly trivial matter have a high ethnographic interest, and his classification is so sound that it must form the basis of any further researches on the subject.

The primary or finger and thumb loose is a good one for a weak bow, as the arrow is easily loosed by the simple of opening the finger and thumb; but unless the archer is possessed of extraordinary strength in his fingers he cannot shoot with any force by this method.. In. drawing a strong

62. Andaman islander scraping an arrow. 63. Andaman islander making a nock
62. Andaman islander scraping an arrow. 63. Andaman islander making a nock
(From photographs by Mr. Portman)

bow the arrow would necessarily slip from his grasp before he had drawn it fully out. To obviate this some tribes the Andaman Islanders for example scrape the butt of the arrow where it is held with a shell so as to roughen it and give a better grasp. The above figure from a photograph by Mr. Portman shows this operation. Other tribes give a bulbous form to the butt end of the arrow for the

same purpose. Mr. Morse's figure of an arrow from Oregon shows this, and the practice is common in various parts of the world. The Assyrian sculptures in the British Museum show arrows of this form. Whenever arrows of this type are met with, it may be inferred that the primary loose is in use.

64. Knobbed arrow from Oregon.
64. Knobbed arrow from Oregon.

A certain indication that the primary loose or some modification of it is in use is the absence of a nock in the butt of an arrow; this is common in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and other places. Where there is no nock it is evident that if the fingers were to hold the string the arrow would part company with it. An arrow without a nock must necessarily be held by the finger and thumb against the string, which is forced back by the arrow itself.

65. Secondary loose.
66. Secondary loose.
Secondary loose.
Click on an image for a for a larger version

67. Tertiary loose.
68. Tertiary loose.
Tertiary loose.
Click on an image for a for a larger version

The modifications of the primary loose alluded to above are termed by Mr. Morse secondary and tertiary. By these methods the arrow is still held by the finger and thumb against the string, but the tips of the fingers assist in drawing the bow. It seems doubtful, however, whether there is a sufficient distinction between the secondary and tertiary looses to justify their separation, and all finger and thumb looses where the fingers assist in drawing the string will be classed here as secondary.

The next loose in the natural order of development is where not only are the tips of the second and third fingers used to draw the string, but the tip of the first finger is also, the grasp between the finger and thumb being discontinued. This loose, which Professor Morse terms 'Mediterranean,' is, in fact, the one universally practised in this country, and need not be figured here. Sometimes two fingers only are used, but very few, if any, successful shots have adopted this plan. The loose from two fingers is undoubtedly very clean, but that advantage can only be gained by using a weaker bow than could be drawn with three fingers, and also by incurring the risk of straining the tendons of the fingers. This is an accident which occurs not unfrequently, even to those who use the three-finger loose, the strain on the fingers being very severe. Archers are, therefore, strongly advised not to adopt the loose from two fingers. Some even go so far as to draw with all four fingers, amongst them being Mr. C. E. Nesham, who is one of the most successful shots of recent years. It is probable, however, that other archers who imitated Mr. Nesham in this particular might not prove so successful as he has done, and the three-fingered loose is the one which aspiring archers will do well to adopt. In this loose (as, indeed, in the secondary also) a right-handed man places the arrow on the left side of the bow, and a left-handed man on the right. The part of the hand between the first knuckle of the forefinger and the junction of the thumb with the hand makes a good resting-place for the arrow.