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Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter XVIII: The Arrow.
Chapter XVIII
The Arrow
By Colonel Walrond

THOUGH mentioned after the bow, the perfection of the arrow is of more consequence to secure accurate shooting than that of the bow. It is quite possible to shoot, and very fairly well too, with a bow which has an inferior cast, but to make a good score with crooked or weak arrows, except by accident, is impossible. Crooked arrows do, of course, occasionally hit and one hears sometimes a self-satisfied archer rather pride himself on shooting with arrows that will not ' spin' saying it makes no difference ; perhaps not to him, but one cannot help thinking of the anecdote of the two archers who were shooting together (with indifferent success), when one said to the other, 'I cannot understand how it is I do not get more hits than I do by accident'. 'You do not know how many you do get by accident,' was the pertinent reply of his chum.

Arrows are made of red deal, and are called 'self' or 'footed ' according as to whether they are footed or not with hard wood at the pile end. No one now uses self-arrows, and it is unnecessary to say anything about them, footed arrows being universally used for target shooting, They are stronger, and therefore stand the wear and tear of hitting the target and ground better, and, owing, to their greater density at the point, fly better than selfs.

The grain of the wood out of which arrows are made should be straight and clean: the wood itself must be well seasoned: it is cut into half-inch square staves of the required length, and left for about three years. the wood for the footing, usually beef or washaba, and sometimes lance, is cut into half: inch square pieces, 7.5 inches long, and a cut is sawn through the middle of each piece to 2.5 inches of the end; it is then rounded and planed to a point on each side at the end where the cut begins. The slave is rounded, the point cut to a wedge shape, glued and pushed into the saw cut in the 'footing,' thus forcing each side of the point of the foot open, so that it holds on by its own elasticity as well as by the glue. The horn for the nock is fastened on differently, as a V-shaped cut is made in the end of the stave, and the horn, which is wedge-shaped, is glued into it, the nock being subsequently cut by means of a circular saw. The arrow is then further rounded and shaped, and left till it is required, when it is again reduced and brought to the desired shape and weight, and is ready for feathering. Feathering is a delicate operation, as the rib of the feather has to be pared with a sharp knife to the necessary angle to make it set properly on the arrows and the feather itself has to be cut by means of a wooden shape and glued on. Finally the arrow is painted, varnished the weight marked on it, and it is ready for use.

An arrow should be perfectly straight, and stiff enough to withstand the pressure which there is upon it, when being shot, as long as it remains on the string. If an arrow is at all weak at the feather end. it will 'flirt' or jump on leaving the string and fly off to the left. To ascertain if an arrow is straight, turn the left-hand palm upwards, place the nails of the thumb and middle finger together, and rest the arrow on them at about its balancing point; hold the nock of the arrow with the thumb and middle finger of the right hand, and give it a sharp twist, so as to make it spin. If the arrow is straight, it will spin smoothly and without jumping on the nails. From fig 139, page 286, this method of testing an arrow seems to have been known at a very early period. To test its stiffness, hold the arrow by the nock with the left hand, place the point on a the sides of the arrow from the feathers towards the point. If the arrow is at all weak and bends too much, or bends differently on different sides, it should be rejected.

The nock should be cut clean, the edges smooth, the bottom being slightly convex, and the sides of the horn should be too thin. The feathers are an important portion of the arrow; formerly the 'grey goose wing' is said to have supplied the best, but now turkey and peacock wing feathers are used, the latter standing much the best. White feathers should be avoided, as they are weak, and soon get dirty; but if it is desired to have them, care should be taken that they are Turkey and not goose. The only use of a white cock feather is to mark how the arrow should be placed on the string, and this can just as readily be clone by the shooter's name being placed above the cock feather The rib should not: be cut too close, or it will weaken the feather. It is essential that the feathers should curve the same way, so as to impart a slight rotary motion to the arrow as it leaves the bow, and therefore, as the feathers curve differently on each wing, all three feathers should be from the same one. the feathers should be from one to two inches long, about half an inch deep, and placed as far back as is compatible with leaving room for the fingers of the right hand. Formerly they were made a great deal longer and larger than they now are; the reduction in their size was owing to Mr. H. Elliot accidentally breaking the front portion of a feather. He pulled off the others to make the three even, and finding the arrow flew better, adopted short feathers, and their use became general. There are two shapes in use at present, each of which has its votaries.

Fig. 146. Ordinary feather Fig 147. Parabolic or balloon feather
Fig. 146. Ordinary feather Fig 147. Parabolic or balloon feather

In practice there is not much difference between them; fig. 146 gives the best steering power; but as fig. 147 can from its shape be placed somewhat further back, without interfering with the fingers, this advantage is to a great extent neutralised. For short arrows a reduced form of both is sometimes used. It is difficult to say which is the better shape, but on the whole, perhaps, fig 146 has most advantages the footing should be solid for about an inch in front of the pile, and should reach up to the end of it, or else on the arrow striking a hard substance the pile will be driven back and splinter the footing at the shoulder which is cut to receive the pile. The pile should be parallel-sided and square-shouldered; any pile that tapers from its commencement will, if the arrows be at all overdrawn cause it to go to the left, and also from the pile coming lower on the hand will make a difference in the elevation as the end of the pile acts as a foresight in taking aim.

The ordinary length of gentlemen's arrows is 28 inches, and of ladies' 25 inches, but longer and shorter ones are also used; for, as it is advisable that the arrow should always be drawn to the head to insure accuracy, it follows that its length must depend to some extent on that of the shooter's arm, and a short arrow has the advantage of being as stiff as a longer one, and at the same time weighing less.

Fig. 148
Fig. 148

The weight of arrows, which is marked close to the nock, is reckoned in terms of their weight against new silver; i.e. if an arrow weighs five shillings it is marked '5,' if four and ninepence, '4. 9.'--and so on. The weight marked on arrows is not always correct and it is as well on getting a new tot to weigh them oneself. This is easily done by the machine (fig. 148), of which a cut is given, or with an ordinary letter-weigher, the arrow being kept steady with a piece of corrugated packing-paper another piece of the same weight being put in the opposite scale. If there is any difference between them) they should be sorted into sets, so as to make sure of using only those that are exactly alike at the same time: the difference will not be sufficient to matter, provided the sets used are alike in themselves. The weight of the arrow used must depend on its length and the power of the bow, as a 28-inch arrow weighing 4. 3. could be used, and fly perfectly out of a 46-lb. bow, but would probably 'flirt' if used with one of 50 lbs. Taking the average weight of bow at 50 lbs., a 28-inch arrow should not he less than 4. 9.; a 27-inch arrow would be stiff enough if it weighed 4. 6. with a stronger bow heavier, and with a weaker lighter, arrows should be used. It must not be forgotten that there is a considerable strain on arrows, not only when they leave the bow, but also when they hit the target or the ground, and that: the heavier and therefore stronger arrows are the better they will last.

The centre of gravity or balancing point of an arrow also exercises considerable influence on its flight, and it is advisable to try each arrow by balancing it on the forefinger of the left hand, and, as was recommended with respect to the weight, use those together which are nearest alike As there are sure to be some slight variations both in the weight and balance, it is as well to have not fewer than two dozen arrows made at the same time, as by doing so it will be easier to get a fair number exactly alike. It is good economy also, as arrows that have been made some time last much longer than new ones.

149-152. a: balancing point.
149-152. a: balancing point.

As to the shape of the arrows, it has already been said that it is necessary that it should be stiff; so as to prevent its flirting or bending. Arrows are made of four patterns: the 'bobtail' (fig. 149), which gradually gets smaller from the point to the nock; the 'chested' (fig 150), which is largest at from 12 to 18 inches from the nock; the 'barrelled' (fig.151), which is gradually reduced from the centre to each end, and the 'parallel' (fig. 152), which is, or should be, the same size throughout its length. The parallel arrow flies more steadily than the others, as it travels more smoothly when shot, along the side of the bow; it is from its shape strong, and is not liable to get crooked on striking the target or the ground. This was the shape recommended by the late Mr. Ford, and it is the one generally used. Major Fisher, however, used the barrelled arrow, and a few years ago Mr. Perry Keene, on trying arrows of this shape, was so pleased with them that he advised their use, in an article in the 'Archer's Register.' A great many archers adopted them, and though some have since gone back to the parallel, many of the best shots still use them

The advantages claimed for the barrelled arrow are, that its flight is lower, owing to its point offering less resistance to the air, that the pile being smaller is easier to aims with, and that, weight for weight, it is stiffer. This is correct as regards the two first points, but reduced as it is towards the feathers, it is weaker than a parallel arrow. The objections to it are, that owing to its shape it cannot travel smoothly against the bow, and when shot, the arrow at its thickest part can he distinctly felt to rise on the hand, with the result that the flight is not quite steady. The pile also not having parallel sides is more likely to cause the arrow to go to the left if it is overdrawn. The bobtailed arrow is reduced at the point where it ought to be strongest, it jumps or flirts on leaving the bow, and is therefore bad. the chested arrow is generally used for flight shooting, when a longer and lighter arrow is required than for target practice, but it has a tendency to go to the left.

It will be instructive here to note the flight of unfeathered arrows, which will show which shape throws least work on the feathers, in order to bring the arrow hack to its equilibrium after it has left the bow A bobtailed arrow will jump off the bow lo the left, recover itself, and invariably go to the right of the target. A chested arrow jumps much more to the left, partially recovers, and goes to the left of the target A parallel arrow does not jump like the others and goes (at sixty yards) straight enough to hit the target A barrelled arrow, like the parallel, does not jump on leaving the bow, but flies straight for about thirty yards, and then goes to the right of the target.

The arrows are used to test these points were all previously shot with their feathers on, and they all then appeared to fly perfectly straight, so that it seems as if an arrow of either shape will fly well enough to hit the target if it is sufficiently stiff; but, of course, the one which leaves the bow most smoothly and deviates least from the straight line is the best, and in these respects the parallel is easily first, the barrelled coming next. It does not interfere with the flight of the parallel arrow- if it is slightly reduced in size from the feathers to the nock, but the place where there is the greatest strain on the arrow is where it presses against the bow on its leaving the string --namely, at from seven lo five inches from the nock-- and it is absolutely necessary that this part should not he in any way weakened. It is advisable when buying parallel arrows to see that they really are so, as many arrows usually called parallel are so reduced towards the nock as to be really bobtailed.

There is one point in the flight of an arrow that requires explanation, and it is this. How comes it that an arrow which is placed on the side of the bow goes straight to the mark? If a parallel arrow be placed on the string, pulled up to the head, and slowly let back, it will be seen that the point must get more and more to the left of the target, which is caused by the arrow being on the left side of the bow while the string and the centre of the bow lie in one vertical plane, the variation being greater if the arrow is chested and less if it is bobtailed. If, however, the arrow is pulled up to the head, it will, if properly aimed, fly straight to the target. The explanation seems to be that, the string being in the nock of the arrow at the moment of release from the finger, and remaining there till the arrow leaves it, and he string and the centre of the bow lying in the same vertical plane, the string does not propel the arrow on a line which would pass through its point, but on a line direct to the centre of the bow, AB (fig. 153). This line of action of the propelling force passes on one side of the arrow and the force acts at the side of the nock, and not at its centre, imparting to the arrow at once a forward motion and a horizontal rotation, which latter deflects the point of the arrow still further towards the left, i.e. away from the object aimed at. (That this is so is shown by the fact that, if the string is not well home in the nock, the side of the nock will be split.) Nevertheless, this untoward defection is corrected and annulled before the arrow is completely discharged; for, on the string reaching its rest, the arrow leaves it, and in doing so, owing to the force communicated to the arrow being a side one, and not direct throughout its length, the feather end of the arrow pushes against the side of the bow, and rebounds from it, which turns the point to the right and brings it into the true line of flight, in which it is kept by the feathers, which the impact on the bow have caused to rotate to the right or left, according as they were taken from the right or left wing, and thus imparting to the arrow a spiral motion coincident with its line of flight.

Fig. 153-155
Fig. 153-155

There is also another force which acts on the arrow while it is in the string, and this is the pressure It receives from the bow while it is passing along its side. This force varies according as the centre of gravity of the arrow is inside or outside the bow.

Taking G as the centre of gravity of the arrow, N as the pressure of the bow against the arrow, and F as the propelling force, and taking the figure to represent the arrow as fully drawn it will be seen that this pressure, which is continuous, at first acts near the point of the arrow, and as long as G is inside the bow, it assists F to deflect the point of the arrow still further from the point aimed at, as N and F together produce a counter clockwise movement round G, and therefore a rotation of the arrow towards the left (fig. 154). As soon, however, as G has got outside the point of contact with the bow, N produces a clockwise movement about G, and therefore a rotation towards the right. This régime lasts, of course, longer than the former as G, owing to the greater density of the footing, is nearer to the pile than to the feathered end of arrow.

It will be noticed that the flight of the unfeathered arrows was precisely what one would expect to be the case as resulting from a propulsion applied to the arrow, not directly throughout its length, but sideways, and modified by the shape of the various arrows.

The explanation of this point given by the late Mr. Ford. and endorsed by Mr. Butt,[1] who both enter at length into the subject, is as follows, and seems tally with the above, except that it is an error to say that there is a 'blow' as the pressure is a continuous force which produces contrary rotational actions:-

It must be observed that the nock of the arrow being constrained to move as it does move, causes, in the last case, a blow of the arrow upon the bow (owing to its slanting position on the bow, and its simultaneous rapidity of passage), and, therefore, a bow of the bow upon the arrow. This makes the bow have quite a different effect upon the deviation from what it had in the first case) when the arrow was merely moved slowly and gradually along it, the obstacle presented by the half breadth of the bow then causing a deviation wholly to the left. The blow however, now considered has a tendency to cause deviation to the left only during the first half of the arrow's passage along the bow, whilst, during he second half it causes a deviation to the right; or) more correctly speaking, the blow of the bow upon the arrow has a tendency to cause a deviation to the left, so long as the centre of gravity of the arrow as within the bow, and vice versâ. So that, if this were the only force upon the arrow the centre of gravity should lie midway in that part of tile arrow which is in contact with the bow during the recoil.

The blow of the bow during the latter part of the arrow's passage causing deviation of the point towards the right, is, however, counteracted to some extent, if not altogether, by the action of the string which holds the arrow.

Mr. Butt adds that the fingers in loosing impart a rotary motion to the string, which acts on the arrow. The fingers, no doubt, impart a slight push to the string, which keeps the arrow against the side of the bow, and which necessitates in the thumb release the arrow being placed on the right side of the how, but there call he no spin communicated by the fingers to the string when it is tightly stretched and held by the two ends of the bow; and if there were, how could it communicated a rotary motion to tile arrow, and round what axis could it do so? If the lapping on the string is too tight the nocking point becomes flat; and if this flat portion is not ill tile true line to the side of the bow, it will be necessary to turn or twist the string slightly to get the arrow in its proper place. If this is done it will be found that the arrow will go to the right or left as the string is turned or twisted, so that if any such motion was communicated to the string, the arrow would not fly straight.

Another proof that there is no rotary motion communicated to the string at the moment of loosing is the fact that the arrows shot by the late Dr. Gruggen were remarkable for their low and steady flight; and as he used a steel mechanical loose by which the string was held on each side (by a pair of tweezers, as it were), until released by the trigger no rotary motion could possibly take place. If, therefore such a motion took place flight in the arrow his arrows could not have flown properly.

It is a good thing to make a nick on each side of the pile of new arrows, with an instrument like a leather-punch, but with a point substituted for the punch part, as this will very often present the pile being driven back on the footing when the arrow hits the leg of the target. After shooting on a damp day the arrows should be carefully wiped before they are put away, and if the feathers have got wet they should be well shaken if possible, before a fire, which will to a great extent restore them. Before using arrows the) should be wiped over with a greased rag deer's fat or oil being the best lubricant), which prevents the paint of the target sticking to them. Should any paint be found on them, it should be removed with turpentine or the back of a knife, as sand-papering is liable to injure them.

There is a certain amount of temptation to shoot with lighter arrows at 100 yards than at the shorter distances to get a lower point of aim, to which some archers give way. Some also have not shot with heavier arrows at one end than the other, so as to try to neutralise the effect of an up-and-down wind. The difference of elevation gained by changing the weight of the arrows is hardly sufficient to counterbalance the inconvenience of having to take about with one double the number of arrows, and the danger of using on some critical occasion the wrong or a mixed lot of arrows. It is better, therefore, to have only one weight of arrow, and stick to it.

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