XLIV. On stunt shooting
Part 4 of 4
The second kind of stunt shooting treats of using the short arrow with a guide. It comprises two types.
The first type consists of taking a strong and hard stave and making of it a fairly thick arrow: slightly thicker than the normal variety and one fist longer, nockless and featherless. Its end where the arrowhead would normally be should be thick and round, in the shape of a walnut, turned and hollowed like a funnel. The hollow should be about one finger joint in depth and in width the size of the shot that will be used therein. This funnel-like head should then be bound about with a ring of either copper or iron. Near the rear end, about a finger joint removed from it, a hole the size of the string should be bored through the shaft, and a slot wide enough to take the string should be sawn obliquely from one side to the hole. It is sawn obliquely to prevent the string from falling out at the time of shooting. When this is done, make for the funnel like head of the arrow iron shots of appropriate size, large enough to fill its cavity; fix the arrow on the string through the oblique slot leading to the hole; grasp the bow by the grip; place the shot in the cavity of the head; draw to the extent of your normal drawing with a long arrow; and finally release. The string will snap back while still remaining in the hole of the arrow and the shot will be catapulted from its cavity with force and speed. The arrow, however, will remain attached to the string. You may, if you so desire, make a nock for the arrow and attach it to the string with a strong silk thread or the like, instead of the hole and slot. On shooting therewith, the thread prevents the arrow itself from being shot along with the iron missile.
This type of arrow could also be used for shooting the missile known as the beans of the prince (ḥimmaṣ al-amīr). This projectile consists of a triangular piece of iron the size of a finger joint, with three spikes on each of its three sides. When it falls to the ground, the spikes on one of its three sides are planted into the earth while the spikes of the other two sides stick up and serve as barbed obstacles inflicting injury on man or beast. This missile is shot exactly as are the other iron shots and is usually aimed at narrow and crowded places.
The same type of arrow could be used for shooting eggs, a useless thing in itself. In order to avoid breaking the egg, the cavity of the head of the arrow should be cushioned with a pad of cotton. If, on the other hand, an egg were carefully emptied through a small hole made in one end and then filled with tar, it could be shot against any object which you might wish to burn down. That object would thus be smeared with tar, and the next step would consist of shooting against the tar-smeared object a flaming arrow, which would set it ablaze.
By making the funnel-shaped head of the arrow of copper or iron, with a tubular extension wherein the shaft is inserted, you can shoot red-hot iron balls and thereby set on fire any place that is otherwise inaccessible.
The second of the two types of shooting with a guide is superior to the first and better for the bow. It is done by taking a thick stick, turning it evenly, and thinning down the end which rests against the string to an extent which will enable you to lock your fingers thereon. You then polish it and carve on one of its sides a groove extending from one end to the other, similar to the groove of the guide from which the ḥusbān arrows are shot and in size the thickness of the string or two thirds thereof. To each end you fix a ring of iron or copper, while on the thinner end you attach a strong silk thread with either a loop which goes around your little finger or ring finger, or with a little wooden bar which catches between these two fingers, similar to what you use in the case of the ḥusbān arrows. The shaft would then have along one of its side a groove extending from one ring to the other. Now, take the tip of a horn and make of it a nock half a finger join in length, and just thick enough to move freely in the groove from one end to the other. Then drill a hole transversely through it as thick as the string and cut from the side of the nock to the hole an oblique slot by means of saw. Then set the string against the guide and fix the nocl on the string. Insert the shot or missile, which has bees made with a head as wide as the groove of the shaft, into that groove; lock your fingers on the guide; draw the limit; and release. The string will carry the nock and the nock will hit the shot, which will emerge like a shooting star. This type is among the wonders of the profession.
Should you desire to shoot hot missiles, you should make your guide of iron or copper. The guide could also be made of cane in which you make a groove from one end to the other, and around each end whip strong twine or sinew with glue to produce a ring like effect. You should first remove the exterior bark of the cane in order to be able to whip the twine tightly and to make it possible for the glue to stick firmly.
Through this device the so-called bird arrows are shot. This is done by taking a stave a little thicker than that which has already been described, and making of it a guide which is similar to the one already described but with a larger cavity. You should then attach to it a cordwith or without a wooden bar-and cut for it a hollowed socket the size of the cavity of the guide so that it can move freely from one end to the other. A loop should be attached to the socket and fastened to the bowstring so that the socket will not leave the guide at the time of shooting. Fill the socket with the bird arrows (‘usfūri) which, as we have already stated, are two or two and a half finger joints in length. Insert the socket in the cavity of the guide; lock your fingers on the end of the guide, and at the same time hold the cord and bar in your locked fingers; draw, and then release. The string snaps against the socket and the arrows are thus driven out in a group similar to flying birds. The arrows thus shot may be five, six, or even ten in number. They should be placed in the socket evenly with their arrowheads straight; otherwise their flight will be no good.
Oftentimes the socket is made solid, not hollowed; instead, ten holes are made in it for the arrows. These holes penetrate nearly but not quite through the socket, and should be wide enough to enable the arrows to be inserted freely therein but not so wide as to cause them to slant one way or the other. They are best shot against a shield, thereby resulting in a banging sound.
You can also shoot them out like Numidian birds, led by one called the leader or guide. This is done by inserting in the socket a larger arrow, longer than the rest. When shot with the others it precedes them, while they follow in its wake. Or you may have all the arrows the same size and half stop the middle hole with wood, making it half as deep as the others. When shot, the middle arrow leads the others by half a length.
Or, by making the opening of the socket narrower than the rest of its cavity, you may shoot therewith sand or water, which shoots out in a column and then sprays in every direction. Such a stunt is useful for blinding the eyes of enemies in narrow places and at night. It is often performed as a stunt before kings and princes.