XLIV. On stunt shooting
Part 1 of 4
STUNT shooting is of two kinds; the first is carried out with the long arrow and the second with the short and other kinds of arrows that are shot through a guide.
The stunts that are done with one or more long arrows comprise fourteen different types.
The first of these is zone shooting (ramy al-dārāt) which is most telling against enemies. It consists of drawing a circle on the ground and then going away from it the distance of the cast of the bow, from which position you shoot upward, high into the air, toward the circle. When the arrow falls it should alight in the circle. You should practice this until you master it, say from a distance of one hundred cubits. You then come up twenty cubits nearer to the circle and again practice shooting up into the sky and having the arrow alight in the circle. Once you master the cast from that distance, you again come up twenty cubits closer and shoot again in the same way. You should continue your practice from successive points, each twenty cubits closer, until you can drop your arrow into the circle in that fashion from a distance of twenty cubits. If you can do that successfully, you shall have mastered the art of zone shooting: one of the most useful in storming towers and fortifications, where no other type of shooting would avail. In this way the arrows descend upon the enemy from above like crashing thunder while they are unaware. This will inflict great losses upon the enemy and will enable the Moslems to storm their strongholds successfully. Records show that a certain eastern city was stormed and occupied in this fashion.
The second is shooting nockless arrows. The advantage in shooting nockless arrows lies in the fact that an enemy ignorant of the art cannot shoot them back at you. The operation consists in making your arrows in the ordinary way except for the nock, which should be left uncut, and, instead, the nock end of the arrow should be sharpened in the shape of the arrowhead. Place on the string some kind of ring which may be tied at the proper point with a strong thread. You then insert the rear end of the nockless arrow in the ring which will serve as a nock; draw, and shoot in the ordinary manner. In case of battle it is advisable to place on the string two or three such rings, one fixed at the proper point while the others remain loose to be used as spares in case the first one breaks.
Another method of shooting nockless arrows consists in placing on the string a small ring from which projects a nail-like extension known as birūn. The ring is strung onto the string loosely and can easily move upon it. When you employ ordinary arrows with normal nocks this device is not used; but when you intend to shoot nockless arrows you bore, instead of the nock, in the place where the nock should be, a hole big enough for the birūn. Then insert the birūn into the hole, lock your fingers, draw, and shoot.
The third is the shooting of flaming arrows, which are called spindle-shaped, and are used for incendiary purposes, to set fire to the place where they fall. Such arrows are made by constructing a hollow arrowhead consisting of a number of tubes the ends of which are brought together. The interior of the arrowhead should be hollow, like the interior of the spindles women use. This is why it is called spindle-shaped. It should also have a cylindrical extension into which the shaft is inserted.
You mix some straw and cotton together and make them into a ball. Then you saturate the ball with tar and insert it into the hollow of the arrowhead. Then you bring it next to a flame, and shoot it as soon as it begins to burn. It will spring into a flaming projectile and will start a fire wherever it falls.
You may also take some otter fat, wax, black sulphur, bdellium gum [Webster's International Dictionary: "A gum resin obtained from Cammiphora africana, similar to myrrh and used for the same purposes."], the pith of fresh cherry seeds—if you cannot obtain this, you may use cocoanut milk, and if this is not to be found, you may use the sap of wild figs—and a piece of quicklime untouched by water; you then grind the whole together, knead the mass with pure oil of balsam, roll it into small, pebble-like granules, and dry them. When you wish to shoot, sprinkle the granules with powdered black sulphur and shoot them with a stiff, strong bow, at night or by day, without bringing them next to a flame or fire. As each travels through the air it springs into flame. Al-Ṭābari has declared this to be true and that it has been practiced by experts in Egypt.
The fourth is sound-shooting, where you shoot at something you hear but do not see. When at night in the dark you hear something, brace your bow, nock your arrow, and prepare to shoot, having your left hand directly in front of your face and your left upper arm cleaving to your left cheek; then listen to the sound, and when you have determined the direction of its source, draw quickly and shoot.