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XXX. On how near or how far the target should be
Part 1 of 2

ARCHERS throughout the world are agreed that the shortest practical range is twenty-five cubits and the longest is one hundred and twenty-five cubits; while the limit beyond which no accurate shooting is possible is three hundred cubits. One archer has stated that the best range should measure forty-five bow-lengths, and that anyone who shoots beyond that limit commits a mistake; but he failed to mention whether the bow should be braced or unbraced when measuring out the course. If it were braced, the distance would be roughly one hundred and twentyfive cubits, which is exactly what we have said before; but if it were unbraced, the distance would be one hundred and forty cubits, assuming that the length of the bow is three cubits and one finger.[31]

Whether the bow is self or composite, the relative range remains the same in length or shortness. This will be discussed later under a special section where we shall show that the variations in the length and shortness of the bow depend upon the size of the archer himself. In fact, no one is known to have shot beyond forty-five bow-lengths and to have still remained accurate, since then he is compelled to raise his left hand in order that the arrow may reach the target, with the result that the bow is held high and his sight low, thereby making his aim a matter of guessing and approximation. Furthermore, his arrow, on leaving the bow, rises above it as much as the stature of a man or more, and falls on the target obliquely from above; which is considered by experts to be a grave blemish.

The reason which made experts hold that correct shooting is limited to a range of forty-five bowlengths was experience, which showed that the arrow then left the bow straight—neither rising above nor falling below until it hit the mark or approached it. However, an arrow in flight should rise above the ground half a bow-length over and above the distance between the upper bow-tip and the ground—this being in the case of the sitting archer-thereby assuring a straight course without rising high or falling low. This is one of the main secrets of the profession of archery, though it has been forgotten by many an archer and still many more have never even known it, so that only a few are aware of it.

The soundness of this theory of a range of forty-five bow-lengths has been established and its superiority and excellence have been proven. Its advocates do not permit shooting beyond that distance. As a matter of fact, it is less than half the limit of possible effective range, although, according to experts, no accuracy is sure beyond it.

Those who have permitted shooting the limit of possible effectiveness, which is three hundred cubits, have done so on the assumption that strong and heavy bows are capable of casting arrows straight for that distance—without rising high or dropping low—especially when the archers who wield them follow the method of not raising the hand for a distant target nor dropping it for a near one, but rectify any error in shooting—whether on the excessive side or on the short side—by projecting the lower siyah of the bow to the left if they desire an increase of cast, or by bringing it in toward the side if they desire a decrease. But those who follow the method of raising the hand in order to counteract, or compensate for, any possibility of the arrow's falling short of the mark, or of dropping the hand to avoid its going beyond, hold that aiming along the arm and locked fingers is just as good as aiming along the arrowhead and is unaffected by dropping the sight. One flaw, however, appears in the method; namely, that the arrow falls on the target obliquely from above and rests thereon as though it were dangling. This is unacceptable in tournaments.