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Home > Books > Arab Archery > XXXVIII. On arrowheads; the different kinds, their various uses, how to fix them on the shaft; and the manner of cutting arrow-nocks
XXXVIII. On arrowheads; the different kinds, their various uses, how to fix them on the shaft; and the manner of cutting arrow-nocks

THE different kinds of arrowheads are numerous but fall under five basic shapes: those which, in cross section, are triangular, square, or round; and those which, in general shape, are elongated or caplike.

The triangular are of two sorts: long and short. The very short kind is suitable for the penetration of shields and other metal armor except iron helmets, and the like, on which an arrow would be likely to slip. The long triangular arrowheads are suitable for shooting against metal helmets and other things on which an arrow would be likely to slip. They are also good for the penetration of all varieties of wood. The appropriate shafts for these triangular arrowheads are the cylindrical in which the end of the shaft should be a little thinner than the triangulation of the arrowhead. There is a third kind of triangular arrowhead which has a triangular tip and flat edges and is good for every purpose.

Square-shaped arrowheads are also of two varieties long and short. The long kind is furnished with four extended barbs and is suitable for shooting at an enemy whose body is not shielded with any armor, as well as for hunting down beasts of prey such as lions and the like. When this weapon enters the body of the victim it cannot be withdrawn since the barbs cling to the flesh within.

The short and compact square-headed arrowhead is suitable for shooting against shields, breastplates, and coats of armor.

Round-shaped arrowheads are, likewise, of two varieties: long and short. The short are particularly suitable for the penetration of shields, while the long are good for penetrating coats of armor and breastplates as well as wood and the like.

Elongated arrowheads are of three varieties: short, long, and barbed. All have hollow, cylindrical bases into which the shafts of the arrows are inserted. The short have wide, sharp edges like Byzantine spears, and a sharp barb on either side. They are suitable for shooting down enemies without armor and beasts of prey. The long are usually about four fingers in length, with long edges and thick cylindrical bases into which the shafts of the arrows are inserted as we have already mentioned. They are suitable for hunting down strong beasts of prey, like lions, and animals which quickly flee, like deer. The very have short edges from which very sharp barbs protrude. They are suitable for shooting against enemies without armor and beasts of prey.

The simple caplike arrowheads are like spearheads, with all their variations, and have hollow bases into which the shafts are inserted, just like the spears.

The manner of fixing the arrowhead onto the shaft consists of boring a hole a trifle shorter than the tail of the arrowhead in the place where the arrowhead should be inserted, placing the tail therein, fitting the head with a guard (‘atīq), and then pressing with the palm against the guard until the tail reaches the limit of the hole. You then remove the guard and hammer with a mallet against the other end of the shaft opposite the hole until the entire tail is lodged in the hole. The guard consists of a small piece of metal, square in shape, into which a cavity is bored in the form of a particular arrowhead: triangular, square, or round, or whatever the case may be. The cavity should be quite deep but a little narrower than the tail that the latter may be held firmly without causing its point to be flattened or injured. Then the part surrounding the hole should be reinforced by whipping it with sinew.

An archer desiring a more perfect job may, after boring the hole as we have already described, split the end of the shaft carefully in three places in order to facilitate the insertion of the tail of the arrowhead, fill the hole with thick glue, insert the tail to the limit, and then strap it very hard with a strong thread made of hair until it dries up completely. Then file down and whip with sinew. It is also good to leave a little of the wood particles in the hole because they strengthen the glue around the metal of the arrowhead. This is all concerning the fitting of arrowheads with solid tails.

Those with sockets are fitted in the same way as spears are fitted and are no good because they tend to break the arrow shaft. They may be used only against an enemy without armor and in hunting, where the archer does not mind having his arrows break.

In shooting against hard surfaces, such as shields and the like, nothing should be used except arrows with solid tails.

The slot of the nock, which is the notch where the string rests, is of two kinds: one with long cusps and one with short. Those who advocate the long cusps maintain that the arrow rests more firmly on the string therewith, while those who prefer the short cusps hold that the arrow emerges more quickly in its flight from the string. The best nock, however, is that which is neither too large nor too small, neither too wide nor too narrow.

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