Part 2 of 2
All Archers, good, bad, and indifferent, are peculiarly subject (more or less) to one failing, namely, that of completing the draw, after the aim is taken, in a somewhat different line to that occupied by the arrow; instead of making it, as they should do, an exact continuation of that line; dropping the right hand, or letting it incline to the right, or both—the effect being to cast the arrow out of the direction it had indicated, and by means of which the aim had been calculated. Here, again, nothing but the most constant and untiring practice will serve the Archer; but his attention is most particularly directed to this most common failing, as it is one of which he will very often be entirely unconscious, though the cause of his continually missing his mark. The very best of Archers need to bear constantly in mind the necessary avoidance of this fault, for however skilful he may be, however experienced and practised a shot, he may be quite sure that it is one into which he will be constantly in danger of falling.
Now let it be remembered that the right hand must always be drawn to the same spot for all kinds of target shooting, bo the distance what it may, and the arrow be pulled the same length. Some Archers have a very bad habit of varying the length of their draw at different distances, whilst others endeavour to accomplish the desired elevation by raising or depressing the right hand. This is all decidedly wrong. It is the left arm, and the left arm alone, that should do this part of the work, this being elevated or depressed according to circumstances, the right hand being maintained invariably in the same position at the moment of the arrow's departure. This is an incontrovertible rule in Archery to obtain a true elevation, and one that admits of no variation, however many Archers of the present day may be disposed to dispute its correctness.
A further and most important point, and one that applies to avery Archer, let his method of drawing be what it may, now calls for particular attention, namely, the amount of extension to which the left arm should he subject at the final completion of the draw, that is at the moment of the loose. Concerning this, it is without hesitation affirmed, that if the left arm be stretched out quite straight—" held as straight as possible," as is generally taught by all writers upon Archery, and more especially as already mentioned by Mr. Waring—accurate shooting at once becomes unattainable, owing to the difficulty, amounting almost to an impossibility, of keeping the string, when on the recoil, from habitually striking the bracer; or, in other words, that the constant striking of the string upon the bracer is inimical to certain hitting. This, at the first view, will strike many Archers as a most startling proposition, especially if their young ideas have been taught how to shoot from Mr. Waring's "Treatise on Archery, or the Art of Shooting;" as he not only recommends the direct reverse, namely, that the left arm shall be held quite straight, but clenches the matter by inculcating, in addition, that "it (the left arm) be so turned in, that the string strikes it when loosed." Now, attention is the more particularly directed to this, as it is believed, most anti-hitting instruction of Mr. Waring, as, from the large circulation his Work has had, and the reputation, somehow or other, enjoyed by himself as one of the good shots of his day (though, on reference to his scores, I find him to have been barely, if at all, more than third-rate, even at the low standard of shooting then prevailing), many Archers have carefully guided their practice by the rules he has laid down. Had he directed the shooter to stand on his head whilst drawing, or to shut his eyes whilst aiming, it had hardly been more injurious doctrine; indeed, much less so, as the self-evident absurdity of either would have, prevented its ever being attempted. As it is, however, his arm-striking theory has kept many a promising Archer a slave in the dark regions of Muffdom, who otherwise might speedily have emerged from its precincts, and shown forth to the admiring gaze of the Archery world a full-blown Robin Hood.
Before leaving Mr. Waring's Treatise, it should be observed, that he appears to have arrived at the conclusion that the left arm should be held in such a position that the string may always strike it, not because he actually thought the arm-striking beneficial as against the reverse, but as a guide to insure the left wrist being "turned in as much as possible;" he erroneously imagining that the bow could not be held with firmness in any other way. Certainly one system secured the other. I will now, however, endeavour to demonstrate the correctness of the proposition I have laid down, namely, that the constant striking of the string upon the bracer is fatal to good shooting.
Now, let it be borne in mind, that the flight and direction of the arrow are entirely caused and governed by the string's action upon it, the power of the latter being, of course, obtained by the recoil action of the bow, and that this government of the string over the arrow lasts to the extent of its force, in comparison with the other forces put into play by the act of shooting, during the entire passage of the former (after being loosed) from the extreme point of the draw to the like point of the recoil—at least, it should do so, as the arrow does not properly part company with the string before this passage is completed. This being the case, it follows that if, during the string's progress, any obstruction occurs to alter its natural and original direction, or to give it any vibratory or irregular motion, an immediate prejudicial effect of the like nature must be communicated to the arrow's flight; or the obstruction, if it be sufficiently direct to arrest or stay the string in its course even for an instant, must cause the arrow to leave the string before the latter has reached the extreme point of recoil, and thus, the proper fling of the bow not being communicated to it, the arrow must drop short.
Now, if the string strikes the bracer previous to its extreme point of recoil, it, of necessity, becomes subject to one or other of the two evil influences mentioned; for, as the bracer follows the line of the left arm, and the line of the left, arm is altogether different from that traversed by the string from point to point, it becomes obvious that an alteration and irregularity of the string's line must take place over such portion of its passage as may exist between the spot where it strikes the bracer and the extreme point of its recoil, in addition fo any vibratory or improper motion communicated to it by the blow itself. Thus the arrow, if it do not fall a victim to the second mentioned evil, namely, that of leaving the string too soon, must perforce become subject in a greater or less degree to the irregularities and misdirection mentioned as communicated to the string, and its accuracy of flight be entirely prevented thereby. It may, even if the amount of obstruction be insufficient to free the arrow, though enough to deaden the string's progress for the remainder of its passage, be subject to all the evil influences described. If the bracer be a hard one, the arrow will most probably lose little of its proper impetus (hence Ascham's "sharper shoot"), but simply bo cast irregularly and out of its proper direction. If a soft one, it will probably be thrown short, though likely enough in its correct line. In short, it is abundantly clear, and the fact must commend itself to the reflection of every Archer, that, unless the string has a clear passage from end to end, the arrow can neither get the proper impetus from the bow, nor avoid receiving an eccentric momentum.
It is possible, however, that the string may strike the bracer, but do so only at the extreme point of its recoil, and not previous to it; or, in other words, there is just one spot where the string may strike the arm, without its becoming subject to any misdirecting or arresting influence. Now, could the Archer attain to such perfection of relative position in every respect, such precise similarity of drawing, &c., &c, as to ensure that the string, each time it was loosed should touch this spot, and this one only, he might indulge his penchant for arm-striking (if he have it) without, in all probability, any injury to the flight of his arrow or the accuracy of his shooting, though neither would be improved thereby, nor any conceivable advantage be gained by his doing so. Still he might, in such a case, revel in the indulgence of his crotchet, and be happy. Such required perfection of position, &c, &c, however is practically unattainable; and this being so, it results, that if the left arm be so straightened that the string habitually strike upon it when loosed; or if any other peculiarity of position or method of drawing bring about the same effect, some mischance, from the causes and of the nature already described, is constantly happening to the arrow, and marring the success of the shot; and this mischance will be of more or less importance, according as the distance between the part of the bracer struck, and the extreme point of the string's recoil be greater or less. Crede experto.
The Archer is, nevertheless, not to run into the opposite extreme, and deliberately bend his left arm, as in this case he will certainly, to a great extent, lose his power of resisting the force and pressure of the bow; but if the left arm be held out naturally and easily (the elbow being turned a little outwards and upwards), without a conscious effort either to straighten or to bend it, it will have just that position which will most easily enable him to withstand the force of the bow with firmness, and, at the same time, one that will allow of a free and unobstructed space for the passage of the string; especially if the left hand grasp the bow in the manner already advised in the chapter on "position."
The length of each Archer's draw must, of course, be regulated by the length of his arm, and should be such that, when the arrow is drawn to the loosing point, its nock should be in a perpendicular line with the right eye, the level of the arrow being a shade lower than that of the chin. (Vide Frontispiece.) A direction of pull higher than this is not recommended, as in this case, at the longer distances (at 100 yards, for instance), unless the how shot with be a very strong one, or the arrows very light (which they should not be for target shooting), the proper sight of the mark is lost by the excessive but required elevation of the bow-hand and arm. For the reasons hereafter to be given, when treating of the "aim," the pull to the car is decidedly rejected. The Archer need be under no apprehension that, in the way recommended, he will be unable to pull a sufficient length of arrow; if a man of six feet, he will with case be able to manage twenty-eight inches—one inch more than the famous cloth-yard shafts of our forefathers. (The arrow in the frontispiece is a twenty-nine inch one, pulled twenty-eight inches. As this plate is from a photograph, all the particulars referred to in it may be relied on as correct.) Indeed, it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile the two generally received dogmas of their pull to the ear and their cloth-yard shafts; inasmuch, as the cloth-yard at that time being but twenty-seven inches, it would appear impossible to get a draw of that length only, so far back as the ear, unless, indeed, we suppose them to have been very short-armed men, or to have kept their bow-arm very much bent whilst shooting. It is more probable that "to the ear" meant in a direction towards the ear. However this may be, for modern target shooting neither one nor the other is recommended.
To draw to the breast, as many do, is a bad method—indeed, about the very worst, as it circumscribes the pull, most materially diminishes the Archer's power over the bow, and causes the line of sight to be so much above the arrow, that the difficulty of getting an aim (as regards elevation) at the short distances is very great indeed. Moreover, when shot in this way, the arrow flies as if sent from a broomstick rather than from a bow; for the shooter's position is so cramped, so huddled together as it were, that he not only loses a great part of his natural power over the bow, but also that thorough command over the string required for a good loose.
Finally, upon this point of drawing, it should be remarked, that the pull from end to end should be invariably even, quiet, and steady, without jerk or sudden movement of any kind, Some Archers find it extremely difficult to use a bow for any length of time without chrysaling it, and this arises wholly and solely from want of proper attention to this rule. In addition to this, a sudden jerk, especially towards the end, is very likely to pull the arrow and string out of their proper line, and thus spoil the success of the shot.