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Home > Books > Archery, its Theory and Practice > Chapter 11
Chapter XI
On Aiming.
Part 2 of 2

When both eyes are directed to any single object, say the gold of the target, their axes meet at it, and all other parts of the eyes, having perfect correspondence as regards that object, give the sensation of direct vision; but images at the same time are formed of other objects nearer or farther to the right or the left, as the case may be, which may be called the indirect vision; and any object embraced by this indirect vision will be seen more or less distinctly, according to its remoteness or otherwise from either of the axes in any part of their length; and it will be, or at any rate naturally should be, clearest to the indirect vision of that eye to the axis of which it most approximates.

Now, in aiming with the bow, to arrive at anything like certainty, it is necessary to obtain a view of three things, namely, the mark to be hit (which is the gold of the target), the arrow in its whole line and length, (otherwise its real course cannot be appreciated), and the point of aim.

It may, perhaps, be as well to explain here, that by the point of aim is meant the spot apparently covered by the point of the arrow. This, with the bow, is never identical with the gold, excepting at one particular distance to each individual Archer, because the arrow has no adjusting sights to make it always so, as is the case with the rifle. As an example, let us suppose an Archer shooting in a side wind, say at eighty yards, and that this distance is, to him, that particular one where, in calm weather, the point of his arrow and the gold are identical. It is clear if he now makes them so, the effect of the wind will carry his arrow to the right or the left, according to the side from which it blows. He is, therefore, obliged to aim to one side of his mark, and the point of his arrow, consequently, covers a spot other than that of the gold. And this spot, in this instance, would be to him his point of aim. Under the parallel circumstances of a long range and a side wind, the rifle even would be subject to the same rule.

Now I shall be understood when I repeat, that it is necessary for the Archer to embrace within his vision the gold, the point of the aim, and the true line in which the arrow is directed.

Direct vision, however, can only be applied to one object at a time, and as that object must never in any case be the arrow, I will first proceed to show in what way this must be held, in order to enable the Archer, by means of his indirect vision, clearly to appreciate the true line in which it points at the time of aiming, leaving for after discussion the question as to whether the gold or the point of aim should be directly looked at.

Plate 6
Plate VI

Now it is at once asserted, as an incontrovertible axiom in Archery, that this true line can never be correctly appreciated by the shooter, excepting when the arrow lies in its whole length directly beneath the axis of the aiming eye. (The indirect vision of both eyes can never be used here, as, if it were, according to the law of optics, two arrows would he seen; but this is never the case with the habitual shooter, though both eyes be open, habit and the wonderful adapting power of the eye preventing such an untoward effect equally as well as if the second eye were closed—which, indeed, with many Archers is the case.)

I have said, then, that the arrow, in its whole length, must be directly beneath the axis of the aiming eye (see diagram 1, plate 6.) (which I shall here assume to be the right one, as in ninety-nine instances out of one hundred is the case,) and it must do so, because otherwise, the shooter will be deceived as to its true line; for so long as the point intersects the axis of the aiming eye, the arrow will appear to that eye to be pointing in a staight line with the object looked at, though in reality directed far away to the right or the left of it. (See diagram 2, plate 6, where the arrow C, though held in the directions C. E., appear to the shooter to be aimed at the object D.)

For instance, suppose the Archer to be shooting at that distance where his point of aim is identical with the gold. He of course brings the point of his arrow to bear upon it, the same as the rifleman would his sights; that is, the point intersects the axis of the aiming eye, but if the arrow itself be inclined, say to the right of the axis (as in pulling to the car it would be), it will fly away far to the left of the object looked at—and the converse of this is true also, for if it incline to the left of the axis, it will then fly off to the right. (See diagram 2, plate 6.)

I will produce an example within my own personal knowledge—a curious, though perfect illustration of all that has been said—and I do so, as it is possible that cases of the like nature may exist, and therefore the description of (his one and of its solution may be useful.

An Archer had shot for many years, but always found that if ever his arrow pointed (to him) in a straight line with the gold, it invariably flew off far to the left of it—five or six yards even at the short distances—(vide diagram 4, plate 6., where the arrow C, though pointing in the direction B. E., appeared to the shooter to be aimed at the object D.) he was therefore obliged to make this allowance and point his arrow (as it appeared to him) that number of yards to the right (vide diagram 3, plate 6., where the arrow C, though pointing straight to the object D, appeared to the shooter to be pointing in the direction A. E). During several years ho had in vain sought a solution of this anomaly; all could tell him there was something faulty somewhere, but, as everything in his style and mode of action appeared correct, what that something was remained a mystery. Becoming acquainted with him some short time back, he applied to me to solve the riddle, but as I found that the arrow was held perfectly as it should be—directly beneath the axis of the right eye—and that the other important points of the Archer were correct also, I was for a time as much puzzled as any one else could have been. To cut a long story short, suffice it to say, that I ultimately discovered, that though the arrow was held close to, and directly beneath, the axis of the right eye, (this being open too,) this Archer actually used his left eye to aim with. If the previous observations be considered, it will now at once be seen why the discrepancy between his aim and the flight of his arrow existed; the fact being, that the arrow did not appear to the shooter to be pointing straight till the point intersected the axis of his left eye, and consequently until its course was in reality in a direction far away to the left of the mark. (See diagram 4, plate 6..) On closing the left eye, the line of flight and the aim became at once identical, because the eye, under whose axis the arrow was held, became the one with which the aim was taken.

The diagrams illustrating the foregoing observations do not profess to be drawn to scale, but are simply intended to illustrate their principle.

Now, as to whether the direct vision should be applied to the mark or the point of aim, the argument is all in favour of the latter. For the point of aim must, necessarily, be in relation to the mark, either in a perpendicular line with it or outside that line: if outside, then the direct vision must certainly be upon the point of aim, otherwise the arrow cannot be directly beneath the line of the axis of the eye, which has already been shown to be necessary; therefore, the only remaining question to be decided is, when the point of aim falls in a perpendicular line with the mark, which of the two should be directly looked at? Here again an argument can be adduced to determine the choice in favour of the former; for when the point of aim is above the mark, the latter will be concealed from the right, or aiming eye, by the necessary raising of the bow-hand (as may be proved by the experiment of shutting the left eye); therefore, the direct vision cannot be here applied to the mark, though it may be to the point of aim. There remains then but one other case, namely, when the point of aim falls in the perpendicular line below the mark; and here (though either of them may in this case be viewed with the direct vision), as no reasoning or argument can be put forward for violating the rule shown to be necessary in the other cases, and as it is easier to view the point of aim directly, and the mark indirectly, than the contrary, and as uniformity of practice is highly desirable, I strongly recommend that in all cases the direct vision be upon the point of aim, This is contrary to the usual received opinion, which is that the eye should always be intently fixed upon the mark to be hit; but I am very much inclined to think that even those Archers that imagine they do so, will find, as I have done, upon careful experiment, that the point of aim is directly looked at, and not the mark, this being only seen indirectly, except as before stated, when the aim is point-blank; and this is exactly analagous to that part of rifle-shooting where allowance must be made for a strong side wind, at a long range.

My readers must bear in mind that all these remarks, as before stated, are intended to apply only to the target distances, or any lengths within them.

As regards aiming at lengths much beyond these distances, since the mark and the point of aim are too far apart to be sufficiently seen in conjunction, I do not see that any scientific principle can here be laid down for the guidance of the Archer. Practice alone will give him a knowledge of the power of his bow, and the angle of elevation required to throw the arrow up to the mark. If the distance to be shot be a known and fixed one, for instance, two hundred yards, the calculation is more or less attainable; but the great distance renders the aim so uncertain as to prevent anything approaching to the accuracy attainable at the targets. If the mark be a varying and uncertain one, as in roving, the Archer is entirely dependent upon his judgment of distances. This sort of shooting, though very interesting, must be attended with a great amount of uncertainty; but, as in every other case, the more the practice, the greater will be the success.

No rules can be laid down for fixing where the point of aim ought to be at any distance, as this is dependent upon so great a variety of circumstances—the strength of the bow, a sharp or dull loose, heavy or light arrows, and the varying force of different winds. This is a matter entirely for the judgment of each individual Archer, and can only be decided by his own practical experience. Indeed, as different winds have such different effects upon the flight of the shaft, it is not until the Archer has arrived upon the field, and actually shot one or two arrows, that even he can be in a position to judge his point of aim for himself. Here the words of Ascham may, with propriety, be quoted:—"The best property of a good shooter is to know the nature of the winds, with him and against him, that thereby he may shoot near to his mark."

Some few Archers are in the habit of shutting one eye when aiming. Now, as it would be anything but interesting or instructive to enter into the discussion of the one and two-eyed theories—a vexata quaestio for centuries, and about which volumes might, and I believe have been written, and no one a whit the wiser in consequence—I shall confine myself to the remarks, that in Archery it is objectionable, whenever the point of aim is above the mark; as in this case, without the use of both eyes, the latter is concealed from the sight altogether by the bow-hand and arm—an instant's experiment will prove the truth of this. Another reason against it is, that though apparently seeming to concentrate the aim, it nevertheless contracts the vision, and, moreover, distorts the face, and interferes with that gracefulness which ought to be one of the attributes of Archery. The fair sex especially will, therefore, be cautious before they adopt so inelegant a system of aiming. There may perhaps be cases, however, where it is almost unavoidable—witness that one of which a detail was given some page or two back. In such instances there is apparently no help for it.

Finally, upon this point of aiming, it should be remarked that, as from the position necessarily assumed by the Archer in shooting, the right eye is the one that comes naturally nearest to the arrow; it is beneath the axis of this one that the shaft should lie. It would hardly have been considered necessary to mention so very obvious a matter, had not a few Archers contracted a habit of actually putting the arrow to the left side of their nose, and so under the left eye. Now, as this can serve no useful purpose, has a very awkward appearance, and materially increases the difficulty of keeping the string, when loosed, from striking the left arm (before demonstrated to be fatal to success), the sooner such a habit is got rid of the better. In the exceptional case of the left-handed shooter, of course the contrary of the above is to be followed.

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