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Part 1 of 2

During the past several years there have appeared many articles in the archery journals and in others, concerning scientific investigations of the bow and arrow, both theoretical and experimental. Many archers may have felt that perhaps reasonable editorial judgment was used in publishing such material, but what of it? A good hunting story would have been much more interesting. What possible benefit can there be to the archer in an article full of mathematics and technical expressions? Some of our oldtimers in the game are more candid and openly express the thought that the English longbow, noble heritage from bygone centuries, is good enough for anybody, and incapable of improvement. To question the correctness of its design is close to, if not quite, sacrilege. Any departure from the dimensions and shape of limb of the traditional longbow is inconceivable. It reminds one of the dear old lady who couldn't tolerate the modern versions of the Bible because they are so different from the way Saint James wrote it!

Another idea not infrequently expressed is that nothing of practical value can come out of the kind of work done with paper, pencil, algebra, geometry and calculus, because it is "theoretical". The word "theoretical" has through usage acquired a connotation of "impractical", and "out of touch with reality", "visionary". Fortunately such implication is absent in the great majority of the scientific investigations in archery which have been carried on, and results of which have been published. Also, fortunately, the investigators have in every instance been archers themselves, with a sufficiently practical turn of mind and sufficiently discriminating attitude to temper and test theory with practice. The result has been a decided advance in knowledge of the fundamentals of the bow, the arrow, and their performance. This advance has, for example, placed bow design on an engineering basis, so that one can, with assurance, establish all specifications for a bow, and design it to meet these specifications, with great improvement in both cast and action.

The purpose of this series of articles is first, to summarize, with all possible simplicity, the scientific and technical papers that have appeared during the past four years, so that the interested reader may know what has been accomplished in the painstaking analyses and experiments of those fortunate scientists and engineers whose avocation is archery. They have devoted untold hours and much outlay to private investigations in this field. They have done the work in their so-called spare time, after having spent most of their waking hours in pursuit of the necessities and comforts of life for their families. They have applied their ability and skill far into numerous nights and Sundays and holidays to discovering the secrets held by the bow and the arrow. Their purpose? To learn all that may be important about the fundamentals of the performance and use of these implements, so that improvements might perchance be made in their design, and all archers might benefit thereby. Their motive? Tremendous interest in and deep love of the bow and arrow. Their reward? The satisfaction of seeing their work bear fruit in improved tackle, and better shooting, and greater enjoyment of the sport by all; and, perhaps, increasing interest, and a rapidly growing number of those who would shoot in the bow.

A second purpose of this article is to see what ideas with practical applications may be developed from the summary, and to determine how they may be applied. The value of any idea is, after all, the extent to which it contributes to the practical side of archery. Will it contribute to greater certainty in the securing of hits? That is the ultimate desideratum, the final test. All work can be tested from this point of view, and if it proves itself capable of making such contributions, it is valuable and worthwhile. It has value from another point of view also. To one who thinks of the bow more deeply than to regard it as nothing more than an implement for propelling arrows, the fascination of securing detailed knowledge about these matters is indescribable. It endows bow and arrow with subjective beauty which all the more endear them, and their use, and the materials of which they are made, to him.

In the comprehensive review which follows, certain simple technical expressions will have to be used. To simplify matters for the reader, and to insure clarity of meaning in the discussion, it will be well first to consider a few basic concepts.

A force is a push or pull, which is perceived through muscular action or reaction, and measured by a gravity balance or a spring scale. When the former is used, it balances the force being measured against the pull or force of gravity on standard or known masses of iron or brass, called weights. With the spring scale, sometimes called a dynamometer, or force meter, the force, which may be of muscular origin, stretches the spring an amount which can be read on an indicating scale. The scale is graduated according to the pull of gravity on standard weights. A force can make itself known in several ways. It can change the velocity of a material body. For example, the force of the bowstring on the arrow changes the velocity of the latter from zero to some 150 feet-per-second. Air friction exerts a force on the arrow in the opposite direc-tion, thus slowing it down by some 10 or 15 feet-per-second during each second of flight. Force can produce distortion or deformation in an elastic object, thereby enabling the latter, in turn, to exert an equal and opposite force. The muscular force on the bow limbs during the draw is an excellent example. Force can also produce steady motion of an object against frictional resistance, as in pulling or pushing a box across a floor.

Mass is the amount of substance in a body; it is not weight, but is measured by weighing, i. e., by finding the amount of force with which gravity pulls on the object whose mass is being found. Weight is always dependent on gravity. It is a measure of the amount of substance or material in the arrow.