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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > The Bow - Part 8
The Bow
Part 8 of 8

Oliver Marcy gives the following on arrow penetration:

"I have in my possession the sixth dorsal vertebra of a buffalo, the spine of which contains an iron arrow point. The arrow struck the spine about 2 inches above the center of the spinal canal, and penetrated the bone 0.82 of an inch. The bone at the point struck is 0.55 of an inch thick, and the point of the arrow protrudes beyond the bone 0.27 of an inch. The arrow was shot from the right side of the animal and the plane of the point was horizontal. The animal was mature and the bones well ossified. Though the vertebra has been much weathered, the epiphyses adhere closely. The animal was not as large as some individuals. The whole vertical length of the vertebra is 13 inches.

"The arrow must have penetrated several inches of flesh before striking the bone."[18]

He does not take into consideration also the thick hide and matted woolly hair, both especially thick at the point struck.

As it is customary in rating the stature of a people to disregard the giants and the dwarfs, so in rating the North American projectile we may as well omit the marvellous and exceptional successes in company with the egregious shortcomings in order to know the importance of the average. When these allowances are made, there is enough to show that for accurate and rapid and effectual shooting the bow and arrow in the hands of a skilled warrior or hunter were a creditable weapon. The distance at which an Indian bow will do execution has not been studied among the tribes. As previously said, the design of the hunter or the warrior was to get close up. In all the sham battles which the writer has witnessed from his boyhood, the warriors almost touched each other. The dexterity with which they parried and fenced with the arm shield and the bow and arrow was marvellous. The absence of noise, the invention of game drives, the universality of decoys, the hundreds of disguises, the efficient skulking, the imitations of the cries of animals, all point to the intention of getting within a distance of 20 yards or less. The South American weapon is half as long again and may do better farther off.

At the request of the author the president of the Washington Archery Club, Mr. Maxon, made experiments in the penetrating power of Indian arrows and the propulsive power of Indian bows. The result was that the self or plain bows are not equal to the best archery bows. But the sinew-backed bows of the Pacific coast were capable of as great execution as man is capable of making.[19]

"Constant practice," says Capt. John G. Bourke, "had made the Apaches dextrous in the use of the bow, arrow, and lance; their aim was excellent, and the range attained was perhaps as much as 150 yards. I am able from my own recollection to supply a number of illustrations of the great force with which the arrow was discharged, although a person observing for the first time an arrow coming toward him would be surprised at its apparent lethargy.

"In the summer of 1871 I was riding by the side of Gen. Crook on the summit of the elevated plateau known as the Mohollon Mountains, in Arizona. We were a short distance ahead of a large column of cavalry and our immediate party was quite small. We ran into an Apache ambuscade. A number of arrows were discharged, two of them piercing pine trees to a depth of at least 6 inches. On another occasion a pine door three-eighths of an inch thick was penetrated. In July, 1870, a friend of mine, M. T. Kennedy, was mortally wounded by an Apache arrow which pierced his chest. The autopsy disclosed the fact that the arrow had no head."

"Mackenzie speaks of having driven a headless arrow 1 inch into a pine log on the Columbia River in 1793. (See Voyages, London, 1800, p. 269.)

"Maltebrun speaks of the force with which the Apaches shot their arrows. 'At a distance of 300 paces they can pierce a man.' (Univ. Geog., art. 'Mexico,' Eng. translation, Philadelphia, 1832, vol. III, lib. or cap. 85th, p. 293.) I doubt this very much, as in my own experience I have limited their range to 150 yards.

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