Cross-Sectional Shape of Bow.—Excepting at the handle, the depth of the bow is never as great as the width. In Figure 3, A, we find a high-arched section. When the bow takes this shape, it is said to be stacked. A stacked bow will have a greater cast than a bow of broad, flat cross-section, as in Figure 3, C, but the tendency of the bow to break is increased. On the other hand, the flat bow, while it has greater durability, tends to be slow. A compromise cross-section, as in Figure 3, B, is therefore the practical one.
Curvature of the Drawn Bow.—The bow when properly made forms a graceful curve peculiarly its own. Figure 4, A, represents what the writer thinks is a good curve of a bow at full draw. The bow should be rigid at the handle, each limb gradually curving in a sweeping arc. to the nocks. No part of either limb should have more than its share of bending and no part should have less.
B shows a bow styled whip-ended. Too much of the middle length of the bow is stiff, leaving most of the work to the ends. This puts an extra strain on the outer limbs and so produces a greater liability to fracture. C bends too much at the handle. This causes a jar when the arrow is loosed or released and makes the bow unpleasant to shoot. D illustrates a bow in which one of the limbs bends more than it should. This can be cured by weakening the stiffer limb.
Lengths and Weights of Bows.—The length of a bow from nock to nock varies somewhat with the individual but is often stated as being about equal to his height—a little more or a little less. Six feet is, in a way, considered almost a standard length of bow for a man, and 5 ½ feet is considered about right for the average woman. The former is usually associated with a 28-inch arrow; the latter with a 25 or 26-inch arrow. The shorter arrow accompanies the shorter bow to prevent overdrawing, which may be destructive to the bow. The length of the bow, therefore, is more properly associated with one's reach rather than with his height. There is no reason why a woman who can draw a full 28-inch arrow with control should not use a 6-foot bow. The 5-foot bow will serve the young boy and girl in their early teens very well but in a very short while they will outgrow it. The 5½-foot bow, however, can be useful for a longer period of time; so it would seem wiser to encourage boys of high-school age to make and use this length of bow. Most of these boys will be ready for a 6-foot bow before they are through high school.
The weight of a bow, in the language of archery, does not refer to the amount of wood in the bow. It means the pounds pull necessary to draw the arrow to its full length. A bow which requires 45 pounds to draw its arrow to the full distance is known as a 45-pound bow. A bow used for hunting is often of 65 pounds weight or even more; but a good target bow should not exceed 50 pounds in weight.
A woman should be able to draw a bow with a weight between 25 pounds and 35 pounds, and a boy of fourteen or fifteen should be able to do about the same.
Relation of Bow Length to Bow Strength.—Since we have referred to the man's bow as being 6 feet in length and the woman's 5½ feet in length, it might be assumed that the longer a bow, the stronger it is. As a matter of fact, shortening the bow adds to its weight and cast. Should a bow be weaker than desired, an inch taken off at each end will improve its strength and speed an arrow farther for the same amount of draw. On the other hand, the same draw will now produce added strains in the fibers of the wood because this is equivalent to overdrawing the original bow. One must be fairly certain that the bow will stand the shortening before it is attempted, since a bow is perilously near to the breaking point when fully drawn. The man's bow is, of course, stronger than the woman's, but this is in spite of the added length rather than because of it and results in a bow having added strains imposed upon it. Even with the same weight of draw, the shorter bow is likely to have a better cast than the longer. This is because the limbs of the shorter bow are lighter and have less inertia, thereby causing them to recoil faster.