Traditional Archery Bows – Asian Composite Bows

By Moritz

Aug 22
composite bow archer

Composite bow archer. Used under creative commons from: APoincot

After we have discussed the English longbow and the Japanese yumi, it is time now to talk about the last type of the traditional archery bows in my series:

The Asian Composite Bows:

What Is A Composite Bow?

Composite bows are bows that are made of different materials.
They are not a “self bow”, which is made of a single piece of wood.

The materials traditionally used for composite bows are horn, wood and sinew.

This bow type is mostly known to be an asian bow, but it was and is used in Europe and even Africa as well.

Composite bows are strongly curved and look similar like a recurve bow.
They are also much shorter than longbows, because the curve gives them extra power.
This makes it possible to use them from horseback as well.

composite bow

A composite bow. Used under creative commons from: Jtma

Construction Of A Composite Bow

Almost everybody should be able to craft a simple longbow that can shoot rather well, but to make a composite bow you’ll need either much more talent or, even better, a teacher who can show you the right way to craft the bow.

As stated above, multiple materials are needed to make the bow.
Those materials are then glued together.
In the past, this was made with “animal glue”.
Animal glue was already used by the Neanderthals and is made by boiling animal skin, bones, tendons, etc.
Modern composite bows use modern glue, of course.

Both horn and sinew is glued to the bow, which gives the bow more power, because they can store energy better than the woold could.

After the bow is glued together, it takes several months for it to try, before it can be finished with leather or bark, to give it protection from the elements.
A string is attached and the bow is ready to go.

Modern composite bows are often composed of wood and fiberglass.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of the composite bow.

Advantages:

  • shorter and lighter than a longbow
  • as strong or stronger than a longbow
  • can be used from horseback and narrow places
  • stores more energy

Disadvantages:

  • needs more materials
  • much more difficult to craft
  • takes a long time to make
  • animal glue is vulnerable to bad weather

I think most of these points are self-explanatory.horseback archer

Thanks to the recurved form and the horn and sinew, the bow can store more energy while being shorter.
That’s the reason why it doesn’t have to be as long as a longbow to get the same or even more power.

The shorter and lighter bow makes it easy to handle it on a horse or in a forest, where the longbow would hinder the movements of the archer.

On the other hand it takes much more skill and knowledge to make a composite bows.
You need all the materials and need to know how to make animal glue (before the invention of modern glue).

It also took a few months (drying included) to finish a composite bows.
Self bows (made of one piece of wood) could be crafted within a week, if they worked out the bow while it was wet and let it dry afterwards.

A self bow can withstand rain very well, if the bow gets a regular finish and waxing.
There is also bow string wax to prolong the life of your string.

A composite bow is much more vulnerable to rain, as the animal glue can not withstand it very well.
Archers had to take special care of their bows and keep it in cases as long as possible when exposed to bad weather.

Modern composite bows don’t suffer from these problems, so they are easier to maintain than their traditional variant.

Shooting A Composite Bow

Shooting a composite bow is exactly the same as shooting a recurve bow or longbow.
You can follow along with my archery training to learn all about the important archery steps you need to know.

The main difference is, like already mentioned, that it is possible to use this bow from horseback which gives it more possible uses than the longbow.

See it in action:

Get Your Hands On A Composite Bow

I haven’t owned a composite bow, but I think they are very beautiful.

I love their natural look and form.

There are just too many bows I would like to try.
When you have read my article about the yumi bow, you will have noticed that I am fascinated by them, too.
This is quite a dilemma for me, as I just don’t have enought time at the moment to try a yumi or composite bow at the moment.

What are your thoughts about the composite bow?

Which of the traditional archery bows I introduced to you is your favorite one?

Let me know in the comments below.
I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Yours,

Moritz


About the Author

Hi, as a huge archery enthusiast I love sharing my knowledge about archery. Enjoy your stay and don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question.

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(4) comments

Graham November 25, 2015

This is a very cool site. I’ve considered taking up archery myself for a while. This site offers great info about using the traditional bow and arrow. They didn’t really get enough credit until Hawkeye from the avengers began popularizing them. Now, that’s changing and I am glad that I found your site to learn more about archery.
Graham

Reply
    Moritz November 26, 2015

    Hi Graham.

    I do love traditional bows, especially longbows.
    Let me know when you need any help when starting with archery.

    Check out my archery training.
    If you want to shoot traditionally, I would recommend getting a longbow like the Montana Longbow.
    If you prefer a recurve bow, you can try a Martin Archery Recurve Bow. Perfect for beginners.
    If you like the style of a compound bow, the PSE Stinger Compound Bow is a great choice.

    All the best.

    Moritz

    Reply
Molly February 13, 2016

I have never shot an arrow but I have always admired the skill and accuracy of the very best archers, and I am sure that the equipment that they use plays a very big part in their success. I didn’t know the difference between a traditional bow or a composite one, but this explains it very well, and I will look more closely at them next time I watch some archers display their talents in public. Thanks for the information!

Reply
    Moritz February 14, 2016

    Hi Molly,

    I am happy you liked my article about asian composite bows.
    If you want to know even more about bows, check out the different bow types.
    The bows I talk about there are the most commonly used ones.

    Cheers

    Moritz

    Reply
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