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