When you think of archery as a beginner, you often don’t think of a modern compound bow. Most people would immediately picture a huge longbow like those that have been used for hundreds of years by warriors and in battles.
There is something awe-inspiring about the traditional English longbow and this is hugely attractive for many people.
If you have decided to enter into the sport of archery in the most conventional manner possible or if you are considering changing up your typical style, then a longbow is a great idea.
In this article, we will be looking at this incredible piece of equipment in a little more detail. We will also be talking about the ideal draw weight for a longbow to get the best out of your setup and the greatest level of accuracy, precision, and consistency.
What Is A Longbow?
A longbow is a type of archery weapon that was invented in Wales in the 1100s. However, the weapon did not gain popularity with the English military until some 200 years later.
Most notably it was used in the 100 years war against the French and while there are now no surviving longbows from this time, the weapon has retained its popularity among archery enthusiasts.
The English longbow was crafted from yew and measured an astonishing 6 feet in length. This is vast in comparison to the much smaller bows we see being made in modern times.
They also harbored a significant amount of power with some models effectively piercing armor and leather.
It was this power that caused them to aid the English in winning the 100 years war and many other battles throughout the Medieval period.
For anyone who has a passion for history, the longbow is certainly one of the most notable weapons of all time.
Now, it is important to remember that there is recorded evidence of longbows being used as far back as 2000BC. However, these were extremely primal models only loosely based on the concept that was designed 3000 years later.
As we mentioned, the English longbow was actually invented by a Welsh man. Yet while those who aren’t native to the British Isles may be forgiven for thinking that it is all one of the same, Wales and England are different countries.
So, why is the weapon now referred to as being English? Who knows. Perhaps the English simply wanted to take credit for an invention from their lesser-known neighbors. More likely, the presence of the weapon in so many English military battles over history resulted in it being dubbed an English invention.
Nevertheless, the longbow is one of the longest-standing, powerful and effective types of bow in the world.
The Impressive Distance Of The Longbow
Longbows had an extremely high draw weight when they were used by the English in wars, but this is something we will go into in a little more detail later on.
In line with this massive draw weight, the longbow was able to handle much heavier projectiles than the bows we are used to firing today. Many of us try to find lightweight arrows as opposed to looking for something heavy.
When you couple this draw weight with the size of the bow, you end up with something that is capable of firing arrows over a remarkable distance.
Longbows that were used hundreds of years ago were able to fire arrows up to 360 yards. But there were some archers who could go even further than this and there were suggestions that many were able to fire their arrows up to 400 yards.
That being said, the longbows of today are not quite as impressive when it comes to distance. But they are able to shoot much further than other types of modern bow so there is still a lot to be gained from them.
Typically, a modern longbow will shoot up to around 200 yards, which when compared to a compound bow that typically manages between 30 and 60 yards, is pretty impressive.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Longbow?
Most people are initially attracted to the longbow because of its historical importance. There are many people who like to reenact history and will use a longbow as their weapon of choice. Furthermore, many modern archers like to take a more traditional approach to the sport and a longbow enables this.
But the look and feel of the bow are one thing. There must be more to these ancient weapons than just their aesthetics. You’d be right in thinking this. Let’s take a look at the advantages of using a longbow.
- Longbows do not make use of any archery accessories like sights, arrow rests, or stabilizers. As such, they are totally unobstructed and have a much more rustic feel.
- If you are just starting or don’t have the most accurate shot, a longbow can be much more forgiving than other types of bow. This applies to sloppy technique or a bad stance. You will notice that your accuracy isn’t quite so greatly affected as if you made these mistakes with say, a recurve bow.
- If you want to shoot more arrows in any given time, a longbow would be a good option. These bows are the quickest to reload, which is one of the features that made them so effective in wars and battles.
- Some bows can be terribly noisy and this is an issue for bowhunter in particular. However, the longbow is the quietest type of bow for entry-level archers.
- Most longbows have a higher draw weight than recurve or compound bows and so are great for those looking for something to match their greater strength.
What’s Important When Choosing A Longbow?
If you have decided that a longbow is for you then you will likely be very excited to get down to your local archery shop and test out a few models.
We’re right behind you, but before you go, it is important to think about a few things. You see, not all longbows are made equal. Of course, much like any other type of bow, you will need to think about the draw weight, length, build, and many other factors.
You could head to the archery shop and let the sales assistant convince you into buying the first longbow you seem interested in. But this will likely end badly. You want to be certain that you know what you are talking about and can work with the sales assistant to find the best longbow for you.
Longbow Draw Weight
One of the most important factors when choosing a longbow is to choose the right draw weight.
These are already heavy pieces of equipment that take a certain degree of strength and stamina to hold up. Add to that a draw weight that you cannot handle, and you will likely find it extremely difficult to control the bow.
The main reason that you will struggle with a draw weight that is too heavy is that it will quickly cause you to feel fatigued and can lead to muscle soreness and cramping. We all know how unpleasant that can be.
Furthermore, when people start learning archery with a too heavy bow, they can quickly be put off wanting to practice. What could have been a fantastically enjoyable experience quickly turns into something that the archer no longer wants to take part in. This is one of the main reasons that so many people don’t stick with it.
When we look back over history, it isn’t difficult to be astonished by the incredible weight of these bows. The absolute minimum draw weight of a longbow used by an English soldier would have been 80lbs but typically, they would have been around 120lbs!
If you have ever shot a compound bow, you will have noticed that the average draw weight is anywhere between 40 and 80lbs. So, you can see how strong and healthy those soldiers would have needed to have been.
But the reason that the draw weight was so great is that, during battles, the English soldiers would have needed to fire very weighty arrows. Without a decent draw weight, this simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Fortunately, in modern times, you don’t need to be a bulky warrior to be able to enjoy the longbow. There are now longbows with much smaller draw weights and these are ideal for younger people and those with less strength.
How To Find The Correct Draw Weight For A Longbow
There are many ways that you can find the right draw weight for any kind of bow and these methods can often be employed when selecting a longbow.
It is vital that you do not have a longbow that is too heavy for you, but we will look at what happens when you overbow in a little more detail later on.
To begin with, you could quite easily find your draw weight by looking at one of the many archery charts that can be found online. For reference, we will put some below. These charts enable you to choose a draw weight and length based on your size, age, and several other factors.
This is a viable way to find out the right draw length, but you should keep in mind that this is based on the average person. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and as such, you may find that you fall outside of these charts. So, always use them as a guide rather than a hard and fast rule.
|Average Draw Weight
|Younger child weighing between 40-70lbs
|10 – 15lbs
|Average child weighing between 70-100lbs
|15 – 20lbs
|Smaller women weighing between 100 – 140lbs
|30 – 40lbs
|Larger women weighing between 140 – 160lbs
|40 – 50lbs
|Smaller men weighing between 160 – 190lbs
|55 – 60lbs
|Larger men weighing more than 190lbs
|65 – 70lbs
As we have discussed, this is largely subjective since a smaller woman with excellent muscle condition may be able to handle a larger draw weight than a larger man who does not have a lot of strength.
Many longbows are made to measure and as such, you will be required to select your draw weight and other features before paying a deposit. You will then typically need to wait around three to four weeks for the bow to ready; so patience is definitely a virtue in this situation.
How Do I Know If I Have Over Bowed?
While the soldiers in the old days may have managed extremely heavy draw weights, modern archers aren’t typically geared up for this. You might try out a longbow for the first time that has a way too heavy draw weight and think it is fine.
This is normally because, when you try to draw the bow the first time, it will likely feel pretty easy. If you are in the archery shop, you could be tempted to believe that the bow is fine. However, when you then continue shooting with it, every draw may feel like pulling a truck with your little finger.
The best way to determine how the draw weight fits you is to hold the bow at full draw for at least thirty seconds. If you don’t have any problems, it is likely that the draw weight will work for you. However, if you notice that you begin to shake, ache, or otherwise struggle, you might need to go for something a little smaller.
Another great way to tell if the draw weight is too much is to look at the angle of your bow as you draw it.
If the draw weight suits you, the bow will remain straight as you draw it. However, if it is too heavy, you will likely find that you end up pointing the bow upwards as you draw.
Alongside finding the right draw weight, it is also important for archers to address the issue of draw weight. Again, this can be determined, on average, by looking at a draw length chart. This will give you information on what length longbow you need in relation to your draw length.
If you do not know your draw length, there are ways to find this out at home but you could seek help from your local archery shop if this is easier.
The process involves having your arm span measured. Once you have the measurement, you simply multiply it by two and a half; the closest higher round number is your draw weight. With that in mind, below is a simple chart to tell you your ideal longbow length.
|Below 24 inches
|24 – 27 inches
|27 – 28 inches
|66 – 68 inches
|28 – 30 inches
|68 – 70 inches
|Above 31 inches
|70 – 72 inches
Caring For Your Longbow
Another of the most important considerations when purchasing a longbow is that you will need to be prepared to take good care of your equipment.
While these might be incredibly large and heavy bows, that does not mean that they aren’t delicate and don’t need proper care. A longbow might be more delicate than any other type. If it is not looked after properly, it won’t serve you for anywhere near as long.
The good news is that your longbow isn’t going to need any serious maintenance which is not something that can be said for other types of bow. However, you will need to make sure that it is stored properly in between uses.
The main problem faced by longbow owners is that because these weapons are made from wood, they are susceptible to moisture damage.
If the longbow is stored in damp conditions, there is a significant chance that the draw weight could be reduced. Furthermore, you may notice that the wood begins to warp, and ultimately, the bow may become unusable.
However, it is also important to make sure that the bow isn’t stored in conditions that are too hot or too dry. If this happens, the natural moisture of the wood might be removed. This can be disastrous for your longbow, leaving the wood stressed and much more susceptible to damage.
Something that not many people are aware of is that when a bow is going to be out of action for a long period of time, damage can still occur. Most often, this is because the bowstring has not been removed. ]If you plan to leave your bow untouched for some time, it is a good idea to take the bowstring off as this will prevent unnecessary stress on the limbs.
A longbow is one of the most prominent types of bow ever used throughout history. These were massively powerful weapons invented in Wales in the 100s.
In modern times, the longbow is still used but the design has changed somewhat. Most notable, the huge draw weights that archers in the old days used have been lowered. That being said, you could still get a longbow with a 180lb draw weight, if you could handle it.
When choosing a longbow, it is important that you always take the time to select the correct draw weight and draw length.
This will make shooting the bow much easier and much more enjoyable.