Different Kinds of Bows & Arrows

Updated November 21, 2016

Archery is a sport that uses bows and arrows. Having been around for centuries, archery is enjoyed as a sport and for hunting. There are many different types of bows and arrows involved in archery.


Longbows are lightweight, often handmade, bows that possess thick cores and narrow limbs. These bows are fast shooters that are typically shot without the use of sights. Longbows are less fancy than other archery bows, many of which are decorated and feature grips and mechanisms for shooting arrows. Unstrung, longbows are as tall as the user. These bows are made from yew with linen or flax bowstrings.

Recurve and Compound Bows

Recurve bows, similar to longbows, have tips that are bent forward. The ends curve away from the archer and this shape can give more power to the arrow than the longbow. Recurve bows were preferred by archers in forest environments and those on horseback. Compound bows, made in factories, are similar to recurve bows but have mechanisms to pull back the two halves above and below the handles. Modern compound bows are made of plastic, fibreglass and laminated wood.

Composite Bow

Composite bows, developed in 2800 B.C., were originally made from horn, wood and sinew. Superior in terms of distance and accuracy to the longbow, modern composite bows are formed from wood and laminated carbon or fibreglass. According to the Tuscon Archery website, the efficiency of the composite bow doubles that of the longbow, and the composite bow can shoot an arrow up to 850 yards.

Arrow Composition

The arrows are made of five different parts. The first is the arrowhead, which makes contact with the target. The arrow's body is the shaft, to which the fletching is attached, which is the feathers that stabilises the arrow during flight. Where the arrow and arrowhead are fastened together is the inserts or outserts, and the piece holding the arrow to the bowstring is the nock.

Types of Arrow Shafts

Arrows are made of a variety of materials. Early arrows were made with wooden shafts, which, while durable, are difficult to find today. Fibreglass arrow shafts, which are also difficult to find, are both precise and lightweight. Aluminium arrow shafts come in more than 48 sizes and are durable, consistent in size, weight and shape, light, precise and have interchangeable arrowheads. Carbon or graphite arrow shafts are the most precise option. Putruded carbon arrow shafts have grains running the length of the shafts while cross wrapped carbon arrow shafts are larger and tougher.

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