A longbow is an asymmetrical bow for use at a greater distance than most other bows and crossbows. It consists of a pair of flexible limbs, usually wood, joined by a riser. The string used to shoot the longbow usually runs parallel to the archer’s arm at about waist height when shooting. It sends arrows flying from the bow in a horizontal plane (not up or down) so that it takes more energy to move them vertically. The string also runs parallel to the archer’s body, so it takes less energy to draw and aim the bow than an arrow. This is part of why longbows are often used with a short bow quiver.
Longbows are often compared to recurve bows because both allow the archer to draw and release arrows from a distance with much less effort than shorter bows without sacrificing accuracy. Therefore, they are a popular choice for hunters, as they can place their arrows in the game’s vital organs at considerable range. Arrows fired from longbows are usually fitted with heavy arrowheads such as broadheads for penetration and barbed points for added killing power.
Being a highly regarded weapon, longbows were used for hunting game. This is where archers developed their skills to the highest level. The hunting of big game eventually made way for the use of the bow against humans.
The exact origin of longbows is unknown, but there are some theories that trace it back to ancient Chinese or Japanese bows. One theory states that longbow bows were used in China from about 200 B.C., although there is no evidence that they were used in battle during this period.
The longbow played a significant role in medieval warfare and during the Hundred Years’ War, English and Welsh archers became feared for their effectiveness on the battlefield, where they were deployed in formations called “shield walls”. In-flight, arrows fan out in a characteristic “V” shape as defined by aerodynamics. Their mechanical advantage gives the bow a rate of over one thousand feet per second (3 km/s), and as such, they are capable of killing at distances as far as seven hundred yards (650 meters).
By the end of the 14th century, longbows used a draw weight (or draw length) of 60-70 pounds, with arrows tipped with a point weighing about 0.5 ounces (14 grams). For comparison, modern hunting bows typically use a draw weight of 30 to 35 pounds (14 to 16 kilograms), using arrows tipped at 0.22–0.25 ounces (6–8 grams). Arrows are normally split into groups for different ranges and shot out of longbows in batches aimed all at once.
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