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Bow and Arrow : A Beginners Guide

Traditional Bow and Arrow Featured Image

If you’re interested in archery, then you are going to need to know a little more about the bow and arrow. This is a weapon that’s designed for used at a range. To use it, you pull back the string on the bow to launch the arrows at your targets.

It’s use is for sports or hunting, but to help you choose the right bow for your needs, we have created this guide.

The Design of the Bow and Arrow

The design of any bow is what makes it great for hunting, sports, or other activities. So, what is a bow, and how does it get its shape?

Bows are made from a type of flexible wood and a string. This string is attached to both ends of the bow and help pull it together so that it bends, creating force. This will give the bowstring a tightness allowing it to fling the arrow in the direction of your aim.

Traditionally the arrow is also made from wood, but the tip is typically metal so that it can pierce the animal or the target you’re trying to hit.

There is a notch on the back of the arrow that’s designed to line up with the bow and propel it into the air. Loading an arrow into the bow is called nocking it. Sometimes finding the nocking point on your bow can be tricky. If you are renting a bow from a range, it’s likely already marked for you so that you can quickly line up your shot.

Any time that you are not using your bow and arrows, you will want to have your arrows stored away in your quiver. If you are not going to use the bow for a while, you may want to unstring it on one end to release the tension of the string.

This will help it maintain its strength when you are ready to take another shot. It also reduces the tension in the bow so that it straightens out. This means it will take up less space when you store it away.

A Brief History

Did you know that hunting with a bow and arrow was invented over 64,000 years ago in Africa? In fact, the arrowheads that were used back then were made out of bone. From the time of the Middle Ages, many bows that you’d find in the Mediterranean, Europe, and parts of Asia were used in combat. Many would ride on horses and use a bow and arrow as a missile like projectile to hit the enemies.

Even though bow and arrows seemed like good tools to use in warfare, they were even more important to use as a weapon for hunting.

This was true for those who lived in Africa and North America at the time, but as more bows began being made, the need for them began to grow. People began liking smaller bows in more condensed areas where the trees could get in the way of the shot.

Longbows were great in other situations where the size of the bow wouldn’t interfere with hitting the target. They were being made using different materials, which gave them more flexibility. This made it easier for some to draw the string of the bow back and shoot the arrows.

Eventually, bows began to have a complex pulley system that made the process even easier for many. Over time, the arrows also changed quite a bit, but today, they are still made from a combination of wood and metal.

How is it Constructed

To begin, the best way to get a better idea of the bow and arrow and what it’s use is to take a look at some of the different parts.

Each type of bow and arrow is going to be made slightly different. In general, the main parts of it will remain the same so let’s take a look at the different parts…

Basic Parts

In general, the most basic part of a bow is going to be the curved part that you hold. This is connected using the bowstring and is typically made of wood. When the archer pulls the string of the bow back, their other hand is positioned on the belly of the bow.

This keeps the middle of the bow in position as you line up the shot. The limbs are pulled back a bit under the tension created by the bowstring.

Today, the upper limb and the lower limb can be made out of laminated wood, but some are crafted using fiberglass, metal, or even carbon fibers.

These options will allow you to get more flexibility out of the bow when you line up your shot to fire the arrow. On the bow, you will also see a small ledge that you can use to set the arrow on and aim your shot. It is not going to be a very wide piece of plastic near the hand grip, but it is adequate enough to help you hit your target.


What your arrow is made out of will change the speed and the distance that it will be able to move when it is shot. This is called the cast, and if you can find an arrow that has more momentum, it will spend less time in the air. This means that you’ll be able to hit your target at greater distances without wind interference.

Arrows are made using an arrowhead and a shaft, which is a tube crafted from wood, carbon, fiberglass, or aluminum. It’s essential that the shaft of the arrow is stiff, but it must also bend a bit when it is shot through the air. For this to happen, if the shaft is made of wood, the front of it is typically a harder wood.

One of the benefits of a carbon shaft is that it will not bend or warp easily, but it may be too light to use with some bows. Aluminum models are designed to be less money to buy, but they can easily bend or warp with use. Wooden shafts do not all have the same weight and size, so it may make shooting more difficult.

For the last decade or so, the preferred design of a light, stiff arrow has been to use an aluminum tube which is bonded with carbon.

A series of arrows stuck in a hay bale

Most archers that shoot competitively in sport will use different arrows based on whether they are going to be shooting inside or outside. Indoors, aluminum tubes with larger fletchings are commonly used. Outdoors, an aluminum carbon combination of the arrow shaft is used, and the fletchings are a bit shorter.

When looking at the arrows, another thing that you should consider is the fletching. The thickness, size, and the different types of spirals will all change your shot outcome. It is important to make sure that you choose the best option for your needs.

Standard plastic vanes are the most popular option because they’re flexible. They also don’t take on water, so they are an excellent choice for hunters, and they can take a lot of abuse.

Certain vanes are designed to improve your shot through their design. They can have better aerodynamics or a higher profile, but they’re often not worth investing in unless you use a bow and arrow frequently.

Feathers, which are the original material for fletchings, are still used today. These tend to have a higher price point, but they can also get damaged easily in the rain.


Arrows have been crafted out of quite a few different types of materials. These include:

  • Bone – Long bones make the bet arrowheads because they are less likely to break. The strongest option to consider would be the leg bone or the femur of an animal.
  • Flint – This is a hard quartz that can typically be found in limestone deposits.
  • Obsidian – This is actually volcanic glass that is created when lava flows over rocks and is cooled very quickly.
  • Wood – For an arrowhead to be strong enough, one made out of wood would need to be a very hard material like oak or bamboo.

Arrowhead Shapes

When looking at an arrowhead, you will notice that the blade back and the point can vary quite a bit. There are several options to choose as well as different combinations.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common:

  • Excurvated – This is a type of arrowhead that has a wide base and tapers at the tip.
  • Incurvate – This is a very similar option to the excurvated option, but it is designed to curve inward a little bit more.
  • Serrated – This is a type of arrowhead that has serrated edges. These can be jagged, so be careful along the edges.
  • Straight – This is an option that is not rounded in any way; in effect, it is a very linear option to consider.

Arrowhead Points

There are several different types of arrowhead points as listed below:

  • Bullet Point – These are steel options that are great for hunting.
  • Blunt Point – Made from rubber or steel, these flat arrowheads can be great for small game hunting.
  • Bodkin Point – This is a short arrowhead that has a cross-section.
  • Broadhead Point – This is an arrowhead that is designed to puncture larger animals. It is razor sharp.
  • Fish Point – This is a type of arrowhead that has barbs on the end so it can keep a fish secured until you are ready for it.
  • JUDO Point – This is a type of arrowhead has a spring arm attached to it so that it catches in the grass when it fired.


Over the years, bowstrings have been crafted from different materials such as flax, silk, hemp, and animal sinews. Today, more modern materials are used to create the string, but nylon is never used because it stretches too much. Regardless of the material that is chosen, there are going to be a few different types of bowstrings to consider. These include:

  • Simple Strings – This is a type of bowstring that is designed by twisting a few fibers into a long cord. These strings are not all that durable, so you will need to change them often.
  • Reverse-Twisted Strings – These are traditional strings that are used in Japan, Europe, and North America. The strings are twisted together in opposite directions, then twisted together again. These last a relatively long time, but they are not the most durable option either.
  • Looped Strings – This is a very durable string that is typically used with compound bows. The looping effect makes it one of the stronger options to consider, so it will last for a long time.

Different Types of Bows

Now that you know a bit more about how the bow and the arrow are made, there are several types of bows that you may want to consider. Some of the most common options include:

Recurve Bow

This is a type of bow that has a shape that makes perfect sense, especially when you consider the name. A recurve bow is a bow where the center where you hold curves towards your body, while the limbs or the tips curve the opposite way. The curve of the bow makes it easy to shoot, and it adds velocity to the arrow. This is actually the type of bow that most equestrians used, and it is used today in the Olympics. Most beginners will actually use this type of bow as well because it is easier to shoot.

Reflex Bow

A Reflex bow is a type of bow that has curved limbs that face away from you. When you remove the string, you will find that the bow ends up in a C-shape. This means that you’ll need to have the bow made out of solid material to keep the bow in its tethered position with the string attached. You will need something that is strong. The draw of this bow is massive, which means that it will have more speed than a recurve bow.

Self Bow

As the oldest type of bow that you are going to find, it is also the most straightforward option that you can have. It is made from a single piece of wood that has nocks on the end so that you can attach the bowstring to it. This type of bow is also called a simple bow. It may also have a handle built into the design of it that will add to the look of the bow.


This is one of the oldest types of bows, and it is still very popular today. In fact, most of the movies that you see that depict bows, use longbows in the scenes. Because these arrows are nearly the size of the archer, they tend to be much more difficult to aim. They take practice to use, and they tend to lack the speed of some of the other bow types that we have discussed. Typically, these bows are crafted from wood.

Flat Bow

A flat bow is an option that has wide limbs. These flat bows had rectangular cross-sections, and they were commonly used by Native American tribes. They are a very durable option that is made from a single piece of wood. In most cases, this type of bow can handle the stress of the tension from the strings quite well.

Composite Bow

This is a type of bow that is made from a number of layers of horn and wood. Wood is typically used to create the central part of the bow, while the horn is more designed to be placed on the belly. Sinew is also commonly placed on the back of the bow so that it stretches when the arrow is shot. When combined, these materials make a much stronger bow than wood alone, so it can easily shoot with more accuracy and speed.

Takedown Bow

A takedown bow is a recurve bow that can be taken apart. The two limbs can be removed from the riser to make it more compact and easy to haul. This will give you more storage options to consider, and you will be able to put it inside of a case that you can easily carry. When you dismantle the bow, you can also replace parts that need to be changed. It is also a great option to consider when you want to have the bow grow with you when you need more tension.

Compound Bow

This is a bow that is designed with a bit more ingenuity than the other bows that are on this list thus far, and it was not developed until the 1960s. It is a mechanical bow that uses pulleys and cables to fire the arrow. It is a lightweight bow that offers a considerable amount of speed. This is an excellent option for experienced archers to try as it allows you to have more tension in the string. You will be able to pull the string without a lot of strength.


This is a bow that is positioned on its side in a stock that allows you to pull back the bowstring with ease and shoot. Believed to originate in China, this was a common type of bow to see in battle during the Medieval ages. To draw the bowstring, there is a mechanism that is much easier to manage than most bows. It does require a lot of pressure to set, so it may not be the best option for a smaller person to try. In general, this is a type of bow that will give you combination experience of using a bow and a gun at the same time. There are also reverse crossbows that you can consider. These options have limbs that are more inward. On both of these types of bows, you will be able to set the string, and then pull a trigger to release it.

Wrapping it Up

You’ll find that doing archery with a bow and arrow can be quite exhilarating. It’s not just about deciding which bow is best for your needs. You’ll also need to consider the other elements of the bow and the arrow so that they all work together for you!

Matthew Russo
Hey, my name is Matt, an avid outdoorsman, prepper and action taker. If you have found this article informative please feel free to leave a comment below and share it with your friends and family, it would make my day!

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