Longbows, Crossbows, & Beyond

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I’ve done shields and swords, so now it’s time for projectile weapons.  You’d be surprised how many different types of bows are out there.  Even the picture above doesn’t cover it all since it’s missing crossbows and javelins.  Anyway, let’s get to the fun:

  1. Javelins–  Lightweight spears that a person throws.  Not the most advanced range weapon, but it can get the job done.  They don’t even need metal tips because you can whittle a point on a stick and get a little distance.
  2. Sling– Another simple weapon that I’m can be a simple leather sling or the more modern slingshot.  The bullets can be stones or metal slugs that a specially made for the weapon.
  3. Longbow– This is the most commonly used bow in fiction.  It is about as tall as the archer and made from a single piece of wood, which is why they can also be called a Simple or Self Bow.  This design has been found all over the world and has even been found with bodies that date back to 3,300 B.C. The Longbow can be seen as the basis for many of the others on the list.
  4. Recurve– This is named for the limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. This allows the bow to store more energy and deliver it more efficiently.  You have a shorter weapon because of the increase in energy.  The Recurve has become the more commonly used bow these days for competitions. A version of this, which is used in the Olympics, is the Takedown Recurve.  It can be taken apart and put back together.  This is actually the main bow used The Ranger’s Apprentice series.
  5. Flatbow– This bow has wide limbs and, unlike Longbows, narrows as it gets toward the solid handle.  The design difference helps to put less stress on the material, so there’s more variety on what can be used.  It is more difficult to make, which is the biggest disadvantage.
  6. Composite– This bow is made from horn, wood, and sinew put together instead of a single piece like Longbows.  Using a wooden core, the horn is on the inside to compress and the sinew is on the outside to stretch.  This stores more energy and allows for a stronger shot.  Composites aren’t used as often in fantasy because they are very complicated to make and require more materials.  Most times you find a Composite would be with a noble or somebody who could afford it.
  7. Compound– You don’t really see these in fantasy because they first showed up in the 1960’s.  These are bows that work of a complicated leverage system of pulleys and cams.  Composites used to be called Compounds, but that’s no longer the case.  Now, you can put one of these in if you’ve established the basics that would have lead to the invention.  Have to love the gnomes.
  8. Crossbow– The invention that comes between bows and guns.  This is a horizontal bow that launches a bolt with the pull of a trigger.  It’s force is stronger than a longbow because of the mechanical addition.  The loading mechanism differs with there being pull levers, push levers, and rack & pinion.  Larger ones have a stirrup that you step on to help with loading, which is something that gets forgotten or a smaller crossbow is used.  Now there are compound and recurve versions as well as a repeating crossbow from China that has a top-mounted magazine.
  9. Mongol Bow– I just stumbled onto this, so it should be higher up.  This is an example of a short bow.  These simple piece weapons are easier to use on horseback because of the smaller size.  A larger weapon would be ungainly and make it difficult to switch to an enemy on your other side.
  10. Various Throwing Weapons– I’m lumping chakra, shuriken, kunai, bolas, boomerangs, darts, and other small, hand thrown weapons together.  These can range from simple designs to complicated.  Yet, you can easily make your own for a fictional world because the necessities are that they fit in the hand and can be thrown for a decent distance to cause damage.  Not always lethal, but you can add poison to the mix if need be.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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38 Responses to Longbows, Crossbows, & Beyond

  1. L. Marie says:

    Another great post! So informative!
    I love a crossbow, so I have a character who uses one, and other characters who use throwing knives. Still another uses the sling.


  2. ionia martin says:

    I like the recurve!


  3. J.C. Wolfe says:

    Awesome! I’m working on a novel with an archer character, so this is very helpful. Thanks! 🙂


  4. Nice job, Charles. i used to love to shoot my bow. I had a recurve made out of lemonwood. I went to tournaments and did quite well. I learned a hard lesson about stringing a bow in below zero weather. Yup, snapped. Could not afford another.


  5. I love slings. My first experience was in grammar school when a friend made one for snowballs. I keep one in my truck at all times.


  6. Nice! Bookmarking. Also, nice tidbit with Craig on the staff sling.


  7. Pingback: A Brief Guide To A Fantasy Arsenal | Nicholas C. Rossis

  8. Brilliant article, Charles. We have been learning a lot about swords on our England tour.


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