The arrow is one of the oldest projectiles, and arguably the most effective of the pre-gunpowder era. It has evolved over the years, and even though the arrowhead has seen some improvements, and modern materials have been applied to the arrow's shaft, the basic design has changed little over tens of thousands of years.
An arrow is the projectile shot from a bow. The bow and arrow is a weapon/tool set that predates written history and is common to virtually every civilization on Earth.
At the base of an arrow are two features that are virtually universal to arrow design: the nock and the fletching. The nock is the notch carved into the bottom of an arrow. The bowstring is fitted into the nock, making it an aid in drawing the arrow with the string. The fletching are the fins or fin-like arrangement of fins at the base that impart stability in flight.
Another part of an arrow is its shaft. In pre-modern times, this was always made of wood. Some wooden arrows were "footed," or a composite of two types of wood. A softwood is used for the main body of the shaft, and then glued to a short length of hardwood before the arrowhead. This was done because the head, being the point of impact, was also the area most likely to break. This gained the advantage of a stiff hardwood in the critical area, while retaining some flexibility along the remainder of the shaft. Footed arrows were known to both Native Americans and Europeans. Modern arrows use aluminum or carbon fibers in their shafts.
The ultimate purpose of an arrow is to hit and penetrate a target, so the final element in an arrow is the arrowhead. A number of designs have been developed over the years to achieve particular purposes. For example, a safety arrow is designed for re-enactors to safely shoot at each other, while blunt arrowheads are typically non-lethal, but still potentially harmful. Target heads are meant for target shooting, as they can penetrate without doing lot of damage to the practice target. The typical killing or maiming arrowhead is a broadhead, designed with two or more blades extending from the point. This produces a large wound or laceration, and typically the blades of the broadhead are shaped to work as barbs, making extraction without worsening the wound extremely difficult.
Arrows are not quite the same thing as quarrels or bolts, which are shot from a crossbow.
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