How Does a Bow and Arrow Work?


Deadly Weapon

  • Bows and arrows can account for over hundreds of thousands of deaths in history, dating back to the B.C. days. The Egyptians used them in armies in the war against the Persians. The Chinese army equipped their soldiers with them around 500 B.C. The Native Americans utilized bows and arrows during the French and Indian war in the early 1800s.

Bow and Arrow Basics

  • The basic bow and arrow set up consists of a bowed piece of flexible wood, a taut string or rope tied on each end of the bow, and a lighter piece of wood with a sharp tip to function as the arrow. An archer, who uses a bow and arrow, would put a notch big enough to hold the rope at the end of the arrow with the sharp end facing forward. The wood for the bow would have to be fairly flexible, yet strong. The archer would need it to be strong enough to withstand an average force of 80 pounds pulling back on it without breaking. Arrows are generally designed to have 60% of the weight in the front for additional velocity, with the back being lighter and fixed with fins to help keep it straight in flight.

Shooting a Bow and Arrow

  • While holding the bow in one hand, the archer would grab the notched arrow on the string with the other hand. He would hold the bow straight in front of him and pull the notched arrow back and next to his ear, keeping the arrow steady. When the archer was ready, he would release the arrow and watch it travel up to 225 miles per hour, depending on the style of bow.

Variations of the Bow and Arrow

  • The modern bow and arrow set up can be made out of many different materials. Most new bows are constructed from carbon fiber with pulleys at either end to make it easier on the archer. Recurve bows have additional curves that face out on the ends where the string is attached, adding more energy in a smaller space.
    Cross bows have less accuracy range than traditional bows, but there is virtually no amount of strength required to fire them since they are largely mechanical. Cross bows are held with one hand and aren't much longer than a person's forearm. The arrow is set inside a special shaft that resembles a rifle handle. The bow part is horizontal, hence the "cross" name. When the trigger is pulled, the arrow is fired.

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  • Photo Credit Lisa Olonynko
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