Weapon Name: Bow and Arrow, Archery Gear
In recent news, I earned my black belt last week!
In other news, Danielle can still beat me up.
In other, other news, neither of us owns a real bow and arrows, so we substituted these lovely balloon ones for the purposes of this blog. We also substituted a plastic hanger and a paint-stirring stick, which works better than you might think.
In final other news, I know very little about archery, so this information was compiled from internet searches and a conversation with an instructor who’s done archery before.
Historically accurate archery gear. Yup
Description: A curved arc of wood (or in the modern day, fiberglass or metal) with a cord or string tied in tension between the two ends. This bow launches short sticks of wood (or fiberglass or metal) with sharp things attached to the attacking end and feathers on the other end to stabilize the trajectory. Bows come in just about every size you can imagine.
Where Can You Get One? Any archery store. With enough experience, you could probably make a rough one yourself.
Natural Genres: Fantasy, historical fiction, The Hunger Games, and The Avengers.
Unnatural Genres: Things with guns. Hawkeye and Katniss do not set the standard. If your protagonist is running around firing arrows in an energy-gun scifi battle, I am going to expect your protagonist to die almost instantly.
What’s It For? Firing at enemies from a distance, providing cover for ground troops.
Range: Long. Probably about 50 yards for accurate target-hitting from a normal handheld bow. Way longer if they’re just shooting for distance or using some kind of enormous thing you can fire once before you pass out.
How Long Can You Fight With It? Depends on the bow and the character. The stronger the bow and the further they shoot, the more tired they’ll get. If they’re not doing anything crazy, probably a few hours with breaks.
What Muscles Wear Out First: The arm used to draw the bowstring.
Can it leave enemy debilitated but alive long enough to deliver a monologue? Yes, but your protagonist is probably firing from a good distance away. They’ll need to book it to get to the target in time to hear the whole monologue.
Learning Curve: High. A character can learn to hit a stationary target in about a week, but hitting moving targets will take considerably longer. With enough training, though, archers can hit distant targets with very high accuracy.
Nifty Fact for Authenticity: If you hold the bow wrong, you will get rope burn all along your forearm when you fire an arrow. (This is the extent of my archery experience.)
Will You Hurt Yourself With It? Aside from the aforementioned rope burn, I doubt it. Unless you fired backwards somehow, but…no.
Things Your Characters Can Do With It:
1. Fire at distant targets.
2. Fire in rapid succession.
We can’t do this, but watch archer Lars Andersen do some amazing rapid firing by holding the arrows in his hand instead of a quiver.
3. Stab with an arrow.
If the arrow has an attached tip, it cannot be pulled out again after doing this. If it’s just the tip of the arrow shaft whittled down to a point, then it can be pulled out.
4. Play pantomime music.
That’s about it. A bow is designed to do one thing, and it does that thing really, really well. But it’s not exactly a versatile weapon.
Things Your Characters Cannot Do With It:
1. Use the string as a choking weapon. It will snap off, and then you don’t have a bow anymore.
2. Use the bow itself as a choking weapon. It will be way too hard to get the opponent’s head in between the bow and the bowstring.
3. Use the bow as a club. Again, these can be delicate, and you don’t want to break them or throw off their alignment.
4. Fire fancy shots during combat. It just takes too much time.
5. Fight forever. The biggest drawback (ba-dum chh!) of the bow and arrow is the limited ammo supply. Count your character’s arrows before a fight scene, and don’t go over that number.
6. Fight up close. Archery units were typically stationed behind the front lines for a good reason. Bows do not do well against swords. If at all possible, archer characters should avoid engaging in close combat.
Bows and arrows are a staple of any historical or fantasy battle scene, but should be used intelligently by characters with a lot of practice. Be cautious about using them in modern-day stories; it’s more likely to look silly than awesome. Always remember to count your arrows!
If any of you have archery experience and would care to share it, leave a comment!
This information is provided for assistance in writing fight scenes only, not for real-life application.