Re: What is a period bow
- I have been mulling aspects of this discussion for quite some time, since when it started as a "period archery" topic. So many things I want to say, but didn't feel I have been involved long enough to chime in. Plus, I really wanted to only use this forum for learning things, and not expressing how I think things OUGHT to be. I had decided that I would take the path of keeping my mouth shut and try to "lead by example" as my kit develops over time.
However... (and I know this will probably go over like a lead zeppelin) I must give my two cents on "What is a period bow."
For me (and probably only me), discussion of what bows and crossbows are MADE OF falls under the category of "making SCA archery look more period." And that's an important topic that I have many thoughts on - But if you were to ask me "What is a period bow?" I would say this:
NO ARROW SHELF.
A hand carved yew bow, with a pistol grip and and arrow shelf would be, in my mind, a very non-period bow. (Someone surely has evidence for some bows with arrow shelves in the medieval period, no doubt, and I will sound un-informed on the subject - but hopefully most of you will see where I'm going with this)
A green fiberglass summer camp bow, that has had the rubber grip removed, and replaced with a bit of jute cord, or leather, and is now only operable as an "off-the-knuckle" shooter is (again, in MY mind) a period bow.
What makes a period, or primitive, or "ancient-style" bow is how it operates, not its materials. I know many of you will disagree.
Some of you who own and shoot both modern style longbows & recurves (pistol grips and arrow shelves), AND off-the-knuckle shooters (whether they be ELBs, or Native American or Early British Isle flatbows, Horsebows, or "modified summer camp bows") will know what I mean.
Not even getting into the fact that almost all modern recurves and longbows are engineered so that the arrow is (in varying degrees) close to being a "center shot" affair. That's just... so... far from what early archers were dealing with.
I'm not much of an archer. I am not positioned to explain with authority the why's and wherefores of the differences between the arrow shelf and the no-arrow shelf experiences. But I DO know that it is a LOT easier to get good groupings with what MODERN TECHNOLOGY like the off-set riser and the arrow shelf provide. Off-the-knuckle shooting IS harder. But that's not the point. The point is that THAT is the medieval archery experience. Not what the bow is made of, or, really , what it looks like aesthetically.
An actual medieval archer would instantly relate to the experience of shooting a stripped down fiberglass summer camp bow, with no arrow shelf. He may marvel at the color, or wonder "what manner of wood is THIS?" But his archery techniques and his human/equipment interface experience would not be challenged in any way.
Hand same time-traveling archer the afore-mentioned hand carved yew bow with the grip, offset riser, and shelf, and he would be, like, "Whoah..."
The SCA isn't a living history group, as a few of you have rightly mentioned. It is basically a LARP - but it is a MEDIEVAL LARP. I risk upsetting people here, but I really believe that no one except newbies should be shooting off of arrow rests. I understand the arguments against that viewpoint. In fact I agree, often as not, with those arguments... and yet... I keep coming back to this notion that SCA Archery will never evolve into something... well... let's just say it: COOL... until it starts looking medieval. And by that I mean less of "everyone has to have period bows," and more of "doing archery the way ancient & medieval folks woullda done it."
It's a medieval club (ish... kinda sorta). Period and peri-oid and primitive-ish archery tackle is WIDELY AVAILABLE now, and rarely more expensive than the modern offset recurves that are so prevalent.
I DO understand why things are the way they are in SCA archery. I am NOT attacking anyone for not having period-ish gear. But boy oh boy it's time for a concerted effort to "raise up our game," so to speak.
I think, unlike in recent decades, much of the mundane populace (those who ride up on mountain bikes, or wander over from the campsite nearby, and ask, "hey, is this some kind of rennaisance thing?") can easily spot the difference between an "old fashioned robin hood type bow" and a modern recurve - thanks to the entertainment industry. It makes me uncomfortable knowing (and here I am totally 'projecting,' I know) that many of the random spectators who happen upon what we do are sometimes thinking "Hmmm... they're wearing costumes, but they're shooting bows just like the one in my neighbor's garage..."
I am touching on a bunch of things, and feel myself coiling to begin a rant on period-izing the SCA archery scene (oh wait, I already did) - but that is a post for another time, and many have already expressed much on that subject very well. So let me get back to what I was trying to say:
What makes a bow "period" is the manner in which it is operated, not its speed or its materials. Inexpensive, modified for off-the-knuckle, fiberglass summer camp bows (maybe painted brown/beige?) would be far more desirable, for me, to see at our events than wood grained modern recurves and longbows. One's a medieval archery experience. One is not.
The people I've met so far in SCA archery, whether they shoot period or not, have ALL been very cool people. Archery seems to gather good folks. But what goes on (again, based on my own weird criteria of what makes archery or its equipment period) at our events is really no different than what goes on at "Traditional League Night" at the local indoor range.
If I were to re-make SCA archery "my way" (and I realize no one is asking me!), I'd say: Shoot whatever you like, so long as it's not a compound bow, but only off-the-knuckle scores count (old records would be 'grandfathered' in). This would allow every one to play and have fun, but provide the needed leverage to get people moving toward period gear. Oh, and I'd say something like: No crossbow designs (mechanisms and sighting methods, NOT prod material) past, say, 1300 (date could be argued by the cognoscenti). Just to have some kind of cut off to keep everyone roughly on the same page.
Please forgive the length of this post, and I hope I've not given offense,
Aelric, West K.