Characteristics and different uses


Arrows used in longbow shooting have to be made out of wood and have natural feathers. Woods are various, but currently the most common is pine. Port Orford cedar is a traditional favourite; it is lighter and holds its straightness better than pine. Good shafts in this material are however more difficult to get hold of. Other woods are used such as; ash, birch, poplar, hazel, beach, and oak. Ash and oak are particularly suited for making war/livery/military arrows, which have to weigh between 1000 and 1500 grain.

The points are usually made of brass, iron or horn. For the nocks plastic is allowed, but the more traditionally-minded use inserts made of horn or hardwood. The feathers or fletching can be either glued onto the arrow-shaft (the most usual method), or they can be bound with thread as well as glued, as they would have been in the Middle-Ages.

arrows3   arrows3

The photographs show arrows that have inset horn nocks and fletching that are glued and bound.

arrows3   arrows3

The photographs above show the different shapes of fletchings that can be used. Parabolic feathers (yellow and blue) are the most common and have the best flight characteristics. Their length varies from 1 and 1/4 inch to 5 inches (3.2 to 12.7cm). The white and grey-barred fletchings are known as shield fletchings and have a slightly more "authentic look", but wind resistance is a little greater than for parabolic. Shield fletchings are usually between 4 and 6 inches long (10.2 to 15.2cm). The white and red fletchings are closest to "the real thing". These fletchings are longer (up to 7 1/4 inches, or 18.4 cm) and their wind resistance is greater than the shield fletchings.


Points and knocks



The close-up shows (right picture) the lightness and thinness of the flight points. To the left 20 grain 1/4 inch brass; to the right a horn point, inserted and glued, weighing only 10 grains.

The photograph to the left shows the difference between the feathers of a flight arrow and an ordinary arrow. The ordinary arrow is used for target shooting. Its fletchings are 4 inches long and 1/2 an inch high (10.2 x 1.3 cm).

The arrow will stabilize fairly quickly in flight in as little as 25 yards (23 m) from leaving the bow. The arrow to the right is a flight arrow. Its fletchings are only 1 and 7/8 inch long and 1/4 inch high (4.8 x 0.6 cm).

The arrow will take a least 50 yards to stabilize (46 m) after it has left the bow and is therefore not good (even quite dangerous) for target shooting. These are arrows that built for out and out distance shooting.

Both arrows have "full knock" inserts made out of horn.

The photograph on the right shows some very short arrows; they are in fact crossbow bolts. Crossbow bolt have a very flat shooting trajectory and are very fast. We have included the photograph to show they have been fletched with only two feathers. Two feathers do not give sufficient directional stability and such arrows can "plane" into unpredictable turns.