MW009 Iron chasing arrows

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History

In 2010, during an excavation at the Sibudu Cave in South Africa, led by Professor Lyn Wadley from the University of the Witwatersrand, researchers discovered the earliest direct evidence of human-made arrowheads: 64,000-year-old stone points which may have been shot from a bow. These had remnants of blood and bone, confirming their use in hunting.[1]

[edit]Size

Schematic of an arrow with many parts.

Arrow sizes vary greatly across cultures, ranging from eighteen inches to five feet (45 cm to 150 cm).[2] However, most modern arrows are 75 centimetres (30 in) to 96 centimetres (38 in); most war arrows from an English ship sunk in 1545 were 76 centimetres (30 in).[3] Very short arrows have been used, shot through a guide attached either to the bow (an "overdraw") or to the archer's wrist (the Turkish "siper").[4] These may fly farther than heavier arrows, and an enemy without suitable equipment may find himself unable to return them.

Shoshone man using a shaft straightener in traditional arrow construction.

[edit]Shaft

The shaft is the primary structural element of the arrow, to which the other components are attached. Traditional arrow shafts are made from lightweight wood,bamboo or reeds, while modern shafts may be made from aluminiumcarbon fibre reinforced plastic, or composite materials. Composite shafts are typically made from an aluminium core wrapped with a carbon fibre outer.

The stiffness of the shaft is known as its spine, referring to how little the shaft bends when compressed. Hence, an arrow which bends less is said to have more spine. In order to strike consistently, a group of arrows must be similarly spined. "Center-shot" bows, in which the arrow passes through the central vertical axis of the bow riser, may obtain consistent results from arrows with a wide range of spines. However, most traditional bows are not center-shot and the arrow has to deflect around the handle in the archer's paradox; such bows tend to give most consistent results with a narrower range of arrow spine that allows the arrow to deflect correctly around the bow. Higher draw-weight bows will generally require stiffer arrows, with more spine (less flexibility) to give the correct amount of flex when shot.

[edit]Footed arrows

Sometimes a shaft will be made of two different types of wood fastened together, resulting in what is known as a footed arrow. Known by some as the finest of wood arrows,[5] footed arrows were used both by early Europeans and Native Americans. Footed arrows will typically consist of a short length of hardwood near the head of the arrow, with the remainder of the shaft consisting of softwood. By reinforcing the area most likely to break, the arrow is more likely to survive impact, while maintaining overall flexibility and lighter weight.

[edit]Arrowhead

Obsidian broadhead
Ancient Greek bronze arrowhead, 4th century BC, from OlynthusChalcidice
Native American arrowheads
20th century field points
Modern replicas of various medieval European arrowheads

The arrowhead or projectile point is the primary functional part of the arrow, and plays the largest role in determining its purpose. Some arrows may simply use a sharpened tip of the solid shaft, but it is far more common for separate arrowheads to be made, usually from metal, horn, or some other hard material. Arrowheads are usually separated by function:

  • Bodkin points are short, rigid points with a small cross-section. They were made of unhardened iron and may have been used for better or longer flight, or for cheaper production. It has been mistakenly suggested that the bodkin came into its own as a means of penetrating armour, but research[6] has found no hardened bodkin points, so it is likely that it was first designed either to extend range or as a cheaper and simpler alternative to the broadhead. In a modern test, a direct hit from a hard steel bodkin point penetrated Damascus chain armour.[7] However, archery was not effective against plate armour, which became available to knights of fairly modest means by the late 14th century.[8]
  • Blunts are unsharpened arrowheads occasionally used for types of target shooting, for shooting at stumps or other targets of opportunity, or hunting small game when the goal is to stun the target without penetration. Blunts are commonly made of metal or hard rubber. They may stun, and occasionally, the arrow shaft may penetrate the head and the target; safety is still important with blunt arrows.
  • Judo points have spring wires extending sideways from the tip. These catch on grass and debris to prevent the arrow from being lost in the vegetation. Used for practice and for small game.
  • Broadheads were used for war and are still used for hunting. Medieval broadheads could be made from steel,[6] sometimes with hardened edges. They usually have two to four sharp blades that cause massive bleeding in the victim. Their function is to deliver a wide cutting edge so as to kill as quickly as possible by cleanly cutting major blood vessels, and cause further trauma on removal. They are expensive, damage most targets, and are usually not used for practice.

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MW009 Iron chasing arrows

MW009 Iron chasing arrows

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