A bow is a flexible arc which shoots aerodynamic projectiles called arrows. A string joins the two ends of the bow and when the string is drawn back, the ends of the bow are flexed. When the string is released, the potential energy of the flexed stick is transformed into the velocity of the arrow. Archery is the art or sport of shooting arrows from bows.
Today, bows and arrows are used primarily for hunting and for the sport of archery. Though they are still occasionally used as weapons of war, the development of gunpowder and muskets, and the growing size of armies, led to their replacement in warfare several centuries ago in much of the world.
Someone who makes bows is known as a bowyer, and one who makes arrows is a fletcher —or in the case of the manufacture of metal arrow heads, an arrow smith.
There is no one accepted system of classification of bows. Some systems classify bows as either longbows or composite bows. In this system, a longbow is any bow that is made from one material. Composite bows are made from two or more layers of different materials. Other classifications divide bows into three types — simple, backed, and composite. In this scheme, simple bows are made of one material, backed bows are made of two layers, which could be similar or different materials. Composite bows are made of three different layers, usually different materials, but occasionally two of the layers are made from the same material.
Common types of bow include
- Recurve bow: a bow with the tips curving away from the archer. The curves straighten out as the bow is drawn and the return of the tip to its curved state after release of the arrow adds extra velocity to the arrow.
- Reflex bow: a bow that curves completely away from the archer when unstrung. The curves are opposite to the direction in which the bow flexes while drawn.
- Self bow: a bow made from one piece of wood.
- Longbow: a self bow that is usually quite long, often over 5 feet long. The traditional English longbow was usually made of yew wood, but other woods are used also.
- Composite bow: a bow made of more than one material
- Compound: a bow with mechanical aids to help with drawing the bowstring. Usually, these aids are pulleys at the tips of the limbs.
- Crossbow: In a crossbow, the limbs of the bow, called a prod, are attached at right angles to a crosspiece or stock in order to allow for mechanical pulling and holding of the string. The mechanism that holds the drawn string has a release or trigger that allows the string to be released. A crossbow shoots a "bolt" rather than an arrow.
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