What’s the most powerful bow?
Shooting heavy draw-weights requires an archer to have adapted their physical training. It is essential that poundage is not increased beyond physical capability to prevent injury.
One of the most common questions that people unfamiliar with archery ask is, whether you have to be really strong to shoot.
The universal advice is to start shooting at a low poundage and work your way up in weight as your strength and technique improves. For shooting outdoors at 70 metres, a more powerful bow will push the arrow faster, meaning it will be less affected by wind, but being able to control the bow and execute a shot accurately is more important than raw power.
It’s difficult to generalise, but the recurve men at the 2018 Hyundai Archery World Cup Final shot an average bow weight of around 48-50 pounds. That’s about the same weight as the luggage most people check in at the airport.
A qualification round will involve an archer pulling a total weight of well over two tons. The women at the same tournament were shooting a few pounds lighter, on average.
Brady Ellison dropped down from 50 to 47 pounds in 2018.
“The limbs got a little faster and my arrows tune at less weight. You want to shoot whatever you can control and you always want to be in control of the bow,” he said.
“Even if you have control, you need to know your recovery time. You might have control over 53 or 54 pounds but it will break down your body faster, and after three to four days of training you will get really sore and need two days off.”
Shooting a bow day-in, day-out shouldn’t excessively fatigue muscles. A tired body won’t deliver the same sequence of movements as a fresh one.
Most international archers take two bows to competition, one primary and one spare in case of equipment failure.
World number one Steve Wijler has his two competition bows set-up slightly differently.
“One is 50 pounds, one is 50 and a half. Same arrows though. I’ve built my way up to 50, and I decided that was enough, and I’m not going to increase it any more. I don’t switch to a lower poundage for indoors, either. I want the same feeling all year round,” he said.
After shooting 55 pounds for the last two years, Steve’s teammate Sjef van den Berg has come down to 50, too. He said that if you shoot too high a poundage, it’s difficult to execute technique properly.
Young Turkish archer Mete Gazoz had a break-out season in 2018, shooting consistent scores of 680 in qualification at competition and taking major wins including the Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Berlin.
The patch of form coincided with an increase in poundage, up to the 53 he’s now shooting.
“I know you look at him and he seems very slim, but he can handle it,” said Goktug Ergin, Mete’s coach. “It gives us some advantage on the motivation side, because Mete believes that if he can get some advantage over the others, he can win it this way. This is his personality.”
None of these top archers started shooting such hefty weights without working up to it.
It’s a mistake that many improving archers fall into, sacrificing progress in form for an expected quick-fix in arrow speed that accompanies a poundage increase. It rarely, if ever, works out – and can cause serious injury.
“I see a lot of young people who go up way too fast in terms of poundage, and I would definitely recommend taking it very slow,” said Steve Wijler.
The ability to pull back a heavier bow shouldn’t come from shooting arrows either. Archers should weight train, even with the bow itself, to build the strength – so that there’s not the damaging effect on routine.
And there’s practically no need to hit the heavy heights that some archers shoot.
Chang Hye Jin became Olympic Champion in Rio shooting a bow that weighed just 39 pounds on her fingers. Korean archery concentrates on high training volumes, repetition and – unsurprisingly – consistency. High bow weights just wouldn’t be as sustainable.
“There’s a physical difference between Asian and Western archers. The height and muscle of Asian athletes do not fit so well with heavier bows,” said coach Kim Seonghoon.
“It’s always about getting the tune absolutely right. We try to get the perfect combination between the athlete and the equipment.”
So how heavy is a bow? Exactly as heavy as it needs to be for an archer to have absolute control, perfect tune and prevent injury. After all, it’s better to shoot a slow 10 than a fast eight.
Colin’s answer is correct in as far as it gos. Its the system as a whole that propels the arrow at a particular speed. So it is dependent on the nature of the limbs, the string, the riser and, of course, the arrows. Having resarched it a bit, it appears that fastish recurve setups range between 190 and 210 fps. However some claim speeds in excess of 220 fps.
English longbows, Turkish composite bows, Mongolian horsebow, are just designs, while the draw weight can be customized for the individual archers based on materials, draw length, etc…
Further more, training and lifestyle of the archer can influence the amount of draw weight she can pull — medieval women doesn’t have it that much easier than men unless they are nobles. They still have to work the field and such, which makes them quite tougher than modern women and some modern men. As for training, a woman dedicated her whole life to archery can probably shoot a 120lbs bow like a man.
On the recovered sunken Tudor ship, “ the Mary rose” ,longbow staves were found up to draw weights of 180lbsthe period around 100 years war and the war of the roses was the pinnacle of longbow use then it may be possible of even heavier draw weights used. A heavy war arrow fired from a yew d section war war bow had as much penetration at 220 yards as at 60yards. Today there are a small group of archers that are able to shoot the really heavy war bow as the archers once did including mark Stretton ,who holds the Guiness book of records title for shooting a 200lb warbows at full draw…
No one knows for sure as wooden bows do not easily survive the ravages of time.However it has been recorded in China that the champion in a 1728 contest between the one hundred top bowmen in the empire won one hundred taels when he hit the bull’s-eye using an eighteen-strength bow an estimated drawing weight of almost 240 pounds!» Furthermore mark Stretton a MODERN English longbow Archer holds the Guiness World record of being able to shoot a 200 lb longbow at full draw. The absolute highest draw weight of an archery bow in history can only be subject to conjecture as we have very little su…
What makes a bow “powerful” is the amount of energy it can transfer to the arrow. This can be best measured by arrow speed. Modern compound manufactures have a standards that have been set by the International Bowhunting Organization(IBO) and the Archery Manufacturing Organization(AMO) that allows comparisons to be made between different bows. With this standard in mind, the fastest bow on the market today is the King Cobra XR made by APA Archery which has a speed rating of 370 feet per second(fps).
As to the previous answer…I’m sure a 240lb recurve bow could exceed arrow speeds of modern co…
Faithful reader Don Ballard asks: «Who Holds the World Record in Pulling Back a Longbow? Tell us about him.
For more than 50 years the accepted world record was held by Howard Hill at a little over 170 pounds. Pip Bickerstaffe, who makes heavy «warbows ,» encouraged a lad named Mark Stretton (in the photo pulling back a 150 pounder) to challenge this mark. The story of Mark’s training is typical. I can’t find any details on Mark’s size, but from many photos, I judge him as much larger than my 5′ 10″, 175 pounds and younger than my 58 years. My guess would be 6 feet, 215 pounds, 35 years old. I will see if I can find out. Update January 6, 2006, according to Pip, Mark is 5′ 10″ and 18 stone (252 pounds) and about 38 years old.
The recognition of Mark’s accomplishment is referenced by Bickerstaffe
It is interesting that strength alone is not all that is needed to draw back a strong bow. I can bench press only about 180 pounds, whereas some of my football player students can bench press 360 pounds and yet not pull as strong a bow as me. What typically happens is that these strong fellows get better and better quickly as they try pulling the bow more. It appears that your body needs to learn how to most effectively pull the bow.
Longbows of greater than 80 pounds pull were usually called warbows. The reason being that they were only used in war because they could shoot an arrow hard enough to penetrate armor. If one wanted to hunt a deer or even a bear a 65 pound bow is more than adequate.
The strength of the bows in the English middle ages is hotly debated and many legends abound. I believe the typical warbow was 80-100 pounds. I have shown, with experiments at Dartmouth, that at least 80 pounds is needed for the arrow to penetrate armor. Yet, on the high side, my studies suggest that men were smaller an weaker then, so claims of 140 pound bows, I think are incorrect. The few bows that exist from 1300 to 1500 are less than 100 pounds.