Tips on shooting The English Longbow

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Tips on shooting The English Longbow

When Jason asked me if I fancied coming up with some hints and tips with a coaching element, I thought “this could be interesting! Would you coach traditional archery any differently from recurve or compound archery? What are the differences? What are the similarities?”

In the end I thought I would start with the basics.

I have spent a lot of time over the last few years watching competent longbow and traditional archers shooting both target and field. I have also spent quite a lot of time talking to them. One thing I have noticed is that there can be a degree of reluctance by some coaches to get involved with shooting styles outside of mainstream target archery. They are usually more than competent to coach these styles but often feel that they lack the experience to do so. One of the problems for coaches is that some very successful archers shoot vastly different styles. What parts of technique do you keep, what do you discard? The archer shooting a 120lb war bow is likely to be very different from the target archer shooting Victorian style target longbow or the field archer concerned with hitting a steep uphill mark at 40 metres.

So firstly, you have to ask yourself the question – what do you want to achieve in your traditional archery?

Being as this is appearing on the Longbow Shop site, we had better start with equipment.

Choosing your bow

Whatever style you go for – Barebow, Traditional or Longbow – please choose a bow that you can shoot consistently all day. If only I had a quid for every archer who’s been ruined by too heavy a bow and insufficient technique to shoot it; I could probably afford one of those nice Yew self bows that I drool over from time to time.

If you are starting longbow target archery expect to have to aim well above the target if you want to shoot at targets 100 yards away until you can manage a bow of around 55lbs. Even then, you get what you pay for and you have to have a sufficiently developed technique to get the best out of the bow. Whilst there are undoubtedly bows of less poundage than this that will give a sightmark on the boss at this range, you will often have to pay a lot of money to get there. Be kind to yourself; get a lighter bow and concentrate on shorter distances before moving up to the long stuff. You want a bow that you can control on the last arrow of the day as easily as the first.

Flat bows tend to be more efficient, but if you are shooting barebow with a reference on your cheek this will find this will have a big effect on your sightmarks. For field archery, this will be less marked and you should still be able to put point of arrow under the target at everything up to 50 metres. Depending on which style you will be shooting you may have the choice of face walking, string walking or gap shooting. If you are going to be string walking make sure that your bow is suitable – longbows generally aren’t, it puts unequal stress on the limbs.


These are the bits of kit that get you a score. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of your gear is, if you are shooting bent, mismatched shafts they will not impact where they are supposed to. If you are going to make your own for the first time then make sure you get the shafts spine and weight matched. I mean, it does make sense doesn’t it? Having a set of arrows that weigh the same and bend around the bow the same as each other has got to make the whole thing a bit easier, hasn’t it?

For advice on fletching I would recommend reading the info found at

One thing I would recommend is shooting a range of arrows out of your bow to see what works for you. The guides are pretty good and most archery shops will advise you on what SHOULD work, but we are all different. We should be more interested in what does work rather than what should work. An interesting question arises here about what length of arrow to shoot. I always used to shoot arrows 2 inches longer than my draw length. That way, when they broke off at the point, I could get another set out of them and I found that quite lot of spines shot well out of the bow. OK call me a cheapskate, but I shoot a lot of arrows. Whilst trying to get the point of arrow on the target at 100 yards, I reduced the length of my arrows until just the point of my arrow was beyond the bow. It worked, but I found that the spine selection became a lot more critical. Lee Ankers explained that he believed that this was due to the position of nodes of oscillation of the arrow. Thanks Lee, you just reminded me of something else to worry about!


It’s the same old instructions that your club coach offers, I’m afraid.

Stand up tall – get both shoulder blades working in an efficient push/pull – get your draw hand into a consistent reference and keep the pressure on throughout the shot. Work on getting your shot sequence the same for EVERY shot and get someone – ideally your club coach – to watch you do it. A useful exercise is to sit down at home and write down what you think your shot sequence is; starting with picking up your bow, describe every step until the arrow hits the target and the whistle has sounded to collect. Then get an observer to check that you are actually following these steps. Work with your coach, but remember, coaches are not mind readers. Explain what you are trying to achieve in your practice sessions and ask them to observe and feed back to you.

Oh, I suppose a bit of controversy would be good at this point. I have been shooting long bow for around 15 years and have always had my bow hand positioned in such a way that the pressure point is about an inch below the web between thumb and forefinger. It works for me and I don’t propose to change it but…

I recently discussed this with a well know Grand Master Bowman who shoots with a very low wrist position with the knuckles at 45 degrees, similar to recurve technique but with the pressure point about an inch lower down the palm than the above method and the arrow sits on the knuckle of his forefinger. He believes that the line of force obtained with the pressure almost on the heel of the hand is more in line with the forearm bones. I remember a North Wales longbow archer who broke a lot of British records shooting a similar way.

I have a Jerry Hill flat bow that has a grip like a razor blade that shoots a lot better with this method.

Makes you think doesn’t it?

Dave Peters – Bebington Archers
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