How to Shoot an English Long Bow

In the following steps, you will learn how to shoot the English longbow (from now on referred to as ELB).


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    Take arrow and lock it on string with the cock (odd colored feather) facing away from the bow.
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    Bend your arm at the elbow (wear an armguard of hardened leather) so that the string doesn't get under the armguard and bite you. This is called string slap, and can be very painful.
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    Once the arrow is locked on the string, hold the string with your index, middle, and ring fingers, with the arrow between your index and middle. Don't squeeze the arrow; pull on the string and the arrow will hold itself in place.
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    Hold your bow firm and pull back with your fingers. Draw the arrow to a comfortable spot on your face (called an "Anchor point"). Make sure you always draw back to the same anchor point or your shots will become too inconsistent. Some draw to their chin with the string running up across the tip of their nose. Others draw to the back end of their jawbone, while others find it comfortable to rest the arrow up on their cheekbone, near their eye. In this form of "instinctive" shooting, it is most common to draw to the corner of the mouth. These spots on your face are called your "anchor point". Find one that is comfortable for you, and stick to it. A consistent anchor point is key to accurate, consistent shooting.
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    Focus your attention on the smallest spot you can find on your target and let nothing else distract you. If you have a target with rings on it, focus on a blemish on the target within the centermost ring. If it is an animal, pick an off-colored hair to focus on. The smaller the better. Pull back and hold until that spot becomes clear and all else around it becomes a blur. This can be anywhere from about one second after drawing the bow, to the moment you contact with your anchor point.
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    Relax the fingers of your right hand to let the string slip past them. This prevents the bow from jumping or lurching, which will throw off your shot.
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    Hold your stance until the arrow hits the target.


  • The method described above as the proper hand placement when drawing the bow is the most common, but not necessarily the best. It is called "split-finger" technique, when the arrow rests between the index and middle fingers. Many archers use an alternate method, called "three fingers under" which is exactly what it sounds like. If you have a locking point on your string, meaning a small metal bead or a clump of thread wrapped around the bowstring that indicates where the arrow is to be locked, you can draw your bow with all three of your fingers underneath the arrow, because the locking point, which the arrow is typically placed directly beneath on the string, will keep the arrow from sliding up. If your string is fairly thick and your locks snap onto it well, a locking point may not be necessary to hold it in place when shooting three fingers under, but it is wise to have one, as the fingers can still push up on the arrow when the angle changes during the draw.
  • Try not to shoot a lot of wild shots. Stick to a small amount of accurate shots. (Generally 3 arrows per end - this will show true accuracy as if you shoot more than 3 then the 1st and 2nd arrows might well be your sighters, the arrows following will be more accurate. Most competitions - indoors shoot 3 arrows per end. So get used to shooting only 3. This will give a more accurate reflection of your accuracy).
  • Shoot from a conservatively close distance until you are painfully comfortable and confident in your ability to place the arrow exactly where you are looking. Shoot your arrows in groups until you can fit a half dozen or more arrows within a circle of about six inches or so. When you feel ready to back up to begin working on a new distance, be modest.
  • Try wearing gloves with leather on the inside of the fingertips if you have an excessively powerful bow.
  • In regards to the cock feather and locking it to the arrow on the bow: If the cock feather faces in towards the bow, it will push the arrow to the side as it passes the bow, reducing accuracy. This will also shorten the life of your fletchings, as they will, over time, rip off. An easy way to remember it is to hold the bow horizontally when nocking your arrow, and place the arrow onto the bow and string with the cock feather facing up. THEN, you can bring the bow up to a vertical or angled position (called "canting" the bow). This method of locking the bow is especially useful if all of your feathers are the same color, so that you can be sure the cock feather is where it should be.


  • Be sure of your target and what's beyond it! Arrows, even from low-poundage bows, can be deadly.
  • Never point straight up.

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Categories: Archery