Picking up the tab

Archery is never far from my mind. In those moments of the day where I have a spare few seconds I often imagine how I’d make a shot hit something I’ve seen or go through my shoot routine in my mind. I probably do more archery in my head then I physically get to do.

In one of these “archery ponders” I was thinking of the advantages of using a glove and why I use one. Here’s my list.

  • I can select and nock my arrows easier.
  • Once I’ve shot I don’t need to remove my glove when I collect my arrows.

And that is pretty much the list, I can’t think of anything else…. can you?

When I initially saw my short list of advantages I was surprised that none of the advantages actually impact on the shot itself. Once the arrow is nocked and on the string then that’s, as far as I can see, all the advantages of shooting with a glove over with.

Then I started thinking about how much time I put into selecting the right string, the right shelf material, the right arrows, the right bow and the constant reassessment of my form, all in an attempt to get my arrows to go where I want them to go.

At this point it seemed like madness that I’m knowingly adding something into the mix that could detract from all the work and pain I’ve done just to give me some advantages that don’t impact on the actual shot.

With this in mind I thought I’d pick up a tab in the hope that it has a noticeable impact on the end result of my shot and to see if I can live with or adapt to the lack of instant mobility in my shooting hand.

It may make no difference, it may make a negligible difference that isn’t worth the mobility sacrifice or it may make a world of difference. Either way it surely has be worth a go! I’ll report back after a few weeks to see if I’m a convert……or not.

Striker \ New Breed RK1

I haven’t picked up a recurve since I completed my beginner’s archery course. As soon as I got my hands on my course completion certificate the club recurve was unceremoniously cast away in favour of the English Longbow and I haven’t looked back since… until recently that is. You see, over the last few months I’ve really got myself into traditional shaped rut. My form, I felt and was told, was good but I was struggling, and I mean really struggling, to hit anything that wasn’t bigger than Big Bird in anyway that even resembled consistency. I was crap and it was getting me down. Archery for me has always been about losing myself in the moment, to relax and forget about my troubles, to simply loose some arrows. Now I’m not competitive with others but I have expectations of myself which boil down to “if I’m going to do something, then I do it well” and recently I haven’t been shooting well.

As I wasn’t feeling “it” with my longbow I thought I’d try and shake things up, cleanse my pallet, and go right back to the start of my archery journey by picking up a recurve. The last and only recurve I’d shot was a beginners recurve, the type that get dished out to all beginners that all have the same characteristics of big thick risers with sloooooooooooooooow low poundage limbs that are in short god awful to shoot. Now I obviously didn’t want to recreate this experience but I did want to try a recurve again.

So after lots of research, review readings, bowyer bothering (where you bother the bowyer with questions), archery bothering (like bowyer bothering but you bother archers who have a bow that’s in your shortlist), archery stockist bothering (you bother the bow stockist using the same method as bowyer and archer bothering) and youtube video watching, I decided I’d pick up the Striker/New Breed co-laboration bow the RK1.

So why the RK1?

IMG-2081

The foremost reason was that I wanted a pallet cleanser, something as different from my English Longbow that I could get whilst still maintaining a strand of “traditional” DNA. The RK1 ticked that box for me, the “traditional” DNA is supplied by Striker whilst ultimate pallet cleaner comes from the New Breed compound inspired aluminium riser. The second reason was that everyone who I’ve spoken to and reviews that I’ve read have all been positive and not just positive… really positive. The third reason, which is probably just as important as the others, is that the the RK1 looks absolutely stunning, it’s a work of art.

After several emails to Lale at Silver Archery – which involved me asking lots of questions and Lale replying with informative answers – I ordered the RK1 with recurve limbs. The bow took a couple of weeks to come from Striker in the States to Silver Archery in the UK and then to my door but overall the delivery time was very quick! So if you want an RK1 then get one from Lale at Silver Archery.

I’ve had the RK1 now for two weeks and I’ve shot it several times which is enough to get an initial impression and feel for the bow and to start to understand it’s character. It’s obviously not enough to really get to know the bows character but I’m in that happy place at moment of still discovering and being surprised by the bow whilst not knowing everything about it.

The RK1 comes with either the Striker made 60″ recurve or 60″ longbow limbs, both sets are glass and bamboo core laminates with a black hydrographic carbon fibre finish. If the finish doesn’t float your boat then you can get some custom limbs which have an exotic wood veneer, yum. The limbs are interchangeable with all Striker limbs so you can swap and change them to your heart desire. I went for the recurve limbs.

The 16″, fully machined aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminium riser is made by New Breed archery. The riser comes in either black or dissolved camo as standard, again you can get custom colouring so if you have cash and the imagination you can customise the colouring to your hearts desire. My hearts desire was to go dissolved camo, for a standard finish it’s still very distinctive and noticeable without being covered in bright pink unicorns. I suspect that if you ask for bright pink unicorns then New Breed/Striker will be able to accommodate your request….. I now really hope that someone does get a custom unicorn RK1! You can also attach a quiver, sight mount, stablizer/bow fishing rig, side plate or arrow rest to this as the correct holes are where they need to be.

The bow also comes with an 18 strand fast flight string, string silencers (these are bees knees), a side plate, striker broucher and a Striker baseball cap (well at least mine did!).

IMG_2116

Striker’s latest male model

 

The initial bow set up was relatively straight forward, however, when connecting the limbs, I did experience my first, of two minor, niggles with the RK1. Niggle one was that there was no Allen key include in the bag of bits to connect limbs to the bow. This wasn’t a major issue, as I just raided the toolbox and found one, but it would have been nice to have the key included. When you get a new bow and set it up for the first time, it is, for me a least, a really immersive experience and breaking off to go and find an Allen key pulls you out of that experience. Like I said this is just a minor issue.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So what are my impressions of actually shooting this bow? In short I love it, I mean really love it. My brain is still getting used to working out constantly where my bow arm needs to be in order to put my arrow in the right place. I’ve shot off my hand for so long that this may take a few weeks to get right but even after only a few sessions my groupings are tighter and consistent. The sight window on the RK1 is also really big which is very helpful and with the riser being so slim and the shelf so deep your arrows are pretty much sitting in the centre of the riser.

Speaking of the riser the grip is perfect, it sits and balances in your hand like it was meant to be there. The grip and the bow weight gave me the confidence to really relax my hold on the bow and open my grip up. I’ve never had that instant confidence and relaxation from a bow before and if I’m honest it did take me by surprise. My grip has opened so much that I’ve been using a finger sling when shooting the RK1 in order to get the most out of the push of the draw and flow of the release. The draw is also amazingly smooth at 28″ there’s no stacking at all, it’s an absolute pleasure to draw and shoot and to do that repeatedly.

As I’ve been opening my grip up and allowing the bow to follow through I thought it would be sensible to add a little weight to the riser to stop the top limb smashing me in my face during the follow through. I picked up a Trophy Ridge 6″ static stabiliser and attached that to the RK1 and …….wow! I actually didn’t think that the bow could feel any better but that little extra weight and stabilisation just improves the whole process from draw, to the release, to the arrow hitting…. which leads me to my second niggle about the bow. Include a hunting rod with the bow as a standard package. Again, that comes down to archers preference and I’m probably just picking holes here but including a stabiliser  would be the ultimate package.

DSC_0449

In terms of arrows I’ve been shooting the Goldtip Traditional 400 carbons with a 100g point. These seem to fly straight but I may have a tinker with them. I suspect I’ll also try the RK1 with a bow quiver to see how that feels on the bow and I’m also going to pair it up Grizzly String Pro because they’re simply excellent strings!

In conclusion, this is a truly outstanding bow. I love it and I can’t see myself wanting to pick anything else up for a long time. It shoots exceptional well and it stands out, everyone wants to have a look at it and other archers have commented on the grip, the weight and the draw, and the comments have all been very complimentary. I was speaking to one of my English Longbow buddies the other night and he said “you look very at ease with that bow […] you’ve found your bow” which coming from someone who sees me shoot every week must mean something.

2017 – A Retrospective

It’s the closing days of the year which is a natural time to look back over the my archery year.

For the first part of the year – the second half of the winter season and most of the summer season – I spent at my old target archery club. Although I’ve been shooting for a few years now I never attempted to get my 252 badges, the club had just revised their scheme so I thought it was the ideally time to work on my badges. The 252 scheme is where you need to get 3 scores of 252 or over at a set distance – 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50yrds – once accomplished you receive a badge. It was a nice way to pass the summer season and it was a good marker to see how I progressed.

In the closing stages of the summer season I made the decision to change clubs from the target archery club to a field archery club. At the time this was a big step but one that I feel has ultimately paid off. At the target club I was one of only a few traditional English Longbow archers which meant that I was pretty much left to my own devices. Overall, I had no issue with this at the time but retrospectively I feel this hindered my progression as I had nobody willing to point out my errors and give me pointers. On the other hand the majority of the archers at the field club are traditional archers who are more than happy to pass on their knowledge and observations, which I feel has helped me progress.

This year I’ve also tried my hand at arrow making which has been a lot of fun. If I’m honest, I struggled with the fletching wrapping as it was difficult to get the spacing the same between the threads. This will come with time and practice so I hope my next batch will be a little tidier.

In 2018 I’m really looking forward to getting out into the forest on a weekly basis and challenging myself to some difficult shots. I’m also hoping to improve the quality and finish of the arrows I’m making. Like everything in life this will come from practice and dedication.

Forest Adventure 

Last night myself and an archery buddy were lucky enough to go on a guided shoot around the Muttley Crew’s forest. In the time I’ve been shooting I’ve never had the opportunity to go on a field shoot but it’s something that I’ve wanted to try as it seems a more natural fit to the traditional and instinctive side of archery that appeals to me. 

We arrived at the forest at six and were met by our guide for the evening, Geoff, who warmly welcomed us to the forest. As we got kitted up Geoff give us a quick talk about the history of the club, the forest, the types of targets that we’d expect to see and how the scoring worked.

After that we were taken into the forest were we met our first 3D target, which I belive was a wolverine. Geoff then talked us through how he’d approach the shot and then hr took a shot. We then had a go and shooting and surprisingly hit Logan several times.

This was the format for the rest of the evening. Geoff guiding us around the forest, he’d tell us how he’d never hit a particular target before and then he’d nail it with his first arrow! As we weren’t scoring myself and my buddy took several shots at all the targets, but we changed the angle and the distance so that we could get a feel of how the shot changed depending on the angle, elevation and distance.

The course itself was varied as it used the characteristics of the forest well, there where a few distance targets, elevation shots, half hidden and small targets and some targets hidden in darker areas whilst the archer stood in the light. My particular favourite was a target that was placed next to a stream, the shot was relatively simple but the setting was perfect, deep in the forest with just the sound of the stream and the birds singing in the background, it was serene. The whole shoot provided a unique but natural feeling challenge that ultimately was very rewarding.

My favourite part of archery has always been shooting outdoors. I enjoy being outside and seeing and hearing nature. However, I’ve found that when I’m shooting target archery nature has been controlled. The grass is cut short, the ground is marked for distance and whistles inform me when to shoot and when to stop. It’s these man made interventions that pull me away from truly losing myself in the shoot when I’m shooting target. In my first experience of field archery these controls where removed, the distances are unmarked, the path was a small trail and the only whistle comes from the birds. It was so much easier to immediately immerse myself in the shoot, in short it was perfect.

 

Arrowsmith

One of the things of saving up for a new and heavier bow is the realisation that you’ll also need to buy some new arrows. In the past I’ve just opted for buying some middle of the range wooden arrows that normally are around £80 for a dozen. These arrows will have 4″ fletching and plastic nocks, they’re wood and functional.

As I’m wanting to eventually get into the ‘warbow’ poundage I thought I’d take a look at how much the medieval reproduction arrows would cost. So we’re looking at 1/2″ shafts, 7″ hand whipped and hand cut fletching, horn reinforced nocks and arrow heads that are produced in a limited quantity. In short a lot of work goes into each arrow and the customer base is small. This means that to buy a set of arrow can get expensive quickly.

Quarterpounder

With this in mind I decided it was time to add arrow smith and fletcher to my skill set in the hope of being able to make a quality arrow at the fraction of the price as my own labour would be free. Now, I’m not exactly the most naturally craft person but I do enjoy making things and learning new skills – in the past I’ve been on a blacksmith course and I’ve also made my own longbow on a bowyer course – so I’m definitely up for the challenge of making some arrows.

The first thing I needed to do was research what equipment I’d need to start making my own arrows. The most useful source I found for this was Richard Head’s youtube channel, where he covers all the steps in great detail and I’m sure for the first few dozen arrows  these videos will be a constant source of guidance and reassurance.

After watching numerous videos and reading what I could I decided to order some tools as I’m afraid my tool selection is not very extensive. For the general tools went to eBay and picked up the following.

Tile Saw with a round blade – £6.95 – This will be used to create the nocks. The round blade should create a smoother cut.

10 piece Needle File set – £2.11 – to smooth out the nocks.

3 piece Rasp set – £1.75 + £1 p&p – to remove the excess horn from the horn sliver once it’s been glue into the nock.

2 piece Cabinet Scrapper – £3 – used to smooth out the rasp marks from horn and wood.

Rotary Cutter – £2.29 – used to cut the fletching into shape.

After spending a grand total of £17.10 on eBay it was time to pick up some more specific arrow making supplies. The first thing I wanted to pick up was an arrow cutting template so that I could ensure that my fletching was neat and uniform across all the arrows.

After searching around I found a German seller – Histro Fakt – who sold English Warbow Society fletching templates. I picked up the ‘Livery Arrow’ and ‘Poitiers and Crecy’ templates for 5.99 Euro each this coupled with postage to the UK came to around £17.

My next stop on my arrow making equipment purchasing odyssey was to actually buy the components to make the arrows. The other items that I’d purchased so far are an investment, as I can reuse them for every arrow I make, so the actual arrow components will be where any real saving will be made in the future.

After looking around for a supplier of all the bits I needed I stumbled across Now Strike Archery whose prices where very reasonable. For my first attempt at arrow making I thought I’d start with just 12 arrows until I’d got the hang of it. So from Now Strike I ordered the following.

Nock Cutting Jig 1/2″ – £19.99 – This will ensure that my nocks are cut to the right depth and are nice and straight. This item can be used over and over again so is classed as tool rather than a consumable.

Horn Sliver x 12 – £6 – The horn needed to reenforce the arrow.

Black Linen x2 – £6 – Used to whip the fletching to the shaft.

Fletching Needle – £2 – Helps to split the feathers in older to place the lined more accurately when your wiping the fletching.

Full length feather x24 – £13.20

Full length feather x 12 – £6.60 – this will be cock feather.

Ash 1/2″ arrow shaft x13 – £19.50 – I decided to go for 13 just incase I messed up on my first nock cutting!

So with posting of £10 that came to £83.29.

Now Strike didn’t have the arrow heads I wanted so this led me to Barebow Archery where I found some 1/2 steel bullet point at £2 each. I’m just awaiting a reply back but if I buy these that would be £24 + p&p at probably around £5.

If we look at the actual cost going forward for a dozen 1/2″ shaft, horn nocked, hand fletched arrows arrows IT will be around £90 including p&p.  This  still seems a little expensive to me but when you consider the price of buying the equivalent finished product the  price does look really reasonable.

Bearbow – Deluxe Medieval Arrow x6 – £150. x12 = £300

Now Strike – Deluxe Medieval Arrow x 1 – £21. x12 = £252

The Longbow Shop – Poplar Bobtail x 6 – £110. x12 = £220

All of these prices will need p&p adding to them so suddenly the price of £90 with p&p doesn’t seem so bad! Once everything arrives I’ll get cracking and I’ll share my trails, tribulations and hopefully, my triumphs!

 

 

Anchor Away

Last week I changed my anchor point from the corner of my mouth to behind my ear. You often see medieval depictions of archers drawing their bow behind their ear and it is these depictions that the modern warbow archer has looked at for guidancance.

Luttrell Psalter f.147v – British Library

At the moment I am no where near a warbow draw weight but it is something that I aspire to.  So whilst I save up for a heavier bow, at 80# @31, I thought I’d try and nail down the drawing technique with my lighter 55# bow.

Now, I don’t know anybody in person who shoots from behind the ear or for that matter shoots a heavy bow so I’ve been watching videos of warbow archers on youtube and bothering @keoghnick on instagram.

From my online observations it looks like the archer has a much narrower stance than the modern stance, to the point where the front leg is placed slight further forward than the back. As you place your arrow on the bow you learn forwards at the hips and as you move back into an up right position you stretch your back, push with your bow arm and pull with the draw arm and then slightly lean into the draw. This allows you to use your back muscles and not just rely on those in our arms. No movement is wasted in the draw process as it all helps get the bow back. Leaning into the shot also seems to allow your back to bear more of the weight much like a weight lifter would have an arch in their back as they do a deadlift.

I decided to try and video myself drawing this way so that I could see what my form was like. I didn’t knock am arrow as I don’t have the space to loose in my garden but it did give me a good guide to what I was or wasn’t doing. The video can be found here, I tired embedding the video but I gave up after a few attempts.

One of the things I found strange was the feel of the bow when I drew without an arrow nocked, it was probably physiological, as I was concentrating on the draw, but the bow felt really heavy. Another thing I noticed was that I was bringing my draw arm up and over leading to a rotation of my shoulder. This is something I’ve never consciously done before so I need to stop doing it before I overload my shoulder.

I’ve now been shooting from the ear for a few sessions and I can honestly say that it’s really comfortable. It does take a while to get used to the motion and the anchor but after a while it started to feel really natural. As an added bonus that extra inch or so added to my draw is leading to the arrows traveling quicker and faster. All in all I’m happy with my progress and as the weeks go on I’m hoping my technique will become more refined.

 

 

Stacking on the Pounds

The English Longbow was what first drew me to archery as it’s relatively accessible and has a tangible link to the past. For me, at least, my interest in the historical side of the longbow is as important as the shooting side so this one object encapsulates two of my great interests, history and archery.

When I first picked up the Longbow I was extremely fortunate to have as my first instructor – albeit for only two hours – a man named Kevin Hicks who is the embodiment of history and archery. Kevin does some amazing work by bringing history to life for both children and adults and he’s also a fantastic story teller and a great archer. His knowledge of both the history of the bow, his skill as an instructor and as an archer really energised me to get out there and bring archery into my life.
My aim, after joining a club, was to shoot a bow as close to a modern equivalent of a medieval longbow, especially those we’ve now labelled as ‘warbows’, as I could. However, as things tend to happen in life complacency settled and I’ve been happily shooting at 55# for nearly three years now.

This isn’t a bad thing as I can easily manage the weight which means my form and aiming have had the chance to develop. Recently, however, I’ve felt the need to increase my draw weight to go a little heavier and try to creep closer to the 100# mark.

If I’m honest, I have a few obstacles in my way that although won’t stop me outright I know they will slow me down. The first of these obstacles is the lack of a group of similar minded people. I shoot at a club where longbow archers are a small minority and on top of that, I’m already shooting a bow, at #55, that others consider to be heavy. So learning the technique of drawing a heavy bow will have to be one of constant self-evaluation and research, which is fine as that’s pretty much how I’ve developed so far. The biggest hindrance, I feel, is that I can’t just try another archers bow to get a feel for the draw weight so that means I’m pretty much guessing at what I can handle.

This then leads to the next issue in that I don’t want to keep forking out for new bows in 10lbs increments as that will get really expensive, really quick. So my solution is to save my pennies and then buy a bow at 80# @30. Whilst the coffers are being filled I’ve been working on strengthening my back muscles with daily weight exercises as well as practice my draw using several tension bands. Once I’ve got my bow then it will be a case of taking it slowly by shooting a few dozen arrows with the 80# and then dropping back to the 55#. After a while, I should be shooting the bow without issues apart from moving my knocking point to behind my ear.

That’s the plan anyway. Does anyone have any bowyers they can recommend that won’t cost the earth?