Two of the most recognisable traditional bows are the longbow and the short bow, each of which has specific advantages. But what are the most important variables to take into account when deciding between a longbow and a short bow? In order to assist you in making the best choice, this comprehensive guide will contrast longbows and short bows in all the relevant categories.
What is a Longbow?
A longbow is a large, tall bow that is typically equal to the height of the user. Longbows are made from a single piece of wood, most commonly yew or elm. The limbs curve gently and the bow is not reflexed.
Key characteristics of longbows:
- Very tall, up to 6 feet in length
- Made from a single piece of wood
- Gently curving limbs with no reflex
- Used for hunting and war throughout history
- Powerful casts due to long limbs and heavy draw weight
- Effective accuracy up to 200+ yards
The English longbow was a dominant medieval war weapon. Today longbows remain popular for traditional archery and hunting.
What is a Short bow?
A short bow is a compact bow with much shorter limbs and overall size compared to a longbow. Short bows are lightweight and maneuverable. The limbs have more dramatic curves.
Key short bow features:
- Compact size, usually under 5 feet
- Curved limbs with more reflex
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Fast shooting and ideal for horseback use
- Effective accuracy under 150 yards
- Lower draw weights than longbows
Short bows were used by mounted archers for their efficient size. They are quick and nimble but lack power and range.
Longbow vs Short bow: Key Differences
While longbows and short bows serve the same purpose, their designs make them suited for different needs. Here are the major differences:
The longbow’s long limbs, heavyweight, and greater draw length generate significant power. Heavy arrows translate this into knockout downrange force. Shortbows cannot match this raw power due to their compact size.
Short bows shoot arrows faster due to their short, reflexed limbs that snap back quickly after release. Longbows shoot smoothly but cannot match the short bow’s speed.
Longbows achieve great accuracy at long range due to arrow speed retention. Short bows are most accurate at about 50 yards. Beyond that, accuracy declines rapidly.
Seasoned longbow shooters can accurately hit targets over 200 yards away. Short bows are effective out to 100-150 yards at most.
Longbows are very large, up to 6 feet long. Shortbows max out around 4-5 feet. Short bows are easier to maneuver in tight spaces.
Longbows have heavy draw weights, often 80-100+ pounds. Short bows are lighter, with draw weights of 40-60 pounds.
The longbow can only be shot standing up. The short bow can be shot standing, sitting, or on horseback.
Longbows are made from a single piece of wood. Shortbows can be a single piece or composite with multiple materials.
Pros and Cons of Longbows
- Powerful, long-range shooting
- Excellent accuracy at long distances
- Smooth, stable arrow flight
- Durable all-wood construction
- Simple design with few components
- Heavy arrows amplify kinetic energy
- Penetrate targets better than lighter arrows
- Required for some primitive hunting seasons
- Iconic traditional bow with historical use
- Heavyweight is more difficult to transport
- Very long sizes can be cumbersome
- Requires strength to draw and hold
- Not suitable for shooting from seated positions
- A slow rate of fire compared to short bows
- Difficult for beginners to learn the proper form
- More expensive than short bows
- Limited use in close quarters
Pros and Cons of Shortbows
- Compact size great for packing and transportation
- Lightweight making it easy to carry for long periods
- Fast shooting allows the rapid firing of arrows
- Easier for beginners to learn proper archery form
- Can shoot while sitting down or lying prone
- Nimble bow capable of shooting in tight spaces
- Typically cheaper than high-end longbows
- Lacks power and penetration of longbows
- Limited accuracy beyond 100-150 yards
- May not meet hunting regulations for minimum draw weight
- Struggles shooting heavier, thicker arrows
- Less durable construction than all-wood longbows
- Performance declines at longer distances
- Not as smooth shooting as longbows
Longbow vs Shortbow for Hunting
For many hunters, choosing between a longbow or short bow comes down to their intended use. Here are some key considerations for bow hunting:
- Range – Longbows are superior for shooting at longer distances up to 200 yards. Shortbows excel at closer ranges under 100 yards.
- Power – The longbow’s heavy arrows penetrate the big game better. Light short bow arrows lack knockdown power.
- Size – The short bow is easier to maneuver in blinds and tree stands. The longbow can be cumbersome.
- Legality – Check regulations. Some states require minimum draw weights that short bows don’t meet.
- Skill – Beginners may want a short bow until they improve their form. Longbow requires more skill.
- Transportation – The portable short bow has weight advantages if hiking deep into the wilderness.
For hunting, longbows have clear power and accuracy benefits. But the short bow can be a great option in densely wooded areas or for introducing new hunters.
Longbow vs Shortbow for Beginners
Beginner archers need to consider their abilities when choosing between longbows and short bows:
- Draw weight – Longbow requires strength to pull heavy weights. Shortbow is easier to start with a lower weight.
- Form – The compact short bow is more forgiving and helps newer archers develop proper form.
- Weight – Heavier longbows take conditioning to hold steady at full draw. Shortbows are lighter.
- Aim – Shorter bows provide a more instinctive aim for beginners before moving to longer bows.
- Cost – Start with an affordable short bow to avoid big investment before improving skills.
For most beginners, a lightweight short bow is ideal to start building fundamental skills without bad habits from using a bow that’s too heavy.
What is Better – Longbow or Shortbow?
There is no universally “better” choice between longbows and shortbows. The right bow depends completely on your specific needs and preferences:
- Longbows excel at long-range accuracy and power.
- Short bows are nimble, portable bows for tighter spaces.
- Choose longbows for serious hunting from range.
- Select short bows for introducing new archers.
- Longbows shoot smoothly with force.
- Shortbows fire arrows rapidly.
- Evaluate your shooting environment, purposes, and skills.
- Try both to see which bow fits your archery needs.
It’s impossible to declare one type of bow superior. Both longbows and short bows have unique strengths that suit different situations.
How to Choose Between a Longbow vs Short bow
When deciding between longbows and short bows, keep these key considerations in mind:
- Use Case – Hunting from a Stand? Trekking on foot? Target practice? Each scenario may favor a different bow style.
- Environment – For tight spaces like blinds, a short bow excels. Longbows are awkward.
- Range – Do you need to make accurate shots out to 200+ yards? If so, choose a longbow.
- Power – The longbow’s heavier arrows hit harder. Shortbows work for small games.
- Legality – Check if there are minimum draw weight restrictions for hunting.
- Budget – Inexpensive short bows are great for beginners before investing in a premium longbow.
- Transportation – Backpacking miles in? The short bow is lighter and more packable.
- Accuracy – Longbows shoot smoothly and consistently. Shortbows lose stability past 100 yards.
Evaluating these aspects will help determine if a longbow or short bow is the right traditional bow for your needs.
Examples of High-Quality Longbows and Shortbows
- Bear Montana Longbow
- Martin Savannah Stealth Longbow
- Black Widow PCH XO Longbow
- One With Eagles Day Stalker Longbow
- Big Jim Buffalo Bow
- Bear Super Kodiak Recurve
- Martin Mamba Recurve Bow
- Hoyt Satori Recurve Bow
- Samick Sage Takedown Bow
- Southwest Archery Spyder Takedown Bow
These represent some of the best options currently available from top bow manufacturers.
Final Thoughts on Choosing a Longbow or Short bow
While there are numerous aspects to consider when deciding between a longbow and a short bow, your personal shooting style, goals, and preferences will ultimately determine which traditional bow is best for you. There isn’t a solution that is always better. Analysing how you intend to utilize your new bow to begin with.
Longbows offer unparalleled power and accuracy but call for strength and ability. Short bows lack long-range capabilities despite being adaptable starting bows. To discover the bow that fits you best, try out a few. You can take part in the gratifying archery tradition if you have the appropriate longbow or short bow for your needs.