The Composite Bow


Hunters and warriors have used the bow for thousands of years. One of the most effective, the most feared, and deadliest of all was the composite bow that was developed by the horsemen of Central-Asia in the first millennium B.C.; the Scythians, the Huns, the Avars and the Magyars, just to mention a few, were masters in the making and handling of this weapon. Compared to other bows, the composite bow was smaller and more powerful and more practical in hunting or shooting from horseback. An arrow shot from it could travel about half a mile's distance, was capable of piercing some light body armor, and was lethal at about 300-400 yards. (Western bows had only about half the range.) The warriors of the East were masters in handling these bows and they shot their arrows with great accuracy from their galloping horses. Even in a retreat (real or tactical), the stirrup enabled them to turn facing backwards on their horses, allowing for the very effective use of these weapons. A skilled horseman in Hungary can demonstrate very convincingly that this can even be done without the stirrup.


Exhibit 14: Blue: position of storage; brown: ready position; red: shooting position


Composite bows were made of wood, horn, sinew, and some fish-glue; due to the type of glue used in their manufacture, this weapon could only be employed in dry weather. It took a great deal of skill and a number of years to make just one. In order to use these weapons effectively, one was trained from childhood to develop the necessary skill and muscle.