One of the oldest weapons made by man, the bow is still used today competitively, recreationally and, in some places, for subsistence. A staple of the medieval and fantasy genres, it holds an undeniable place within LARPs. However, unlike with foam swords, you actually need to have the real deal to use as intended and the world of archery is vast and complex! That's why we put together this guide to help you navigate the space and hopefully help bring you closer to your ideal bow.
What makes LARP bows different?
As with all LARP weapons, bows are not exempted from having specific requirements that differentiate them from standard bows. Here are a few things that need special consideration:
Appearance - LARPs are often set in or influenced by eras other than modern and require a certain level of decorum
Safety - Most LARPs tend to set a maximum allowed draw weight of 25lbs, which is flow for modern archery
Style - Styles of bows varied greatly throughout world history and using a specific type can bring a costume together
While standard bows can sometimes fit the bill, LARP bows are typically made specifically per these standards. Of course, you'll still want to do your due diligence and make sure that what you're buying has the desired appearance and, more importantly, will pass your event's safety testing.
Types and styles of bows
Bows come in so many shapes and sizes, it can be easy to feel a little lost when shopping for one. Here are some common terms and what they mean!
This term refers to the feature in which a bow is comprised of several pieces that must be assembled to use and can later be "taken down". It allows for compact storage and easier transportation.
This term refers to a type of bow where the unstrung bow's tips point away from the archer and is strung against the curve of the bow. When viewed sideways, a recurve bow will feature a short outward curve at each end. When this type of bow is strung, the string touches the limbs.
This term refers to the more rare type of bow where the unstrung bow's tips curve towards the archer. When viewed sideways, an unstrung decurve bow will feature a short inward curve at each end. Decurve bows are under lessened to no strain when strung, making them ideal to keep at the ready at all times.
A very modern type, compound refers to bows that use a levering system such as cables and pulleys called to pull the limbs back. These bows have much stiffer limbs and require the pulleys (called "cams") to draw.
Turkish bows are a style that is usually shorter than almost every other type, allowing for use on horseback. Traditionally, these recurve bows used in the Ottoman empire are known to be hard to draw but extremely powerful and accurate. They share many similarities with the Mongolian bow, the Tatar bow and the Manchu bow.
Best known as Robin Hood's weapon of choice, this style features some of the oldest and tallest bows to have existed. They typically have narrow limbs but LARP longbows may be made with flat limbs similarly to the historical flatbow. Modern usage of this term is often used for bows that fit the Medieval English stereotype.
Yumi is the Japanese word for bow. Colloquially, the yumi bow is the traditional Japanese asymmetrical bow. Historically used by samurai, this style is one of the longest in the world.
Parts of a bow
Archery is rife with technical terms that can look and function differently based on the type and style of bow being used. Here is a breakdown of the terms most often used pertaining to LARP bows.
This refers to a bow's "arms", i.e. the parts that extend up and down from the center.
The riser is the entirety of the central section of a bow from which the limbs extend.
The grip is a part of the riser. It is a generally thicker central section rounded out for comfort where the hand grips the bow.
The sight window is a part of the riser that has been cut and shaped to allow the arrow to lay closer to the bow's centerline.
Arrow rest, also called arrow shelf, refers to the portion of the sight window that supports the arrow shaft.
Review by Eric Valériote, expert LARP archer
What of arrows?
Here at Calimacil, LARP arrows come in mainly two variations: high-speed and low-speed. Both of these necessarily adhere to basic safety considerations with foam tips to reduce the risk if injury to a maximum.
Low Speed Arrows are our most popular model, providing the highest degree of safety. The heads are flat and made of soft foam sandwiched between two layers of denser foam, the latter of which provide durability.
High Speed Arrows provide greater speed and accuracy. The heads are rounded to reduce wind resistance and are made of soft foam fully encased in a protective outer layer. They have been thoroughly tested for safety.
From bows to quivers to spare fletching, we aim to have everything you need. Take a look at our archery gear right here!