Arrow Guides

Shooting with short arrows

There are many answers to the question why people used to shoot with short arrows. A big problem was that your adversary could simply pick up your misfired arrows and shoot them back at you. With the help of a special attachment the enemy’s short crossbow boltscould be used again. Because the arrows were shorter and lighter each person could carry more ammunition, providing an important advantage in battle. Some of the arrows were so short that in the picturesque Arabian language they were described as “hail stones” (husban) or “birds” (usfuri) – they were often only 10-15 cm long.

These arrows, when fired with warbows of up to 120 lbs, were very fast and were used to penetrate plated armour and shields or to crush the enemy with a veritable hailstorm of arrows. The weaker warriors, such as older and younger men and those who lacked strength, could be useful in battle as they could achieve the same power with weaker bows and shorter arrows as stronger fighters with a normal bow and arrow. The Persians used arrow guides made of copper to fire red-hot needles made of iron, appropriately named “himmas al-amir” (the prince’s beans) and were probably not very popular with their enemies as a result.

Shooting with an Arrow Guide


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Shooting with an arrow guide requires knowledge of the thumb technique and a bit of practice. This way of shooting consists of holding the bow normally in your left hand and securing the arrow guide against it with your thumb, middle and ring finger like an arrow. Take a short arrow and place it with the single guiding feather on the inside of the guide, so that the guide and end of the nock are at the same height.

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Then turn the bow hand into position, as if you were about to fire a normal long arrow – assume the guide and the arrow are one unit and nock the arrow. The narrow end of the arrow guide has a hole through which you thread a strong piece of string or leather band, which you wrap around your little or middle finger while shooting. This means the arrow guide is secured by your right hand when the arrow takes off. Very often a small ball or pearl is fastened to the loop, which you can simply trap between your little and ring fingers to free your drawing arm more quickly.

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Using the little and ring finger of your right hand, grip the loop or the pearl before securing the short arrow and guide as one using the thumb technique. Then draw the guide and short arrow together, as if you were about to fire a normal long arrow and release them as one. Make sure that the guide is pulled back immediately after the release to prevent it from coming into contact with the bowstring and destroying the final part of the shot. I usually turn the bow slightly away from the line of fire, as can be seen in the image below.

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