Can You Make a Longbow Faster?

By | 2nd May 2024

As a new Bickerstaffe longbow owner who is trying to shoot 60m in order to all the Master Bowman scores possible for a 50+ male. I am finding that I have to aim slightly higher than the target to reach it with my 30lb bow at 29″ draw. So I was thinking about a faster type of string or different arrows to help out, as unlike a modern recurve bow I can’t add poundage (screw in the bolts, or swap the limbs). This question I have put to two well known people in the industry, first off Reign Bowstrings who I have always had supply my recurve and barebow strings and then to Pip at Bickerstaffe itself. Below are the responses to my emails, I hope you enjoy reading them and I thank the them both for their replies.

Reign Bowstrings

Hi Daniel,

We can build longbow strings. However it largely depends on the bowyer as to whether it is deemed safe.

All of our manufacturing methods involve an element of prestretching of the string which takes out some of the elasticity/growth of the string. This makes the string much more stable but can transfer more stress onto the bow. In the case of recurve bows this is not an issue at all, however for longbows and given the nature of their construction it can in extreme cases cause damage to the glue line and laminates of the bow.

Ironically it is actually more difficult for us to make a string without the prestretching process than it is with.

If you could let me know the make and model of the longbow, I might be able to advise a bit more.


Dear Daniel,

All of our bows are supplied with BCY 8125 strings, usually called fast flight  —  exactly the same mateiral used in recurve string except that we hand make traditional laid in Flemish twist strings to suit wooden bows.

With a wooden bow you will not gain speed by changing anything.    The optimum arrow weight is 10 grains per pound draw weight so 300 grains with your bow.

A lighter arrows might leave the bow a fraction faster but will lack momentum and lose speed faster, ending up slower at the end of the flight.

Big fletchings will slow the arrows down significantly so a smaller fletching helps.   A bobtailed arrow  will fly further and faster as it has less drag.   

But the fundamental problem is that a Basic longbow has a fixed spring rate.   A more up market bow will have a crisper performance but 30 lbs is still 30 lbs and the amount of energy stored is the problem.  A heavier bow will shoot a heavier bow with significantly more energy than the lighter bow so you will get a flatter and faster trajectory.

A classic longbow with more exotic materials will definitely have a faster action and will give you better cast.  But that is not a basic longbow.

The basic bow is intended to be a steady and consisitent entry level longbow that will perform well at short and middle distances  —  if used with the proper traditional shooting technique.    Almost all Coaches teach just the one style which is basically only really appropriate with modern recurve and compound bows and is nowhere near as efficient when used with traditional bow types.

So what you have got is a bow that I would consider to be ideal for 20 yards indoors and as a training bow to develop technique but it is not a bow that you could hope to reach the longer outdoor distances.  Good for 3D type field archery at modest distances but you will find the limits of its capabilities at longer targets.

For 100 yards you will find that you need a Classic bow with 50 – 55lbs draw weight with a 28″ draw, the correctly designed and made arrows and a good traditonal technique using a V draw and both shoulders to draw the bow with a push pull technique, a slight bend in the bow arm (which adds speed and prevents arrows going left –  for a right handed archer).

But you are not going to add speed with lighter arrows or a lighter string.    A bow is a wooden spring, all springs — whatever they are made from  — have a fixed spring rate, the speed at which a spring will return from fully bent to the starting point.    Modern recurve bows with composite materials will have a fast action than a wooden bow, but if you shoot wooden arrows from a recurve bow they will shoot only slightly faster than the same arrows from the same weight wooden bow.

The arrow is the great leveller in traditional archery and we frequently shoot with archers using longbows, recurve bow, flatbows and horsebows and all use wooden arrows and they all shoot roughly the same distances on a roving shoot.    The heavier draw weight bows having the longest range, with heavier arrows.

Hope that helps, but a grasp of basic physics is useful when looking at archery equipment and a knowledge of martial arts and human physiology is useful when coaching.