This blog is about transition, but if you read on, that’ll probably be obvious and I most likely didn’t need to say so.
For a few years now, more or less since childhood but with breaks of varying duration, I’ve been an archer. Always with relatively simple stick bows of one sort or another. Broadly speaking in modern terminology a “traditional” archer (there are a few historiological flaws in that terminology, but that’s maybe for another day). That is, someone who uses a simple longbow, flatbow or recurve bow, but without any mechanical aids to drawing the string (like the pulleys on a modern compound bow) or aiming (no sighting aids of any sort). Typically wood or wood-mimicking carbon, and often feather-fletched arrows.
I can remember making bows in the back yard at home when I was about 11 or 12. A branch from a tree or a piece of cane or bamboo, simple twine bowstring, and improvised hardwood dowel arrows or some such. Later on there was a very simple commercial d-shaped bow – can’t remember much about it other than it was short and painted black. Around that time my father noticed when he was in his garage with the lights off, that a series of holes in one wall allowed tiny pillars of light to stream through the dusty interior. My aim wasn’t that great! Late teens or early twenties, after a brief archery retirement, I went along to a few sessions at an archery club in my home town of Geelong. Some kind of basic recurve bow was their weapon of choice. On and off over the years until about 2010 I retained a background interest in archery, but just dabbled here and there.
Some time around 2010 I decided it was time I had a real bow and got serious about archery. I had just moved to a regional area in Central Victoria, so the setting was right. I was determined not to join a club – self-taught, as usual, would be the way to go. The big bonus was that since my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s, the interwebs had arrived, and there wasn’t much you couldn’t learn about from YouTube. Archery was no exception.
Long story short. I settled on the style of bow I wanted (modern longbow, a.k.a. flatbow) and had narrowed down the search of which one to a bowyer based in Estonia. Falco Archery were making excellent bows, but at a fraction of the price of the more well known producers in the USA. Archers using Falco gear were winning international competitions, but I could actually afford one of their basic bows. The Falco Legend, 45 pound draw at 28”, and at 70” long when braced truly a long bow (if not technically a longbow). The Legend, YouTube and I made a hell of a lot of progress in a short time. It was a forgiving bow to learn on, even if I was a bit over-bowed at the start. Not long after that I met Ben Maher and was introduced to the magical world of archery roving or stump shooting. Immeasurably more fun than shooting at circles on static paper targets, and with the accompanying banter from other like-minded archers, more fun than it had previously seemed possible.
I dabbled briefly with a takedown ILF recurve as my second bow (TradTech Titan), but during a financial rough patch I sold it on again. Things settled down, and my second bow was another Falco – this time the short, fierce flatbow called the Falco Storm – #55@28 and just 54” long. Designed to be used as a horsebow and for hunting or roving. High arrow speeds, but compact shape making it easy to thread through the undergrowth in the bush (the 70” Legend wasn’t so nimble that way 🙂 ). It was the perfect roving/stumping bow for me, and I had a lot of fun and success with it.
I passed on the Falco Legend to another beginning archer in 2020, and I look forward to seeing it work its magic on another traveller.
The Falco Storm is now also for sale (see below for details).
So what changed?
Early in the COVID pandemic of 2020, during one of the lockdowns, I decided to give eastern style thumb draw archery a try, to see if I could master it. What is unsaid in all of that history above, and it usually is in the western context, is that I was using a typical western method to draw the bowstring back – three fingers on the string, and as a right handed archer the arrow was on an arrow shelf on the left side of the bow. Every depiction of archery in the west shows it this way (reversed for left handers of course, but still three fingers). So all my muscle memory is for what is generally known as the Mediterranean draw – what would happen if I tried to learn what is often called the Mongolian draw?
By the way – thumb draw was dominant in much of the east – Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Middle East, Persia, Himalayas and the subcontinent, China, Japan, Korea, etc. – and still is in most of those places where an archery tradition persists. Mediterranean draw was definitely in the minority historically. Most western archers have overlooked this reality – evidenced by “you have the arrow on the wrong side” and similar comments.
In the beginning it was very difficult to try such a different method after so many years of doing it another way. A bit of persistence paid off though, and when I got my ego under control and used a low poundage training bow the “a ha!” moment came relatively quickly. It’s a more complicated method than the three finger draw, and there are many more parts to the sequence to get a grip on. Getting the drawing hand, thumb and fingers correctly aligned (it’s 90° rotated from the western method) took a while, but then started to feel natural. Having the arrow on the other side of the bow felt odd, but once I adjusted my sight picture for “aiming”, that was no big deal. No shelf on the bow – that was a bit of an adjustment. Shooting off the hand seemed a bit scary – feather cuts and all that – but correct nock height setting on the string fixed all that. When it all came together though, wow, it felt so much stronger and more intimate than shooting the western way. As a short guy with short arms I’m used to getting less than the measured draw weight of a bow – usually the bow poundage is given at 28” draw, but I could only draw to a bit over 26” with three fingers – with thumb draw I could get around 29” draw.
So it’s fair to say that since I started trying to teach myself thumb draw in May 2020, I have switched over completely to that method. It suits me temperamentally and biomechanically in ways that the western draw can’t match. And because I’m practising more, I am basically a much better archer than I was in May 2020.
The next journey then was “which Asiatic reflex bow?”.
Of the styles that I have tried I like the Ottoman Sipahi and Crimean Tatar pattern bows, and shooting methods, the most. I also have a modern interpretation of an Assyrian bow, which is superb, and I shoot it in pretty much the Ottoman way. I’ve bought and sold and destroyed a few bows in the last year. A Hungarian style bow just didn’t work for me – I didn’t enjoy the physical character of it and I sold it on. Some of these very lightweight bows are rather fragile, and if not expertly made can self-destruct in normal use – I’ve had one Chinese-made Tatar bow completely delaminate, and a less expensive Indonesian-made fibreglass Sipahi style bow had a limb crack and fail. Full refund on both, so I kept experimenting.
Despite laminated wood bows attempting to replicate the historical composite bows (wood, horn, sinew) with these extreme reflex limbs being at the performance limits of the modern materials, and vulnerable to mechanical failure, they are for me the most satisfying to shoot. Some of the fibreglass and hi-tech polymer bows get closer to some of the historical parameters of shape, weight and so on, but feel lifeless compared to either a real composite bow, or a laminated analogue.
The laminated Vegh Sipahi (#34@28) is my favourite general purpose bow – it is very light, small, responsive and supple, and feels alive when in use. In contrast the Şimşek Hybrid+ (#45@28) that I’m offering for sale below is a technological marvel – it’s moulded resin shape is as close to the size, shape and weight of real composite bows as can be made at the moment – but it feels efficient like a well made tool, and doesn’t speak to me at all. A technical masterpiece, but for me somewhat inanimate and soulless – many others don’t share that problem with me, and put its technical excellence to use with great shooting.
My Grozer Biocomposite Assyrian (#45@28) feels alive in my hands when I shoot it – and I’m not referring to handshock or vibration. I’m still struggling to find an adequate description in words to explain how beautiful it is to shoot with. Maybe the look on my face after I’ve hit a distant target with it does better justice than the words I’m grappling for …
So, now down to the business. I have two beautiful traditional bows for sale. Surplus to my needs, but with much to offer their next owners.
FALCO STORM FLATBOW (SHORT MODERN LONGBOW) #55@28
It is a particularly beautiful and deadly bow. If I thought there was any chance I would be going back to western archery, it would not be up for sale.
The visible wood types in its construction are ebony, cocobolo and curly birch. Curly birch back. Ebony belly. Both of those with cocobolo layered in the riser. It’s very pretty. The limbs have a bamboo core, adding more to the already high energy nature of the bow to generate high arrow speeds from a compact bow. Draw length maximum is 28”.
From the Falco web page:
“… The Storm was first created to be a hunting/horsebow and the first prototype of it was ordered by our long-time test-shooter Marko Suhonen.
At creating Storm, we aimed to engineer a very quick and fierce bow which would at the same time be comfortable to handle while on horseback – hence it had to be short. However going the easy way of making a classical Hungarian Mongol horsebow did not satisfy us either so we looked further and ended at a model more similar to the horsebows used by Indians in the prairie.
We have never had such a rush of feedback which followed after Marko launched his test videos of The Storm on Youtube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o4nS9prPJ8 ) and right now it seems The Storm has filled the space of a short bowhunting longbow …”.
Bit of an irony about the rejection of the Mongolian horsebow as a model for a new horsebow. 🙂
Never dry fired or left in a hot car, etc. Stored with my other bows on a dedicated rack in the house. It will come with its original Fast Flight Flemish Twist string, a string keeper, and a bow sock.
Currently selling from Falco Archery for €280 (plus shipping) in the configuration that I’m selling here (first generation Storm) … it could be yours for €185 (plus shipping) – approximately USD$225 or AUD$285 (plus shipping).
ŞIMŞEK OTTOMAN HYBRID+ #45@28
Let’s now talk about my Şimşek Hybrid+ #45@28 Asiatic reflex bow (renewed 3rd generation with leather covering).
We’ve been together since November 2020, and as wowed as I am by its technical credentials and excellence, we have never really become friends. I always shoot better and more happily with various kinds of laminated Asiatic reflex bows like my Vegh Sipahi, or the Biocomposite Assyrian from Grozer as fraught as they are with the risk of delamination on a humid day, etc. I know many others are much more than happy with the Şimşek bows, reflecting as they do probably the closest and most authentic experience of shooting with real composite Ottoman bows.
I don’t have a single bad word to say about either the technical, sales or support aspects of the Şimşek operation, which are all top notch, but the bow just doesn’t suit me and my way of shooting. I think it’s time the bow went somewhere to find a real friend!
It is the latest iteration of the Şimşek Ottoman Hybrid with leather wrapping (Hybrid+). There is abrasion of the leather at the arrow pass, but the bow is in otherwise fine condition. Never dry fired or left in a hot car, etc. Stored with my other bows on a dedicated rack in the house. It will come with string, string-keeper, bow sock.
Currently selling new from Şimşek for €400 at this draw weight (plus shipping) … it could be yours for €295 (plus shipping) – approximately USD$360 or AUD$455 (plus shipping).
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more details.