The long bow is the simplest of all drawn bows. It is a straight shaft of a strong, springy wood tapered to a point and the capped with horn (or bone) at each end, it has a grip just below the middle of the shaft. Its proper unstrung length is roughly 68â€ â€“ 78â€ (a weapon that is too short will break if overdrawn). It is strung into an arc and held in the hand of the outstretched left arm of the archer along the line of the shoulders. The string is drawn to the far corner of the archer's mouth with the hand. This weapon can take years to master.
The Shortbow or "Horsebow" is a bow designed for use from horseback or by light troops. It has a far shorter range than the longbow but is much less cumbersome. It is made in the same way as the longbow but usually from a stronger wood and that, combined with it's length, makes a bit harder to draw. Its proper unstrung length is from the ground to the shooter's waist. When fired it is held in the left hand straight away from the body and is drawn to the centre of the chest. It can also take years to master this bow.
Composite (Recurve) Bow
Composite bows come in both long and short varieties and are generally considered to be superior to their simpler brethren. They are made on demand to suit the individual shooter and no man can properly shoot another's composite bow. They consist of the same shaft of strong wood, but it is curved out at the ends to create a "recurve" effect when the bow is drawn, (that is, the ends curl back the other way, against the main curve of the bow) The shaft is further reinforced by long strips of inflexible horn on both the inside and the outside of the main arc. The "sandwiched" shaft is the wrapped completely in several layers of wet sinew, each allowed to dry before the next is applied. The composite has far better range, power and accuracy than other drawn bows, but is also much harder to draw and harder to maintain. It is very sensitive to moisture and temperature changes and strings must be changed frequently to avoid them breaking. Like the other drawn bows it takes years to master but it can also take up to 5 years to properly manufacture such a weapon.
The crossbow comes in many shapes and sizes. The smallest can fit into a pocket and shoot accuratly over a few feet and the largest are used a seige artillery and can be accuratly fired almost a mile. Crossbows fire either stones (ranging from marble size to the size of a man's head) or bolts (from a few inches in length to several feet). They consist of a bowshaft fastened horizontally to the front of a perpendicular (look it up)stock. The stock has a lock or trigger mechanism that holds the drawn bowstring taut and releases the bolt or stone when the trigger is squeezed. Crossbows are made using bow simple and composite bows and some are even made with extremely springy steel. A tyical heavy crossbow can easily fire over 70 yards and can knock an armored horseman out of his saddle at 50. It is an extremely easy weapon to use as it generally has a sighting device and one doesn't have to hold the bowstring taut. It can simply be pointed and fired. The advantages of this weapon are that it is extremely accurate and powerful, extremely easy to use and master and can be carried long distances loaded and cocked. The main downfall of the crossbow is that it cannot be fired rapidly. They are mainly loaded by means of a foot loop on the front of the weapon,but there are also loading levers or "goats feet" that may be used to draw the string. Some examples have a far weaker bow but use a "pump" or slide to draw the string. There have even been ones with two bows, one above the other, to give the shooter a second shot before having to reload.