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Orianna2000
08-21-2012, 07:14 AM
After glancing through the other recent thread on archery, I realized I could use some guidance. My current WIP is vaguely fantasy with a strong dash of romance and a sprinkling of sci-fi. The MC is female and after waking up with amnesia and being forced into a battle situation, she discovers that she's good with a bow. Not spectacular, but fair enough. What pitfalls should I look out for?

* Is shooting a bow going to hurt one of her breasts? (I've read of female archers having voluntary mastectomies so they could shoot better. Not sure if that's an urban legend or not.)

* Should her clothes have padding built into them to protect her shoulder or arm?

* Will she notice any particular calluses beforehand? (Remember, she has amnesia.) I don't think she used to practice daily, but perhaps several times a week, if that makes any difference.

* I gather she ought to wear an arm/wrist guard. Did this have a medieval name? Vambrace, perhaps? Or is that something totally different?

* If she's an average archer, nothing spectacular, how difficult would it be for her to hit a moving target, at dusk, in a smoke-filled environment?

That's all the specific questions I can think of. Is there anything in particular I ought to know or make mention of in the story?

debirlfan
08-21-2012, 08:04 AM
I can't answer all of your questions, but as a female who used to do a lot of archery, and who is, (for want of a better term), rather top heavy...

They do make "boob guards" (not sure what the actual name is). I never used one, and I never hit that part of my anatomy. To me, the boobs never seemed to be in the way, when I drew the bow, the string came up "outside" of my breast. I do have fairly long arms - maybe with shorter arms or a longer bow it would be a problem?

On the other hand, the inside of my left arm took a beating - no matter where I put the arm guard, I'd either thwack myself above or below it. Finally went out and got a real long arm guard - and still managed to get myself occasionally.

As far as calluses - it will depend on how much she shoots, and just what equipment she uses. Thirty years ago I learned using a leather finger tab that protects your fingers from the string, but I still managed to wear a hole through the sides of my first and second fingers where I held the arrow (note that I was shooting a LOT.) After awhile I got smart and started wearing a leather glove instead of the tab - which helped considerably.

Trebor1415
08-21-2012, 08:52 AM
* Is shooting a bow going to hurt one of her breasts?

No. Assuming she's right handed, she'll pull the string so that it compresses her left breast slightly. She doesn't want it to go between the breasts, as that would hurt, but it's not hard for her to simply compress the left breast a bit. (Based on my experience teaching many female archers)


(I've read of female archers having voluntary mastectomies so they could shoot better. Not sure if that's an urban legend or not.)

You're thinking of the Amazons of mythology, who supposedly lopped off a breast to make them better archers. No real historical evidence exists of anyone actually doing this.


Should her clothes have padding built into them to protect her shoulder or arm?

Nah, not for archery anyways. She may be wearing some light padded armor or something, but it would be for general protection, not specific to needing padding for archery.


Will she notice any particular calluses beforehand? (Remember, she has amnesia.) I don't think she used to practice daily, but perhaps several times a week, if that makes any difference.

Do you want her to notice calluses? Really, you can justify it either way. If you don't want calluses have her always wear a finger guard or glove. If you do want calluses, have her not always wear a finger guard or glove. It's that simple. (Personally, I think calluses would be more likely than not, but you could justify it either way).


I gather she ought to wear an arm/wrist guard. Did this have a medieval name? Vambrace, perhaps? Or is that something totally different?

A leather arm guard would protect her from the string hitting her arm. Note that with absolutely PERFECT form the string might not hit her arm anyway, but for most people an arm guard is a necessity. I've always called it a arm guard or bracer, personally. Vambrace, to me, implies it being part of a armor set up, not just an arm guard.


If she's an average archer, nothing spectacular, how difficult would it be for her to hit a moving target, at dusk, in a smoke-filled environment?

Very. Moving targets are very hard to hit, especially if you don't practice against them. If you hunt small game (rabbits, etc) or larger game such as Deer, you still want to shoot them when they are still, as it is much easier than when they are moving.

Dusk makes it even worse as that is the most difficult time to see. And add in smoke, yeah, that's a tough shot.

Still, it can go either way, depending on what you WANT/NEED to have happen. If she needs to make the shot (story wise) have her shoot instinctively, without thinking about what she's doing, and her body "knows the rest," and adjusts for the movement, smoke, etc., and, toss in a bit of luck, and you can justify her making the shot. (Especially if she only needs to make one. Getting multiple hits in that scenario would strain it, I would think)

On the other hand, if you want her to miss, with the movement, smoke, and dusk, I could easily believe a clean miss or two (or three).


That's all the specific questions I can think of. Is there anything in particular I ought to know or make mention of in the story?

Yeah, tons of stuff. If you can read up on archery a bit and, even better, go out and shoot some, you'll figure out what else you either need to know or what would make nice details for the story. I wouldn't know where to start...

Actually, one thing, how strong is she? If she's "average" human female strength, she'd probably be pulling a bow that is suited for hunting, but would be lighter than a English Long Bow style bow as used historically. Think 50# draw for her, instead of 80 to 100 + pound for the war bow.

A 50 # will work on Deer, or a human. But, it would be harder to penetrate any substanial armor with a bow of that weight, especially at any great distance. Just be aware of it when figuring out how effective she might be against unarmored men, lightly armored men, or heavily armored men.

Also, the maximum effective range for a bow that weight is going to be under 100 yards. I'd think closer to 70 to 80 yards or so if she's aiming at a specific target/person or up to about 100 for a group target. (And, at those longer ranges it would likely lose some of it's armor penetration ability)

Anaximander
08-21-2012, 12:35 PM
Having done a fair bit of archery, I can comment on the general form of it, and although I'm not a girl, but I have drawn bows with some.

Only one of the girls I've known has complained about catching the string anywhere across her chest, and in her case, her form wasn't quite right and... let's just say it wasn't a small target. In most cases, it doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. The inside of your forward arm, however... it takes some practice to learn to twist your arm out so as to not catch it with the string.
Try this:
-Hold your arm straight out in front of you, as if holding a vertical pole (or a bow). Note how your elbow is oriented as if to bend upwards, ie. with the soft inner part facing up, and the knobbly bone part sticking out towards the centre of your body, towards where the string will hit it.
-Try twisting your elbow so that it's oriented to bend horizontally, so that the soft inner part of the joint faces across your body and that knobbly bone part is now beneath your arm, out of the way. Not too difficult, probably. Notice how you (probably) have to bend your arm slightly to accomplish this.
-Try to push out on something without letting your elbow twist back around. Notice how your arm's natural position when applying force is with your elbow oriented the first way, with the knobbly bit in the path of the string.

It is possible to hold a bow with your elbow twisted out of the way, but it shifts strain onto muscles that most people aren't used to using, so to start with you get aches in interesting places around your back and side. I've also been told by a few archery instructors that girls' elbows are built slightly differently, such that they have more difficulty twisting it out of the way, especially when applying full force. Regardless of gender, the more force it requires to draw the bow, the more your elbow will want to go back to the natural position. Similarly, it is possible to roll your wrist over to move the string away from your arm a little, but it shifts strain onto unused muscles down the back of your forearm, and gets harder as you have to apply more force.

If she shoots regularly, she'll probably notice tough skin on the inside of her fingers, where she draws the string. How many fingers depends on her technique; movies tend to depict two fingers (and the apocryphal historical origins of the two-fingered V gesture supports that) but it's not uncommon to use three fingers, or all four, often with one finger above the arrow and two beneath. If she uses a leather finger-guard, this will be less pronounced. She might also notice marks on the inside of her arm where the string catches (depending on how recently she last shot before losing her memory - they fade fairly quickly) but if she's good and/or uses a guard (which she probably would) then there wouldn't be any marks. There might also be slightly toughened skin on the heel of her hand from gripping and drawing the bow. This isn't all that pronounced, but the heel of your left hand (for a right-handed person) is an odd place to see signs of frequent use, so she might notice it. To be quite honest, one of the main things she might notice is the strength. If she shoots regularly, she'll be developing muscles in places most people don't - drawing a bow, pushing/pulling two things apart with strength, is a motion that isn't required very often. I know women who can draw 80 pounds, although most of them favour 60s or maybe 70s for practice. You say your character isn't a fantastic archer, but she's alright, so I'd say a 50 pounder would be about right; perhaps 60 if she's a little more stocky.

Moving targets can be a real challenge; with low light and smoke I'd say you're looking at 30, maybe 35 metres (30-40 yards) as the maximum range a hit would be believable. That's about the range your average modern bow hunter will shoot from, aiming at deer and the like - some can hit further out than that, but will hold fire on live targets because the arrow loses energy at those ranges and they want to guarantee a fast kill. Also that's in decent light, sneaking up on the target animal so it isn't moving much. If the target is moving very fast or erratically, then I'd cut that to 20-25m. If it's getting quite dark and/or the smoke is thick then it depends entirely on what the visibility is like, although you could always say that the smoke cleared. It sounds like you're writing quite a dramatic moment, so there's room to add tension by having her search blindly, and then the smoke clears for a moment, she glimpses her target and looses one desperate shot...

Kitti
08-21-2012, 07:17 PM
* Is shooting a bow going to hurt one of her breasts?

I've never had a problem with this, or known anyone who's had a problem with this, and 100% of my archery experience comes through Girl Scouts (i.e. shooting with a bunch of other girls and women).

* Should her clothes have padding built into them to protect her shoulder or arm?

Can't see any need for it, except for the left/right forearm depending on which way she shoots.

On a related note, since no one's mentioned it... most of my archery instructors have actually had us shoot based on whether or not we were left/right EYED, not left/right HANDED. Don't know if any archery instructors here can speak to the pros/cons of either approach?

* Will she notice any particular calluses beforehand? (Remember, she has amnesia.) I don't think she used to practice daily, but perhaps several times a week, if that makes any difference.

Depends on if she uses any sort of hand/finger guards, and also how generally calloused her hands are. I.e. if she's got smooth, pampered hands and some huge archery callouses, she'll notice. If her hands are all beat-up from her various other activities, she's not going to notice two more callouses.

* If she's an average archer, nothing spectacular, how difficult would it be for her to hit a moving target, at dusk, in a smoke-filled environment?

Is it a dragon? 'Cause I could probably hit a dragon. Is it the broad side of a barn on a tractor trailor? I think I could hit that, too. Seriously, though, distance would make a huge difference - if it's ten or twenty feet away, she's got a much better chance than if it's fifty or sixty. Also, whether or not it's on the same plane as her (i.e. she isn't shooting up/down).

Orianna2000
08-21-2012, 07:36 PM
This is all great info, thanks!

The archery isn't going to be a huge part of the story, but it's a vital element to an early scene, so I want to make sure I get the details right. I'm already making adjustments to the story based on what I'm learning here.

I've got her stringing the bow and strapping on a forearm guard just before she needs to use her bow. She noticed the calluses on her hand and fingers. And I made it much more difficult for her to aim in the smoky dusk setting.

kuwisdelu
08-21-2012, 08:18 PM
On a related note, since no one's mentioned it... most of my archery instructors have actually had us shoot based on whether or not we were left/right EYED, not left/right HANDED. Don't know if any archery instructors here can speak to the pros/cons of either approach?

How do you tell if you're right or left eyed?

xC0000005
08-21-2012, 08:29 PM
How do you tell if you're right or left eyed?

Make a triangle by putting your thumbs and first fingers together. Now, focus on some far off object through the open space between your fingers and thumbs. Move your hands closer and closer, keeping the object in view. You'll move toward one eye or the other. Try it a few times, and you'll note that for one eye, the image would "shift" if you moved toward it.

BunnyMaz
08-21-2012, 08:36 PM
How do you tell if you're right or left eyed?

Like this (http://www.sciencemadesimple.co.uk/page37g.html)!

Trebor1415
08-21-2012, 08:38 PM
As a SCA archery instructor, yes, most of the ameteur instructors I know check for eye dominance and usually have the person shoot with the hand that matches their dominant eye.

There are workarounds for cross eye dominance if someone really can't learn to shoot with the "wrong hand."

I don't know how much importance the pros put on it though.

Trebor1415
08-21-2012, 08:42 PM
And I made it much more difficult for her to aim in the smoky dusk setting.

Don't have her "aim" in the sense of carefully lining up a shot.

Many archers shoot "instinctive." You draw the bow to your normal anchor point and focus on the target, specifically where you want the arrow to hit. Your brain figures out the rest, based on previous experience of where the arrow will go.

It's kind of like how you throw a ball. You don't "aim" a baseball or football. You just look at the target and throw. Same idea.

Now, there are actually ways to aim with a bow, whether it's a longbow, recurve, or modern compound bow, but instinctive archery is very suited to shooting "traditional" bows like longbows and recurves, and is especially appropriate for a quick, moving target like outlined in your story.

kuwisdelu
08-21-2012, 08:52 PM
Make a triangle by putting your thumbs and first fingers together. Now, focus on some far off object through the open space between your fingers and thumbs. Move your hands closer and closer, keeping the object in view. You'll move toward one eye or the other. Try it a few times, and you'll note that for one eye, the image would "shift" if you moved toward it.


Like this (http://www.sciencemadesimple.co.uk/page37g.html)!

When I'm focusing on the far-away object, there are two triangle-finger-circles. Which one do I put it in? The right one or the left one?

BunnyMaz
08-21-2012, 09:44 PM
When I'm focusing on the far-away object, there are two triangle-finger-circles. Which one do I put it in? The right one or the left one?

When you're totally focussing on the far object - it should be sharp. Centre it by moving your blurry double-hand left and right. You should only be able to see the far object sharply through one of them.

kuwisdelu
08-21-2012, 11:33 PM
And which way do you hold it if you're right vs left eyed? Same as if you were right vs left armed?

Trebor1415
08-22-2012, 12:11 AM
And which way do you hold it if you're right vs left eyed? Same as if you were right vs left armed?

A right handed shooter who is right eye dominant will hold the bow in their left hand. They will use the dominant right arm to draw and nock the arrow and pull back (and release) the string.

The right handed/right eyed shooter will then sight with the right eye.

If you are cross eye dominant (right handed, but left eye dominant) one technique is to put the bow in your right hand, and draw with your left, so you can use your dominant left eye. (Obviously reverse that for left handers who are right eye dominant)

Another technique is to ignore the eye dominance issue and train yourself to sight with the non dominant eye. (A right hander would still keep the bow in their left hand and would train themselves to sight with the non-dominant right eye instead of switching which hand holds the bow)

If you are shooting instinctive, eye dominance doesn't matter as much.

Orianna2000
08-22-2012, 01:12 AM
I would really like to try archery at some point. I'm right-handed when I write, but I do many things left-handed, especially sports. Bowling, golf, softball, all left-handed. Ironing, left-handed. Figure skating, I spin clockwise, which is "backwards" for most. They say it may have more to do with eye dominance than hand dominance, and I'm definitely left-eyed. It definitely keeps things interesting.

Unimportant
08-22-2012, 02:11 AM
As a SCA archery instructor, yes, most of the ameteur instructors I know check for eye dominance and usually have the person shoot with the hand that matches their dominant eye.

Yup, that's how I learned it too.

I learned to identify the eye dominance by making the forefingers-and-thumbs triangle, holding my arms up, and looking with both eyes through the triangle at the corner of the ceiling. Move your hands until the corner of the ceiling is in the middle of the triangle. Now close one eye, then the other. With the dominant eye, the corner will remain in the middle. With the other eye, the corner will seem to move over to the side.

kuwisdelu
08-22-2012, 03:13 AM
If you are shooting instinctive, eye dominance doesn't matter as much.

That what they call it?

It's been forever since I tried archery, but I remember noticing my aim got better the less I tried to aim.

debirlfan
08-22-2012, 04:39 AM
That what they call it?

It's been forever since I tried archery, but I remember noticing my aim got better the less I tried to aim.


Yep. Back when I was doing archery, I was an instinctive shooter. BTW, I can assure you - it does NOT translate to "instinctive bowling" - not at all. :)

amblack
08-22-2012, 10:02 PM
* Is shooting a bow going to hurt one of her breasts? (I've read of female archers having voluntary mastectomies so they could shoot better. Not sure if that's an urban legend or not.)

No. They make chest guards that both male and females wear. I suggest watching some Olympic archery. =) It IS possibly to hang the string graze you, but that is likely because of poor form or being a novice.

* Should her clothes have padding built into them to protect her shoulder or arm?

Nah, what I recommend is tight clothing.

* Will she notice any particular calluses beforehand? (Remember, she has amnesia.) I don't think she used to practice daily, but perhaps several times a week, if that makes any difference.

No. A lot of archers practice with a three fingered shooting glove. It is quite easy for your hand to get fatigued. I got more calluses from playing violin than archery.

* I gather she ought to wear an arm/wrist guard. Did this have a medieval name? Vambrace, perhaps? Or is that something totally different?

Not necessarily. Again, it can sting to get grazed, but I see a lot who don't. Vambrace is the common name but it also refers to arm armor in general. Forearm guard is fine too.

* If she's an average archer, nothing spectacular, how difficult would it be for her to hit a moving target, at dusk, in a smoke-filled environment?

I'd say impossible if she's average. She would need a scope and some above average abilities to do so. Even still targets are hard to be successful at hitting. After some arrows though, I'd imagine her eyes would be adjusted to the environment and she might get a lucky hit.

Orianna2000
08-22-2012, 10:52 PM
Okay, I made it so she misses several times before finally hitting the dude she's trying to shoot. A bit more realistic that way.

Thanks for all the comments and helpful info! Feel free to add more, if you think of anything useful.

Trebor1415
08-23-2012, 01:13 AM
Okay, I made it so she misses several times before finally hitting the dude she's trying to shoot. A bit more realistic that way.

How far away is he and what is he doing while she's shooting at him?

Just asking because you'd be surprised how fast someone can close the distance. If he knows she's shooting at him, and is running to attack her, that will really cut down on the amount of time she'll have to shoot at him. If he starts too close, say within 10 yards or so, she may not be able to get off a single shot if he sees her and runs right at her right away. (Unless she was already at full draw).

Orianna2000
08-23-2012, 06:43 AM
How far away is he and what is he doing while she's shooting at him?


She's not too far away, but she's up on the roof of a medieval house and he's down on the ground across the way, trying to sneak up on this other guy. It's dark and smoky and he doesn't even know she's there until her first shot misses. She grabs a second arrow while he's looking around, trying to find her. He spots her and she fires, but her arrow doesn't penetrate his leather armor. She fires a third time and by pure chance happens to hit the crease of his arm, where his armor is weak. It maybe doesn't kill him, but it stops him. Does that seem plausible enough?

Trebor1415
08-23-2012, 06:50 AM
She's not too far away, but she's up on the roof of a medieval house and he's down on the ground across the way, trying to sneak up on this other guy. It's dark and smoky and he doesn't even know she's there until her first shot misses. She grabs a second arrow while he's looking around, trying to find her. He spots her and she fires, but her arrow doesn't penetrate his leather armor. She fires a third time and by pure chance happens to hit the crease of his arm, where his armor is weak. It maybe doesn't kill him, but it stops him. Does that seem plausible enough?

Make it hit in the armpit right as he looks up and raises his arm. There's often an exposed spot in armor there. (If you look at plate armor you'll often see metal plates on the front specifically designed to cover that spot).

Orianna2000
08-23-2012, 07:10 PM
Make it hit in the armpit right as he looks up and raises his arm. There's often an exposed spot in armor there. (If you look at plate armor you'll often see metal plates on the front specifically designed to cover that spot).

Great idea! Thanks.

Nekko
08-23-2012, 09:48 PM
No expert here, but from my reading an arm guard in medieval times was called a 'bracer'. These were usually leather and laced up. Some could be finely decorated on the outside. The pictures I've seen show that that would have covered the forearm from the wrist to just below the elbow.

Have fun!

Orianna2000
08-24-2012, 12:28 AM
I wonder what the difference is between bracers and vambraces? I'll have to look that up.

ArtsyAmy
08-24-2012, 01:08 AM
"* Will she notice any particular calluses beforehand? (Remember, she has amnesia.) I don't think she used to practice daily, but perhaps several times a week, if that makes any difference."

Looks as though your questions have been answered, but just a couple ideas in case you'd be interested in using them. We have a female archer in the family. A couple times she's gotten a nasty bruise on the inside of her arm, despite wearing an arm guard (maybe she forgot her arm guard that day, or maybe the string hit just above the arm guard--I hear it really hurts). It seems like an uncommon place for a person to get a bruise, unless she's an archer. Maybe your character with amnesia could look at her arm, notice a bruise in that spot, and figure that she's an archer.

Another place she got a bruise from archery is on her face, between her chin and cheek, if memory serves me well. She didn't notice until the next day that she'd gotten the bruise, but realized it came from trying a new anchor point. Guess she must have been very focused the evening before at target practice, and didn't realize she was giving herself a bruise. The location of that bruise was also a strange place for a bruise. Maybe your character could have a bruise there, wonder how she got it, then when she pulls back the arrow, realizes that she's touching her face right where the bruise is located and figures she's had experience with archery.