No products were found matching your selection.
There are few things more fun than getting to loose arrows at your enemies on the LARP battlefield. Provided you are safe, using a low-powered LARP bow and a set of padded safety arrows, it can be an exhilarating way to add another layer to your LARP experience. We have a carefully-chosen range of LARP bows for sale, in a variety of materials, styles and draw weights to fit every archer. Here, you can read the historical basis for our selection of Medieval bows, and how to choose your own LARP bows for yourself.
How to Choose Your LARP Bow Several factors are important when choosing a LARP bow, and your choice will depend on what you intend to use it for.
Draw Weight Draw weight is an important factor in your choice of bow – this is a measure of the amount of force needed to draw your bow back to your chin. If you intend to fire LARP-safe arrows with your bow, then generally you will need a higher draw weight in order to make it useable. However, low draw-weight bows can be just as fun, as they require little practise and are just as good at closer ranges (remember to always ensure your opponent is wearing sturdy armor and eye protection).
Material The material for your bow is also very important. Most LARP bows for sale tend to be made from fibreglass. This is cheap, effective and safe material for your LARP bow. However, you may prefer the look and feel of our wood medieval bows for sale – whilst these are generally more expensive, they are closer in experience to genuine historical bows.
Style and Design As well, consider the cultural background of your archer, hunter or horse-rider character. Western European bows (both short and long) tended to be selfbows (made from one piece of wood) that had straight limbs. Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian archery tended to favour shorter bows with recurved limbs – these were often strengthened with laminated animal sinew to give extra power that belied their short size. Think about what your choice of bow style says about the character you have created. Are they a Western-inspired man-at-arms, or an Eastern horse archer? Or, are you creating a fantasy character and just want a LARP bow that looks cool? You can mix and match it with our other excellent LARP Weapons, so that you can create the perfect outfit for the battlefield.
Ancient Archery: From Survival to Warfare The ancestors of medieval bows have been used by humans for almost as long as we’ve been on two legs. The bow and arrow is likely one of the earliest mechanical inventions created by humanity – your LARP bow has an illustrious history! The bow’s enormous age makes dating its invention very difficult, as sites evidencing human habitation from that era are few and far between: before about 20,000 years ago, all anatomically modern humans were nomadic, leaving very little impression on the landscapes they inhabited. Finds from this era are often very much open to interpretation, being very few in number, frequently consisting only of non-organic objects that haven’t rotted away over the intervening millennia, often disturbed by other human occupation, animals or even geological change.
The Evolution of the Bow Most archaeologists agree that the earliest date for the bow that is supported by some physical evidence is about 65,000 years ago. In 1983, archaeologists found a trove of chipped stone objects in Sibudu Cave, South Africa – they dated to the Mesolithic era, ranging between 70,000 and 38,000 CE. Some of the older objects were a number of small, sharp quartz and bone fragments that had been deliberately shaped into a clear ‘arrowhead’ shape. Whether these are conclusive evidence of the use of the bow is unclear: there were no accompanying arrow-shafts, which would have been diagnostic, nor of any pictorial representation. Regardless of when precisely they were invented, these early bows would have been a vast improvement on pre-existing technologies of lances and leather spear-throwing slings. A hunter might be able to carry a single lance or maybe three throwing spears, having to have a wide-open space to make an attack on their prey; an archer can carry a whole quiver full of arrows, and fire from undergrowth unseen.
The Mastery of the Prehistoric Bow The earliest complete bows yet discovered are the Holmegaard bows. The peat bogs of Denmark are a godsend to archaeologists: their soggy, anaerobic (oxygen-free) environments mean that items lost or deposited into them decay far slower than they would in ordinary soil. Incredible objects, like the Vimose chainmail, have emerged from them almost as good as new after centuries. The Holmegaard bows are no exception: they look like they could be strung and fired straight out of the bog (although you’d likely be chased by some very angry conservators). They have a very modern construction, and were clearly made by an extremely skilled bowyer (bow-maker). They are not simple randomly-selected pieces of wood: they have been carefully shaped with a round back and a flat belly – this is a very efficient cross-section of bow that very effectively maximises the compression and tension in the wood. The broad limbs of the bows are very good for distributing tension, whilst the narrow hand-grip is comfortable to hold. Analysis of the wood used by the maker shows that it was carefully selected, being completely knot free elm that had been grown in the shade for a tighter and more powerful wood grain. They were discovered in 1944, when wartime shortages of coal forced widespread peat-cutting for fuel – and they were quickly doused with formaldehyde to preserve them. Whilst this has indeed done the job, it means that carbon-dating the Holmegaard bows is now impossible. But archaeologists generally agree that they date to around 10,000 years ago.
The First Wars? In the eastern Spanish mountain range of els Ports, there are dozens of caves that contain cave art that dates from the early Neolithic era (c. 6000 BCE) – roughly contemporary with the Holmegaard bows. One of these, at a cave in at Morella la Vella, has captured the imagination of archaeologists: a painting that shows a chaotic tumult of archers pointing drawn bows at one another. Is this one of the earliest images of warfare? Though many images of hunting can be found in early rock art, this is one of the very few that shows tools turned into weapons and aimed at fellow humans. Anthropologists disagree significantly over the origins of early warfare: some say that there is evidence of a ‘raiding’ culture along the Nile that dates to well before 10,000 BCE; others see Neolithic peoples as fundamentally peaceful, since the factors that drive warfare, like ownership of land, wealth inequalities and so on, were broadly absent from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies. Regardless, the technology of the bow was a handy tool for attacking one’s fellow human when the horns of war began to blow.
Bows in Medieval Warfare Our LARP bows trace their heritage back to the medieval bows that were used from the start of the Medieval period (c. 500 CE), right the way through to the advent of reliable firearms in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was the pre-eminent ranged weapon, and though it was constantly adapted to fit a variety of roles and requirements, any bow from the Medieval era would have been intimately familiar to the maker of the Holmegaard bow 10,000 years earlier. It was simply a winning design that needed only minor tweaks to meet the specific challenges of the Medieval battlefield.
Shortbows Until the 13th century or so, the dominant form of bow in Medieval Europe was a simple shortbow. Most bows of the era would have followed the simple form of a basic hunting bow: usually a selfbow (made from a single piece of wood) around three feet in length, strung with twisted cord made from flax and kept supple with beeswax. The Early Medieval shortbow had a range of about 200 yards at the outside – but its effects could be devastating. Medieval texts are replete with references to archery: one of the earliest Viking law books, the Gulathingslov, references the bow as one of the weapons permitted to be borne by freemen, along with the axe and the spear. However, as it had in ancient warfare, archery always played a secondary role rather than a decisive one – although in Eastern Asia, the bow had followed a quite different trajectory of tactical development, becoming the weapon of highly advanced horse archers. An early example of a Western Medieval commander really cracking the use of archery came at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William of Normandy, facing a superior Saxon foe on the high ground of Senlac Hill, send archers armed with shortbows to soften up the Saxon shield wall with indirect fire, arching arrows down onto the heads of the defenders, breaking apart the shield wall and creating openings for his devastating Norman heavy cavalry. The shortbow was an ideal weapon for the armies of the earlier part of the Medieval era: it was highly mobile, extremely easy to manufacture from common woods, and could be used with a low level of physical skill. Almost all men would have had familiarity with this weapon, as it became the ubiquitous way to outfit peasant levies. In England, from the 13th century onward, all men and boys were required to attend weekly archery practise, in preparation for muster in times of war.
Robin Hood and the Symbolism of the Bow As feudal society reached its apogee in the High Medieval Era, the bow became rich with symbolism. No discussion of LARP bows would be complete without the most famous wielder of the Medieval bow: Robin Hood. Many places in Britain – Lincoln, Nottingham, West Yorkshire – claim to be the birthplace or the home of the mythic outlaw and his Band of Merrie Men, and few with any credible evidence. But, although the historical figure of Robin Hood remains shrouded in mythology, there is little doubt that the legend of Robin Hood was current in the Middle Ages. Strangely, the earliest reference to ‘Robbehodde’, ‘Robinhood’ and ‘Robehod’ appear in English court records, with Justices of the Peace referring as such to the criminals upon whom they sat in judgment – like a modern judge asking a defendant if they think they’re Superman. The fact that Robin Hood is always, even in the earliest sources, associated with the bow is not coincidence: in a highly agricultural world, it had become the symbol of the poacher, living on the margins of society and stealing game from the King’s forest.
The Longbow The high-point of Medieval bows comes with the longbow – the undisputed king of ranged medieval warfare. Whilst long bows have appeared throughout history, the Medieval longbow took things up a notch. They developed around the early 14th century in response to the shortcomings of the shortbow: hunting-style bows only had a limited range, and their arrows were increasingly ineffective against emerging plate armors. English bowyers around the time of the Hundred Years War (1337 CE – 1453 CE) began experimenting with different woods and techniques. They hit upon the design of a tall wooden selfbow the same height as their wielder (around 6 ft) made from the wood of the yew tree. By cutting the bow stave from the boundary of the heartwood and the sapwood, they could utilize their opposing qualities: sapwood is lighter and less dense than heartwood, and is perfect for tension on the back (outside) of the bow, whilst the heavy heartwood performs excellently under compression on the belly (inside) of the bow. Modern LARP bows sometimes mimic this dual-wood construction by laminating two different kinds of wood together. The longbows made in this era were absolutely terrifying weapons. Whilst a typical shortbow might have a draw weight of around 50 lbs at most, some longbows (such as those recovered from the 1545 wreck of the Mary Rose) required more than 150-200 lbs of force to draw them to full. This permitted them to propel arrows so much further and harder than before – often with a deadly range of 350 yards or more. Their arrows were frequently equipped with bodkin heads, the needle-like points of which could puncture even plate armor. The impact that these had on warfare was devastating. The English victories in the Hundred Years War can be attributed almost exclusively to the proper tactical use of this new secret weapon: at the Battle of Crécy (1346), a force of fewer than 10,000 (made up mostly of Welsh longbowmen) defeated a French knightly army that outnumbered them around 2:1, bogging down the cream of the French aristocracy in a marshy lowland before shooting them to pieces. The longbow continued its dominance of ranged warfare well into the post-Medieval era, being far cheaper and more reliable in use than early firearms, seeing its last use in the mid-17th century Scotland in the War of the Three Kingdoms during the English Civil Wars.