Aidrian Hayes Longbow
It sounds a little hypocritical to expound on your love for the English Longbow and yet spend most of your time shooting American Longbows, Flatbows and Hybrid bows, I often think of the days when I would have not dreamed of shooting anything that wasn't just pure wood and six feet long, back then I spent a huge amount of time shooting Target and the rest shooting Field. Scarcely a day would pass that I didn't shoot my bow, I say bow but in fact over the years I built a collection of almost 30 English Longbows, I did however have a couple of favourites, fast and sweet to draw with little shock.
I am booked in to a shoot this coming weekend, I shoot a lot less now in competitions than I used to so the days I do manage to get away are precious and I look forward to them, I am considering doing something I haven't done in a long long time. Namely changing the class I am booked under in order to shoot a bow which has just come in to my hands, a Longbow.
Above all bows English longbows have a character all their own, some will be sluggish some will be aggressive, others will have a sweet nature yet fail to cast an arrow with sufficient force, occassionally I come across a bow with the willingness to bend smoothly, the power to hurl an arrow so fast that the string cuts the air like the swish of a Katana upon loosing and the sweetness of shot that causes hardly any handshock - something an English Longbow will rarely do.
Over the last week I have been shooting a Longbow with all those qualities and a few more that have set me thinking about taking up the bent stick once more.
Ipe and Lemonwood backed with bamboo, I have shot a few bamboo backed bows and they have all been fast. The bamboo backed bow has been around for some while, when I last shot Longbows in earnest they were just coming in to what I figured would be a fashion or fad, but they are still here and bowyers , it seems, have taken to it as a bow wood -( yes, I know it is a grass, but for the purposes of this review we will call it a wood). From the bows I have shot it does seem to add cast.
When I first took this bow from the tube it was sent in I doubted very much that it would draw the weight it had written on it, 52# from such a slender bow hardly seemed likely. The instant I drew it I knew I was wrong, smooth, no stacking and no roughness to the draw whatsoever, all the way to my full draw and still the power built cleanly.
I needed to shoot this bow right now, in my workshop I have dozens of arrows, actually I have dozens of dozens of arrows, in particular several sets of identical length all made for just me at my draw but all slightly different in spine and weight, this way I don't have to shoot the wrong arrow and with so many sets available I can shoot the perfect arrow for any given bow.
With Modern bows it is not too difficult to select the correct arrow, the glass backing or the Carbon strip will be pretty consistent and Stu Millers spine calculator will get you just about there.
With English Longbows however choosing the right arrow is still a black art, folks will tell you to knock off 10#'s from the draw weight, multiply by Pi and divide by the square root of strawberry jam. In fact there are a million alleged convoluted ways to arrive at a spine for a longbow which will probably be wrong anyway, the truth is that with longbows each bow is so unlike the next, from it's length, it's wood combination, it's cast and ultimately it's width... it is here where this bow differs from almost every other Longbow I have shot, it is so slim at the handle and tapers so gracefully that you can't help but treat it as if it were a fragile work of art, we will come back to that in a minute but for the moment we need to find an arrow that will shoot from this bow.
With the vast majority of longbows being quite thick in the handle an arrow has to work quite hard to find it's way around it and then straight on which is why folks have to choose a spine of arrow that is a lot less than the given draw weight, all that snaking around the bow costs quite a bit of energy, energy that instead of sending an arrow straight to it's target is absorbed in paradox, After it has done all this snaking about we expect it to settle down and "go find the target" any miscalculation of the required spine will be magnified when dealing with lighter spines- I have no idea how much energy is lost this way and what it might mean in terms of performance in say, fps. But the thickness of the handle the major contributor to having to use a weak spine. Finding the right spine when the arrow has to do so much work is tricky and is why most Longbow shooters don't hit the same scores in either target or field as other styles of bow, it's because most are using the wrong spine arrows. I say most because there are some and these are the guys at the top, in fact these are the guys who shoot the same or similar scores as modern flatbows and recurves, I won't embarrass them by naming them but we all know who they are - I must of course hasten to add that it isn't JUST because they are shooting superbly tuned arrows, of course they have great skill, but that skill has been allowed to develop through the use of correct arrows..
An English Longbow could never be cut past centre, quite obviously the design just doesn't allow it, but the closer you can get to centre, the easier it will be to tune, the easier it will be to find an acceptable spine of arrow and the greater the window or margin for error that will still deliver a good shot.
The slimness of this handle is starting to make me feel very excited indeed at just an inch wide at the arrow pass. I choose several spines that could go close - my test sets of arrows are spined at +/- 1# so I have a 3# window with each set.
The speed is staggering, that may have nothing to do with the slimness of the handle, but it is in the choice of woods, in the tiller and in the craft of the bow, it's the secret ingredient that separates a gifted bowyer from the guy that knocks out bows in his garden shed. This bow is bestowed with almost magical properties, I am loath to say it is the fastest # for # longbow I have ever shot, but that's what it feels like- the arrows are hitting where I look, there is no shock ( at least very little and for an English longbow that equals none), the bow shoots each spine test set with little deviation although I detect that one set are shooting particularly well. When testing for shootability I shoot at several target pins, spaced out from each other in case I should take a nock off one of my precious test arrows. I don't shoot from far initially just 15 yards. The short range just isn't enough so I take some time at a target at longer range and then out to the woods for some 3D's.....
The bow is like treacle to shoot, soft yet incredibly strong, tight but forgiving, smooth but at the same time it has an edge of hardness, lets get to the chrono...
445gn 8.90gn/# 169fps500gn 10.00gn/# 158fps530gn 10.60gn/# 153 fps565gn 11.30gn/# 148fps
If the figures mean nothing to you then just trust me, for an English Longbow she is super fast, I don't have to chrono every other longbow I own to know this one out performs them all.
It's all in the shooting of course and with this bow the shooting is sublime, the fact that it is super fast is a bonus, the fact that she is easy to tune is a bonus, the fact that she looks divine is also a bonus, this is a bow that just keeps giving. Something you don't always see with a multi laminate bow are tapered center laminations, some of the best bows I have ever shot have had the center lam tapered - it is no surprise to find that Aidy had done this with this bow, it is an indication of the attention to detail and the measure of understanding of exactly what he is trying to achieve and the knowledge to attain that goal.
But here is the thing that will blow you away.... this bow is just £300.
Having spoken at length to Aidy, I know that he knows his bows are awesome, how could he not, he holds a couple of National records himself and others using his bows are breaking records all over the place. Once the whispers turn in to shouts and his name is widely known you won't be able to buy one of these for £300... if these bows were twice that they would still be worth every penny - back in the day when I was shooting longbows exclusively I bought those 30 bows in the hope of finding this one. I may have found it late but there is a little voice in my head telling me to switch to Longbow for next weeks shoot, if I can, I know I will be treated to a feeling I haven't felt since I first discovered archery.
Features & Design
I have made bows myself, in fact I have poured hundreds of hours in to making a bow and only achieved "acceptable" results. I don't know what Aidy does to his bows, I don't know how he works out the combination and thickness of of each wood lamination or how he gets them so slim - suffice to say they are beautiful and they deliver in every way. It is almost perverse to offer a suggestion to what is already as perfect a bow as I have ever come across, but, if you are ordering one it might be wort
Yeah.... like you wouldn't believe.........
Value for Money
The price is laughable, there is no way these bows will be this price for long, they are worth much more yet Aidy is keeping the price down - for the moment. It's a clever little bit of marketing and will make the bows very attractive, but don't be fooled, Adrian Hayes' Longbows are NOT competing on price - he doesn't need to, the bow will do the talking, so value ? oh yes siree bob !!
If you are thinking about a Longbow, add this to the list, if you are not thinking about a Longbow then add this to the list, if you have £300 nocking about grab one before the price gets real.., if you haven't got £300 .... borrow it...