Ron Palmer English Longbow 90#@28"
There is usually a story why a particular sport or hobby captivates us, archery was something that had always held a fascination for me, probably since the seeing the 50's TV series " The Adventures of Robin Hood" - I must hasten to add I caught them when they were already old and being re-run.... Archery was about the folk heroes, the medieval wars with France and the legendary tales of prowess by the Longbow archers in them. My natural choice of bow would be the English Longbow. I am sure I have mentioned elsewhere that I had no interest in any other style of bow for over a decade, during this time I used various bows in many weights to shoot target, field and Roves and also at the marks.
I recall my first Longbow, a 47# bow which although perfectly adequate for target just wasn't powerful enough for me when shooting field and certainly not enough for a good rove or Marks shoot. I should probably explain that the bowmen of old would practice at targets or "at the butts" - the butts being the banks in front of which a target was placed, nowadays the target itself is generally called the butt. However, the main way an archer was tested was to shoot at the mark, these would be marks at up to 300 yards distant and archers would shoot to place their arrows as close to the mark as possible, training for the day when the ability to place arrows with pinpoint precision at any distance up to 240 yards would defeat an enemy and ensure you were on the winning side, as English bowmen so often were.
Some of the most fun and enjoyable shoots I have had have been shooting at marks with a few friends as we wander across hill and dale choosing marks at random. To complete the fantasy that I was following in the footsteps of those archers of old a heavy bow was needed.
In time and with practice it is amazing how heavy a bow you can train yourself to shoot and over the years I built up the strength to shoot up to 120# and as my strength grew so did my collection of bows.
This week I received an invitation to shoot with the medieval society on one of their prestigious shoots at the marks. It has actually been quite some time since I have shot a war bow and in preparation for the shoot I started stringing up some of the larger ones which proved a little ambitious, I was not surprised to find that I was unable to shoot the heavies. Finally I found one I could draw and shoot without causing myself injury. It was this one, a heavy bow of 90# made for target shooting rather than as a war bow, but a nice bow none the less.
Made in 2000 it is in the Victorian style but much bigger, at 78" it is 6" taller than I am and although measured at 28" will draw happily to 31" where it weighs in today at 94#.
In between the Hickory back and the Lemonwood belly are 2 laminations of Yew, at the time of making it was joined in the handle with a slight forward set to build in just a little extra power- the addition of Ron's unmistakable nocks complete this chunky, handsome and powerful looking bow.
I shall dispense with the chrono readings for this bow - you don't shoot one of these to see how fast you can get an arrow to come out of it, this bow is designed to shoot a very heavy arrow a long long way.
Seeing as it appeared this was the heaviest bow I could manage to draw I took it for a test run to see if I could shoot it effectively. There is something wonderful about shooting a heavy Longbow, even if this was a small one by medieval standards and in fact by the standards of today's war bow aficionados. Many of whom shoot bows in excess of 150# and in some cases as much as 180# - the same as the very heaviest estimates of the Longbows brought up from the Mary Rose. I shall need a little time to work up to those incredible weights, but going from my usual draw weights of up to 50# for field this bow brought back the memories of the days I spent blasting arrows from heavy bows as far as I could.
The actual technique for shooting heavy bows or war bows is somewhat different to those styles used by other archers, the whole body is used to draw the bow in a smooth flowing motion and then as the string is brought back to the jaw close to the ear the calculations of trajectory are made instinctively and the arrow is launched as the archers body releases the energy much as a spring would when released.
We are told that English archers were able to hit a man at 240 yards at will and indeed according to Foissart those who could not were lightly regarded. With my 900 grain arrows I was having trouble hitting 220 yards but that didn't bother me, the pure joy of launching a heavy arrow from a bow and watching it soar away into the heavens is one that is hard to put in to words, it's almost as if the shaft is a rocket which once released propels itself skyward, accelerating away, then the moment as it reaches it's apogee and begins it's descent to earth, it is around about now that you start to see if your line toward the target is good.
I was having such fun choosing a mark and belting the arrows out towards it that inevitably an arrow landing managed to find a stone to hit which snapped off the point entirely.
As heavy bows go this one is a super looking bow, no doubt a bow made in the style of a war bow which bends through the handle would be faster and capable of sending my arrows further, as this bow was designed as a Victorian target bow it doesn't bend all the way and come full compass, that matters little because it makes a very forgiving bow to shoot, there is some hand shock but that is only to be expected and in fact it is to be demanded as the shock imparted to the archer from bows of these weights and above actually add to the experience of shooting a heavy bow - it feels manly, it lets you know that you have in your hand an incredibly powerful weapon that for several centuries assured Englands dominance over it's European enemies.
I was reminded exactly how powerful bows in these weights are when I sat down with my companions for lunch at the edge of the field - the week previously I had been doing some work here and had left a sheet of 3/4" ply leaning on the fence. Now, you put 3 unsupervised grown men in a field with bows and it isn't long before things degenerate, so I turned to Andy and asked " what do you think would happen if I shot this broken arrow ( the one with no point ) at that 3/4" ply ?" He replied that we should move back as the shards of arrow could be dangerous - I drew the bow and shot the arrow at a range of no more than 20 yards, we were all astonished to see the arrow shoot straight through three quarters of an inch of ply wood - leaving a hole as clean as any bullet ever left......and this from an arrow with NO POINT !! That particular game kept us amused for almost half an hour.
The afternoon seemed gone in a flash. Heavy bows such as this are the perfect way to shoot at marks where the result of the shot is somehow less important that the act of shooting itself - of course you want to hit the mark on the nose but being able to give full vent to a bows power is a wondeful feeling.
This bow lives up to all it's promise of the 90#, both in the speed at which it launches and arrow and in the satisfaction of the shot.
Features & Design
Ron has been making bows for 72 years, this bow is in High Victorian , it incorporates into it's design all that you would expect from a bow in this style.
At over 90# it bangs out an arrow with authority, not just any arrow though, to get the most from this bow you need a heavy arrow, which will soak up all the energy that this bow delivers
Value for Money
You have seen the price... what are you waiting for ?
I couldn't even imagine parting with this bow, it isn't the fastest bow for it's weight, it isn't even necessarily the most beautiful bow I own, but when I shoot this bow I can't stop smiling and if we are judging it in happiness delivered then this bow gets 10 grins out of 10