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Turksh-Flight-art - 3/30/15


"Turkish Flight Archery with Notes on the Construction of Flight Arrows" by Magister Arion the Wanderer, OL.


NOTE: See also the files: archery-msg, arrows-msg, arch-shoots-msg, Arrow-Making-art, merch-archery-msg, Arrows-w-Flair-art, Arrow-Matchng-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




Turkish Flight Archery

with Notes on the Construction of Flight Arrows

by Magister Arion the Wanderer, OL

Order of the Gray Goose Shaft

Dragon's Laire, An Tir


What is Flight Archery?


Flight archery is the art of shooting an arrow the greatest possible distance. It is the only form of archery that doesn't involve hitting a target. One of the first questions a novice archer thinks about is, "I wonder how far I can shoot this arrow?" This simple query put bowyers and fletchers throughout the world on a pursuit of the perfect bow and that will shoot the perfect arrow the greatest distance. The importance of being able to shoot arrows farther than your enemy was certainly not lost on the warlords!


The essence of successful flight shooting is this:

"If, in shooting, it is your wish to outdistance your competitors, you should use a bow with short limbs and choose a light arrow." [1]


A History of Flight Archery


Flight archery contests can be done with any archery equipment. It is inconceivable that any culture practicing archery didn't have distance shooting contests. The best accounts of flight archery written in English are found in Turkish Archery [[2]], Saracen Archery [[3]], and Arab Archery. [[4]] Flight archery competitions continue today in the SCA and the modern archery community. In the pursuit of perfection, modern archers have experimented with a wide variety of materials not available in earlier times.


In the Ottoman Empire, they took flight shooting very seriously. In the reign of Mohammed II (1431 - 1481), he established the Ok Meydan as a flight archery field. The field had five "wind" ranges laid out so one could always shoot with the wind at his back. The Constantinople Guild of Archers had four classes of members: the seniors, the 900's, the 1,000's and the 1,100's [[5]]. These numbers represented the distances [[6]] the archer must exceed to qualify for the class. The distances are approximately 610 yards, 680 yards and 750 yards.  Since the 1,200 gez distance (820 yards) was only rarely achieved, these archers were ranked with the 1,100 group. Stone monuments were set up with great ceremony to mark the record shot on each range. [[7]] The greatest distance marked by a stone monument on the Ok Meydan and was about 874 yards, shot by Toz-Koparan in 1550. [[8]] In 1798, Sultan Selim was observed by a British Ambassador to shoot a flight arrow 953 yards [[9]]. The current record using modern equipment is 1222 meters (1336 yards), shot by Dan Brown in 1987. [[10]]


The Turkish Bow


The Turkish composite bow had a maple lathe core. A double layer of sinew was glued on the back. Two strips of horn that abutted at the grip were glued on the belly. The unstrung bow curved back on itself to form  a tight "C" shape, with the back of the bow on the inside of the C. The elements of the bow were glued with fish glue. Building this bow took almost one year. A typical bow measured 44" between the nocks along the belly when unstrung. The handle was 6" long. The working parts of the limbs were about 10" long. It has two siyahs carved from single pieces of wood attached to the ends of the working limbs to nock the string. The limbs vary from 1-1/8" to 1/2" in width. When strung, the bow had a high brace height and draw weights of 90 to 150 lbs. [[11]] Modern boyers  using the same materials and techniques as the Ottaman Turks can make composite bows with similar draw weights . [[12]]


For more information about Turkish bows read: http://www.turkishculture.org/  search: The Inheritage of a Turkish Boyer


The Turkish Flight Arrow


Isles [[13]] measured two groups of Turkish flight arrows totaling 55 in number. A summary and averages of these measurements includes:


Shaft                            Conifer (typically pine)

Length                         24-1/2"

Shape                          Barreled

Pile                              Sharp ivory or bone point - 1/4" long

Fletching                     Feather or parchment (calf skin) attached straight at 120

Nock                           Brazil wood or wild goat horn, glued to shaft and wrapped with sinew

Shaft dimensions         Base of pile = 0.11"

                                    6" from pile = 0.22"

                                    12" to 18" from pile = 0.27"

                                    Base of nock = 0.19"

Weight                         162 - 236 grains

Balance point              Behind center at 13.5" from pile

Spine                           Varies from 32 - 80# ( supported at 22")


For a detailed discussion and diagrams refer to Isles' original article: http://www.turkishculture.org/ search: Turkish Flight Arrows


The Siper [[14]]


The Ottomans used an overdraw device called a siper to allow a longer draw with the short arrow. The siper (Fig. 1) is a long and shallow trough that straps to the thumb of the bow hand. In its most elaborate form, the trough is mounted on a wooden base and has a movable plate below the trough to protect the archer's hand should the arrow be overdrawn too far. The word "siper" is Persian for "shield".


The trough was made from horn or ivory. The ivory was sometimes dyed various colors. A siper measured by Klopsteg was 4-3/4" long by 1-1/16" wide. The middle of the groove was about 5/32" higher than the ends, curving in an approximately circular arc of about 18". The trough was lined with very thin Moroccan leather, glued in with fish glue. The shield was an oval plate measuring 3-3/4" x 5". It was made of tortoise shell or sheet metal (brass, copper or silver).


The wooden base was made from linden wood or maple.  The strap was made from the best Moroccan leather and carefully fitted to the wearer's hand and buckled at the wrist.


The Thumb Ring


The Ottomans shot with a thumb ring made of leather, horn or metal. The last two had a piece of leather glued in place with a protruding leather flap to protect the thumb joint. A thumb ring must fit well to prevent blisters or the loss of the ring when shooting. Anyone seriously considering the use of a thumb ring should read Kay's Thumbring Book. http://www.amazon.com/Kays-Thumbring-Book-Kay-Koppedrayer/dp/B000XMBW02


Factors Affecting Arrow Flight:

·      Velocity - Faster arrows go farther.

·      Angle of release -  For maximum distance the angle of release should be between 44 and 45 degrees.

·      Arrow mass - Lighter arrows go farther.

·      Arrow diameter - Increasing arrow diameter increases drag on the shaft. Thin arrows go farther.

·      Balance point - A balance point slightly behind center allows arrows to fly farther.

·      Arrow length - Longer arrows are heavier. A short, overdrawn arrow is best.

·      Fletchings - Very thin, rigid and straight fletchings with minimal area are best.

·      Fletching position - Moving the fletchings forward from the nock within a very small range marginally increases distance.

·      Air density - Increasing humidity decreases distance.

·      Wind speed - Always shoot with the wind at your back to achieve maximum distance.


How to Build a Turkish Flight Arrow


I've made four flight arrows to date. The first one was built to Turkish standards, including a bone pile, Brazil wood nocks glued on with fish glue and wrapped with sinew, and parchment fletchings. In my quest for purity of design, I didn't paint this 24-1/2" toothpick of an arrow. I shot it and never found it! The second one was made exactly the same except for the day glo orange paint. I shot and found that one!


I have since built two longer flight arrows. The first of these measured 28-1/2" long. This was built using the same diameter measurements listed above recalculated to proportionally fit the greater length of the shaft. For a number of years, I've shot this arrow 230 - 250 yards from my 44 lb Korean hwarang bow in An Tir's annual flight shoot competition in October. Up until last year, I always won in the 40 - 49 lb draw weight class. Since I was bested by a few yards last year, I built my newest flight arrow at 31-1/2" long, a 1/2" longer than the maximum draw length of my Korean bow. Again, I used the same diameters as above recalculated to proportionally match the arrow's length.  I won this year's flight shoot with a 301 yard shot. It was rather lonely standing by my arrow waiting for the distance reading with the range finder since the rest of the shooters were between 70 and 230 yards!


You want a flight arrow spined correctly for your bow for optimal results. If you start with the shafts you normally use for your bow, they will end up underspined once you reduce the diameter to about 1/4" at the center section of the flight arrow. That can be dangerous ... think exploding arrows here.[[15]] The last flight arrow I made started as a 47# spined shaft and finished up as a 24# spined flight arrow after all the wood was removed. That was OK for my 44 lb non-center shot Korean bow. The perfect starting shaft spine and final arrow spine for your flight arrow will need a bit of experimentation. Make a bunch and shoot them all to see what works. Post your results back to the author.


Very important: Start with a straight shaft and end with a straight shaft. Check this frequently as you remove wood.


For my last 31.5" long flight arrow, I started with a 31" long shaft and inserted the cut off end of a 3 penny nail into a hole drilled into the end of the shaft, leaving a 1/2" exposed (Fig. 2). To remove the wood from the parallel-sided shaft, I used a combination of a small block plane, a cabinet scraper, a couple of small wood files and sand paper. Initially, I worked the shaft down to a 1/4"++ diameter with the block plane by removing wood along the length, first from each quarter, then from the opposite quarters to get an 8-sided shaft. From there, I removed wood more carefully with a cabinet scraper. I used a hole gauge to check the diameter to make sure that the shaft stayed fairly uniform at about 1/4"+.  


Then, at about 3" from the pile end, I started to taper the shaft. I continued tapering with the cabinet scraper going back about 3" farther from the pile each time and working all the way down to the pile. Between 15" and 23" from the pile, I left the shaft at 1/4"+ diameter.  Then I worked the opposite end into a bulbous nock. I filed just past the nock area to reduce the diameter to about 3/8". Then I shaped the nock with files. Next, I tapered the nock end starting at 23" from the pile to the base of the nock to a uniform taper using the cabinet scraper. I used 100 grit sand paper to remove the high spots left behind from the previous work. You can find high spots and unevenness by running the shaft through your fingers. Finally, I checked the balance point. My goal was 17" from the pile for this 31.5" long arrow. I removed more wood as needed to get close to the correct balance point, keeping in mind that the fletchings would add a little weight.


To finish the flight arrow, I reinforced the nock by wrapping it with very fine polyester thread using liberal amounts of Duco cement to hold this in place. After the Duco dried, I cut the string blocking the nock opening with a razor blade. I attached real calf skin parchment fletchings with Duco cement, hand held in place until it dried. The fletchings were 1-1/4" long and 1/4" high. I painted the arrow to seal the wood. Next, I checked the balance point again. Since it was a bit front heavy, I repainted the back end of the arrow to add a bit more weight until the balance point I wanted was realized. Finally, I coated the entire arrow, including the fletchings (Fig. 3) and nock (Fig. 4) with clear finger nail polish to make it as smooth as possible to reduce drag as it flies through the air.


A Cautionary Note


If you are thinking of building a siper, keep in mind that if something goes wrong when you use it, you can get hurt quite badly. Shooting an arrow through your hand, having the arrow blow up, or slap you in the face are all a very bad ideas.


The siper I made to Turkish specifications did not work well with my Korean bow. [[16]] Unlike a Turkish fight bow,[[17]] the grip of the Korean bow curves inward toward to shooter. It doesn't leave enough clearance for the siper. The bow's recoil at the end of the shot caused the string to hit the brass plate and almost cut it. My second attempt launched the arrow almost straight up due to holding the siper higher on the bow to gain clearance for the recoil. Instead of a clean shot, the arrow got pinched between the back of the siper and the string at the end of the shot, flipping the arrow upwards. I stopped there and will not continue these experiments until I can get a properly shaped bow!



Figure 1. Turkish style siper. The siper is an overdraw device allowing a short flight arrow to be with the pile behind the bow's belly. Made by the author.



Figure 2. Pile. Comparison of the author's flight arrow pile and 5/16" diameter, 125 grain field point.



Figure 3. Fletchings. Comparison of the author's flight arrow and 5" long target arrow fletchings.



Figure 4. Nocks. Comparison of author's flight arrow and target arrow self nocks.



Copyright 2014 by Dave Peters. <arion12 at q.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>


[1] Latham, J.D. and W.F. Paterson. 1970. Saracen Archery. The Holland Press, London. This book is an English version of a Mameluke archery text written in 1368.

[2] Klopsteg, P.E. 1987. Turkish Archery and the Composite Bow, 3rd Edition. Simon Archery Foundation,Manchester. This book relies heavily on a German translation of a Turkish text written by Mustafa Kani published in 1847. An electronic copy is available: http://bookzz.org/book/1253331/3e771a">bookzz.org/

[3] Latham op.cit.

[4] Farris, N.A. and R.P. Elmer. 1945. Arab Archery. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. This book is a translation of an Arab manuscript written about 1500.

[5] Klopsteg op.cit., page 107 ff.

[6] These distances were measured in Turkish "gez" estimated to be 23" to 25" long. Since we don't know that exact length of a gez, reported distance estimates vary.

[7] Klopsteg, op.cit, pages 22-23.

[8] Klopsteg, op.cit., page 30 ff.

[9] Klopsteg, op.cit., page 31.

[10] http://www.worldarchery.org/RESULTS/Records/Flight-Records/Men%20">http://www.worldarchery.org/RESULTS/Records/Flight-Records/Men, Oct 2014.

[11] Klopsteg op.cit. page 139.

[12] Karpowicz, A. 2008. Ottoman Turkish bows manufacture and design. http://www.ottoman-turkish-bows.com/%20">http://www.ottoman-turkish-bows.com/

[13] Isles, F. 1961. Turkish Flight Arrows. The Society of Archer-Antiquaries, Vol 4, 1961.

[14] Klopsteg op.cit. pages 59 ff.

[15] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96KGWC0PB6s- start at the 5 minute mark.

[16] http://www.koreanarchery.org/classic/hwarangbow.html

[17] The correct bow shape and a good discussion of Turkish flight bow construction can be found here: http://www.atarn.org/islamic/akarpowicz/turkish_bows.htm

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org