Friday, August 24, 2012

New Chinese Horsebow

Ever since I got back into archery at the end of 2011, one class of bows which has fascinated me has been the Asian composite bow, AKA "horsebow." The first bow I bought upon resuming the hobby was a 40# Magyar-style horsebow made by Istvan Toth in Hungary. I purchased it online from Seven Meadows Archery. The modest draw weight of the Toth bow allowed me to get back into archery and eventually make my way up to heavier bows.

In April I picked up a 50# Samick SLB-II longbow at Lancaster Archery Supply. This has been the bow I've shot the most in the past few months.

Recently, I became intrigued with horsebows made in China and available at low prices on eBay. After hemming and hawing, I decided to give one of these a try. So, I purchased a 50# Chinese-style horsebow from eBayer "handmadebow". It seemed appropriate to buy a Chinese-style bow from a Chinese bowyer.

For what I guess are marketing reasons, the auction was titled as "USA Handmade Flagella MAGYAR Reiterbogen Recurve Horsebow 50 lbs". It's certainly not a Magyar-type bow. It's more of a Manchu, Chinese, or later Mongol style. For example, Magyar bows and early Mongol bows did not employ string bridges like this bow is fitted with. the I clicked the "buy now" button on 8/16/12, it was shipped from Anhui, China the next day, and it arrived today, 8/24/12. The cost was only $109.99, which included shipping.

The bow arrived in good condition. The packaging could have been better, had it been roughly handled the bow might have been damaged. As it was, the bow came packed inside a well made black nylon bow sock, with some newspaper taped around the ends, and inside of a cardboard box.

My initial impressions were favorable, especially given the very low price of the bow. The overall fit and finish is OK but definitely not as nice as my Toth or Samick bows. The pigskin covering seem to be glued on securely, and the twine wraps are neatly executed, with the ends tucked under and doubly secured with glue. The wood has some kind of a varnish or oil finish.

Some specs:
  • Draw weight: 50# at 28"
  • Bow length: 148 cm or 58.26"
  • String length: 142 cm or 55.9"
  • Construction: Fiberglass, pigskin leather, beech wood, nylon (?) twine wrapping the joints, and a multi-strand nylon string. (The auction listed a "tendon" string which may or may not be a translation error.)
Here are some pictures of the bow. As you can see in the first pic, the siyahs point almost directly away from the belly when unstrung, and the limbs also arc away. (You can see full-size versions of these pics here.)

Safely stringing the bow requires either the use of a stringer or an assistant. I don’t have a stringer that will fit this bow, so I had my daughter Amanda help me. While I bent the bow against my knees, she strung and unstrung it for me.

Here are some closeups of the upper siyah. The first shows how the string bridges hold the string away from the belly of the bow. When shooting, the bridges give the string a little “pop” at the end of the power stroke, improving speed.

Here are the only markings on the bow:

My initial shooting impressions are also very favorable. The only thing I did before shooting was wax the bowstring. The draw is smooth, and the pull weight feels constant throughout the draw, without feeling like it's stacking at my draw length, about 26" to 27". It feels lighter than my 50# longbow but part of this is due to the presence of the siyahs, which act as levers to give the archer some mechanical advantage. It almost feels like there's a slight letoff when the siyahs reach a certain point in their arc.

As shown in the accompanying pictures, there is no arrow rest so you must shoot off the knuckle. I find doing so without a glove is painful, so I use a leather shooting glove which covers my right thumb and index finger (I shoot left handed). To protect the fingers on my left hand I use a leather shooting glove rather than a tab. Originally, these bows were shot with a thumb release using a horn or metal thumb ring. That is a skill I haven't even begun yet to master, however.

I shot the bow 48 times tonight using the same Port Orford Cedar arrows I shoot in my longbow. They have three 5" helical fletches and are tipped with 125 grain bodkin points. ('Cause you never know when you'll need to take down a marauding armored knight.)

The bow does have some hand shock and vibration but it's really not too bad. It's a bit noisier than the Toth horsebow but that's not unexpected, since it has string bridges. I'm planning to add string silencers which should reduce both the noise and hand shock.

I was impressed with the speed of the bow. Since I don't have a chronograph I can't say just how fast it shoots, but it's much faster than the lighter Toth bow and on par with the Samick. The arrows zip downrange and make a satisfying "thump" on impact. For a good archer this bow should have plenty of power to bring down a whitetail.

I'm going to try to keep records of how many arrows I shoot with this bow and see how it holds up. Initially, the only thing I plan to do is add a nocking point to the string to ensure that I'm nocking arrows consistently. If this bow holds up to use, it’ll be a real bargain.


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Stick Man said...

Where did you purchase that bow?

Dave Markowitz said...

I got it from this eBay vendor:

evan said...

thanks a lot for posting this. it gives me some peace of mind i am currently waiting for a bow from this same ebay vender and have been a bit worried about whether its gonna end up ok. the one i ordered looks very similar except it does not has string bridges. i make selfbows and natural composite bows and decided to buy a recurve horsebow to sorta study a recurve horsebow in action and to help me mash out some some ideas on how Im gonna make mine. When i got more money i may get a magyar bow that is actually hungarian... i probably was looking at bows by the same guy you got yours from