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Bow-Buying Guide

By Judith O & Warren J

This is a rough guide for what to look for when buying/making bows, crossbows, arrows or other bow-like projectiles to use in TL. It is only a rough guide, and a weapon that’s acceptable in TL may not be acceptable in other systems (because we’re small enough to apply Common Sense rules as well as fixed rules). Every bow etc. will be considered on its own merits, partly due to safety and partly because everyone likes to play with the New Toy.


A larp-safe bow is considered to be one with a draw of no more than 30lbs at its peak draw – that is, at the point where the bow is putting the most ‘weight’ on the arrow, that ‘weight’ is no more than 30lbs. If you buy from a larp trader, you can be pretty sure that it will be within this weight limit. For a decent minimum range, try to stick to bows that are at least 24lbs at 28" – these should give you a range of around 20yds (with caveats), which is good enough for combat. Most major systems will look at you askance or outright block any bow that has an adjustable weight for obvious reasons, so no cammed compound bows or Amerindian double bows.

Another thing to consider is the type of bow. To put it crudely, the type of bow will give you different amounts of oomf for a given draw weight – a recurve bow will put more oomf into an arrow than a flat bow, which will put more in than a longbow. The length of the bow limbs will also make a difference here – shorter bows tend to be more efficient than longer bows (and are easier to carry).

Then there’s the physical weight of the bow. A cheap beginner’s target bow from Quick with removable limbs may look good for transport purposes and have both weight and oomf, but the metal riser (the middle bit) is going to get really heavy and hard to aim really quickly until you get used to it.

All in all, a good starter’s bow would probably be a 24lb short recurve bow or flat bow, probably wood or wood-laminate (because they look nice, are easy to carry and break safely if they do die). You can get bows with leather wraps or foam-and-latex builds around them, but the problem (especially with the latter) is that this can be used to hide a really shoddy bow, and even if it’s a good bow it will add to the price quite considerably.

If you can, try out the bow before you buy. This can even work for somewhere like Quicks or Wales Archery (real archery shops), although you will need to take arrows with you. If you can’t try the exact bow, see if someone has a similar one you can get a feel for – remember that all bows behave differently and have quirks, so what one person might love you might hate and vice versa.


As for bows, crossbows must not have a draw weight of more than 30lbs when cocked, and the release pin on the crossbow needs to be sturdy enough that the crossbow won’t go off unexpectedly. Active prod crossbows (i.e. the ones that actually work like a bow and aren’t a bit of bungie cord on a stock) are fine, but be aware that all the longbow safety rules will apply. Also be aware that metal strings can take a chunk out of you quite easily if you have a finger in the wrong place.

Arrows and Bolts

Obviously, real arrows and bolts are Not Allowed.

IDV arrows are allowed in Blades, but version 3 onwards is preferred (to avoid the bounce issue). If neither you nor the trader knows what this means, probably worth using a different trader.

From personal experience, the best flight comes from round-faced arrows; my personal recommendation is to get in touch with In Your Dreams FX who do a very nice wooden-shafted round-faced larp arrow, but in general most suppliers of larp arrows can be considered trustworthy – ask if you want guidance, as there are some that aren’t.

If you’re making your own, be aware that we will be giving them a good check before you use them, possibly to the point of destruction of one head (bring a spare); if you follow any of the standard building guidelines you’ll probably be okay. Definitely follow the guidelines about using a shaft cap and making the head bigger than an eye-socket.

A final note: remember that our site is largely covered in scrub and woodland and long grass, and thus finding your arrows is going to be a pain. Brightly-coloured fletching and nocks is a good plan, as is UV paint in low light.

Other Bow-like Projectile Weapons

The rule is one of common sense; if it works like a bow, the draw-weights and other safety rules apply apply. Otherwise, if it looks suitably IC, check with the Character Refs to make sure it’s acceptable and to work out what it actually does.

Recommended Bows

From BowSports
Samick SKB (£110) or SHB (£110)

Warren has an SKB he’s been using for about 15 years, and it’s a great LARP bow – small, light and quick.

From ArcheryWorld
Scythian Horse-bow (£79)
Ragim Taiga 48" (£92)