Sign up for personal training / sports training by emailing
Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts

Balloon Animal Field Archery

Balloon Animal Field Archery

I saw a couple of archers doing this last Saturday and thought it was both amusing and a fun way to do Field Archery.

Field Archery is shooting at targets placed at random distances. During recreational field archery the goal is to hit the target and then next round move it to a different location, so you keep having to change your aim and learning where to aim based on the different distances. Field Archery is also a competitive sport, for those people who get really into it.

Myself, I routinely use a target ball, but Balloon Animal Field Archery seems like a fun idea too. I have also seen people do it with:
  • Regular Balloons.
  • Paper Plates.
  • Plastic Water Bottles.
  • Tim Hortons Coffee Cups.
  • Watermelons.
  • Whatever they have handy.
I should also mention that when doing this style of archery it is wise to add Wingnuts to your arrowheads (just unscrew the arrowhead and place it behind the arrowhead, then rescrew it). The wingnuts will act like hooks / anchors when they hit the grass and make it basically impossible for you to lose your arrows in the grass.
Happy Shooting!

Why I prefer to teach archery one-on-one, Personalized Attention + Professionalism.

Note: While I have listed this under "Testimonials" this is really more of a Compliment.

Today I got a compliment from a fellow archer. He praised me for how professional I am at teaching archery and how I give such personalized attention to each student I teach.

He had seen me teaching many times in the past, but last Saturday he and I both witnessed a complete amateur teaching and he had his eyes opened to what happens when someone who doesn't know what they are doing attempts to teach archery.
  • Let alone teaching 7 people at once.
  • With 3 bows that were too powerful for beginners to be using. Including one 85 lb bow the "instructor" couldn't even pull back properly.
  • At one point the "instructor" was trying to show off by shooting his 85 lb bow and accidentally punched himself in the face. (I wish I had a video of it.)
  • With a shortage of finger gloves / arm bracers, which meant people had to share them.
  • With no personalized instruction, which meant he spent no time correcting their form errors.
  • Running around like he was trying to herd cats.
  • One of his students dry fired one of his bows. (Much to the cringing of nearby archers.)
  • He insisted they call him "sensei". (Yes, the white guy is insisting he be called sensei. Cultural appropriation much? I have a word for idiots like that: Baka.)
No surprise they kept completely missing the targets.

I was doing some personal practice and I watched with amusement, at one point I had one hand cupping my chin with a big smile on my face. Another archer, a regular, was watching too and we were both amused by it. "This is fascinating." I remember saying.

To me, watching amateurs teach archery is a highlight. Especially when they are utterly clueless as to what they are doing. Let alone watching them try to teach 7 people at once.

It would be like being a professional daycare worker watching someone babysit for the first time ever and you give them 7 toddlers to look after. Or a Formula 1 driver watching 7 amateurs who have never driven before behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and watching a non-professional driver trying to teach them how to drive a Formula 1 car. It would be extremely amusing to watch.

So let me compare to what I do.

#1. I prefer to teach people one-on-one.

One-on-one is the absolute best way to learn archery. I will sometimes teach 2 or 3 friends at once, but I cap it at 3. I never teach more that. Part of it is that I devote myself to giving personalized instruction to my students and you cannot give that kind of personalized instruction when teaching large groups. People learn faster when they get one-on-one instruction.

I have sometimes been asked to teach large groups of people (20 or more) but I always refuse to deal with such events and instead recommend one of the local archery tag locations instead (I have my favourites when it comes to who I recommend).

I don't want to dilute the quality of my teaching by trying to teach crowds of people. It just isn't worth it. I want people to learn how to do archery properly and to get rid of their bad habits, and to not become discouraged. Having a shoddy instructor can lead to people failing to make progress and becoming discouraged, thus giving up at a sport that they could have become good at.

I believe everyone has the potential to become a good archer. They just need the right instructor and the time to apply themselves properly to learning the necessary skills.

#2. Every shot is watched and analyzed for mistakes.

Every. Single. Shot. I leave no room for errors. We are looking for perfection here, with the knowledge that complete perfection will never be achieved. This process means I am watching the student shoot, correcting their form errors to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good habits.

#3. I use appropriate archery equipment for beginners.

Nothing says you are clueless of what you are doing like giving a bow that is too powerful to people who cannot even pull it properly. When teaching I have 5 different sets of limbs available, all in lighter poundages, so that guaranteed regardless of the size, height, age, or even physical impairment I have a bow that my students can shoot.

#4. The first lesson always covers the basics.
  • Safety Lecture.
  • Eye Test.
  • How to Aim Lecture.
  • Proper Form Lecture.
  • Field Archery Practice - which means I am starting them off slowly with an aiming exercise that will nevertheless be challenging and fun.
#5. Sometimes I do demonstration rounds, but only for the purpose of teaching.

One of the common demonstrations I do is called my "Canting Demonstration" during which I do 1 perfect shot and 4 shots during which I am canting 4 different ways, that way students learn what canting is and how it effects the arrow. This usually happens during the first lesson. I really should make a YouTube video on the topic.

Another common demonstration I will do is "Inconsistent Draw Power" during which I demonstrate what happens when I deliberately use different amounts of draw. Such as not using a full draw, over-drawing to the cheek ("Cheeking"), under-drawing, and using different amounts of back power.

Doing a demonstration round should never be about trying to show off. It should be about teaching the student what happens when you do something correctly and what happens when you do it wrong. This means you first need to perform a perfect shot and then demonstrate what happens when you change one little thing and how that ruins the shot.

#6. I never punch myself in the face.

Although I will laugh about people who do this. I still wish I had a camera recording when that happened...

#7. I provide all the necessary equipment.

Not just the bows, but the finger gloves, arm guards, bowstringer, arrows and everything needed for practicing archery. Students should not have to be sharing equipment back and forth.

#8. Students learn what dry firing is and why you should not do it.

In a nutshell, dry firing is when someone pulls back a bow and lets go with no arrow on the bowstring, resulting in a horrible twanging sound and the bow possibly breaking. It might not break the first time it happens, but it isn't something you want to do again and again until it eventually breaks. It is very bad for the bow for it to be dry fired. Physically, what happens is all the power stored in a taut bow is expended into the limbs of the bow and causes it to vibrate. Those vibrations are so intense they can cause micro fractures in the bow limbs and cause the bow to eventually break.

On a compound bow this is even worse. Dry firing can cause the cables to come off the cams, causing a huge tangled mess, plus the cams could snap or come off the axle. A compound bow that has been dry fired loses its warranty and after several dry fires will likely be garbage.

#9. I prefer to be called Charles.

Because that is my name. I don't need a title, honourific or otherwise.

#10. I do this professionally.
  • I take this sport seriously.
  • I have been doing archery for 27 years. Except for that big gap in university.
  • I have been teaching for almost 7 years.
  • I shoot every style of bow. All five major styles of archery.
  • I currently own 29 different bows.
  • I have competed, although frankly I don't like competing because it is too much about ego.
  • I enjoy bowfishing, archery biathlon and a wide range of archery activities.
  • I published a book in 2015 titled "Dreaming of Zen Archery".
  • I am currently working on my 2nd and 3rd books about archery. The second book is about recreational archery, and the third book is about archery sayings and what they mean.
  • I make my own longbows and arrows during the winter as a hobby. I have been making bows since the age of 10. I also enjoy woodworking, which I find compliments my skills as a bow-maker.
  • I believe archers should exercise regularly. A well-tuned body leads to more accuracy.
  • I have a tiny archery range in my garage.
  • I practice archery in the winter. I sometimes even teach it during the winter.
  • I enjoy shooting at moving targets and performing trick shots.
  • I never stop seeking perfection.

Shots going to the left, center-shot arrowrests


"Hey Charles,

I noticed I have to kind of aim to the right of the target in order to get my arrows any where near the target.

Is it because I'm not perfectly aligned with the object I'm trying to shoot at? Does it have something to do with forced perspective?"

- Gordon M.


Hey Gordon!

What kind of arrowrest did you get?

Unless you are plucking, canting or making some other kind of form mistake, chances are likely your arrowrest is not center-shot, and you will have to aim a little to the side when using that style of arrowrest.

There is no such thing as "a perfect arrowrest", but there are a wide variety of arrowrest designs with varying degrees of how center shot / accurate they are.

Charles Moffat

Round 2

"The one I got has one of those flippers on it."

- Gordon M.

Hey Gordon!

This one correct?

You have two choices:
  1. You can deliberately aim to the right a bit.
  2. You can deliberately cant to the right a bit. Try to cant the same amount each time once you find the correct amount of canting.
Feel free to experiment with both methods to find the method you like best.

In the future you might also decide to get an arrowrest that has a more center-shot design, but for now the flipper will work.

If you have additional questions let me know.

Charles Moffat


"Thanks Charles. That's the one.

I'll experiment with canting."

- Gordon M.

How does too much brace height affect the trajectory of the arrow?


"Hey Charles,

Probably a dumb question.

How does having too much brace height on your bow affect the trajectory of your shots?"

- Gordon M.


Hey Gordon!

Too much or too little brace height hurts the arrow speed, and arrow speed consequently affects the length of the arc of the arrow, the power and accuracy of the shot. It really comes down to the speed of the bowstring and how quickly it stops on the ideal location. The arrow only leaves the bowstring when the bowstring reverses its forward momentum and goes backwards instead. So yes, it definitely affects the arc and trajectory.

To illustrate this in terms of physics, think of three cars accelerating in a drag race and then slamming on the breaks, with each of the three cars trying to stop at a specific line on the race track.
  • The first car speeds up, but then stops too soon, not achieving its full potential speed. On a bow, this hurts arrow speed because it never reaches its full speed.
  • The second car speeds up, but stops too late. It did go very fast, but on a bow that means the bowstring went too far forward because the bowstring was too slack, and that process causes it to slow down on the forward thrust and then bounce backwards in a sluggish manner.
  • The third car speeds up, reaches optimal speed, and then stops at the ideal spot. On a bow, this means the arrow leaves the bowstring at an optimal time to maximize its speed.
There is also a sound difference. If you experiment with different brace heights you will discover that the three different brace heights will cause the bowstring to make noticeably different sounds. A good brace height should make more of a solid thrum sound, whereas incorrect brace heights will sound more twangy.


You should be able to find the precise brace height for your bow online and then measure it with a ruler or a Bow T-Square, but when a ruler is unavailable you can also use the "Rule of Thumb Method" I showed you previously.

Measuring Brace Height with a Bow T-Square
Rule of Thumb Brace Height
Some archers also file or use sandpaper on the nocks so that they leave the bowstring faster and more smoothly, in an effort to increase arrow speed by a few feet per second (fps).

If you have additional questions feel free to ask.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Charles Moffat


"Wow, definitely made a huge difference now that it's at the recommended brace height."

 - Gordon M.

Arrow Length Question + Archery Testimonial


Have a quick question regarding purchasing arrows.  How long should your arrows be with respect to your draw length?  Should they be the same length or should they be a little longer than your draw length?"

Kind regards,

Gordon M.


Hey Gordon!

One inch longer than the draw length is very common.

Some people have a habit (or like having the option) of overdrawing the bow and go for two inches past their normal draw length.

Some people also try to save weight (to increase speed slightly) by having only half an inch past their draw length.

Happy Shooting! Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Charles Moffat


Various cultures also historically used really long arrows for bowfishing or for hunting birds. The really long arrows would be easier to find / would float in the water, making their retrieval easier. In some cases the arrows would be almost as long as the bow or even longer than the bow itself.

Bowfishing from a Riverboat
Wai Wai Bowfisherman

Bird Hunting in the Amazon

Archery Testimonial

Had an awesome time learning archery the past month, the lessons had a good balance between formal and chill atmosphere.  Learned a lot about how to safely and properly handle the bow, but more importantly also about the proper ettiquette shooting at a public range; because nobody wants to be 'that guy'.

- Gordon M.

Archery, Aiming and Glasses Vs Contacts

Today one of my archery students was having a problem with the contact in the eye that he aims with. He used to wear glasses, but has made the switch to contacts. His contact was making his eye itchy and dry, and this was interfering with his ability to aim.

The quality of his aim today was thus suffering.

Logically, today would have been a good day for him to switch back to his glasses.

So does that make glasses better than contacts when it comes to aiming?

Not necessarily. The problem with glasses is that they will sometimes shift on your nose, thus shifting the magnification you are using to aim. Ideally, if the glasses were always perched on the same part of your nose then it would be okay, so the trick then is for glasses-wearers to adjust their glasses before a shot, and make a habit of doing it before shots.

Contacts, assuming that the user's eyes are not dry / irritated, thus would normally be superior. There are certainly pros and cons to both.


There are also "Archery Sport Glasses", which are designed to give the user a greater focus / magnification so they can more clearly see where they are aiming, without squinting or straining their eyes. The lenses can also be adjusted to full sun or low light conditions. Some people consider "Archery Sport Glasses" to be cheating, akin to using other kinds of archery gadgets, and thus they might not be allowed at some kinds of archery competitions. It is more common to see them at compound archery competitions, which are very "pro gadgets" in the first place.

Recurve Bows, Brands and Models

During a recent email conversation with a new archer who is shopping for archery equipment, I recommended the Samick Sage because of its reliability and the many excellent reviews it has received in recent years. But I also mentioned that I could "recommend a variety of other brands / models if you want to see a wider range of companies and styles."

To which he responded: "Good I asked you, it would be definitely interesting to see other brands / models, more importantly it would be nice to know the difference."

Hence why I am now writing the post you see below, to showcase some of the other brands and models that are available when it comes to recurve bows designed for beginners (adults). Note - If anyone wants to see a similar list of Youth / Children's bows, post a comment at the bottom and I shall make another list in the future just for you.

The Samick Sage is a bit like the Ford F-150. It is economical and has everything you expect to see in a recurve bow made for a beginner. All the normal bells and whistles for a sum of $150 CDN.

Samick Sage Recurve Bow
But Samick is not the only manufacturer out there. They are just one of many. A recurve bow is a recurve bow is a recurve bow. They are all more or less similar, with slight differences in materials, shapes, lengths, level of quality, and prices.

Since many manufacturers list equipment in USD prices, the
exchange rate can cause prices in CDN to vary dramatically.

The PSE Razorback and the Jandao Recuve

If these two bows look similar it is because they are both made in the same factory and look exactly the same. Just different brand names on them. Both cost about $100 USD. They are nothing special and are basically a very cheap introductory recurve bow. I am not even going to bother showing a photo of one. The Samick Polaris falls into the same category of cheap beginner bows, with very similar looks to the Razorback/Jandao.

The PSE Blackhawk, Ghost, Mustang, and Talon

Unlike the Razorback mentioned above, these bows are worth showing. They're all pretty bows and have histories of receiving excellent reviews, the Blackhawk ($260 USD) most of all. The Mustang is $220 USD, the Ghost is $250 USD, and the Talon is $235 USD. I think the Ghost is the prettiest of the bunch, but the Blackhawk has some impressive pedigree/reviews so it is difficult to ignore.

Above: PSE Blackhawk
Above: PSE Ghost

Above: PSE Mustang
Above: PSE Talon

The Martin Poplar, Martin Willow and Martin Cypress

The following are three takedown wooden recurve bows, all made by Martin Archery: Poplar, $130 USD; Willow, $200 USD, + the Martin Cypress, $250 USD. Of the three the Cypress is nicest and prettiest, shown below. Design and features wise, the Cypress is Similar to the Samick Red Stag (shown further below).

Above: Martin Cypress

The Samick Red Stag

If the Samick Sage doesn't interest you, there are also other bows made by Samick which might interest you instead. The Samick Red Stag is one such bow, or rather, three. There is the takedown recurve, the one-piece recurve, and a longbow version (prices for all three versions vary between $200 USD to $300 USD). There is a downside to the Red Stag however, it is not drilled for any kind of accessories. It is meant for traditional fur rests only. It is also a bit noisy, so you will want to consider getting dampeners / string silencers.

Samick also offers a variety of similar bows, like the Lightning Nighthawk, Squall, Phantom, Phoenix II, Leopard II, Volcano, Stingray, and similar models which are designed more for looks.

The Martin Jaguar, Martin Sabre and Martin Panther

The following are three non-traditional takedown bow models, all made by Martin, which some similar design features. The Martin Jaguar is the most basic model at $200 USD, the Martin Sabre is a more advanced model at $250 USD, and the Martin Panther is $300 USD. (There has also been sales in the past for $150, $200 and $250 respectively.) As recurve bows go they fill a niche market of people who are less attracted to wood and want something that is either camouflage or "Darth Vader Black".

In recent years they have also come out with Jaguar Elite (weighing 2.6 lbs) and the Jaguar BF (blue for bowfishing).

Martin Jaguar

Martin Jaguar BF

The Bear Grizzly

The photo below doesn't just show any Bear Grizzly. That is my Bear Grizzly, which I got years ago and even named it "Seahawk". At $380 USD the Grizzly has decorated the shelves of many archers' homes for decades now. The basic design hasn't changed much since the 1950s and these days they are made with "FutureWood", a wood polymer blend that makes the wood tougher and protects from water damage.

Bear Archery also sells a variety of other recurve bows and longbows worth looking at, but the Grizzly is the model that I personally fell in love with.

The Martin Independence

It used to be that Martin had a wide range of recurve bows with a variety of different designs. They made very pretty bows like the Martin Dream Catcher, the Gail Martin, the X-150 / X-200, and so forth. Just Google "Martin Dream Catcher" and see how pretty that bow is and you will understand why some of the older models are arguably better when it came looks.

But all of those models have been discontinued, leaving only the more popular models like the Martin Hunter and Martin Mamba, for which they have jacked the prices up to $630 USD for the Hunter and $600 for the Mamba...

Now keeping in mind the Martin Mamba and Martin Hunter are widely regarded to be two very good bows for their price range, which might explain why Martin has been jacking up their prices in recent years. If they cannot meet the demand because it is so popular, it is time to raise prices.

The Martin Independence (shown on the right) however is basically one of the cheaper models now available, for $400 USD, and it is a very pretty bow.

Stylistically it is similar to a Martin Mamba, but without certain design features that make the Mamba more time consuming and expensive to make.

That was the whole principle behind the old X-200 and X-150 models. They were faster and cheaper to make because the designs were simpler.

However $400 seems like a steep price to pay for the bow, especially when you can go on eBay and buy an older X-150 or X-200 for considerably less. Remember my comments up above about the Ford F-150? Well the Martin X-150 / X-200 was basically Martin's answer to what archers needed: An inexpensive recurve bow that was well made and lasts a long time.

Yesterday I met up with two people who both had X-200s and I joked that I should buy one too and we could start a X-200 Owners Club. Ha!

Browsing eBay can be an excellent way to get a nice quality bow for significantly less than what you would pay for a brand new one. However there are downsides. Finding the poundage you want will be much trickier, the bow may not be in mint condition and have problems, and lastly other people be bidding against you - which can inflate the price and you could end up in a bidding war. So buyer beware.

Note - Now this is not a complete list of manufacturers available. Bear, Martin, PSE, Samick are just a handful of the more popular companies available out there. They are the Fords, GMCs, and Chryslers of the archery world. I haven't even touched on European manufacturers like Ragim, Border Archery, etc. I also limited myself mostly to the so-called traditional style recurves, the ones that are more ideal for beginners due to their price range. I ignored the proverbial Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini type companies, because frankly those are out of the price range of most people (see the brief mention of Blacktail Bows below).

CONCLUSIONS: A recurve bow is a recurve bow is a recurve bow...

There are obvious huge price differences mentioned above, from the $150 CDN Samick Sage, to the $630 USD Martin Hunter. The sky is the limit when it comes to how much a person is willing to spend on a bow.

A quick tour of for example will make your jaw drop at the artistry of some truly exquisite and beautifully decorated bows. Their bows don't sell for mere hundreds, they are thousands of dollars each. See the image on the right to see what I mean.

And then there are antique bows or rare bows that belong in a museum, in which case they can become well nigh priceless.

But if the sky is the limit, how do you know which bow is right for you?

Honestly, you don't. It is like going to the dog pound and trying to pick out a puppy. You don't know which puppy is the right puppy for you, you just pick one based on its size, shape and demeanor and hope it falls in love with you just as much as you fall with it.

Having a really beautiful bow like a Blacktail doesn't mean you are going to be more accurate with it. It is just as likely that the bow will end up decorating a wall and collecting dust, because your favourite bow will end up being the one you are most comfortable shooting with and you get the most enjoyment out of shooting.

Thus you won't necessarily know you've fallen in love with a particular bow until after you've shot it many times, perhaps even given it a name, and gotten very used to shooting it. If someone sees the bow, likes the looks of it and offers to buy it off you would you sell the bow that you love so much? Probably not.

It would be like selling man's best friend. You love that little guy. You take him everywhere with you. And when you find that bow you will never want to let it go. You may buy and collect other bows over time (I am up to 27 bows currently...), but the bows you love you will never sell.

Where to get archery lessons west of Toronto?



I am living in Oakville and that location is too far away from me. Do you give [archery] lessons at  other locations [closer to Oakville]?


Hey C!
Sadly, no. There is a shortage of archery ranges in your region and I am not in the habit of traveling that far to teach.

OCCS is closer to you, located near 403 and Burnhamthorpe Road in Mississauga.

They have an indoor range and teach group archery lessons, although they might not be teaching the style of archery you are looking for - they only teach Olympic style, whereas I teach all 5 major styles of archery (since Craig referred you to me I am guessing you are hoping to learn how to shoot compound). I cannot comment on the quality of the instructors, but they are certainly closer to where you live.

Barefoot Bushcraft in the Niagara region (Allanport Road) is actually further away from you, but might suit you better if you are in the habit of going to the Niagara region.

Barefoot Bushcraft Outdoor Archery Range
BB has two instructors, Wolf who teaches longbow / traditional bows / bushcraft, and Britt who teaches compound. So depending on which you are interested in learning they could help you as well. Lessons with either Wolf or Britt are more likely to be one-on-one lessons. They run their own private archery range which is outdoors.


Those are the only two locations I currently know of that are out your way. I recommend you shop around for instructors in the Hamilton, Burlington and Milton area. Chances are there are archery instructors out that way that I have never heard of who will be able to instruct you in the style of archery you are looking for.

[Disclaimer - I have no affiliation with either of the above two organizations, nor have I been paid to advertise them. I simply enjoy promoting the sport of archery.]

If you still want lessons out this direction, let me know and we can begin scheduling.
Best of luck!

Charles Moffat

Bowstring Flaying, should I worry about it?


"My bowstring is flaying a bit on the tips. Should I be worried about it?"



Not really. Bowstrings are designed to be multiple times stronger than the bow itself. A few strands flaying is not a big concern.

Individual strands have their own weight allowance. Eg. 20 to 40 lbs per strand. So if your bowstring has 16 strands and they can withstand 40 lbs per strand then its max weight is theoretically 640. Since strands can flay / snap it is desirable to have a max weight that is many multiples of the bow's weight.

If two strands flay the bowstring is still usable because it still has 560 left. If half of the strands flay it is probably time for a new bowstring.

The individual strength of strands can vary wildly between the type of material. Some materials might only be 20 lbs per strand, 25, 30, etc. So for example a particular brand might only be 20 lbs per strand, but might also be physically lighter, and/or more/less likely to stretch. With 16 strands that bowstring would be able to withstand 320 lbs, which is still abundantly more than the bow itself, but might have the advantages of less weight and stretching less.

Flemish Twist Bowstring
To save weight / add speed some archers will also make 14, 12 or 10 strand bowstrings. Thinner bowstrings means it will require more serving for the nocks.

Most archers prefer to have a robust bowstring that lasts a long time, hence why 14 and 16 strands are the most common. Some will even do 18 or 20 strands just to make the bowstring more robust and take the slower arrow speed as a trade off. (Crossbow bowstrings typically use between 24 and 30 strands, although the actual amount may vary on the crossbow manufacturer and model.)

You may also notice differences in sound, arrow flight accuracy, nock looseness/tightness, bowstring stretchiness effecting brace height, how easily strands flay, and differences between the types of materials you are using (dacron, fastflight, more traditional materials).

For those people who want to gain extra speed / accuracy they may want to consider learning how to make their own bowstrings using better quality materials so they can learn how to optimize speed by lowering the physical weight of the bowstring. If you do decide to do that, a good place to start is to learn how to make a Flemish Twist bowstring.

Happy Shooting!

How dangerous are crossbows?

My condolences go out to the families of the three people murdered in Scarborough around 1 PM today with a crossbow. For more details about that incident read Triple Crossbow Homicide in Scarborough.

I was contacted earlier today by the radio station Newstalk 1010, which had a number of questions about crossbows. The discussion sparked a number of frequently asked questions about crossbows, however the conversation was relatively short and I don't feel like we covered all the FAQ people would possibly like to know. To allay the concerns of my fellow Torontonians here are some frequently asked questions and the corresponding answers.

How dangerous are crossbows?
In short, very dangerous. Hunters in Ontario commonly use them for shooting black bears, elk, moose and large game. So they are very lethal.
How easy is it to buy a crossbow?
Very easy, provided you are over 18 years of age. They are available at most hunting/fishing stores, and can even be purchased at Canadian Tire or Walmart or similar stores. I doubt that some stores like Walmart even routinely check for ID when people are purchasing crossbows, because the staff working there may not know the laws about selling crossbows to minors.
How powerful are crossbows?
The minimum poundage for a hunting crossbow in Ontario, by law, is 150 lbs of force. Which is a lot of kinetic energy when you compare to other types of bows. For example if someone was shooting a normal bow (compound bow, recurve bow, longbow, etc) then the minimum legal requirement is 39.7 lbs when hunting deer or smaller game. For larger game like elk, moose and black bear the minimum is 48.5 lbs. So when you compare to normal bows, crossbows are incredibly powerful.

Anything smaller than 150 lbs is considered to be a "youth crossbow" and is illegal to hunt with. Some crossbows are exceptionally powerful, like the "Excalibur Matrix 405", which has a 290 lb draw weight and a speed of 405 feet per second when firing 350 grain crossbow bolts. Note, there is no legal limit on how powerful crossbows can be. Hypothetically a hunter could use a ballista to hunt deer.
How easy is it to make your own crossbow?
These days, very easy. If a person had a 3D printer they could print the stock needed to make the crossbow, and then they would just need to attach a bow of somekind to the front, made out of wood or high tensile steel or a steel alloy. (Modern crossbows are usually made out of metal.) Failing that a person could also just build their own out of wood and metal, total cost would be less than $50 for all the parts. The hardest part to make would be the trigger mechanism.
How fast or slow is it to load and reload a crossbow?
This is the Achilles heel of crossbows. Typically, they are VERY SLOW to reload. A typical modern crossbow in the hands of an experienced crossbow enthusiast could be reloaded perhaps twice per minute using a foot stirrup and a cocking rope. Three times per minute if it was a very light poundage crossbow and/or the person operating it was quite strong. A slower but easier method would be to use a windlass handcrank, in which case expect perhaps 1 shot per minute. Using a windlass crank is more common with any of the really heavy poundage crossbows, like the one shown below.

Excalibur Windlass Crank
How do crossbows compare to other kinds of weapons?
Due to their slowness, crossbows are not the greatest weapons. They are easy to use, as any person can basically purchase one, practice with it a few times and learn most of what they need to know to be able to competently shoot one. However due to their slow speed, they have historically done poorly when compared to other weapons. There are a number of historical battles during which large numbers of French crossbowmen were utterly decimated by a comparatively small number of English longbowmen simply because the longbows could be quickly reloaded and fired with ease, whereas the crossbows took a ridiculously long time to reload. You would think based on sheer numbers the French would have won those battles, but they underestimated how quickly English longbowmen could reload and how slow their own forces were at reloading.

A crossbow would be a very slow and inefficient weapon to use in close combat. Compared to other kinds of weapons, if being used in close combat, an axe, a sword or even a hatchet or dagger would be a more efficient weapon. For example, in January 1969 in Buffalo Narrows Saskatchewan 7 people were massacred with an axe. It is one of the largest massacres in Canadian history that didn't involve firearms. It makes you realize just how much firearms play a role in large massacres, such as the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989 which killed 15 people, using a semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife.

As a sniper weapon, the crossbow excels. It made Swiss crossbowman William Tell famous after he was forced to shoot an apple off of his son's head, and later escaped and used the same crossbow to assassinate the Austrian reeve Gessler - an act which sparked the Swiss rebellion and eventually the creation of the Swiss Confederation.
Should crossbows be restricted or banned or require a license to purchase?
They already face the restriction of age to purchase a crossbow, but it would be worthless to try and require a license for crossbows. It is difficult to estimate how many crossbows are in Ontario, but if perhaps 1% of people in Ontario owned a crossbow it would be 136,000 crossbows - and most of them are probably collecting dust in basements, closets, attics, garages, etc. Some people may have even forgotten they have one. That would be 100s of thousands of people for the province to try and regulate for a hunting tool that is mostly used only for hunting, and hunters typically are not fond of change and would protest strongly against any proposed restrictions, bans or licenses for crossbows.

European nobility tried to ban the crossbow during the Middle Ages, with little success. At the time it was considered to be too easy of a weapon to manufacture and thus also made it really easy to assassinate nobility, hence why they tried to ban it. Their attempts to do so didn't really work however and the popularity of crossbows later waned with the advent of firearms.

Ontario would face the same problem. Crossbows are simply far too easy to manufacture. Especially these days with 3D printers that could make the stock and then it just needs the bow and trigger mechanism. Trying to ban them would be useless as criminals with evil intent would always find a way to purchase or make their own weapons regardless, hence the current problem with 3D printed firearms.
Yes, crossbows are dangerous. But they are a bad choice to be used as a close quarters weapon and typically are very slow to reload when compared to firearms or even other kinds of bows. As details of today's massacre are revealed we learn that it took the murderer 5 minutes to load and reload and kill the three people in the garage and injure a fourth person by stabbing him. That lengthy time leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why did the people not simply rush him while he was reloading? What other weapons did he have handy? Did he have a handgun on him too, but chose to use the crossbow because it was quieter? Why did none of the neighbours who heard the screaming come and investigate the cause of the screaming? Why did the murderer choose to use a crossbow when other weapons are faster and more efficient? What was their motive for committing the murders? Why did they also leave a suspicious package down at a condo at Queens Quay and what was inside the package? Explosives?

There are way too many unanswered questions at this time. We hope that police can release more details about this incident soon and that it is hopefully an isolated incident.

My condolences go out to the families of the three people murdered. All life is sacred.

Archery Question - Does the size of the bow matter at all?


"Hey Charles,

Thank you so much for the [archery equipment] information and help, I'll start looking around based on the information that you provided and hopefully this week we'll be able to get our own equipment.

Does the size of the bow matter at all? I noticed that the sizes vary from 60' to 66', I'm not sure if the size matters as long as we get the proper poundage.



Hey Francis!
Yes, to some extent it does matter. Longer bows are known to be more forgiving accuracy wise, meaning you can make a small mistake and it won't be too far off. Shorter bows are generally less forgiving, so if you make a mistake it will often be a more dramatic difference.
Coincidentally this also applies to compound bows too, hence why many compound shooters like longer axle-to-axle compound bows because they are more forgiving of mistakes and thus more accurate. That said, it is a trade-off because some hunters prefer smaller bows which are more maneuverable through thick brush and weigh less.
Charles Moffat

Archery Question: Building Upper Back Strength


A former archery student of mine sent me the following question today:

"I have a few sessions coming up with a personal trainer. Is there anything specific I should ask him to do to help with my back strength? I am keen to get beyond the 18 -20 lb kiddie strength mark.




Hey Stephen!
You should tell the personal trainer to pay extra attention to the following muscle groups:
  • Upper Back (Rhomboids and Trapezoids)
  • Shoulders (Deltoids)
  • Triceps
If you are shooting regularly (once or twice per week) you will be building muscle in those places and eventually 20 lbs will feel easy and you will feel the urge to move up to 25 lbs. If you are not shooting regularly however, exercises that target the above muscles will be beneficial.
I should also note that archers regularly benefit from all over exercise. A stronger heart and lungs allows an archer to be more relaxed about their breathing and they are pumping oxygen-rich blood more efficiently to the muscles.

Have a great August!

Charles Moffat

Frugal Archery Equipment, Part Three

Earlier today I answered an email from someone looking to get into archery but was on a tight budget. Fortunately I had already written a number of articles on the topic previously.


DIY Archery Equipment on a Frugal Budget, which details how to make your own bamboo laminate bow on a tiny budget.

Frugal Archery Equipment, Part Two, which is a guide to buying used equipment, the pros and cons of it, and what kind of equipment a person should be looking for.

Optional Archery Equipment: Need or Don't Need is a list of optional equipment that people don't really need / can craft themselves with very little skills. eg. Sewing your own bow sock or knitting your own quiver.

Years ago I also wrote a piece on the topic of "The Do-It-Yourself Approach to Archery Lessons", which explained a step by step approach to getting into archery and not paying for archery lessons.

Looking over those older articles published in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 I realized that perhaps it was time I wrote a Part Three on the topic. So here goes...

DIY Archery Equipment with (Almost) No Money and No Skills

Step One, read the PDF for Volume I of the Traditional Bowyer's Bible. Henceforth referred to as "TBB".

The PDF is available on Scribd and other sources.

The most important chapter to read is the one on bow design. Reading the other chapters are also handy as you will learn quite a bit about archery and bow making from Volume I of the TBB alone, so you don't necessarily need to read Volumes II, III or IV.

Some libraries might also have a copy of the book. Or if you know someone who already has this book perhaps you can borrow it from them. Whatever you do, find a way to read this book.

Note: Make notes from the various things you learn.

Total Cost: $0.

Step Two, determine what tools you actually have available that would be useful for bow making.

Ideally it would be nice to have the following:

  • Hatchet or Axe
  • Draw Knife
  • Rasp and Files
  • Carving Knife

Hopefully you will already have most of everything you need. If you don't ask to borrow some tools from some friends / family members. If you can get every tool you need without spending a penny then you will be in a good position to start bow-making.

Total Cost: $0.

Step Three, acquire the raw materials to start building a bow.

This might involve:

1) Cutting down a small hardwood tree with the above mentioned axe, and then splitting the tree into several staves the correct length for bow-making. If you get four staves from one tree then you will have enough to hone your skills 4 times.

2) Finding a piece of old oak / hard maple or other kind of hardwood that is a good length and shape for bow-making. There is a chapter in the TBB which details what kinds of wood are good for bow-making.

3) Buy a piece of hardwood. I find oak is one of the easiest pieces of hardwood to find and work with, and it relatively inexpensive.

4) Getting a piece of bamboo instead of using wood. This might involve having to buy bamboo, as it is not something people normally throw out. If you go in the bamboo route you will want to research everything you can about making bamboo bows. I recommend starting by reading DIY Archery Equipment on a Frugal Budget, as I cover one method on how to make a bamboo laminate bow in that article.

You will also need an extra piece of scrap wood for making a tillering stick.

Total Cost: Varies or $0.

Step Four, start bow-making using what you have learned in the Traditional Bowyer's Bible.

Tillering the Bow
Don't expect your first bow to work perfectly. In fact, expect your first bow to probably break. Pay attention to the tillering process and try to make a fairly light and easy to use bow. Don't try to make something really powerful like a "50 lb longbow capable of killing a bear" because chances are likely that bow will be sluggish, the arrows will fly really slow, and will be horribly inaccurate.

A common beginners mistake is to try to make a powerful bow. Instead try to make something that is easy to use, takes about 20 lbs to pull to a draw length of 28 inches, and shoots the arrows nice and fast because that is really your end goal: A bow that shoots arrows quickly and accurately.

After you've made several bows your skills will have progressed and you will have gone from having no bow-making skills to having a good start at learning how to make bows that shoot fast. Then you will be ready to try making something more powerful.

Total Cost: $0.

Step Five, making arrows / etc.

To make arrows and other archery equipment, you are basically just reading different chapters from the TBB and applying the same principles above. A scrap of leather for a shooting tab or an old pair of leather gloves to protect your hand. Buy or find the necessary parts for arrow making and fletching: Straight wood shafts + feathers for fletching + obsidian, flint, metal or glass for arrowheads.

The blue glass arrowhead shown below is made using flintknapping. All you need is a piece of glass and something hard (eg. a large nail or bolt works well) to hit it with to begin the process of learning how to flintknap.

Total Cost: Varies or $0.

But what if I don't want to make my own equipment?

Well then you are left with the following options:

1. Buy equipment that is used. In which case I recommend reading Frugal Archery Equipment, Part Two.

2. Buy equipment that is new, but try to save money by making your own accessories. In which case I recommend reading Optional Archery Equipment: Need or Don't Need.

3. Borrow equipment from a friend who also does archery until you can afford to do one of the above options. Your friend is going to want the equipment back and if you break any of it, you will be expected to buy/replace anything you broke.

4. Ask friends / family members to get you archery equipment for your birthday / Christmas / etc. Be patient, that might take awhile to get everything you are looking for.

5. Sell / trade / barter old things you don't need any more to get archery equipment. That old bicycle you don't use any more? Sell it and buy archery equipment.

Got more ideas on how to get or make your own archery equipment? Post your ideas in the comments section below.

Happy shooting!

Archery - Shooting Downhill and Uphill

Shooting Downhill

Observe the image above. Now tell me, which is further away. The sheep that is 30 yards away on level ground, or the sheep which is 30 yards away on a downhill slope.

If you said they were both the same distance, you would technically be correct.

But when it comes to archery - and in this case gravity - the sheep on the downward slope is really only 21 yards away.

Thus a person using a compound bow in the above example should be using the 20 yard pin, not the 30 yard pin, and aiming just barely below the 20 yard pin so it is closer to 21 yards.

This represents a common mistake when it comes to archery / bowhunting. People assume that because the target is a certain distance away in a straight line that they should aim according to that distance. But what they don't understand is that gravity only affects the arrow for the distance horizontally that the arrow spends in the air.

Thus when shooting at a target on a downhill slope all you really need to do is calculate the horizontal distance to the target. With experience, archers can learn to figure out this and calculate their shot accordingly, but if you didn't know this then you would end up having the shot go too high and end up missing the target entirely because you were aiming too high.

There is also a 2nd problem. Gravity Assist Acceleration. Logic and science dictates that gravity would actually help the arrow on a downward shot go faster. Yes, this is technically true, but the difference is so negligible at short distances that it doesn't really effect the accuracy. At much longer distances then it would matter, but at the distances that people typically hunt at it does not really matter.

Form Wise - On a downhill shot you want to lean into the shot so you can align your shoulders correctly. Trying to stand up straight with your arm on too much of a downward angle will cause your bow shoulder to tense up. By leaning forward (like you would when bowfishing) you allow your bow shoulder to become relaxed and align yourself properly. Practicing downhill shooting form is definitely recommended if you plan to be shooting that way regularly. A good way to do this would be to get into bowfishing.

"The Arrow is Always Arcing."

Shooting Uphill

With an upward shot we encounter the same problem, with a slight twist. Again the sheep is really only 10 yards away in the image shown on the right, but it looks so much further away and the height be confusing.

Instead look horizontally to an object that is directly below your target and calculate your distance to that. Then aim accordingly.

Gravity Deceleration will again effect your arrow (like it always does), but no more than any regular horizontal shot at a short distance. The difference will be so negligible that it will be barely noticeable.

Form Wise - If the target is only a little bit higher than yourself, then your form doesn't really need to be changed at all. However on a really high angle (like in the case of bowhunting for birds) you will have to deliberately lean backwards... the trick however is to only lean enough that it allows a more comfortable and accurate shot, but without causing you to tense up your shoulder. Getting into bird-hunting is one way to get good at the really high angles.

Below: Bird hunters in the Venezuelan Amazon prepare for a shot.
They use very long arrows so that if they miss the arrow is easy to find.

A Comprehensive Guide to Archery within Game of Thrones

The Top Five Episodes of Game of Thrones with respect to Archery...

There are a lot of excellent archery scenes in Game of Thrones. I have picked 5 of my favourite scenes that best illustrate archery as a skill.

Game of Thrones Season 1, Episode 1

"Relax your bow arm." - Robb Stark, instructing Bran Stark on how to shoot.

This scene is actually quite good from an archery perspective. Bran makes several common archery mistakes, like plucking his release, and tensing up his bow arm / bow shoulder. The advice Robb gives Bran to "relax" his bow arm is actually very good advice.

Archery Trivia - The glove Bran is wearing is a Neet archery glove, made in the USA, which use Velcro on the wrist strap. The manufacturing tag was removed.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 9

Not much is talked about the shot here executed by Bronn, but it is important because he is later made a knight and called Sir Bronn of the Blackwater, referring to this shot. The result of the shot, spoiler alert, is one heck of an explosion.

Archery Trivia - The bow used by Bronn is a replica of the Meare Heath bow. The Meare Heath is remnants of a prehistoric neolithic flatbow wrapped with deer sinew in a IXIXI pattern. Below is a remnant of a Meare Heath limb next to a modern replica of a limb.

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 6

This episode is important because it is one of the few episodes containing Anguy the Archer - the best archer in all of Westeros, and includes a scene where he is teaching Arya how to shoot.

The problem with the above scene is Arya's form. She is pulling so far to the side, her form is inconsistent and she is apparently shooting at such a short distance that she is basically "shooting instinctively". At such a short distance she should be able to hit easily whatever she wants to hit, with very little skill required - and very little time spent aiming. Anguy points this out, noting this she took her "sweet time" doing it.

He then proceeds to correct her elbow so that her back is doing more of the work, and encourages her to shoot without aiming (trying to teach her how to shoot instinctively).

Another good scene to watch with Anguy is in Season 3 Episode 2, when Anguy intimidates Hotpie into backing away when he shoots an arrow almost straight up and it comes back down only yards away from himself where Hotpie was standing - and backed away just in time to avoid being hit.

Archery Trivia - Anguy's bow limbs are tipped with carved horn, suggesting that the bow is quite strong and powerful. However Arya is still pulling it, suggesting Arya is really strong for her young age (doubtful) or the people directing the scene chose to ignore that a girl Arya's age would never be able to pull and hold steady such a powerful bow.

Game of Thrones Season 4, Various Episodes

It is hard to choose one episode or scene from this season, so instead we will point to Ygritte's role in season 4 in general.

In the show (and the books) Ygritte is supposedly a great archer, but routinely the actress is doing all sorts of bad things with her bow which makes her look like a complete amateur. Things like:
  • Using 4 fingers on the bowstring (+ inconsistent use of her fingers in general);
  • Wrapping one finger of her bowhand around the arrow;
  • Pulling back the arrow near her shoulder or often a foot away from her face;
  • Inconsistent draw length...
 I could go on and on. Watching Ygritte shoot in season 4 is like watching a how to guide of how NOT to shoot. You can basically just pick any episode from season 4 with Ygritte shooting and you will have a scene showing you what NOT to be doing.

Archery Trivia - Ygritte's bow is another replica of the famous Meare Heath bow, except this one is a shorter recurved version of the Meare Heath.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9

I have a whole post dedicated to this episode. See Ramsay's Archery Skills on Game of Thrones to learn more.

To summarize, Ramsay shoots at various distances in this episode and is even showing off to the soldiers behind him by deliberately missing most of his shots. In the moving GIF below he doesn't even look at the target as he deliberately misses. (I shall not spoil the rest of the scene, but suffice to say that if you have not seen that episode then maybe you should reading the above mentioned post about Ramsay's Archery Skills.)

Archery Trivia - The bow Ramsay uses is a Penobscot bow, a double limbed flatbow that uses adjustable cables so that the user can adjust the power of the bow and thus can maximize power and improve long range accuracy. The Penobscot are a Native American tribe from the Maine region of the USA, their bows were rather unique design wise.

Ramsay using a Penobscot Bow

A Penobscot Bow

I may add more posts on this topic in the future, perhaps choosing 5 other episodes and make a sequel post. If this is something you would like to read leave a comment below and subscribe to

Happy Shooting!

Recreational Archery - 5 Ways to have Fun Shooting

Want to have more fun while practicing archery? Here are 5 ways to make recreational archery even more fun - and challenge your skills!

#1. Shoot Balloons with Arrows

One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep kids / young archers occupied is to use balloons on your target.

Tip - For extra fun, put about 2 tablespoons of glitter inside the balloon and watch the explosion of glitter when they hit it. Filming the glitter explosion is also a good idea. If you don't have glitter handy, you can also use corn starch and food colouring.

However leaving broken balloons and lots of glitter all over the place is bad mojo, so please clean up your mess afterwards.

#2. Blowing out a Candle with an Arrow

For more advanced archers, this is a fun challenge. Trying to blow out a candle without hitting the actual candle. (And without setting fire to your arrow. For obvious reasons you should take safety precautions when practicing this.)

#3. Shooting at Fruit / Vegetables

Another popular thing for kids to shoot at is fruit and vegetables (preferably the kind they dislike the most). While watermelons might seem like a good idea, that is a waste of good watermelon! Instead try shooting at apples, broccoli or something the kid really dislikes.

"Zombie Survivalists" - people who are a bit obsessed with the TV show "The Walking Dead" - prefer to shoot at head sized melons, however they seem to be forgetting that to kill a zombie you have to get them in the brain, which is roughly double the size of an apple, which means they should be picking pretty small melons.

Note - Shooting at fruit and vegetables tends to leave juice all over your arrows and that will smell bad if you forget to clean your arrows afterwards. Keep some water, rags and maybe even some cleaning alcohol handy for cleaning your arrows after you are done shooting and clean them before storing them away.

#4. Robin Hood an Arrow

Trying to split an arrow is a huge challenge. See my tips on How To Split An Arrow. For extra challenge, try to Robin Hood a Moving Target.

To do it on purpose, place an old arrow (one you don't need any more) in the middle of your target and then practice shooting until you manage to robin hood (hit it directly in the end). You may not get it on the first day of practicing this particular challenge, but with regular practice you will eventually do it - and do it again and again. (I have lost track of how many times I have Robin Hooded my arrows.)

If you would rather not destroy one of your arrows, a different challenge is to shoot at a piece of LifeSaver candy. If you get it right it in the middle then that is just as good as Robin Hooding an arrow.

#5. Field Archery / Roving

Field Archery is a specific sport of archery, wherein your challenge is to try and hit a target at a random / unknown distance. The distance is usually unmarked and the location is usually across a field, across rough terrain or in the wilderness. As a sport, it was traditionally practiced by people who are into bowhunting and "rovers".

One way to get into Field Archery is to get a Target Ball, like the one shown below. Then simply toss it into a field and begin shooting at it. I recommend using metal blunt arrowheads so you don't damage the ball as much. The interior of the thick rubber ball is filled with sand, so you will definitely want to avoid using broadheads as that will leave holes and cause it to leak sand. I also recommend using wingnuts on the arrowheads so that your arrows don't get lost in grass easily in the event you miss.

Roving is an old tradition of young men going for a walk and shooting at random objects along the way, often while drinking and making up drinking songs like "A-Roving We Will Go". Rovers would wander across the countryside and pick random targets to shoot at, sometimes combined with "I dare you to try to shoot ____." The practice of roving dates back to the 16th century, and possibly earlier when it might have been known by different names.

The modern equivalent of roving is called "Stump Shooting", shown below. The archers wanders around old woods and looks for old tree stumps that are fairly rotten and falling apart, and then shoots the rotting tree stump. Make sure you check to see if the tree stump is actually fairly soft, as you wouldn't want to shoot at a hard tree stump and damage your arrow.

Want more archery tips and fun ideas? Subscribe to using the options on the upper right.
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!

Subscribe by Email


Popular Posts