Shortbows vs Longbows: Key Similarities And Differences

Archery has been around since the Middle Ages, but the tools and techniques used in this ancient sport have changed drastically over time. As a metaphor for life, the longbow versus shortbow debate offers a fascinating insight into the subtle similarities and differences between two seemingly distinct paths.

A traditional longbow is typically made from one piece of wood, which can be quite difficult to master and often requires considerable practice. On the other hand, a shortbow is made from multiple pieces of wood and tends to be easier to use than its longer counterpart.

Despite these differences, both weapons ultimately serve the same purpose – to help an archer hit their target with accuracy and precision. In this article, we will explore the key similarities and differences between shortbows and longbows in order to better understand how different aspects of archery can influence an individual’s accuracy, skill level, and overall satisfaction while shooting.


Shortbows and longbows have been used for centuries for hunting and warfare. Both bows have key similarities and differences that must be taken into account when comparing them.

The shortbow is a bow that is typically less than 60 inches in length, while the longbow is longer than 60 inches. Longbows are usually made from a single piece of wood or laminated wood, whereas shortbows are often made of composite materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber.

Shortbows are lighter to carry and easier to draw, making them well-suited for hunting game at close range. Longbows, on the other hand, can fire arrows further than shortbows due to their increased weight and length, making them ideal for shooting over greater distances.

The use of a longbow requires more strength than using a shortbow since it is heavier and has greater draw weight. Additionally, the arrow trajectory of a longbow is more stable than that of a shortbow due to its longer length; however, this also means that the arrows from a longbow will travel slower through the air than those from a shortbow.

As such, it can take more practice for an archer to master accuracy with a longbow versus a shortbow.

Draw Weight

Draw weight is one of the key differences between shortbows and longbows.

Draw weight, for both bow types, refers to the amount of force that is needed to pull back a fully-drawn arrow.

Generally speaking, shortbows require less draw weight than longbows.

This is due to their shorter length and size in comparison to longbows.

The average draw weight for a shortbow ranges from 20-45 pounds, while the draw weight of a longbow can range from 35-80 pounds.

The length and size of shortbows and longbows contribute significantly to their respective draw weights.

Short bows are typically around 3 feet in length, while long bows usually range between 5-6 feet in length.

This difference in size means that with the same amount of force, a longer bow will be able to launch an arrow farther than a shorter bow due to its increased leverage on the arrow shaft.

The increased leverage provided by the longer bow also adds extra resistance when pulling back, which results in higher draw weights for longer bows than shorter ones.

Longbow archers must also consider the width of their bow when determining what draw weight they will need because wider bows require more force for adequate performance compared to narrower bows with the same length and mass.

On average, a longbow has a width of around 1 inch, but some may reach up to 2 inches or more depending on its design and purpose.

With this being said, it is important for archers to understand how their chosen bow’s size affects its performance before purchase so that they can select an appropriate draw weight suitable for their needs.

Arrow Speed/Arrow Weight

The draw weight of a shortbow and a longbow are two key aspects that define their differences. Shortbows typically require a lower draw weight than longbows, making them easier to shoot. This makes them ideal for novice archers and those who lack the physical strength required to pull back a longbow.

Longbows, however, usually require higher draw weights and are more difficult to master but can produce greater arrow speed and accuracy. In terms of arrow speed, short bows may be able to launch arrows at slightly faster speeds than long bows due to their lighter draw weight. However, their lighter draw weight also means that they are unable to hold as much kinetic energy as longbows and may not be suitable for hunting large game.

Additionally, the shorter length of the short bow means that it can only accept smaller-diameter arrows, which results in a decrease in arrow speed compared to larger-diameter arrows. When considering arrow weight, both short bows and longbows can be used with similar types of arrows, although heavier arrows tend to fly better with longer bows due to their increased capacity for kinetic energy storage.

Ultimately, when selecting an appropriate type of bow for archery or Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), it is important to consider the draw weight needed, desired arrow speed/arrow weight, and even the size/length of the bow itself. With this information in mind, one can make an informed decision regarding whether a short bow or a longbow is more suitable for their needs.


The range of a shortbow and a longbow are both impressive, yet they differ in several ways.

A short bow requires the archer to be close to the target and has an effective range of up to 60 meters. On the other hand, a longbow can shoot arrows up to 300 meters. This is achieved by its longer design which allows for more power when drawing the arrow back.

In terms of accuracy, short bows have more precision at close ranges due to their short length and easier draw weight. Longbows require a much more powerful draw weight as well as greater muscle strength, making them less accurate over shorter distances but better suited for long-range accuracy.

When it comes to portability, short bows take the lead due to their lightweight design and small size, which is convenient for carrying around without hassle or hindrance. In contrast, longbows are heavier and require more space for transport, making them less suitable for people looking for an easy-to-carry option.

Shooting Speed

Shortbows and longbows are both commonly used in archery. While they share many similarities, shooting speed is one of the main differences.

Shortbows have a shorter length which makes them easier to use when shooting at close-range targets. This gives them an advantage when shooting multiple arrows, as they can be shot faster than a longbow. The size of the bow also affects the speed of shooting arrows. Longer bows cause the arrow to travel for a longer distance before reaching its target, decreasing the accuracy of shots taken from farther distances. On the other hand, shorter bows provide a greater amount of accuracy due to their smaller size and, thus, faster release time, allowing them to be used for close-range targets with greater precision than longbows.

Longbows have a longer bow length and therefore require more strength and power when drawing back the arrow, making them slower to shoot arrows compared to shortbows. In addition, shortbows tend to be lighter than longbows due to their smaller size, and this makes them easier for young or beginning archers to handle during practice sessions without putting too much strain on their arms.

Longbows can be more difficult for beginners as they require more strength and skill in order to draw back the arrow correctly. As such, shortbows are generally better suited for beginner archers, while experienced archers may prefer using longbows due to their increased accuracy and power when shooting at further distances.

Aiming And Shooting

Shooting speed is not the only factor in determining a bow’s efficacy. Aiming and shooting are also key components that set shortbows and longbows apart.

When it comes to aiming, the shorter length of the shortbow gives it a distinct advantage in certain situations. The shorter length makes it easier to shoot from positions of cover or concealment and makes it more maneuverable when shooting in confined spaces. On the other hand, longbows have greater stability due to their larger size, making them better for shooting at longer distances.

When it comes to actually firing an arrow, longbows require significantly more strength than short bows do. This is because longbows hold the string at full draw for longer periods of time, resulting in more tension on the limbs and string. As a result, archers must be able to pull back heavier weights in order to fire effectively with a longbow than with a shortbow. In contrast, short bows require less strength but may take longer to draw and aim accurately as there is less stability due to their smaller size.

In general, both short bows and longbows offer advantages depending on the situation at hand. Short bows are best suited for close-range shooting, while longbows tend to be better for distance shooting due to their greater stability and heavier draw weight requirement.

However, both types of bows require accurate aiming and precise shooting in order to be effective weapons. Ultimately, the choice between a shortbow or longbow depends on personal preference as well as tactical considerations such as range and environment when choosing which type of bow will most suit one’s needs.

Draw Length

Shortbows and longbows have different draw lengths. Shortbows typically have a draw length of between 28-32 inches, while longbows have a typical draw length of between 32-36 inches. This means that when shooting with a shortbow, it is easier to reach full draw than when shooting with a longbow.

The longer draw length of the longbow also means that more energy can be stored in the bow before releasing the arrow. This gives the arrow more momentum and speed when released, allowing for greater accuracy and distance than a shortbow could achieve.

The shorter draw length of the shortbow does not store as much energy, but it does allow for faster shots which can be beneficial in certain situations, such as hunting or target shooting.

The two bows also differ in terms of ease of use; shorter bows are generally easier to handle due to their lighter weight and shorter overall size, making them better suited for smaller framed archers or those who do not want to carry around a large bow. Longbows are heavier and therefore require more strength to hold steady while aiming and may not be suitable for shooters with limited physical strength or endurance.

Size And Portability

Size and portability are two important factors to consider when choosing between a shortbow and a longbow. Shortbows tend to be more compact, making them easier to carry in the field. They can be easily stowed away in a backpack or quiver, allowing for quick deployment when the moment arises.

While some longbows may be smaller than others, they are not as easily portable as shortbows due to their larger size and weight. In terms of shooting ability, both types of bows offer advantages.

For example, shortbows have higher draw weights which makes them ideal for penetrating dense foliage or reaching distant targets. The stiffer limbs of a longbow also provide increased power and accuracy at longer ranges. However, the shorter draw length on shortbows limits their range compared to that of a longbow.

The choice between a shortbow and a longbow ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both bows offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages depending on the user’s individual needs and preferences.

To determine which bow is best suited for an individual’s purposes, it is important to consider not only size and portability but also shooting ability and range when making the decision.

Cost And Availability

Size and portability are two of the most significant aspects when comparing shortbows and longbows. The size difference between shortbows and longbows is significant, as shortbows are usually less than five feet in length, while longbows can be up to six feet or more. This difference in size makes shortbows much easier to transport and store, making them suitable for those with limited space or who need to carry their bow for a variety of outdoor activities.

When it comes to cost and availability, both shortbow and longbow styles have variations that make them accessible to different budgets. Shortbow models tend to be more affordable than their longer counterparts due to their smaller size, while longbow models typically require more materials and craftsmanship due to their length.

Additionally, there may be local stores that offer bows of varying lengths and prices, so researching nearby shops is a good option for those looking for a specific style of bow.

In terms of selection, there is something available for everyone:

  • Traditional wood bows made from ash, yew, or bamboo
  •  Contemporary composite bows using synthetic materials like fiberglass
  •  A wide range of sizes ranging from youth bows all the way up to professional tournament-grade arrows
  •  Various price points depending on quality and features

No matter what your budget or preference is when it comes to archery equipment, you’re sure to find an appropriate bow that suits your needs. With the right research, you can find the perfect fit for yourself—or someone else—in no time at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type Of Arrows Should Be Used For Shortbows And Longbows?

When it comes to deciding what type of arrow should be used for shortbows and longbows, there is some debate. Some may point out that the arrows should be matched to the draw weight of the bow in order to provide maximum accuracy and power. However, this is not strictly necessary; arrows with a wide range of weights can be used successfully with both shortbows and longbows regardless of their draw weight.

The real key is finding an arrow that has good balance and a strong spine, which will ensure that it flies straight and true. Ultimately, the type of arrow chosen will depend on the individual shooter’s preference as well as their level of skill.

Are Shortbows Or Longbows Better For Hunting?

For hunting purposes, the choice between a shortbow or a longbow depends on individual preferences and needs.

Shortbows are typically smaller and lighter, making them more portable and easier to handle. Additionally, shortbows require less physical strength to draw back the string, allowing for greater accuracy with less effort.

On the other hand, longbows offer greater distance at higher power levels due to their longer design and increased draw weight. This makes them better suited for larger game such as deer.

Ultimately, both bows have their advantages and disadvantages in regard to hunting, so it is important to consider one’s own needs before making a purchase decision.

Are Shortbows Or Longbows Easier To Use For Beginners?

The question of whether shortbows or longbows are easier for beginners to use is a subject of debate.

For some, the shorter length of a shortbow makes it easier to draw, while others argue that the longer length of a longbow offers more stability and control when shooting.

Shortbows are typically lighter in weight, making them ideal for those who may not have the upper body strength to handle a longbow.

Additionally, they tend to have less recoil than longbows due to their size and shape.

Longbows, on the other hand, offer more power when shooting arrows and are generally more accurate at longer distances than shortbows.

Ultimately, which type of bow is better suited for beginners depends on personal preference and skill level.

What Is The Difference In Accuracy Between Shortbows And Longbows?

Accuracy is an important factor when considering shortbows and longbows.

Shortbows are typically more accurate than longbows due to their shorter length, but they require more strength to draw back the string.

Longbows, in comparison, have a longer length and a wider angle of bow arms which make them easier to draw back and hold for longer periods of time; however, this can also lead to a decrease in accuracy as the arrow is released from a larger distance away from the target.

Ultimately, both bows have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to accuracy and should be considered based on individual needs.

What Is The Difference In Durability Between Shortbows And Longbows?

The durability of a bow is an important factor to consider when looking for the optimal choice.

Shortbows and longbows differ in this regard, as shortbows are generally made of more durable material, such as wood or composite materials, and can withstand much more wear and tear than their longbow counterparts.

Longbows tend to be constructed from less-durable materials, such as leather or cloth, which makes them more susceptible to damage.

Additionally, shortbows are often equipped with additional reinforcements that add strength and durability while also providing extra protection against the elements.

In comparison, longbows lack these reinforcements, which makes them more susceptible to weathering over time.

Wrapping Up

The debate of shortbows versus longbows is an age-old conundrum that has been debated for centuries. While both types of bows have their strengths and weaknesses, understanding the key similarities and differences between them is key to making a decision on which one best suits one’s needs.

Shortbows are typically easier to use for beginners, while longbows are better suited for hunting. Additionally, shortbows generally have higher accuracy than longbows; however, they also tend to be less durable.

Ultimately, picking the right bow depends on individual needs and preferences. Before deciding on a bow type, it is essential to consider factors such as power, accuracy, usability, and durability in order to make an informed decision. Through careful consideration and understanding the pros and cons of each type of bow, one can pick the perfect weapon to fit their individual archery needs.


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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