Technical Archery

I have been an archer for over 35 years. As a teenager my parents bought me a recurve target bow and I spent many afternoons chasing lost arrows in our backyard archery range. I could never afford the more expensive hunting bows and compound bows were way out of my price range.

When my vegetarian daughter headed for college I decided it was time to begin bow hunting to take advantage of the expanded archery season for deer in Maine. After a stop at LLBean in Freeport, Maine I was equipped with a 60 pound PSE Stinger bow, Beman ICS BowHunter 340 arrows, and enough basic knowledge to shoot a four inch group at 20 yards. I was amazed by my new archery machine and as professional chemist and instrument designer I wanted to know how each aspect of my bow worked. I found the literature on the technical aspects of bow tuning and shooting technique to be quite complete, and very much enjoyed the books Precision Archery (2004) by Ruis and Stevenson, and On Tuning for Your Compound Bow (1998) by Wise, Sherwood, and Helgeland. However, I was frustrated by the lack of information on the physics of arrow flight, particularly given all the internet hype on super, duper, incredibly fast bows that shoot 350 ft/s. I wanted to calculate the real trajectory of my arrow from bow to target, with real arrows, and in real air with drag. Clearly, these calculations were going to be a bit tricky and no one had discussed real arrow trajectories on the internet. The problem was aerodynamic drag. As an arrow flies through the air the drag on the tip, shaft, and fletchings slow the arrow and modify the arrow trajectory. 

I could find lots of data on bullet drag, but nothing for arrows except for a post by Bill Lavendar (http://freespace.virgin.net/billy.lavender/) and a few obscure references to a book by Thomas L. Liston. The internet did not discuss Liston's calculations, but it did yield an email address and soon after the book; The Physical Laws of Archery, 7th (2005), Thomas Liston Inc. (liston@sbcglobal.net). If you want to understand archery from the viewpoint of an engineer, buy Liston's book by sending a check for $30 made out to Thomas L. Liston, Inc., 329 S. San Antonio Road #5, Los Altos, Ca 94022.

This site builds from Liston's and Lavendar's calculations for arrow trajectory, but also provides real software and hardware tools to measure average arrow velocities and aerodynamic drag

The Technical Discussions section provides the physical details with examples on:


 With these tools it is possible to evaluate the performance of specific bow and arrow combinations under real conditions in the hands of real archers. I hope you enjoy my tools and calculations. Please feel free to send me comments and suggestions at dwking@TechnicalArchery.com.


Whitney King
Technical Archery
Waterville, Maine
Winter 2014
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