Reading Old Archery Books

I am an intellectual, a geek, I know that. When faced with a task the tools that come to hand easiest for me are books and articles, etc. What I want to address here is “reading old archery texts” and why you might want to do so.

There is a general tendency among archers, mostly compound archers, to look at the latest and greatest as having more value. We want the latest equipment, the latest tuning methods, the latest technique tips, etc. This is because we have been led to believe that things are better now that they were in the past and that, in general is true . . . but not absolutely true. My friend and colleague Tom Dorigatti has a bone to pick with the phrase “new and improved” which is a bit of marketing nonsense foisted upon us through TV ads and now other media. He claims, quite so, that something cannot be both “new” and “improved” at the same time.

Basically I have read archery books dating from recent to hundreds of years old. I have learned many things, including the idea of back tension goes back centuries. But specifically, let’s look at one book, namely: Doctor Your Own Compound Bow by Emery J. Loiselle

I gave away my copy of this book, so I am operating from memory. My later version included a section on those new-fangled two wheel compounds. Most of the bow was about four- and six-wheeled compound bows. Never having shot one of those older bows I learned a lot in seeing how they were tuned. They were open-ended systems so you could feed cables through from one end and they would come out the other, giving you a huge number of tuning options. Two-wheel compound bows are a closed system in which one thing feeds into another and so provided many fewer tuning possibilities.

The two-wheelers were also less complicated mechanisms and thus less could go wrong.

Historical tidbits are dropped along the way. Did you know that the earliest compound bows used banjo and guitar tuning pegs for their cabling take-ups? There wasn’t anything being ready made at the beginning, so they used what they had.

Did you know that the early compound bows had no bow presses to help work on them. The bows were loosened until there was no tension on the cables or string and then dismantled, which meant that retuning was required for any such process.

Did you know that the first bow presses had a single point of pull, resulting in myriad broken handles (and the invention of the two point harness)?

Did you know that “creep tuning” was invented in the 1970’s?

Some of this knowledge is of just historical interest but much of it underlies the processes used on modern bows and why modern bows are designed the way they are.

Old archery books are available for a song and many of them have information that is pertinent today still. You may be surprised at how little archery form has changed, for example.

Happy reading!


Filed under For All Coaches

4 responses to “Reading Old Archery Books

  1. Linda Woody

    An older book I have enjoyed reading and have known the author, is Blair Peterson’s book, “Behind the bow”. Interesting and really applies more to recurve shooting. Blair was the President of the archery club I was most recently a member of, The Villages Archery Club, The Villages, Florida. He is a former Professional Archer and Olympic Coach as well as a really nice gentleman.


    • When I discovered his book, I tracked him down to see if he would like to write for Archery Focus, unfortunately he did not.


      • Linda Woody

        I have to also politely decline your previous offer for me to write up a narrative of my shoulder injury rehab. I am still in the process of rehabbing but with medical and physical therapy treatments am making great strides towards being able to again shoot archery competitively. I have the go-ahead to begin shooting ten arrows a day! So, I do wish you all the best with the remaining issues of the fine “Archery Focus Magazine”.


      • Thank you for even considering the “ask.” I dearly wish our archery organization would make such information available to archers and coaches. What are the best practices in such rehabs or, at least, what are the options.

        Cheers . . . and good luck with the rest of your rehab. Be sure to start with a light drawing bow. The key thing now is just re-establishing the pattern of muscle movements. Strength will be regained over time.

        On Thu, Oct 14, 2021 at 8:45 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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