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Book Review
The Composite Bow
The Composite Bow
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

    The composite bow was made from a combination of horn, sinew, wood and various animal glues. It manifested in a variety of recurve designs and was adopted by a staggering diversity of cultures, from nomadic tribal peoples such as the Huns, Turks and Mongols, to mighty empires such as the Romans, Persians and Chinese. Offering high power and portability, the composite bow was especially effective in the hands of the horse-archer, though it was also used by infantry in open battle and as a siege weapon. More recently, the traditional technology of the composite bow has led directly to the development of modern sporting bows made of substitute composite materials and recurve designs.

    In this important study, Mike Loades, an expert on historical archery; tells the story of this extraordinary piece of military hardware: how it was made and how various cultures developed differing tactics for using it. He explains why the composite bow achieved such stunning successes and how it endured as a weapon of choice for thousands of years.
    ** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released The Composite Bow as Number 43 in their Weapon series. It is a softcover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color photographs, color illustrations, and detailed captions. It has a 2016 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-0591-1. The book details the development, variations, use and various tactics of the composite bow.

- Introduction
- Development
- Engineering the optimal bow
- Use
- Archery – a very martial art
- Impact
- Different bows for different blows
- Conclusion
- Bibliography
- Index

As one can guess by the title of the book the main focus is on the composite bow. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. Author Mike Loades covers the composite bow and it’s many variations from different countries and cultures from their development and introduction, to their use on the battlefield. Author Mike Loades does an excellent job of detailing all aspects of the development, construction and use of the composite types of bows, their accessories and their use on the battlefield. In addition to the history and technical information provided on the composite bow the author has also included personal accounts provided by individuals throughout history. Personally, I appreciate the individual accounts as they provide excellent information on actual use of the bows. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the composite bow to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and detailed book.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

There are a total of 4 black and white photographs and 90 color photographs. The majority of the photographs featured are close-up posed for the photographer images. To me this is a definite bonus as they provide excellent close-up details of the various composite bows and their associated equipment. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the bows themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the bows in a broad generalized photograph.

In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various composite bows and their details. Author Mike Loades stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the firearm enthusiast due to the details they contain.

In addition to the composite bows, some of the other archery items shown and discussed are:

- Different arrow types
- Various types of arrowheads
- Bow making materials
- Thumb rings and tabs
- Sassanian shooting glove
- Archery targets
- Chinese whistling arrow heads
- Arrow nocks
- Quivers
- Early types of body armor

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

There are 4 color illustrations by illustrator Peter Dennis. The illustrations are of:
    - Chariot battle between Egyptians and Hittites (see attached scan)
    - Training for horse-archery
    - An Ottoman horse-archer shooting targets from the back of a moving horse
    - Parthian horse-archers attack a disrupted line of Roman legionaries
    - Parthian horse mounted archers attacking Roman legionaries after Parthian heavy cavalry disrupted the Roman lines.
    - Manchu infantry archers
    - Manchu infantry archers attacking the distinctive tower fortifications of a village during the Jinchuan wars. (see attached scan)

There are 17 black and white illustrations. The illustrations are mostly of various type of composite bows. Some of the types of composite bows illustrated are:
    - The Scythian bow
    - The angular bow
    - The Turkish bow (see attached scan)
    - The Mughal crab bow
    - The Indo-Persian bow
    - The Crimean Tatar bow
    - The asymmetric Hun bow
    - The Mongolian bow
    - The Korean bow
    - The Qing bow

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.

There are 3 notes included in this volume and they are:

- Acknowledgments
- Artist’s note
- Editor’s Note

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to bows and their variations, archery equipment and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Mike Loades’ captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.

As with the other Osprey Publishing weapons series titles I was impressed with this volume. This is a very nice reference book that contains many close-up, detailed, subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details the composite types of bows, their accessories, their development, to their use on the battlefield. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.


Search inside The Composite Bow on the Osprey web site:


Osprey Publishing also has The Composite Bow available as:

- eBook (ePub)
- eBook (PDF)

Look inside The Composite Bow on the Amazon web site:

https://www.amazon.com/Composite-Bow-Weapon-Mike-Loades/dp/1472805917/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479578965&sr=1-1&keywords=The Composite Bow

Look inside the Kindle Edition of The Composite Bow on the Amazon web site:

Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: Another excellent volume in Osprey Publishing’s Weapon series. Definitely beneficial to the archery, ancient weapons and military weapons enthusiast and the scale figure modeler.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-0591-1
  Suggested Retail: US $20.00 / UK £12.99
  PUBLISHED: Dec 13, 2016

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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