Rangerexpert is audience-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that we use for site maintenance. Learn more


Shortbow vs Longbow: Know Their Differences Details

Shortbow vs Longbow
Written by Catherine Weeks

For archers who are interested in purchasing a short bow or longbow, it is necessary to surf through the comparison of shortbow vs longbow. This will help the archer to have a clear knowledge of their features, uses, and benefits. Actually, we have different types of shortbows and their specification, this is due to their small size. The self-shortbow first existed, but later there were modifications that brought about other varieties.

A longbow has no real variety, it is a distinct bow with great qualities. I remember a situation where a hunter (Bowman) mistook a short bow to be a longbow by consistently using a strong heavy crafted arrow meant for an English longbow to do his hunting. This brought about subtle but permanent damage to his shooting tool.

However, a short bow is designed to shoot within close range and mid-range. Their arrows aren’t heavy but light in weight, which fits the bow’s capacity. Crossbows, recurve bows are common examples of a short bow. The longbows are designed to travel far with tremendous accuracy, breaking through defenses, and tough amours. They are longer than shortbows, which is why archers using this type of bow need a lot of space to shoot.

Even with this, a lot of people confuse one type of bow for another. They look out for which bow is suitable enough to last long and meet their needs. But the truth is all about how you maintain and care for your choice bow. Others ask the question about which bow is suitable for them as a new archer? When once you study and know the features of a bow and what it is meant for, it’s easier to make your choice without panicking. Discussing these two sets of bows in details will help the archer to make the proper choice to meet his goals.

Differences Between a Shortbow vs Longbow

The difference between short bow and longbow is realized through their features. There are strong qualities a bow must possess to make it valuable for the user. The most important features or factors used to classify this two types of bows in this discussion are based on their origins, design, materials, uses, and benefits, draw length, limitations, and the required care and maintenance guide. To further clarify your vague knowledge of these bows, let’s ponder on these factors briefly.

Shortbow vs Longbow: Know Their Differences

1. Origins

This is a factor to consider because it helps the owner to have a history of how these bows came into existence. Looking at their origins, we have;

  • Shortbow

This set of the bow can be traced back to northern Asia. It is reported that the nomads of the dry, cold grasslands in Asia, where predominant users of this bow. Shortbows were known to be consistent during the bronze age by the Greeks. They used it on horseback infiltrating the ranks of their enemies during battle. Minoans and MycenaeansGreeks were well known for using this bows. They were later improved by the Chinese, Assyrians, and Egyptians as the came in contact with the nomads from Asia.

  • Longbow

The longbows otherwise known as the English longbow were first noticed during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Wales in 633AD. It is referred to as the English longbow because England holds the greatest military record of using the longbows. The English warriors used the longbows against the French warriors during the war that lasted over a period of 100 years. It was a powerful war bow during the medieval period.

2. Design

One critical factor that distinguishes longbow vs shortbow is their mode of design. This factor describes the shape and form of this bows in detail.

  • Shortbow

This bow is designed with flexible shaft wood, sharp at both ends with a central part and two curve woody wings. This center is designed with a strong horn or bone glued to connect and hold the two wings wood together. The wood used should have different mechanical properties to maintain and hold its bending and non-bending ability. The ends of the wood are held by a strong cord or a gut string a bit shorter than the wood shaft. The size of this bow is 3 to 4feet long, about 1.2 meters.

The design for self-bows, which is an example of a short bow requires only one type of wood. So the mode of design is easy. But for other types of short bow, the wood used are of varieties. Also, putting together a self-bow is easy, doesn’t take much time. Whereas, other types are not easy to construct because it needs a lot of time and focuses while putting it together. But the finished result is worthwhile as it is more durable and can withstand moisture.

However, for the much complex short bows, the center must be carefully crafted to store enough energy and provide elastic capacity for the wing woods to hold on. It must be constructed such that the sinews are stretched outside, while the horn located at the middle is compressed inside.

  • Longbow

This class of bows is designed into a long curvy D-shape. This bow shape provides the overall performance of the English longbow. The bow stave is long to hold the size of the arrow and the draw length is wide. The length of this bow is considered within the size of 6 to 7 feet long, almost or the size of the height of an average man.

The longbows are designed from a single type of wood and the finished product is protected with a water-resistant coating to keep it strong and durable. From this wood, the bow is constructed to possess sapwood and heartwood. The inside of the bow contains the heartwood while the outside contains the sapwood. Finally, the bowstrings are designed from specific materials to meet the weight of the bow.

3. Material

This section simply looks at the raw materials used in putting together the short bow and longbow. The materials involved must be of a standard to provide maximum result. Let’s take a look at their materials, to help you make a better choice.

  • Shortbow

The basic materials needed to construct this bow are simply; wood, glue, bone or horn, stiffening laths and sinews. The woods used are either hard maples or bamboo. This wood mechanical property helps the wood to withstand stress. The sinew can be obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer. This sinew provides elastic tension, thereby increasing the amount of energy stored by the wood. The glue is either animal glue, hide glue, or gelatin obtained directly from the gas bladder of fish. The arrows and strings used are not specific, but the arrows must be short.

  • Longbow

The basic materials involved in producing the English longbow are; the elm or yew sapwood and heartwood, horn, ash, hemp or silk strings and glue. The yew or elm sapwood provides good tension while the heartwood resists the compression. The distribution of this wood must not be above 50%. Likely a 50-50. The string cord tied to both ends through horn nocks is made of hemp or silk material. Varieties of arrows used are broad-arrow, wolf-arrow, dog-arrow, welsh arrow, and Scottish arrow. This arrows must not be light in weight but must meet the standard for maximum operation of the longbow.

4. Uses and Benefits


  • Fires arrows faster
  • Very sharp and effective in tight spaces
  • The bow and arrow are light in weight
  • Easy to carry around
  • Very affordable
  • Less space required for an elbow to adjust and fire
  • Useful from horseback


  • The arrows travel accurately straight and longer than short bows
  • Stores more energy than the short bow
  • Used to penetrate strong armors
  • It can handle heavier arrows
  • They are versatile to accommodate more arrows
  • It has good fire velocity

5. Draw Length

This factor denotes the extent or distance a person pulls back the arrow before releasing it. It’s a feature that determines the distance of your target arrows, depending on the energy you exert while pulling your bow to shoot. That means the force you apply determines the distance your arrow will reach. Let’s look at how this feature affects both bows.

  • Shortbow

The draw length capacity for a short bow stops between the elbow and dominant shoulder. Indicating that the draw length is short compared to the English longbow. This tells you that this type of bow can operate in tight and open spaces accurately. The maximum range a short bow arrow can reach is 50 to 150 yards. Meanwhile, the draw weight is within the range of 80 to 100 lbs.

This tells you that the short bow is limited in distance. The distance of the arrow cannot surpass the capacity of the bow. But it travels fast within its capacity, within a split second it will bring down its target. Crossbows work differently than other short bows. Apart from the crossbow (a type of short bow) which comes with default draw length setup, the draw length of other types of short bows can be determined by the archer by putting more force on the bow while aiming to shoot.

  • Longbow

The English longbow provides enough space for the shooter to pull his arrow or dart back. The arrow can be pulled back to your cheekbone position, showing that the draw length is wide and the arrow can travel faster. The distance an arrow shot from an English longbow is within the range of 180 to 400 yards depending on the weight of the bow. The draw weight of the English longbow is within the range of 160 to 180 lbs.

However, with this bow, the archer can determine how far he can shoot his arrow depending on his target. He can also adjust if his target is near. If the target is near, he doesn’t have to apply too much effort or force. But if the target is far he will have to apply greater force on his bow, making sure his arrow travels far.

6. Limitations

There are limitations or cons associated with this set of bows. This shows the extent this shooting tool can reach.


  • It has a shorter draw length
  • Only light arrows can be used for this bow
  • The accuracy and velocity is limited to the longbows
  • Not versatile enough to accommodate more arrows
  • It cannot penetrate heavy armors


  • Lack of enough space to fire an arrow
  • Not useful from horseback
  • Less affordable compared to the short bows

7. Care and Maintenance Requirements

Taking care of your bow should not be overlooked if you need your hunting tool to stay strong and durable. Let’s look at the ways you can keep these two sets of bows durable.


  • Make sure you check and treat scratches, nicks, and dents
  • Keep your bow in a cool and stable environment
  • Never flex or bend the bow’s limbs in reverse
  • Use Danish oil if your bow is scuffed or soiled
  • Wax your bow string regularly when needed


  • Do not use heavy arrows on this bow
  • Wax your bow string regularly when needed
  • Don’t rest this bow on its tip
  • Check and treat scratch, dents, and nicks if found
  • Replace your strings when needed


Longbows are suitable for skillful shooters who need more space and the desire to have their arrow travel longer, faster, and accurately. However, the short bow is suitable for shooters who operate in tight spaces. Archers with short bows can pocket it around, as they are convenient while longbows aren’t.

The longbow is more versatile enough than the short bow, because it accommodates more than one arrow depending if the archer is skilled enough to use it. In addition, those who want to venture into hunting with a bow they should start with the short bow as the longbow are meant for highly skilled archers.

About the author

Catherine Weeks

Cathy believes that hunting is not about downing an animal; rather, it’s about enjoying the purity of this challenge and making a connection with nature.

She loves country music, horses, shooting, and hunting; and spends her weekends in the great outdoors with her husband and two kids.

Though Cathy has hunted most of her life, it was not until her partner gave her a bow that she realized she had finally found her passion.

She is always determined to share her missed opportunities, dedication, emotions, and small details that people often forget to mention when they talk about their hunting experiences.

Cathy also works to promote wildlife preservation and protect natural resources. She thinks “patience” is the most important thing that can make a big difference.

Leave a Comment