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Longbows are probably one of the first things that spring to mind when we talk about archery. The traditional longbow has an illustrious history, and modern versions are also becoming a fixture of archery. But to function properly, a bow first needs to be strung.
So how exactly do you string a longbow? Most modern longbows can be strung with a ‘bowstringer.’ These devices make it easier to get the string in place to set the bow up for shooting. Longbows are usually tall, so some physical effort is required to string them properly. Safety is paramount, so always use the safest practice for your particular bow.
That’s the short answer.
But let’s be honest, you were probably looking for a little more detail than that.
Not to worry, I’m here to help.
Keep reading to find out the exact process steps to string a longbow and whether or not it is actually required!
What Do You Need To String A Longbow?
The main things you need to string a longbow are a string with loops at both ends and the frame of the bow itself. You’ll also need a device called a ‘bowstringer.’ This implement basically helps to string the longbow more safely and easily.
Stringing a longbow properly and safely is best achieved by using a bowstringer.
This device is a section of cord with a loop at each end.
You can find them available for a great price over at Amazon. This particular one has hundreds of great reviews.
The top loop is very wide and flat and is used to give you a stable point to work from.
It also stops the bow from bending too much and snapping.
The bottom loop looks a bit like a small pocket and hooks around the bottom part of the longbow to hold the bow securely in place as you string it.
You’ll also need to use one or two tools to check that everything is in the right place once you’ve strung the bow.
The main thing to evaluate is the ‘brace height.’
This means the distance between the furthest part of the bow that your hand will be holding the bow and the bowstring.
If this measurement is incorrect, you won’t be able to shoot properly. To do this, you’ll need a device called a T-Square.
Using a T-Square will also help you to set the correct nocking point on the bowstring where you will nock your arrows.
The T-Square resembles a metal implement that forms a horizontal ‘T.’
Two clips on the shorter vertical bar clip onto the bowstring, while the longer horizontal part connects to the arrow rest on the frame of the bow.
Most forms of modern longbows work best when the brace height is set at about 7 inches.
In terms of nocking point, most archers will use brass or other metal roundels on the string positioned on either side of the clip on the back of the arrow.
These are squeezed into place on the bowstring using pliers that are specially designed for nocking.
The correct position for these can be determined by the level of your arrow rest. The T-Square can be employed for this.
It’s always best to get an expert to sort all of this out at a sports shop or archery club, but if you have no choice but to do it yourself, it is still possible.
Stringing A Longbow: Step By Step
The safest way to string a longbow is to use a bowstringer to help bend and flex the bow enough to allow you to attach the string correctly.
Here is a step-by-step guide to using a bowstringer to string a longbow safely:
1. First, grip your bow in your non-dominant hand. Take the (slightly larger) top loop of the bowstring and slide it over the top half of the bow until it hangs somewhere around the middle.
2. Then, fasten the bottom loop of the string to the dedicated grooves on the lower half of the bow.
3. Now bring in the bowstringer. Take the flatter top loop and slide it over the top half of the bow, as we did with the bowstring. Let the flat part of the bowstringer’s top loop press flat against the curve of the bow.
4. Take the bottom pocket loop of the bowstringer and slip it over the tip of the bottom half of the bow.
5. Place both of your feet onto the bowstringer and pull the longbow towards you with one hand.
6. With your other hand, gradually coax the top loop of the bowstring up to the dedicated grooves on the bow’s upper half. Your bow is strung!
7. Unfasten the bowstringer and then use a T-Square to check things like the brace height and the nocking points.
In the past, longbows were strung by using a similar practice as described above, but without the use of a bowstringer.
These methods usually involved bracing the longbow against your leg, which was placed between the string and the bow’s body.
The bow was flexed against your body to allow you to slide the string into the right place.
However, this method places a lot of unnecessary and harmful stress on the longbow.
In the worst-case scenario, this can cause the bow to snap without warning, which destroys the longbow and could potentially injure you.
It is not recommended to use the step-through method to string your longbow.
Most longbow manufacturers recommend using a bowstringer or taking your bow to a professional sporting shop or archery specialist to be strung correctly and safely.
If you aren’t sure about using a bowstringer, find an expert who can show you the correct method for stringing your longbow.
Do You Have To String A Longbow?
Stringing a longbow allows you to shoot with it, but it must be done properly each time you set up for shooting. Learning how to correctly string a longbow is an invaluable skill for taking care of your bow.
Getting into the habit of stringing and unstringing your longbow in between shooting sessions helps keep the bow in good condition.
Leaving the bow strung places a lot of stress on the frame and is especially dangerous in wooden bows.
Having control over stringing your own longbow also enables you to have more flexibility should your preferences change.
Being able to change the setup of your string allows any archer to try out slight variations that may help you unlock even better shooting form.
If you’re a younger archer and your body is still growing, you may need to adjust your string setup now and then to ensure that your bow fits your body perfectly.
You may also need to replace your bowstrings eventually, and being able to change them yourself can help save money.
Generally, a bowstring that is kept in good condition will endure for about three years.
This length of time can be shorter if you use a bow with a higher draw weight because more force is being exerted through the string.
Removing the bowstring in between practice sessions helps you make it last longer.
Knowing how to set the correct brace height and the right position for your nocking points is also extremely useful when it comes to changing bows or strings.
When replacing a worn-out string with a new one or when getting a new longbow, you’ll have to reset your brace height and nocking points to ensure that you have the best setup for shooting.
Can You Leave A Longbow Strung?
Leaving a longbow strung for long periods can be detrimental to the condition and health of both the bow and the bowstring. Removing the string from your longbow in between practice sessions or competitions is crucial to keeping your equipment in good condition.
It can be quite time-consuming to string and then unstring your bow for every shooting session.
But it is necessary because leaving a longbow strung for long periods can cause damage to the bow and the bowstring.
Traditional longbows were made from single pieces of wood, while modern incarnations often employ synthetic construction materials.
When a bow is strung, a lot of load and stress is placed on the materials of the bow to keep it tense enough to shoot with.
If the string is left on indefinitely, this stress can build up and weaken the longbow, potentially causing it to break.
This can be extremely dangerous if it happens while you are using the bow.
The process of shooting with a bow releases tremendous repetitive force.
This gradually wears away at the strength of the bow, and leaving the string on permanently only exacerbates this issue.
The best thing to do is to get into the habit of unstringing your bow after every session if you only practice, say, once a week.
If you’re consistently going to be shooting over several days, you can leave the bowstring attached to your longbow.
Longbows made using different materials will have different tolerances for how long they can be left with their string attached.
Longbows that use synthetic components may be able to go up to three weeks with the string attached, but this should still be avoided if possible.
Synthetic materials are often designed to stand up to the rigours of archery, but they can still get worn out.
If your longbow is made of wood, you should remove the string after every session as wood is more susceptible to wearing out under the repetitive strain of shooting or having the string attached.
If you don’t remove the string each time, your wooden longbow may start to deform as the limbs of the bow aren’t allowed to relax.
Wooden bows need to retain their flexibility if you want them to last as long as possible.
So there you have it; how to string a longbow and why you should.
And when it comes to doing it you generally have two options; you can do it yourself by getting a bow stringer, or you can take it to an archery shop or service and get them to do it on your behalf.
But you’re going to want to string your longbow properly and regularly. Besides, leaving your string on is not a good idea.
Hopefully, you now know why.
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.