Jennings Unistar

Now, in 1994, the 'Uniforce' compound bow features a cam on the lower limb-tip, with an 'idler' wheel on the upper - a system operated by a string made of non-stretch modern fibre, no cables being required. The advertisements claim, not only that this bow never 'goes out of time', but also that bow torque (which has been a problem affecting every bow with wheels cams or eccentrics at both limb-tips) is entirely eliminated. Yet a cable guard is necessary, so the strings must approach the cam at a slight angle: It would seem that further research is needed in the search for the ultimate compound bow. (We recall that the 'Dynabo' also featured a single cam and dispensed with a wheel on the upper limb...)

So, what does the future hold? The Turks used a horn groove to support the ends of their short flight arrows: with the realisation that a short light, faster broadhead arrow is more efficient than a long heavy slower one, overdraw shelves are now an almost universal option on compound bows for hunting. For anticipation of the future, perhaps we should look to the past... what happened to the arrow-shooting catapult?

The earliest types may have used sinew-rope for the springs, but King Attalus' arsenal at Pergamum, which specialised in the construction of catapults in the second half of the third century B.C. had probably discovered by then that horsehair rope was cheaper and easier to make, and could provide a lighter and more efficient spring.

About the same time as Attalus was setting up the victory frieze at Pergamum, an engineer named Philo was writing a treatise on artillery, in which he described experiments by one Ctesibus, who designed a catapult using two bronze springs in a vertical frame to provide the powerful pressure against the heel of each bow limb. An even more interesting concept was the use by Ctesibus of compressed-air springs: the heel of each bow limb, when the string was drawn back, would press against a bronze piston, which in turn would be pushed into a bronze cylinder, thus storing energy as compressed air. Though the standard of metal working must have been remarkably high for this to be tried, it doesn't appear to have proved a practical success, for no further records of its use have been found. But will history repeat itself? There seems no reason why, using modern materials, a compound bow powered by compressed air pressure on the heels of each short bow limb, on the lines of the Oneida Eagle, shouldn't be a practical proposition. Though the compound bow is now potentially more accurate than recurves (in the indoor F.I.T.A. round at 18 metres, the 40cm. target face has been modified with a smaller 10-ring for compound archers), easier to hold at full draw, and can shoot a lighter, faster arrow, it is still very far from perfection: much remains to be improved, and faults to be eliminated.
However, where bow-hunting is legal, it is widely accepted that the compound bow offers the bowhunter of moderate physique the best chance of success: commercial pressures will therefore ensure that its development will continue a fortunate and unparalleled opportunity for the student of archery history to follow, at first hand, the intensely interesting evolution of a new type of bow, bearing in mind the proposition that: "History in not just remembering, it is people acting and living their past in the present." (Prof. Bronowski)


The Hoyt-Easton Company was said some years ago to be still hoping to develop the perfect compound bow - all cables concealed in the handle riser and a single string attached to each nock- and this the very company that introduced the STABILISER (There may well be many a youngster this Christmas tinsel in hand turned sharply away by his mother. "No dear the tree is in the other room; THAT thing is your father's target bow!")

Stabilisers torque flight compensators and similar protrubelances are permitted by F.l.T.A. without limit to length or number provided that they are clear of the string the ground and nearby archers. The purpose of a gentle theme repeated in italics through this potted history of the compound bow is to put forward the suggestion that the forests of stabilisers on target lines are a greater affront to the traditions of archery than the "Force-draw multiplying attachments of Wilbur Allen's patent bow. "


Having completed the main substance of this present article in the autumn of 1988, too late for publication in the journal, which was then going to press, the writer read and studied with the greatest interest and admiration the short history of the compound by the late George Jackson, which summarised in a concise and masterly way the progress of the bow up to its twenty-first birthday. The closing sentence of his article is just as relevant today as in 1988: despite all the research, the typical modern compound bow bears a striking resemblance to Allen's first prototype.