Today you will see a breakdown of Comanche bows. What it was made from, how it was used and why the Comanche bow helped the Comanche tribe gain a fearsome reputation in the American Great Plains.
Here are the key facts about the Commanche bow.
The Average Commanche bow is:
- between 3 and 4 feet long
- made from Osage orange wood
- effective at distances of up to 30 yards
Or in other words.
As a general rule, the Comanche bow is a short self-bow, between 3 and 4 feet long. It was made from Osage Orange wood, which was ideal due to its high tension and compression strength. The bow itself was used for hunting and warfare and was ideal at short distances of up to 30 yards.
Now that you have seen the short version, let’s proceed to the complete breakdown and the rapid-fire shooting technique that made the Comanche bow a fearsome weapon.
The Dimension Of The Comanche Bow
Here you can see what an average Comanche short bow looked like. And the Comanche names for each part of the bow. Let’s start with the name of the bow itself.
According to the curator of the Comanche Museum in the U.S., the name for the Comanche bow is “Ete”. It was normally between 3 and 4 feet in height. The bowstring on the Comanche bow was called “Bamu”, while the belly of the bow was called a “Sap” and lastly, the back of the bow was called a “Kuahi”.
I called the Comanche museum and spoke with the curator. It seems that the Comanche had no writing and had a phonetic language. This means the names for different parts of the bow were passed down orally through the ages.
Now let’s see what the bow was made from.
What Was The Comanche Bow Made From?
The Comanche bow was made from the wood named Osage Orange. The wood was perfect for making bows because of its high tension and compression strength. This means the bow was able to store and release a lot of energy when drawn.
As you can see in my article on Native American Archery, Osage orange was popular among the Native Americans for bow-making.
Each archer in the tribe made their own bow based on their abilities which means the draw weight of Comanche bows varied. But we will get into that a little later in this article.
The bowstring of a Comanche bow was made from animal sinew. Native Americans were experts at using what they had in their natural surroundings. Which showed in their bow-making. And in the way, they made their arrows.
As you can see in this next segment where we cover what Comanche arrows were made off.
What Were Comanche Arrows Made From?
The Comanche arrows were made from dogwood and were called called “Paka” in Comanche. The fletchings on the arrow, which are called “Ekakuinai” were made from red-tail hawk feathers.
Comanche arrows also had decoration pieces that were tied close to the fletching on the arrow and these were called “Nara”.
The fletching, decoration pieces, and arrowheads were all tied to the arrow shaft using animal sinew. This ties back to the previous segment where you saw they used what they had in their surroundings.
Arrowheads on the Comanche arrows varied throughout the centuries. As with all the Native Tribes, they started using flint and obsidian rocks as arrowheads. They were light and sharp enough to be used in hunting.
But as the colonization of the Americas was well underway the Comanche came into contact with the settlers and tarded with them. This means they got access to steel. Which they soon learned how to shape into arrowheads for their bows.
While they started using rocks such as flint and obsidian as arrowheads the Comanche were quick to adopt steel for their arrowheads when they came into contact with it. This just goes to show how adaptable they were.
How Was The Commanche Bow Used?
Now let us take a look at how the Comanche fired their bows. And why their draw is different from many other tribes.
Here is how they did it.
The dominant hand’s ring, middle, and index fingers pulled the bowstring while the thumb of the dominant hand pinched the arrow. Non-dominant hands index finger worked as an arrow rest.
Unlike many other Native American tribes, the Comanche nation used a draw that is very similar to the Mediterranean one used in modern-day Archery.
You can see a visual demonstration of their shooting technique by looking at the video below.
What separates the Comanche archers from modern-day ones is their lack of a fixed anchor point. Users of the Comanche bow pulled the bowstring towards their chest and fired in a way that is very similar to instinctive shooting.
You draw, aim in the general vicinity of the target, and release. This did serve them well since Comanche horse archers generally shot at close distances of up to 30 meters.
According to contemporary writers, it is said that the Comanche children practiced their use of the Comanche bow by shooting insects or coins thrown in the air.
Their early use puts them alongside other great Bow Cultures like the Mongols who also started training their children in bow use at an early age.
The Legend of Comanche Horse Archers
The Comanche were first introduced to the horse by the Spanish coming from Central America. They quickly incorporated the horse into their way of waging war and hunting.
The unique part of the Comanche horse archers was their way of shooting. History books tell us that they could fire many arrows in quick succession. They did this by “preloading” arrows. This means they kept 3-4 arrows in their bow hand which means they could fire one arrow and quickly nock another one and draw it.
They did this in a quick fluid motion. This enabled an archer to have multiple arrows in the air simultaneously. They could match and exceed the firing rate of pistols and muskets right up to the second half of the 19th century.
I suggest you look at this video where a master archer Lars Anderson recreates the firing rate of Comanche archers.
The Comanche bow was a wonderful tool used by the Comanche people to protect their tribe and feed their families. Their draw weights weren’t that high. The draw weight was similar to the draw weight of an Apache bow.
If you want to explore another type of bow that is completely different than the Comanche one I suggest taking a look at the Persian Bow.
Thank you all for reading. See you at the next one.