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					         Inspecting Target Archery Equipment
                              Wilim Penbras ap Gurgeneu
What the Rules of the Society say
Under Responsibilities of Target Archery Marshals:
  7. The Target Archery Marshal in Charge or the assisting Marshals have the authority to inspect all
          bows and arrows/bolts for safety and compliance with kingdom rules.
      • Equipment that does not meet the standards laid out in the rules shall not be used. (The
          marshal in charge may make exceptions - see section 4)
      • Equipment deemed unsafe by the Target Archery Marshal in Charge shall not be used.

Under Equipment Standards: General Standards:
  3. Each archer has the ultimate responsibility for the proper care, inspection and safe use of his/
          her own weapons, and for knowing and following the SCA and kingdom target archery
  • An archer shall not knowingly use unsafe equipment.
  • If an archer is unsure of the safety of his/her equipment, he/she shall request the assistance of a
          Target Archery Marshal in inspecting the equipment.
  • The Target Archery Marshal assisting in the inspection shall make a reasonable attempt to locate
          any unsafe conditions or violations of kingdom rules and inform the archer of what is
          found and how to correct it.
  • The inspection by the Target Archery Marshal may not find all equipment faults and is conducted
          as a service to all the archers on the line. It does not remove the archers’ primary
          responsibility for the safe condition of their own equipment.
  • Any equipment observed by a Target Archery Marshal to be unsafe shall not be used until it is
          made safe and is reinspected by a Target Archery Marshal.

There is nothing in the Complete Participants Handbook (CPH) that directly says target archery equipment
must be inspected so we are left on our own to a certain extent.

The Translation
I read the above to pretty much mean that not only is there no target archery authorization process in
place Society wide, there is no inspection process in place. So this could either be a very short article,
or we could talk about why inspections need to take place, and then go into some detail as to how to
inspect equipment for safety. As an aside, I can pretty much guarantee that the next Complete Participant’s
Handbook that comes out will have Target Archery Inspection procedures.

Why Inspect If It Is Not Required?
From the Marshals Point of View
You, as the Marshal in Charge or Assisting TAM, are responsible for the safety of the spectators and
participants in your shoot. A proper inspecting procedure before people can shoot on your line simply
shows due diligence, and will go a long way towards proving you did what you could to live up to
your responsibility.

From the Participants Point of View
I’ll make this short and sweet. Every archer that has ever stepped up to the line and has been struck
by a shattering bow, or had an arrow explode, with a fragment embedded in his arm was comfortable
that his equipment was safe. Doesn’t a second opinion seem like a good idea?

24                                   Academy of the Bow – A.S. XXXVI
What to Look for when Inspecting
The String
The first thing to check is the string. The bowstring is made up of several (8 or more) smaller strings
that are combined to provide increased strength. It should be checked to ensure none of the strands
are frayed or broken. There are very few extra strands in a string, so even a single break is potentially
dangerous. The string also has serving at the center and the tips to reinforce these wear areas. Make
sure the serving is not unraveling, and the nock point is not biting the string too hard. It is common
practice to wax the string. The wax is applied to the string material and then rubbed in with a piece of
scrap leather. This wax between the strands melts with the motion of the strands against each other,
and provides lubrication to prevent excessive wear.

The Bow
There are a few things on the bow that need to be checked. In general, it is better to check them while
the bow is strung and under stress. Start with the upper and lower limbs. The limbs should not show
any major cracks or separations in the laminations. A crack ending in a drilled hole may look bad. But
a drilled hole is considered a good way to halt the cracking process. You should also check the limbs
for twists. There are a couple of ways to do this. The limb may actually show visible warping and
may rock when set on a flat surface. The other test is to draw the bow a few times. In a warped limb,
the string will often move out of the center line to one side or the other, often opposite the side of the
warping. Warping may not seem like a major concern, but it can lead to unpredictable arrow flight
that could be dangerous. Finally, check the limb tips. Again, you are looking for cracks that cause
structural weakness, and a shallow string groove. If a string is made too large for a particular bow, it
may be too big for the grove and slip out. Not a pretty thing.

The Arrows
Arrows… arrows… not dowels. It may seem a bit hard to believe, but there have been instances of
people using doweling for arrows. Arrows have a better grain, are splined for a specific bow weight,
and are quite plainly superior to doweling. Dowels split easier and in a nastier way than arrow
shafting. Unless you know wood and can select the best dowels, dowels are dangerous. The tips on
arrows must be securely fastened on. Unless you own the targets and don’t care if you ever see them
again, the tips should be standard field or target points. You, as the marshal, have the right to deny
the use of any equipment that you feel will do unreasonable damage to the target. This includes
broadheads, and bolts from high powered crossbows. Few things are worse than seeing someone tear
through your target to dig out a bolt in the middle of it. Nocks should also be securely fastened and
have no cracks. Remember that nock is going to have thirty to seventy pounds of force suddenly
applied when the string is released. The shattering of a nock is a good way for all kinds of unpredictable
things to happen. The arrow should have three or four fletchings, and at least two for a crossbow bolt.
At the ranges we use, you could probably get away with one or none. But still… we don’t want it to
look like we’re shooting dowels, do we?

The Archer
While on the line, keep an eye on the archers to ensure they are not severely overdrawing, which can
cause undo stress on the bow. Make sure the bow is a good weight for them. There is nothing
simultaneously so sad and so scary than seeing someone’s draw hand quivering as they try to get the
arrow back to full draw. When that happens, they really do not have full control of the arrow, which
is always dangerous. Archers, of course, should always keep nocked arrows pointed down range.
Never nock an arrow unless you are on an open line and pointed down range.

The Conclusions
Archery is fun, and is a great way to spend an afternoon. But we are also the only ones with live steel
moving at better than eighty miles per hour. If taking an extra minute with each archer can make us
safer, then expect equipment inspections on any range I run. If the safety aspect does not motivate
you, then know that the rule will be coming down from on high to make inspections mandatory. So
we might as well start making good habits now.

                                     Academy of the Bow – A.S. XXXVI                                   25