While you can’t shoot a bow without a bowstring, it might just be the least glamorous part of the bow. I’ve spent countless hours looking at bow limbs, risers, rests, sights, and even cams, but I never really payed a lot attention to bowstring. That is until I started simple archery. Now I leave no piece or archery unexplored. It turns out that there is a lot to know about bow string. So if you’ve been wondering what bowstring is made of, you’ve come to the right place. Prepare your brain for a knowledge bomb.
A bowstring is attached to both limbs of a bow and is what launches arrows. What do you want in a bowstring and what is bowstring made of? First, because a bow is a portable handheld instrument, you want almost every piece of it to be lightweight.
What Bowstring is Made Of
As we look at what bowstring is made of, it’s incredible to look at the materials used thousands of years ago and to see how bowstring has advanced. The traditional material used for bowstrings came from fibrous plant materials. Linen and hemp were two of the traditional materials used for bowstrings. These fibers are comparatively strong and less affected by water which is why they were used for fishing nets and general cordage.
While hemp and linen were the best material were the best for making bowstring thousands of years ago, people have always searched for better bowstring material. That led to trying out silk, and even rawhide and sinew which didn’t work well if they got wet.
Someone might still use natural fibers on a longbow if they wanted to, but most opt for modern materials, as there are stronger materials with better stretch and reliability.
Just about any fiber could be used for a bowstring in pinch (and I’m sure most everything has at one time or another), but historically, those using longbows for weapons and hunting would want to use the most reliable material available.
Modern production and materials have made bows lighter than ever. Of course, you want the bowstring to be strong. I have never had a bowstring snap on me, and I hope to never experience it. A weak bowstring could cause significant injury to the shooter and bystanders. It’s also important that the material used be resistant to tearing, stretching, and elements such as water.
The challenge has always been finding the material that best meets all of these properties, and it was much harder to do with natural fibers. Today synthetics are widely used, and different fibers are even blended to provide a combination of the best properties.
Darcon is a polyester fiber that is used for bowstring. It is durable and stretches well. Because of this, Dacron is good for wooden bows, older bows, and bows used by beginners. Since it stretches well when shooting, it gives less shock to the bow limbs. Dacron is a low maintenance fiber and is also very durable. It will usually last for several years.
Kevlar and Vectran
The synthetic polymers Kevlar and Vectran are also used for bowstring. These fibers are smaller in diameter and less durable than Dacron, but they provided a faster speed for arrows. These polymers do not stretch well which causes greater stress to the bow limbs when shooting and cases the bowstring to have a shorter lifesp