Self bow vs Laminate bow - a question on range

Simon Clifton

New member
Hello all and apologies if this is covered in passing elsewhere - couldnt find an article though so hoping some more knowledgable people can assist with opinions and advice.

I switched to longbow about 2 years ago and have never looked back. Currently shooting with a very lovely Gary Evans Artisan which is a great shoot but is now underpowered for what I need.

Shooting a York last year, I ended up aiming at the clouds for 100 yards (and unsurprisingly clouds are not the most consistent sight markers).

Having tried various draw weights on other bows, I now k ow what draw weight to go for (I rhink). However, there are two bows in my price range I can go for. One is another Gary Evan's Laminate bow or a Ravenbeak selfbow in identical poundage.

So dear people, the crux of my question is this - what difference in range will I get between a laminate longbow and a selfbow of identical poundage, assuming everything else (arrows, draw length, technique) remains identical?

I have heard tell that the bamboo backing on Laminates increase the speed over a self bow. Is this true and if so, to what extent?

Answers on a postcard!

Del the Cat

Well-known member
It's more about the bowyer than the bow!
As a very rough generalisation I'd say a good laminate will be faster, more consistent and longer lasting than a self yew bow (other woods except Osage probably will struggle to match up to Yew)
I've made self yew longbows for people who have been shooting run of the mill commercially made laminate longbows. They are invariably surprised at the cast, light weight and smooth feel. Having said that I've made bamboo backed yew longbows that have been faster still and won flight shoots. I have made a couple of 3 laminate bows, but don't really see the point except for convenience and cost.
Fastest bow I have is an Osage self bow (341 yards flight shot) 2nd fastest, bamboo back, heat treated yew belly.
It's down to time and convenience... if you are mass producing bows for a living, you may well be using great baulks of timber influenced by cost and availability rather than pure performance, sliced into suitable laminations glued, cut out to fixed pattern and slapped onto the tiller for 5 minutes if you are lucky. Mind sourcing timber is a similar problem for the amateur.
The upshot being, some bows will be better than others.
Some commercial bowyers still experiment with different woods and bamboo and are open to interesting projects ... rest assured though, all bowyers will have the occasional failure. Beware of any who say they don't!
It's a mistake to think the amateur or small scale bowyer will be necessarily be producing inferior work... he may well be if he's a newbie or buying in ready glued up staves and turning them around quickly for profit, or if he's gluing up random timber, but generally an amateur or smaller producer will have more time to spend getting it right. E.G I reckon I generally spend maybe a week actually tillering a bow, and then shoot about 50 arrows through it before I say it's good.
So the bottom line is know and visit your bowyer or at least talk to them if they've got time to discus your requirement you'll hopefully get a decent bow. You'll soon get an idea if they do it for the love of it or as a job.
A continuous bamboo backing will make a bow fast if it is married to a suitable belly, well glued and well tillered. The big advantage is that a bamboo backed bow won't explode, it can still fail, but the mode of failure would be maybe delamination or a belly that starts to crumple. It won't go with a bang and whack you on the head with a flying limb!
My recommendation would be Bamboo backed Yew, but you won't get one off the shelf.

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Simon Clifton

New member
Hi Del,

Many thanks for that quick and very comprehensive answer!

I think with all that in mind, I’m swaying back to Gary Evans and a laminate longbow. He has an exceptional reputation and I love the way they shoot.

I’m sure that Ravenbeak are great bows and I know Jamie the Bowyer runs regular courses in bow making when he comes across to the UK that are well received, but that inability to test before you buy is giving me pause.

I think my yew self bow dream will go on hold for another season ;)

English Bowman

Well-known member
Del speaks the truth here, I have many bows, self yew and laminates of varying lengths, weights and woods. The cast very much is down to the individual bow, and how well the arrows match to it. I've had a couple of good self bows, and several awful ones. I've also had good and bad laminated bows. My best is a Bickerstaffe laminate - Snakewood belly and hickory back. It's 45lbs and with a 28" 5/16 barrelled arrow with a 3" feather, I aim for the bottom of the target stand legs at 100yds.