American Flatbow vs English Longbow: Which is Better?

Both American Flatbow (AFB) and English Longbow (ELB) go by different names, but they mostly refer to the same type of bow, the longbow.

In this post, we’re going to discuss the lowdown of each bow.

American Flatbow (AFB)

American calls this bow “longbow”, whereas Briton calls it the American Flatbow, to differentiate it from the English Longbow.

The American Flatbow (or also known as the American Longbow) should not be confused with Native American Flatbow.

The American Flatbow was invented relatively recent in the 1930s compared with the Native American Flatbow that had been used by Native American Tribes since prehistoric, ancient European times for hunting and warfare.

Though there is a coincidental resemblance between the two bows, hence the American Flatbow is also known as the semi-Indian bow, but the American Flatbow itself is much more superior than any types of Native American Flatbows.

The superiority of the American Flatbow can be attributed to the scientific extensive testing and development back in the 1930s that led to the development of today American Flatbow.

English Longbow (ELB)

The English Longbow, know in Britain simply as the longbow, was a preferred weapon of choice in the middle ages, especially during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

The English Longbow was very difficult to master because it took considerable strength and practice to wield and shot the bow.

Enlarged left arms were often found in the skeletons of longbows archers as a side effect of prolonged usage of English Longbow.

The Main Differences Between The American Flatbow and The English Longbow

The Design

The American Flatbow design is much more superior than the English Longbow.

Back in the 1930s, bowmen, and bowyers in the US did a scientific study to explain to explain the superiority of the English Longbow’s D-section design, which was far superior to any other longbows existed at that time.

The experiment found that a simple rectangle was the best cross-section design. The finding then applied immediately to develop a more efficient and stable longbow which was the American Flatbow.

So you can say that the American Flatbow is the evolution of the English Longbow.

The Material

Common hardwoods such as elm, maple, sycamore, hazel, and ash as well as very dense woods such as hickory and osage orange can be used to make the American Flatbow.

Meanwhile, the English Longbow is traditionally made from yew.

Even though a high-quality yew is a much better material to make a bow since it is highly resilient, but it is much more expensive and hard to find, than the woods used to make the flat bow.

Therefore, more and more bowyers prefer to make the American Flatbow since the material is economically feasible and widely available.

Rectangular Cross-Section vs D-Cross Section

It is the rectangular cross-section of the bow that makes the American Flatbow more stable and efficient than the English Longbow, not forget to mention it can be made from cheaper and more widely available woods.

In the American Flatbow, the flat belly and back spread the stress evenly over a cross-section wider limb which makes weaker timbers far less likely to break under pressure.

On the other hand, in the English Longbow, the stress is spread disproportionately over the rounded limbs which make weaker woods likely to fail or permanently bent.

And therefore only good quality yew can be used for making the English Longbow for it has an exceptional compression strength.

The Length

The typical length of the American Flatbow is usually around 66-70″ long while the English Longbow is usually in the region of 70-72″ long and 72-76″ for a Warbow (the English Longbow with a draw weight of over 100lb+).

The Draw Weight

Historically, to be perfectly able to shot the English Longbow you would need great strength, a strength that could only be achieved after years of practice, due to the remarkable draw weight that the bow had; historically many English Longbows had draw weights of 150lb+.

And even today, many English Longbows of over 100lbs (known as Warbows) are still shot by aficionados in various archery events, though most modern longbows versions are far lighter.

Modern Use

Today, the American Flatbow and the English Longbow is used in various archery fields with the American Flatbow gaining popularity in ground-based field archery, and the English Longbow being used for horseback archery.

The Olympic Recurve bow, which is the improved version of the American Longbow, is even used to compete in the Olympics.