Me and Guybrush have been playing around with making bows for 5k REM. It’s a post-apocalyptic type LARP game, so the more cobbled together and rough looking the weapons are, the better.

This started when I spotted this Instructable for a real bike wheel based bow. Technically, it’s more of an arrow firing slingshot as the frame doesn’t bend, meaning all the firing power comes from the stretchy bowstring, but it looks like a bow. I figured, this would make it pretty easy to lower the poundage down to a suitable LARP level – less than 30lb. I happened to have an old bike wheel sitting in my spare room, so I just had to have a go at making one. I didn’t, however, have many of the other parts needed, so this was my first attempt;

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Instead of eye bolts – curtain rings held in place by leatherwork fixings. Not the most secure set up, but it kinda worked. Well enough to encourage me to play around a bit more, at least.

Version 2 had eye screws instead of the curtain rings. A little less jiggly, but not easy to keep in place. I cut down some plastic wall plugs to screw on the ends as nut type things, which seems to be working quite well.

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Guybrush knows a fair bit more about bows than me. He can actually hit targets with the damn fiddly things. After he’d had a bit of a play with my attempt, he decided to have a go at his own setup, using bungee instead of the inner tube. It doesn’t look as cool as mine, but it works a hell of a lot better! He started with doubled bungee;

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Meanwhile, I’d decided to try a combination of bungee and inner tube, with wheel type things to ease the movement of the bungee. I had to close the hooks a little as the wheel thingys kept flying off them. It worked better than the plain inner tube, and looks well cool, but the accuracy isn’t great. Apparently, this is due to the lack of nocking point. You can’t use this like a normal bow, the inner tube cups around the end of the arrow, which lends a fair bit of unpredictability to targeting, and makes it harder to pull back as you have to pinch it. It’s 23lb draw. Look at me, writing like I know what I’m on about.

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While I was fiddling away making a bow that looked good, Guybrush was making one that actually worked. He went down to single bungee, as doubling it wasn’t really adding ought, and got me to sew his nocking point inline with the cording. Pretty good accuracy, and drawing at 24lb.

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At some point in this process, I realised just how difficult it is to actually hit anything with a bow. Damn things are bloody awkward. Crossbows, though, are much simpler beasts. Point and click! Trouble is, LARP crossbows are expensive. Crossbows are supposed to work by a very strong, non-stretchy, cord pulling back a flexible metal prod. When you pull the trigger it releases the cord, boinging the arrow forward with the springiness in the prod. LARP crossbows, though, must have a non-flexible (or non-live) prod, for safety reasons. Prods just can’t have their poundage lowered far enough down to fire safely. All the power must be in the cord. It’s completely different from normal crossbows, a very specialist product.

But… Cheap modern crossbows have removable prods. And the bike wheels I’d been playing with weren’t bending at all under the same kinda poundage a crossbow would need…
So, I bought one of these to have a play with. Out of the package it looked like this;

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Of course, it was far too powerful for LARP. I did have a bit of a play with it, the bolts were going straight through the yellow pages.
After a bit of a play though, I came up with this;

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It’s 30lb (just) and wonderfully accurate. The cocking mechanism still works nicely, which is really good for me as I struggle to pull back the string on some crossbows. I did remove the safety mechanism, partly because I needed to to fit the thick bungee cord in the little notch where the string sat, and partly because it was bugging me. It’s not the prettiest modification. The new prod is a section of bike wheel, but it was a little wider than the proper prod so I had to grind out the gap for that as well as the cord notch. The plastic frame of the cheap bow hasn’t cleaned up well afterward. But it looks the part for a post-apocalyptic game, and was much cheaper than the alternatives. Can’t wait to play with it!


ps. Sorry about the massive images, I can’t figure out how to resize them on my ipad

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