Monday, August 24, 2009

The Range Reviews: SiegeWork Creations Longbow Pt I

High marks on an impressive bow!
© 2009 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

The SWC American Longbow

She doesn't have a name...yet.

I have had a traditional hunting bow since I was thirteen years old. It's a Ben Pearson Flame Hunter recurve take-down, drawing 50lbs at 28". I shot that bow religiously throughout my teen years until I was a senior in high school when I bought a Browning Compound Cobra. Try as I might, I never had the opportunity to hunt deer in all those years.

Every so often, I pull those bows down off the shelf, and after looking them over and dusting them off, draw them a few times, and maybe shoot a few arrows and then unceremoniously put them away to gather dust again.

I really have been meaning to get around to shooting the bow again, specifically traditional archery, but it seems that there is never enough time. Figuring that I would be long gone, dead and buried before I ever "got around" to it, I decided that I was going to make time and rekindle my love affair with the bow. Remember, unlike my Ruger 458WM #1, a traditional bow is quiet, relatively non-threatening, and I can practice with it anytime I have fifteen yards of space available to me.

I looked around Al Gore's Internet and found dozens of traditional bow makers of all shapes and sizes, strewn throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and some places even I didn't know existed.

Dave the Scythian
Digging in a little deeper, I narrowed in on a great little company out of Texas. Named SiegeWork Creations, in reference to their medieval roots, they still handcraft traditional wood bows for the hunter and target shooter.

A few things attracted me to them. First and foremost it's an American company using American materials wherever possible. Secondly, the bows are handmade one at a time. Some machine work is done of course, but it is done by hand. Third, the prices are very reasonable. You could save your lunch money and spare change for a few weeks and get a full set up. To top it all off Dave, the owner of SiegeWork Creations, rides a horse and shoots with his bows. That's just too cool in my book!

SiegeWork Creations is owned by Dave Ruff and his wife Sara Ahlers. SWC actually originated from Dave and Sara's medieval faire vendor business. Selling bows to re-enactors and fans of the medieval era, they did pretty well, but Dave, having shot bows since he was a young man, wanted something more.

During the winter of 2000 Dave started building bows, and after six months of “practice” (also known as making kindling), he was carving out some pretty good bows. Before long he was selling them locally and garnering a reputation for a good dependable bow, at a reasonable price.

So light, she floats!
“Our mission is to provide a good and dependable bow without the high dollar cost that they seem to bring.” Dave said over the phone. “Let’s face it; the cost of materials is equal in a $700 custom laminate bow that has a big name and a $300 custom laminate bow that has a small time maker’s name.”

Dave continued, “No need to spend hundreds of dollars more on a custom bow, when our bows are custom made using the same materials that the higher priced bows are made of, using the same methods of construction, but are 30 to 50% less in price.” He paused, “And why is that? We don't believe in over-charging our customers for them to get into a great all round bow.”

I was intrigued. I’ve coveted a long bow for as long as I have been using a bow, and in particular I’ve wanted a Howard Hill laminate long bow. I remember watching Howard Hill when I was a little kid, and being mesmerized by his abilities. I mentioned it in passing to Dave.

“Albert, we also make the SWC Long Bow in a wood and bamboo laminate. We have a wood supplier here locally that runs a mill, and we have access to well over 3000 board foot of lumber that we crawl through every month looking for bow wood. I can guarantee you a bow as good as anything coming from any manufacturer without the high price tag for the signature. And they are all handcrafted, one at a time by our master bowyer.”

Well, I really wanted to try one now! So after consultation with Dave and some deliberation I decided on the SWC American Long Bow… Just a plain Jane standard model to start with. In a few months I may decide on something a little more extravagant and with more weight.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. From the vantage point of the "office" window, I saw the postman drive up, and I could also see a long narrow package on the dash of his vehicle. You know what that was! Heedless of dog, cat, and prostate children, I rushed down the stairs taking the steps in bounds of two and three. Seeing me coming up fast, the postman quickly stuck the long, narrow box out the driver’s window, knowing full and well that I was quite capable of climbing in and claiming what was mine.

Eagerly opening the end of the box and sliding out my new bow, I carefully unwrapping it from the packing material. I was immediately taken by the well crafted string nocks. As I peeled the paper back from the limbs, I noted the smooth satiny finish, the even laminations, the color contrast, and the weight - boy was it light. Even my jaded postman was impressed.

I noted the writing on the lower limb. 51# @ 28. I have a slightly longer draw length just shy of 30”, and Dave has assured me that I can draw it to 31” without any problem. That should put it at about 53# to 55# at my draw length. And that my friends, is more than adequate for any pig that crosses my path.

Grip and Arrow Shelf

Let’s take a closer look at the bow itself, before we go shoot it.

Grip to Riser

The SWC American is 70.75 inches overall unstrung, and weighs about 16 ounces. Dave suggests a minimum brace height of 6.5 inches and up to 7.5. Strung to 7.0 inches the overall length is 67 3/4th inches.

The grip transitions smoothly to the risers, and they in turn transition into the limbs with no abrupt change in geometry.

The grip and riser length is 18 and 1/4 inches from the point it narrows at each limb. The grip is made of walnut with three laminates of maple on the outside. A layer of black e-glass goes over all, and at the grip there is a walnut addition of finger grooves. Above and below the grip there are an additional two layers of maple for the limbs plus the belly layer of e-glass. The total depth of the grip is 2 and 1/16th inches, and it is what I would describe as straight. The sight window is 3 and 1/2 inches, and the arrow shelf is 7/16th of an inch in depth. Dave includes a calf hair pad on the shelf and side plate.

The limbs are 26 1/4 inches long from the riser’s end to the tip. As it is a long bow, the limbs are perfectly straight. The draw weight is, as I mentioned, 51# at 28 inches, and it will draw to 31”. The limbs have a rectangular cross-section, and are 1 and 5/16th inches at their widest. The bow nocks are made of walnut, and are handsomely carved out of the tips.

Walnut and Maple Laminations

The string is a standard 3-ply Flemish in brown and green, and is as good a looking piece of woven string as any I’ve seen.

The draw is smooth with a constant increase in poundage.

There is no hint of stacking at the end of the draw. Stacking is when you hit a point where the bow is not going to bend any further. The fibers on the back of the bow are as stretched out as they will go and the ones on the inside are at maximum compression. The American is smooth all the way back, with room to spare for those of you that are longer reached.

I also draw with three fingers, no mechanicals for Albert. As it is a long bow, the string angle is great enough to make finger pinch a none issue. For shorter bows a release might be necessary, or a different gripping method such as a thumb ring.

Those are the physical attributes of the SWC American Long Bow. I am really impressed by the fit and finish, the quality of the materials; for the money you cannot go wrong!

In the next couple of days, I’ll delve into my impressions from the initial shoot, and what I am going to need to work on.

The SWC American Longbow
Base Price: $189.00

NEWS: The American is now being hand crafted by Michael Lee of Stickbow Archery. Same quality, same great price. Check out Michael's blog Michael Lee's Stickbow Archery!

Post of Interest:
The SWC American is Here!
The Range Reviews: SiegeWorks Creations American Longbow Part I
The Range Reviews: SiegeWorks Creations American Longbow Part II


Unknown said...

She is gorgeous! Have fun shooting your new bow. We will look forward to your first impressions report.

Josh said...

Wow, awesome! I will get me a Siege Works bow in the next couple of months, I've got my eye on one of the do-it-yourself bows for cheap.

My current bow stacks horrible, so I've taught myself to draw three fingers under, and now I won't stop. I sight closer to my arrow.

Though it's quite a pain, my bow is still effective, and I'm able to consistently put arrows into a pie plate at 30 paces (about 25 yards or so).

What's a release? Kidding.

Michael Spinelli said...


I'm looking forward to your shooting impressions, will you be going all traditional, or will you be using some modern items? It would be nice if you managed a full traditional set-up; the results would be very interesting to compare.


Sigboy said...

You have put me in such a lust filled state that I am unsure that I have the fortitude to fight it. I haven't shot a bow since I was a teenager. Can you use modern arrows in this setup? I'm actually considering a longbow or a recurve(also with a three finger pull), and would like to use modern arrows.

Albert A Rasch said...


There are even carbon arrows available for the traditionalist. Go figure.

The first round of shooting I've done has been with aluminum arrows. I'm waiting on an order of wooden arrows to come in, but I wanted to shoot so bad, that I used what I had.

In real world terms, aluminum will probably be more convenient than wood when you're out in the field.

Not for nothing, but the American is a bargain for what you're getting. If you are really on a tight budget, you can get all wood self bow for a very low price from SiegeWorks, do some finish work on it, and have a very serviceable bow.


Gun Slinger said...


Nice review, I'm going to have to get me one. Nothing like a good American made product, with your good review to make a person confident in purchasing. When will you be shooting it? What will you be shooting at, and what broadheads will you be shooting? Just curious...

Shoot Straight,

Gun Slinger said...

What warranty does SiegeWorks have on their bows?


Dave said...

Hey there albert, What what an honor to see this write up. I figured i would pipe in real quick - not to take anything away from the review at all :)

These bows can use any arrow with proper spining, but feather fletch is the absolute best. They do take a fast flight string with ease. The warranty on them is one year manufacture defect from date of arrival and we offer life time on the higher end bows - that said, ALL bows are built to last a life time regardless of intro level to high end - same materials, same craftsmanship - period. We have bows from 7 to 9 years ago running strong in self bows and the laminate series are much stronger.

Hope that helps :) i just got an order of paudak and zebrawood in plus some rattlesnake skins - i am gonna go play in the dust and glue!!! :)

Lead Bowyer,
SiegeWork Creations

Albert A Rasch said...

I see Dave beat me to it!

Dave, thanks for stopping by, it's not often that the owner of a company stops by and leaves a note or two.

Folks, as I mentioned before, Dave and Sara take their business seriously and their customers like the valuable people they are. Dave came by to personally tell us how he warrants the bows he puts in our hands. How's that for attentive and caring customer service!

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

That's a hell of a bow, and quite a response from the bowyer. You don't see to many people stand behind their products to often anymore, not like back in my day anyway!

I may ave to order me one of Mr Siege's bows myself and see how they stack up to others I have.


Josh said...

Feather fletch - what else is there?

SiegeWorks said...

Albert, i have 6 of our birch shafted arrows heading your way - yeah we do more then bows heheh. These arrows are made in house - including the shafting. They are our upgraded target/hunting arrow. enjoy!

Oh and if i can sneak it by the boss wife - you might have something else to play with/ review... :) i was busy this weekend! :) altho i'd use heavier spined arrows on her.

SiegeWork Creations

Albert A Rasch said...

Much obliged to you Dave!

Look for the shooting post in the next couple of days. For having been out of the bow shooting scene for a couple of decades, I think I've done pretty darn good!


tom said...

Did some black powered part horsetrading with Dave for a Selfbow that accidentally came out to 60lbs which is sorta the limit for red oak, says Dave. Bear to string up but fun. Good man. Man knows his bows.

Tom vote says, "Git ya one. They're well made and launch arrows properly and his arrows are nice too."

I feel like I'm ready for Agincourt or maybe a deer.

Albert A Rasch said...

MR Lund,

I received your missive. You leave no email, your blog is just a place-holder, and you give no specifics other than those that can be made up easily. Quite frankly, Dave's reputation is that of delivering quality bows, not of any of the accusations you threw out.

I wonder Mark, if you think you are going to fool anyone...

Mark Osterholt: Plagerist, Spammer, and Felon is at it Again!