Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ernie Root's First Bows, The "King" Longbows

Ernie Root's Kings 

Target King, Field King, and Game King Longbows

by Larry Vienneau 
Root Target King, longbow mid-late 1950s
“ All King Line Bows are straight end reflex limbed bows with oriental center shot handles, featuring extremely high stability for smooth accurate shooting” 

I have written 59 posts about Shakespeare and Root Archery since 2012. When I started this project, there was very little known about Ernie Root, his bow designs, the history of Root Archery, or the mythology about his relationships with Shakespeare Archery. I have written descriptions of each one of Root and Shakespeare bows however writing this post is the toughest of them all. I put it off because there was so little known about Ernie Root's first bows. I had hoped that by waiting longer perhaps new information would surface but the exact opposite has happened. Several traditional forums are archiving their older posts and removing the photographs.  But with the help of Ernie's son Larry Root and the kind help of avid Root collectors, I believe this is the best source of information of Ernie Root's early "KING" bows. Larry Root  suggested that Ernie named the his dog "King" after his King Longbows. 

Ernie Root worked at American Archery pre-WWII, when he was drafted into the Army he was an equity owner in the company.  He sold his shares back to the company/other owners since he was heading off to war and moved his wife back to Iowa. After the war, he returned to American Archery.  While working there he started making his own bows commercially in his basement, He left American and started Root Archery in the early 1950s as a family business in suburban Chicago. After outgrowing a couple of small spaces, he moved move out of the city, eventually he settled in Big Rapids, MI. 

Ernie Root was a great tournament archer and set a record for individual score of 836 in 1947 which was not broken until 1959. In the early 1940s during his first major competition Root nearly shot the first perfect score. 
A early 1940s sports article on one of his competitions: "Although he has been pulling a bowstring but 16 months, he has developed deadly accuracy. His 800 is the first ever scored here and one of the few ever to be shot in the nation. None has shot a perfect 810. The closest anyone came was 808.....he has been shooting but 16 months and only 13 months of that period has been target shooting.

He makes most of his own tackle. That is, he fashions his own bow and carves out most of his arrows"

So, at 22 years old,  Ernie Root had only been shooting for 16 months and he was a rising star. He was already making his own target equipment!!

During the mid and late 1950s the longbow was the staple of every bow manufacturer but the recurve was becoming an important part of modern archery.  In the mid 1950s most longbow were built with the riser behind the back of the bow similar to the Howard Hill bows. Bear was building both longbows and recurves in this style.

late 1950s Root Target Master with riser forward riser.

mid-late 1950s Bear Alaskan
dual shelf longbow, riser at back of the bow

Though Fred Bear was a true innovator in bow design, his bows were like many other bows of the period, riser backward. Fred was an avid hunter and most of his bows were designed with the hunter in mind. Ernie Root had a different approach to the longbow. His extensive experience as a tournament archer influenced his designs. A longbow of 66-70 inches is very forgiving. It tends to be very accurate. Bear's bows were shorter while Root's were longer. Root bows were also very innovative because of the riser forward design. A forward riser and long limbs design helps eliminate limb stacking. Root would use the forward riser design in both longbows and  recurves.

“Sight Window on the King Line are the same width for their entire length, assuring the hunter or target archer the same view at any distance. All Root Bows feature hand crafted arrow shelves with felt hair contact points” from early promo material

pre- 1957 Field King $45.00
  • AMO 66 inches and 68 inches
  • 5” sight window
  • Draw weight? Likely 30#-50#
  • Brace 7 ½ ? (based on Target Master)
  • Limbs 1 ½
  • Riser: Maple, or Exotic Hard wood
  • Fiberglass: White, Brown, Light Green, or Dark Green
  • Left hand and heavy draw weights were special orders
pre- 1957 Target King $45.00
  • AMO 68 inches and 70 inches
  • 6” sight window 
  • Draw weight? Likely 30#-50# 
  • Brace 7 ½ ? (based on Target Master)
  • Limbs 1 ½
  • Riser: Maple, or Exotic Hard wood
  • Fiberglass: White, Brown, Light Green, or Dark Green
  • Left hand and heavy draw weights were special orders
The Game King is one bow which I have found no information. I did find one reference in a traditional archery forum, but it was an old post and the photo had been removed. It makes sense to assume there was a Game King because the Field and Target King bows would later become Field, and Target Master bows, and later there was also a Game Master 

With this 60th post, I have documented all of the Root and Shakespeare bow models, but I plan to update each post when new information and photographs are found.  

When Ernie Root was building his wonderful bows I was just a child. I do remember shooting a Shakespeare when I was at summer camp only because I knew the famous writer. I didn't discover his bows until I lived in Alaska in the 1990s. While moose hunting I  found a Shakespeare Parabow leaning against a tree in the wilderness. The bow had been left there by a hunter over 40 years before. It wasn't a Root bow but it started my interest in Shakespeare Archery. I soon developed a love for the bows made by Ernie Root though finding reliable information was very difficult. I believe that documenting all of Ernie Root's contributions to modern archery is vitally important to helping preserve the history of American Archery. Time marches on and every day we loose another archer, another collector, or another designer from this Golden Age of American Archery. Everyday we loose a little bit of knowledge, memories, or stories that may be gone forever. We owe it to our younger generations to preserve as much knowledge as possible. I have learned so much from my research, I have made some great friendships and I hope that I have added to our appreciation of the vanishing history of American Archery.  

Jeff Freeman shared photos of  Target King, Thank you Jeff!!
This post is "in Process", I am still looking for examples of these bows, I am looking for stories or observations about them also. Please contact me through this blog or via email
if you have anything to add to this or any of these posts. Thanks in advance!!

copyright (C) Larry Vienneau

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Root's Last bow: The Root Rover

by Larry Vienneau

1966 Root Rover, thanks to Ed Parauka ep1944
Ernie Root did not produce many catalogs or written material. I own a few Root catalogs, some ads and a few magazine articles but they were not much to help in the writing of this post. I am a left-handed archer. Root also produced very few left-handed bow, most were special orders. I could attempt to shoot right handed but my assessment of a bow is better with my left hand, so I will have to wait to add a shooting review until I have a lefty.  I have been collecting Root serial numbers for awhile and have found that this bow was produced 1965-71. The Rover was an entry level bow, the draw weight was very light, starting at 15 lbs. and it went up to 40 lbs. It was meant for target shooting by smaller or less experienced archers. The Shakespeare Model X24, and the Rover were introduced in 1965 and 1966. They were intended for “young archer in mind and intended to take the strenuous beating of beginners in school or camp environments.” The Yukon was a shorter bow and its draw was up to 50lbs making it a hunting bow.  The Rover was not intended as a hunting weapon but could be ordered in hunting weights.  
1970 Root X152
1966 catalog “A great value- The same quality as in all Root Bows. An ideal all-round bow for the beginner and economy-minded and great for family fun. The Rover has modified recurve tips, a full view center-shot sight window and a full-size hand polished positive aligned grip. The smooth drawing limbs are Micro tapered. The select hardwood handle section has a multi coated hand rubbed finish for beauty and permanence. Price $22.50”
1969 Rover showing wear and scuffs
1970 Root Rover X152
The Rover was a good all-around bow. It has been described as a “sweet shooter”. In 1969 Root and Shakespeare merged. After 1969 it became the Rover X152. In 1970, like all Root models, it had become “Root by Shakespeare”.

When these bows appear in auctions or for sale the often need some refinishing because kids are rough on bow. The heaver bows are generally in good shape. The Root Rover recurve bow would be a great addition to any vintage bow collection. I am still looking for my left-handed Rover.

Joey Zoppa's Root Rover Collection left to right 1965, 1966, 1966

  • Years: Root Rover 1965-68, 1969-71 Rover X152 (Root by Shakespeare 1970-71) 
  • 1965-66 64", 1967-71 62” AMO
  • Draw 15# - #40, (#45-#50 special order)
  • Brace 7 ½
  • Limbs 1 ½
  • 5” sight
  • Riser: Maple, or Exotic Hard wood
  • Fiberglass: White, Brown, Light Green, or Dark Green
  • Left hand special order
copyright Larry Vienneau 2018 (C)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ernie Root's Kadet Longbow and Recurve Bow

Kadet and Kadet X154

The Root Kadet was in production longer than any Root or Shakespeare bow. It became part of the Root Archery line around 1956-57 as a longbow. In 1958 it became a recurve. It continued until 1970 as a Kadet X154 marketed by Shakespeare Archery.

 Kadet 62" and 64"
Shakespeare, with the vision and expertise of Ermie Root, created outstanding and affordable bows. Ernie started designing bows for Shakespeare 1959 and by 1963 all the Shakespeare bows were based on Root bows. Shakespeare acquired Root Archery in a mutually beneficial merger.  Root Archery had been a supplier to Shakespeare for a number of years.  Ernie Root sold a number of his designs to Shakespeare. They were modified and renamed. For example: The Root Warrior was very similar Necedah X26, and The Brush Master became the Kaibab X27, the Field Master became the Ocala X17. Around 1968-69 Shakespeare bought the Root factories and production facilities, and it was known as "The Root Archery Division of the Shakespeare Company". The first bows after this merger bore the name "ROOT BY SHAKESPEARE. Eventually the "Root" name was dropped completely.

1969 Root Kadet

1967 Root Kadet
Shayne Efaw shared photos of his excellent Lefty 1966 64 inch Kadet with red glass, thanks Shayne!
Joseph Spallone's Root Kadet, Thanks Joseph!

" I’m a right-handed shooter, but I have recently started shooting left-handed. I love the bow, it shoots fantastically, no hand shock, arrows seem to go exactly where I want them. It seems to have a very smooth draw" Shayne Efaw
Kadet was promoted in the 1958 Catalog:
"In it’s price range, this modified working recurve is in a class by itself. Note the many features usually found in a bow twice it’s price. Selected maple overdraw type handle section, center shot, full 6" sight window, laminated nock refinement. 1 ½ wide limbs. Workmanship on this fine weapon makes it an outstanding value. 25- 55 lbs. $29.50"

Late 1956-57 Root Kadet Longbow

The Kadet was an economy priced entry level bow. It is usually found in lighter draw weights for young archers but it was a deadly hunting weapon at up to 55 lbs. 

Kerry Stout took this turkey with a 1956-57 48# Kadet Longbow
Over the years, this bow went through many changes. It started as a longbow then became a recurve. In 1958, 1960, 1962, 1965-70 it was a 64" bow and in 1959, 1961-64 it was a 62" bow. It was made from Native maple and was a very sturdy reliable bow. Its design would influence the look and feel of both the Shakespeare Yukon X24 and Custer X22.

comparison Root Kadet with Shakespeare Custer and Yukon
Kadet and Kadet X154

  • ·         Years: Kadet 1956-1969, Kadet X154 1970-71
  •         Longbow 1956-57, recurve after 1958
  •          Limb 1 ½
  •          Sight window 6"1957-65 & 1968-71, 5 ½" 1966-     67 only,
  •          Brace 7 ½
  •          1958, 1960, 1962, 1965-70 it was a 64" bow
  •          1959, 1961-64 it was a 62" bow
  •          Weights 25- 55 lbs., 45lbs after 1966
  •          Brown, Red, Grey, Black and Green Fiberglass
  •          Riser wood: Maple
  •          Sight window:  6 inch, 5 1/2 only in 1966
  •          Brace height: 8 inch
  •         Leather rest 1957-1964, Red feather arrow rest, calf hair or leather strike plate after 1965

copyright Larry Vienneau 2018 (C)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Root Sporter Recurve


By Larry Vienneau

The toughest thing about researching early Root bows is finding written descriptions. Either Ernie Root did not publish many catalogs, or very few have survived. Either way, trying to chronicle the lineage of each of his models is very difficult. With that said, here is the best information available on the Root SPORTER Recurve.

The Root SPORTER first appears in a 1957 Root catalog. It was an intermediate bow, it was priced at the medium range.

1959-60 Root SPORTER, 43#, 64"
“SP SPORTER 5’ 4” This high-performance bow features deflexed limbs with fully working recurves, attractive, rigid handle section, full 6” sight window, limbs full 1 ¾ wide, available 25-60 lbs. $49.50" from 1958 Catalog

It wasn’t priced as a low-end bow because it was priced the same as the tournament SCORE MASTER bow. Through eight years of production it was built with high quality exotic woods and had wood tip overlays, the riser was either solid exotic wood or exotic laminated woods. Root's less expensive bows used durable but inexpensive native woods. This resulted in a surprisingly fine looking bow, it isn't a well-known bow but it should be. The examples I have found online are very beautiful. 

1964 Root Sporter, solid riser

The interesting thing about the SPORTER is it's draw weights. It is the only Root bow at 60lbs (excluding special orders) during the period 1958-66. After 1968 Root offered hunting weights up to 65lbs without special orders. Ernie Root intended it to be a hunting bow. 

1963 SPORTER with Zebra Wood lamination.
The 1963 SPORTER is a particularly good looking bow. It used laminated zebrawood in the riser. This exotic wood was only used in the top-end bows by both Root and Shakespeare Archery Divisions. Root phased the SPORTER out after 1966. In 1965 Root introduced a 66" RANGE MASTER. After 1966 Root dropped the 64" SPORTER, and the RANGE MASTER was then offered as both a 64" and 66" AMO bow. Essentially Root merged the RANGE MASTER and the SPORTER together into one bow with a loss of five pounds draw weight. This bow would be a great addition to any vintage bow collection.
Jacki Clauson shared his Root Sporter in outstanding condition


  • years 1958-66

  • Limbs 1 3/4 inch, white or green glass

  • wood overlay tips

  • riser: exotic woods laminations or solid

  • draw weight 25-60lbs

  • Brace height 8 inchs
  • 64" AMO

copyright Larry Vienneau 2018 (C)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Root Score Master Longbow


by Larry Vienneau

Ernie Root in right back row. Bob Bitner, National Champion 
in front right 

From the Root Archery 1959 Green Catalog: "This outstanding 4-man indoor team from Big Rapids Archery Club uses the "Score Master" Straight end bow because of it's extreme stability"

During the Mid-1950s Ernie Root was building both straight limbed and recurve bows. Prior to 1957 Root made several longbows; Target Master, Score Master, and Kadet. By 1959 the only Root model to remain a longbow was the Score Master. By 1960 Root stopped production of the Score Master.

1958? Score Master Custom 68" with and green glass.
 When I wrote my post on the Target Master, I found very little online information.( ) In researching this model I found nothing at all helpful on any archery forums, and nothing in any printed material from that period aside from two catalogs for 1957 and 1959 which I own. So this bow is one of Ernie Roots lesser known bows. Prior to 1956 Root had two Lines of bows; his "Master" line - Game Master, Field Master, and Target Master and his "King" line- Field King and Target King.  Both the Field King and Target King were only produced for a couple years are very scares and very little is known about them. 
pre-1958 Root Target King, 68" 39#
I love a nice longbow. I have made many fiberglass wood laminate bows, sinew back bows and self bows. A well made longbow can easily out shoot a recurve with the right archer and the right arrows. True, a recurve can shoot faster then many longbows, however a longbow can be very efficient at hitting bull's-eyes at a distance. When I lived in Alaska I had to practice long shots. I practiced with a 74# longbow at distances of 40-65 yards. It helped in field competitions and it paid off with long shots of moose and caribou. Because of this longbow experience I fully understand the logic of the longbow as a tournament bow. A stable platform pushes an arrow very well. However in the late 1950s there was a trend toward recurves and perhaps Ernie Root needed to change with the times and phased out his Score Master.

1958? Score Master Custom, 70" 38#. note the slight reflexed tips.

1959? Score Master Custom70" 36#. 

I rarely review a bow without first shooting or inspecting an example of the model. Unfortunately, due to scarcity, I will have to rely on Ernie Roots description from his 1957 red catalog. 

Larry Root found this 1957? Score Master Custom in his garage!! Thanks Larry !!
  • Years- 1956-59?
  • two lengths- 68" and 70" (custom)
  • weights: 25-50lbs
  • Glass: woven white
  • sight window: 7 inch
  • left hand (custom)
  • straight limb
  • 2 inch wide limbs 
  • brace height- 7- 8 inch

copyright Larry Vienneau 2018 (C)

Ernie Root's Target Master


by Larry Vienneau
1957 ad

Ernie Root was famous for naming his bows ”Master”. He had the Score Master, Target Master, Field Master, Range Master, Game Master, and Brush Master. Ernie Root began his bow making career working at American Archery in Chicago in the late 1940s. He quit American and started Root Archery in the early 1950s as a family business in suburban Chicago. After outgrowing a couple of small spaces, it moved out of the city, eventually settling in Big Rapids, MI. Ernie Root was a great tournament archer and set a record for individual score of 836 in 1947 which was not broken until 1959. In the Mid-1950s Ernie was building straight limbed target longbows. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much information available about Ernie Root’s Target Master. Ernie didn’t put out many catalogs, and the ones that exist do not have dates on them. So, it is hard to date most of his bows from his earlier career. His early Target master and it’s big Brother Score master began as longbows. By 1957 the Target Master was a recurve while the Score Master remained a longbow.
a young Archery Champion Bob Bitner with his Target Master

The Target Master was available in varied lengths. From 1956-59 it was available in 67” 68” and 70” bows. After 1960 it was produced as a 68” bow. The bow could also be ordered as a “Custom” bow was 70” with additional wood on the riser to act over-draw.
1958? ad with description of overdraw

  • Before 1956: 68” and 70” six inch sight window. Two inch limbs Longbow
  • 1957: 68” and 70” 7 ½ sight window Two inch limbs recurve
  • 1958: 67”, 68”, and 70” 7 ½ sight window Two inch limbs recurve
  • 1959: 68” and 70” 7 ½ sight window Two inch limbs recurve
  • 1960-65: 68” and 8 inch sight window Two inch limbs recurve
  • 1966-69: 68” 7 ½ sight window Two inch limbs recurve
  • Brace height 7 ½ to 8 ½ inch
  • Draw weight 25lbs- 55lbs, heavier weights custom ordered.
  • Left handed bows custom ordered
  • Glass teal green, Dark green, and/or white
  • Wood tip overlay

1960-63 ? 
I have a very early Target Master longbow (pre1957). It is 53# and it is a bit thumpy to shoot, but the hand shock is minimal. It is a very accurate for its design. I have been looking for a nice lefty Target Master and have had to pass up some bows that were to light or to beat up, or both. The mid 1960s Target Master is a cheaper bow then the Root Pendulus but in the late 60s they were similar in design. I own a Pendulus and it is one of my favorite target bows, it is a beautiful shooter, I think the Target Master should be a similar shooting experience.
Joey Zoppa's bow  serial D5202....1965?

I own a Shakespeare Model 100 1960. which is very similar to the Root target Master of the same period. It is also a 68” bow and is also a target bow. Mine is 50# and is the sweetest shooting bow I own. I believe the riser and limb designs are close enough to suggest a similarity in shooting. Both are designed my Ernie Root as were all of the Shakespeare bows from 1959-1970.
comparison Target Master
vs. Model 100
my restored Target Master pre-1957 longbow 53#

any additional information will be appreciated 
copyright Larry Vienneau 2018 (C)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Right Handed Bow VS Left Handed Bow

How to tell a Right Handed Bow from a
 Left Handed Bow
 by Larry Vienneau
never trust a seller, they often know nothing about archery. This photo shows that both the model and photographer are clueless when it comes to using a bow.
Most sellers are clueless about the bows they are selling. Above is an example I found on eBay and it is being used by many archery sellers from Asia, the mistake are numerous, but the biggest is she is holding the bow upside down and if she loosed her arrow then she would hurt herself. The photographer also posed the model as if she was a left handed shooter.
Roughly 10% of the population is naturally left handed and about 18% of right handed population are left eye dominate (my situation). However archery manufacturers have never kept up with this trend. During the 1950 many manufacturers made dual shelf bows which accommodated both dexterity but some manufactures ignored the left handed archer completely making only right hand models.  In the late 50s and early 60s manufacturers began producing both right hand and left hand bows, sometimes charging more for the left hand version or requiring left hand bow be special order. As a result there are far fewer good vintage or used left handed bow available today. A typical search on eBay for used recurves results in approximately 300 auctions of which 25 are for used left handed bows, less than 10%. A search of new recurves on eBay results in about 1,700 auctions and a search for new left handed bow results in 160, again less than 10%
So when I do a search for used left hand bows and 4 out of the 25 available turn out to be mislabeled, I get frustrated. One of me pet peeves are bow seller on eBay who can’t tell the difference between a right handed bow and a lefty. What is even more aggravating is an ignorant seller who is to stubborn take suggestions or comments. Then there are the sellers who have been shooting their bow backwards for years. One seller actually said "What difference does it make?" The important issue is safety. A bow strung backwards is much more likely to break because the backward limbs are not designed to take stress. There is also the likelihood of the string will slip off during full draw. Both of these are dangerous to the shooter and spectators. 
this bow could break or the string slip and injure the child

If you go online there is no shortage of examples of people shooting backward strung bows. 

this fellow is supposed to be an archery instructor, he has his bow strung backwards

here he is instructing his student, please note that all of the bows are strung backwards
shooting incorrectly strung bows are dangerous

 Hollywood has added to the confusion about what is a properly strung bow. Here is promotional material widely distributed for the epic movie "Exodus. Gods and Kings" Christian Bale is holding a horsebow strung backwards.

how a horse bow should look when strung
The Disney movie "Brave" was a wonderful children's movie about a young girl who challenges the traditional role of girls in medieval England. It also generated a lot of interest in the sport of archery for young girls. Unfortunately at the film's premiere a red haired girl was posed with backward strung bow. I guess they thought no one would notice!

this is a properly strung bow
And of course there are plenty of photographers who pose their models shooting bows incorrectly.
she has no idea what she is doing..

I guess they thought no one would be looking at the bow


the onlooker is waiting for the string to pop off and wondering why does she not have an arrow on the string??

no caption needed
When searching through the many bows for sale online I often see bows strung backwards.
two backward strung right handed bows, they appear to be left handed
 Some people do this internationally believing it is a safe way to store a bow, while other people do not know any better, thinking this is how a strung bow is supposed to look. I guess if this was 1965 that excuse would work but today anyone with the slightest interest in archery can go online and look up how a recurve is supposed to be stored or strung. So today there is absolutely no excuse for ignorance, it just takes a little initiative to do a little research. 

Shooting Right handed, bow held with left hand                                         shooting left handed, bow held with right hand

The biggest misconception people have is they believe a right handed bow is held in the right hand. A right-hand bow is actually held in the LEFT hand and drawn back with the right hand. Likewise, a left-hand bow is held in the RIGHT hand and drawn back with the left hand.  The drawing hand is the factor which dictates whether a bow is right handed of left handed. 
two nearly identical Ocala 14A bows. One is left handed and the other is righthanded

The problem is that ignorant sellers often have their bows strung backwards so that a right handed bow appears to be left handed. I once had a long exchange with a seller who insisted he was selling a left handed bow (right hand bow strung backwards) I sent him a photo of a guy shooting a bow strung backwards and he responded that is how he shoots. 
lefty strung backwards
I photographed one of my son’s right handed bow strung backwards (lefty) then I strung it correctly (righty). Needless to say he sheepishly admitted he had been shooting his bow wrong for years.

I usually send these sellers the 3Rivers Archery YouTube video;

left handed bow strung, rest on right side of bow                                                right hand bow strung, rest on left side of bow

Most seller are very thankful for the help and will change their listing to correct the dexterity.

If you find a seller who insists that the listing is correct, send them this link.

© Copyright, Larry Vienneau Jr.

All rights reserved.