What bow are you dreaming of?
It’s great fun to window shop online, looking at pictures of bows and gear you’d like. It’s easier than ever to get inspired and find out information. But if it’s your first time at the rodeo, get some help before opening your wallet.
Use someone else’s experience
The most vital piece of advice for buying your first bow and arrows is: don’t try and do it alone. A bow needs to be the size and weight that is right for you. Everyone is a slightly different size and strength, and arm lengths vary. Trying to shoot a bow or arrows that are the wrong size will frustrate you and slow your progress at best and could be dangerous at worst.
So before you hit that buy button, take advice from a coach, a range instructor, or an experienced archer. Get them to measure your drawlength (they will also be able to do this at a shop). This is the most important measure for getting the right length arrows. Your arrows should be matched to the weight of the bow you intend to buy. So it’s best to buy them both together.
Some shops and ranges offer a lesson before buying, so that you can try before you buy. If you’re still unsure what kind of bow to get, get in touch with your local archery shop and see what they have available. Try and find a shop with a wide selection of bows, so you can try them all. Bear in mind that your first visit to an archery shop may take a few hours.
Buy cautiously – for now
You may have the cash for the best gear on the market; the flagship compound or the top-end recurve limbs; but these may not be right for you straightaway and the most expensive is not always right for everybody. Some top-end gear is less ‘forgiving’ than others and requires careful, systematic adjustment to get the best out of it. Again: take advice from someone with experience before buying the fanciest thing in the shop.
For recurves, you will likely change the the poundage of your limbs in the first year or so, often more than once. So it’s best to buy some lower-priced ones starting out. Some shops have a limb-exchange program to assist you with this.
All the extras
As well as a bow and arrows, you’ll need a few other things too. For a sport that is ultimately very simple, archery does tend to requires a lot of individual parts. You will need a finger tab for recurve and barebow, or a release aid for compound. You might need a stabiliser (probably just a simple rod for now). You will need an arrow rest or launcher. You will need a quiver, a bow stand, and a sight (unless you’re shooting barebow), and you may need a plunger, an armguard, a chestguard, and a bowstringer. You might need a case, too. Phew!
Many of the better archery shops will sell everything you need as a package, with a small discount. It is well worth taking advantage of this. One of the good things about archery gear is that is essentially modular; each part will usually work on all bows and with every other part. So as soon as you feel the need to upgrade just one thing, you can.
It’s also pretty common to get given a bow that belonged to someone else. Or finding one in the garage, or at a yard sale. Remember: the bow has to fit you, not the other way around. And it has to be safe to shoot.
You wouldn’t go skiing and buy a random pair of ski boots – you’d get boots in your size and skis that work for you. If you’ve been given a hand-me-down bow, be sure to get it checked out at an archery shop, by a coach, or at the very least by an experienced archer. It needs to be right.
Similarly, buying second-hand bows (off eBay or similar) should be approached with caution and with help from someone who knows what they are doing.
Buying your first arrows
For safety and other reasons, we don’t recommend buying or trying second-hand arrows at all (unless you are very experienced). Buy your first set of arrows new.
If you’re a recurve archer starting out, Bow International fully recommends the Easton RX-7 arrow, for indoor and outdoor alike. Your local archery shop should be able to get them and set them up for you. It’s an exceptional way to begin your archery career. (For more seasoned archers, read our guide to setting them up here.)
Ask lots of questions
Everyone was in the same boat once: nervous that they would be buying the right thing or not. Don’t worry. Archers are a friendly lot, and will often go further than you think to help beginners. This part of the journey is one of the most fun. Enjoy it!
Bow International is the world’s sole dedicated target archery magazine, and ever since 1996 we’ve been helping archers to improve and find the best equipment for their sport. In association with JVD Archery, Easton Archery and the Easton RX7 arrow. If you’ve ever wondered about starting archery, come with us on this journey!