Nicola Turner has a rummage
Archers love a new bit of kit, and manufacturers know how to keep us looking forward to the next release with teasers about the most accurate, comfortable, stylish bows ever.
However, unless you’re seriously minted, buying new releases as they come out can hit your pocket pretty hard – and most archers will at one point or another find themselves standing in front of the racks at their local archery shop looking wistfully at something shiny that’s well out of budget.
Fortunately, there is a thriving secondhand market for archery gear out there, and you can get yourself some serious bargains if you know what to look out for, and how to buy, and sell, equipment wisely.
Where to buy
These are probably the first places to try if you’re looking for some additional bits for your setup at a bargain price. Merlin, for example, allows archers who are buying new kit to trade in their old equipment, and this can be worth a serious look.
Major items like risers (or whole bows in the case of compounds), limbs, sights, and release aids – which represent a significant part of your overall setup and will be a major factor in how your bow shoots and feels – are good to look for secondhand in pro shops as they will have had the benefit of an examination from the shop staff to confirm their condition.
Additionally, you get all the other benefits of buying in a specialist shop, such as advice on your tune and on integrating new items into your setup from knowledgeable staff, as well as the chance to try it out before you take it home.
The worldwide treasure trove of secondhand stuff offers plenty of opportunity for bargain hunters, but there are several pitfalls to buying archery gear on eBay that aren’t such a risk when you’re buying from a pro shop.
Many people have heard horror stories about an eBay deal that went wrong, although it’s worth remembering that many hundreds of transactions go smoothly and easily for every one that goes wrong in some way.
On eBay, you’re reliant on the photographs and description the seller provides in order to ascertain the quality and condition of the item for sale. This means you can’t gauge the item for yourself, or check over the areas of wear and tear before you buy.
Buying involves a judgement call on whether someone seems trustworthy. And stolen archery kit has turned up for sale on eBay before – even if you buy it in good faith, you wouldn’t be compensated when the police confiscate it.
That said, if you’re happy to keep your eye on interesting items, you could find yourself your next bit of kit for a great price – as long as you don’t mind occasionally losing out in a last-minute bidding war.
Some clubs keep a noticeboard in the clubhouse on which members can advertise bits of kit they have for sale. The advantage of this is that, if you’re a member of the same club, you can often ask to try the item in question out before you buy it – most archers will be happy to let you have a few shots with something if it increases their chances of getting it out of their spare room.
It’s also a great place for beginners to scout for kit, especially recurve limb upgrades. As archers progress, they’ll often go through a set or two of limbs as they get stronger and increase their distances, meaning lightly-used beginner and intermediate limbs (and, sometimes, corresponding arrow sets) can be picked up locally for a good price.
Conversely, if you’re after something, why not pin up a ‘Wanted’ notice and see if anyone has what you’re after? Clubs increasingly have digital noticeboards of some kind too.
Additionally, some tournaments run a ‘for sale’ noticeboard for archers at the event. Archers can pin notices of things they have with them for sale over the day or weekend, crossing them off as they’re sold.
While we don’t recommend buying something on the morning of a tournament and proceeding to shoot with it, competitions are an excellent way of picking up equipment direct from other archers, while giving you the chance to ask how it performed for them, what they liked about it, and any advice they have on tuning it.
Facebook groups dedicated to finding buyers for archery equipment are out there, and can be a good way to pick up bits and pieces without breaking the bank.
As with eBay, it can be difficult to ascertain the condition of something from photographs alone – but if the seller is a competitive type there may be the opportunity to meet them at a tournament and see the item for yourself there.
You even occasionally see well-known archers moving some kit along. Again, just like on a real-life noticeboard, you have the opportunity to put up a message specifying what you’re after, and if anyone has one for sale they can let you know.
Local selling services such as Gumtree, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are less great for archery gear, but the chances of finding an overlooked local bargain are higher. These tend to focus on specific local communities, so there is a higher likelihood of being able to try something before you buy it.
What to buy
It’s worth keeping an eye on secondhand markets for risers. Generally sturdy bits of kit, they are also among the most expensive to buy new for recurve archers, so provided they’ve been treated well by their previous owner you can pick up some quality kit for much less than you’d pay for one new.
Be sure to look at the condition of the limb pockets, if you can; while some wear in these areas in normal, any significant damage could be a cause for concern. Additionally, check out the grip – if its previous owner has altered it in a way to suit them, can you swap it out to one that suits you, or make amendments of your own?
Minor cosmetic damage, like wear on the paint or scratches, is common around the sight block fixings and stabiliser bushings, but you want to make sure that all bushings and screw threads remain clean and un-stripped.
Fixing threads usually requires re-drilling and is a specialist task. Any cracks in the riser body or stripped threads indicate it’s almost certainly not worth your money.
If you don’t have the opportunity to look at a pair of secondhand limbs in the flesh before you buy them (such as if you’re buying online), but have the opportunity to look at photos, look at the base first (the part that clips into the riser).
A little wear here is normal, but significant dents, or cracks, probably mean they’re a no-go. The same goes for any cracks in the limb body.
If you can get a picture of both limbs together, make sure the curvature matches, and that one of the limbs doesn’t twist one way or the other – asking the seller this directly is a good idea.
Lastly, make sure they’re the right fit for your riser (usually either Formula or ILF). There’s nothing worse than finding an absolute bargain online and getting them delivered only to realise they won’t fit.
Arrows can be a risky secondhand buy, because it is very difficult to tell how they’ve been treated over their lifetime. Even if they look OK in photos, they could have cracks or bends that are impossible to see unless you get the chance to examine them close up.
Additionally, if they’ve been shot a lot into hard targets, they could have ‘taken a bend’, and arrows tend to lose spine as they age, meaning even a good-looking set might not group all that well.
That said, it is possible to find a good set of arrows secondhand: occasionally, someone will get their spine estimation wrong and find they require a spine up or down from what they ordered – just make sure that both the spine and the length are right for you.
There is an additional benefit to be had from looking for secondhand arrows however, and that’s if you’re looking to move up to a set of top-end shafts.
Buying secondhand arrows to test out different spines and configurations of point weights can help you decide in advance exactly which arrows to buy before having to shell out the big bucks.
Stabilisers and weights, bow stands, and bow cases are generally pretty safe to hunt for in the secondhand market. Unless they’ve taken a particularly heavy amount of punishment over their lifetime, they are good for years and can save you some cash when you’re upgrading or adding to your setup. A secondhand tab is good if you want to test drive a particular high-end model without buying new.
It’s not generally a good idea to try and source high-wear items like strings and nocks second hand. For what it costs to buy them new, it’s worth knowing that they are new and reliable, as cracked or worn nocks will have a significant impact on your groups and an old string can suffer broken strands and loose serving. Happy shopping!