Buying your first bow: part 2

You’ve decided to take the plunge and get your first bow. Well done! But what do you need to buy?

If you’re buying a traditional style bow, this is an easy question. Traditional bows are basically sticks with a piece of string attached, so really that’s where most of your money will go; anything left over will go on arrows and a bag and maybe some peripherals such as a quiver, finger tab (or glove), and an arm bracer.

For a modern recurve, the answer is more involved. Modern recurves are modular, so there are choices to make around each part of the bow. Some of this is based on your physique and skill (how big should the bow be? How powerful?), but much of it will be around personal preference and what type of shooting you enjoy.

The easy way to buy a modern recurve is to buy a beginner kit or a starter bow. There are plenty around, but if you’ve read my previous post and want to go to a shop and build your own bow, this is what you will need to consider. I have put in some rough cost guidelines, although as always prices may vary.

The absolute essentials

Riser – £50 to £300+

You can find risers for £30, but if you’re going to spend lots of money on anything, make it the part of the bow that you hold. In a sense, the riser IS the bow; everything else connects to it. Most importantly, the riser is the part of the bow that is hardest to replace down the line; buying a new riser may well necessitate buying everything else from scratch.

If you visit an archery shop, make sure you try as many different risers as you can. The way they feel in your hand varies a fair amount and there’s no way to know this unless you’ve held them. Sometimes you just find ‘the one’ and it feels ‘right’. Do remember: red risers make the arrows fly faster*.

Limbs – £30 to £70

It is very tempting to buy really expensive limbs to attach to your brand new bow. Don’t.

Bow limbs are the bit you should skimp on when you first buy a bow. They are the key determining factor in the poundage of your bow—that is, how much force you will need to draw and shoot it. It’s a very good idea to start with relatively light limbs and work up to heavier ones as your archery improves. Coaches always say that you should be absolutely fully in control of the bow at all times so, whilst we know that you want your arrows to fly fast, straight and true, the best way to achieve this is to be able to hold the bow completely steady at full draw. As a beginner this often means working up gradually.

Limbs are very easy to replace. A shop will make sure that any limbs you buy are compatible with your riser, and they will test the poundage of your new bow for you. It is best to go into the shop with an understanding of how heavy the bows you have been shooting are (if you shoot at a club, ask an instructor if you’re not sure); you might then add a couple of pounds to your new setup.

String – £5 to £15

As with the limbs, don’t spend too much on your first string. Make sure it is the correct length for your bow—again, the shop will help here—and be prepared to adjust the brace height of the bow (by twisting the string) and the string nocking points (or just take them off if you’re feeling confident). Remember that a string will stretch as it is used, so you will want to recheck your brace height after a few weeks (this is where a bow square comes in handy).

Arrows – £40 to £80

There is a very complicated-looking series of tables for deciding what type of arrows you need for your bow, which take into account the size and type of your bow and its poundage.  Do buy arrows when you buy your bow, as the shop will know exactly what you need. Shops will cut your arrows to the right size for you, but if you’re a beginner you should always leave them a little bit longer; as you practice more with your new bow, your posture will likely improve and thus adjust your draw length.

Arrows generally come in sets of 6, 8 or 12. You probably won’t want many more than that to start with; you only need enough to cover breakages. If you get accurate enough to break so many arrows that you haven’t got enough for an end of 3 shots, you might be ready to upgrade again!

Useful accessories

Finger tab – £10 to £30

A decent starters’ tab costs about a tenner and will be a massive improvement over whatever scraps of leather your club hands out. A simple A&F tab has a block to keep your fingers separated around the arrow nock and a shelf on which to rest your chin, which will do wonders for your posture. You can buy a tab way before you even think about buying a bow, and you don’t even need to get to a shop: just order one online.

Bag – £30

There are plenty of good bags around, but lots of people start out with an Avalon Classic bag (£40 or so). They come in a range of colours and will be perfectly adequate until you decide you want every possible piece of archery equipment money can buy.

Bow stand – £15

Most clubs provide bow stands, but it’s useful to have your own especially for when you’re at home fiddling around with everything. No need to spend lots of cash here!

Bracer – £8

Fed up of sharing bracers? You are very unlikely to need to replace an arm bracer (unless you start looking at fancy artisan bracers that look the part for traditional archery), so spend whatever you are comfortable with.

Quiver – £15 to £50

Very important this part, quivers look cool, and they have the side benefit of being able to carry your arrows around. There are loads of different styles out there; if you shoot recurve or competitively, consider getting one with multiple arrow tubes and pockets. You can even get them with your name on.

Arrow puller – £8

You might want an arrow puller if you have trouble pulling your arrows out of the targets. I always keep a shoe polish sponge in my quiver as well to grease my arrows. Remember to only grease the pointy end and NOT where you hold the shaft to pull them out… otherwise it’s even harder. Not that we’ve done this. AHEM.

Stringer – £3 to £10

While most clubs have stringers you can borrow, that’s not much help if you want to maintain or shoot your bow at home / elsewhere. A decent stringer is relatively cheap.

Optional add-ons

Sight – £15+

If you’ve been learning freestyle archery, then chances are you’ll want a sight for your first bow. Start out with a cheapish one, and don’t be afraid to order online if you see one you like later on. Obviously, this is optional if you primarily shoot barebow.

Long rod – £30 to £50

Unless you have been learning with a long rod, I wouldn’t recommend you buy one until you’ve had time to break in all of your other new equipment. However, if you really must get everything right away, don’t buy anything too expensive (as usual), and make sure you pick up either a finger sling or wrist sling otherwise the long rod won’t gain you anything.

Everything else!

There’s a lot of other equipment you can buy—everything from doinkers and v-bars to clickers and buttons. There’s also the long, enjoyable—and gradual—process of upgrading all of your beginner gear! Don’t try to do everything at the same time; many archers go for years without needing to learn about any of the complicated stuff.

* editor’s note: this may not actually be true

Any questions? Fling them in the comments or come along to one of our courses and ask the experts!

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