Category Archives: Info about Bows

What does over bowed mean in archery?

We often forget how much terminology we use in archery and how daunting it can be as a beginner so we thought we’d tackle a few of the big questions here on the blog starting with:

What does it mean when my archery instructor says that someone is ‘over bowed’?

Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they have too many bows because we all know that you can never have too many bows. This is what garages were invented for (or in London spare bedrooms, large cupboards, or any available wall or floor space). It actually means that the weight of the bow that the person is trying to pull is too much for them.

So, firstly ‘how can you tell?’ and secondly, ‘why is that a problem?’ Well, the second most important rule of archery (the first is about where you’re pointing the pointy end) is that in order to be successful an archer must be completely in control of the shot at all times. You want a smooth, repeatable shot cycle – which is exactly the same for every single shot that you take.

So, how do we know you’re over bowed? A good sign is if you see the archer wobbling around, raising their shoulders (no they shouldn’t be up around your ears and yes, it is possible for them to come down) or doing any one of a million other small, painful things (huge tension in the neck is another giveaway or grim locked-jaw with throbbing forehead veins) to try and brace yourself for the huge HOICK back… then you’re not fully in control.

Why is it a problem? Because it throws your shot off and because it’s not repeatable. If you are over bowed it will get progressively worse through the session as you tire – meaning ever more random things start to become part of your shot. We practice regularly to try to build muscle memory in a positive way – we REALLY don’t want for an archer to build in any of those painful things. So, if you feel that you’re tiring or perhaps you’re on the very edge of being over-bowed – once you start to feel that your shots are off, or you are not fully in control – then stop!

Give yourself the break and come back fresh another time.

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. Continue reading

Buying your first bow: part 1

The 2 most likely questions for a budding archer to ask immediately after their first lesson are: “How much does a bow cost?” and “Where can I buy one?”. I generally recommend that any aspiring archer holds off buying a bow until they’ve been shooting regularly at a club for a while (6 months or more), but sooner or later we all hear the siren call of shiny new archery equipment.

Where can I buy a bow?

There are plenty of places you can buy a bow; Amazon and eBay are filled with beginner kits, second hand bows, and general equipment. Heidi, archer-in-chief at 2020, bought her first bow (a second hand beginner kit) via eBay and never looked back. However, while you might be able to find a bargain, many new archers may not know their draw length, required poundage, or simply how a bow fits together. Without the guiding hand of an expert, it is easy to end up with a duffer.

When buying your first bow, I think your best bet is to buy directly from a dedicated archery shop. Most archery shops these days have websites if you just want a quiver or a finger tab, but if you’re starting out with your first bow, you would be better off taking a trip to a physical brick and mortar store. Continue reading

traditional or freestyle bows

Two Tribes

When you feel that the time has come to buy your own bow, you have a decision to make that goes beyond your income and the distance to the nearest archery shop: traditional or modern?

2020 Archery teaches using a modern style – recurve training bows – and you can stick with the club bows (with no charge!) for as long as you need. But you’ll have seen club members using the full gamut of styles: longbows, flatbows (AKA the “American longbow”), horsebows, Olympic recurves, and the occasional compound bow. Broadly speaking, the former three cover the most popular styles of traditional archery, and the latter two are considered modern.

So what unseen force pushes the novice archer to follow one path over the other?

There was an economic aspect to my decision to go traditional: my first bow, a Buck Trail flatbow, cost around £130. That figure aligned far better with my bank balance than the £200-plus that a recurve could have set me back, even before all the accessories used with freestyle – long rod, V-bars, sights and what have you – were factored in. But even if I’d been feeling more flush, I think I’d still have gone trad. That’s partly because shooting a stick-and-string makes me feel closer to the historical archers I like to learn about, and partly down to a (somewhat masochistic) desire to find out just how far I can go with the uncompensated mechanics of my own body.

I don’t think traditional is in any way superior: it’s a very personal preference. But I was interested in what makes people, as a general rule, choose one school over the other. I was also curious as to how far people grow into their preferred style – how important is your shooting choice to your identity as an archer? Are you an archer who happens to prefer traditional, or are you firmly a Traditional Archer?

“I don’t differentiate between the two”, said Erin. “I’m currently shooting a recurve, but I definitely plan to buy a traditional bow in future.” Erin sees the positives of both: “With my modern bow I’m at the point where I’m confident my arrows will hit the target where I want them to, which is obviously a nice feeling. But I like the idea of trying out a bow that doesn’t have the sights and other accessories, to develop my style.”

Kat shoots a longbow, a style of archery that she’s been drawn to since a child. Her bow is made in the Victorian style – something I’d previously been unaware of, but Kat described a photograph, currently hanging in her hallway, of Victorian ladies shooting similar bows at Crystal Place. Whilst feeling a deep connection to the longbow, Kat has a good practical reason for her choice. “I’m dyspraxic, and the relative simplicity of the longbow suits me for that reason.”

I have oversimplified by defining the choice as simply Traditional versus Modern, of course. There is, at least some kind of, meeting point between the two in the form of recurve barebow and traditional barebow. The former is a good option for those who prefer to shoot a modern recurve, but without sights, stabilisers or draw check indicators. It’s not unusual to see a club member who usually shoots freestyle remove their sights and stabilisers, just to mix things up a bit. On such occasions, their fellow archers may be treated to said archer’s musings on how their “release feels different when I shoot it bare”, which certainly livens up the session. Recurve barebow is recognised by Archery GB in their national rankings, alongside freestyle recurve, compound and longbow.

Recurve traditional is similar to recurve barebow, but requires the use of wooden arrows, alongside a couple of other stipulations.

We also have a few compound shooters in our club. These bows are fast, accurate and comparatively easier to hold at full draw (although, remember that you DO have to pull it through the peak draw weight so you need to be able to control the full weight of the bow). Like recurves, compounds can be shot with or without stabilisers and sights. You can read Archery GB’s detailed explanation of the various bow styles in the Rules of Shooting.

So is tribalism in archery a big thing? Not in our club, it seems. Even those firmly attached to their preferred style have chosen it for personal or practical, not ideological, reasons, and everybody I spoke to expressed an interest in learning about the choices of others. Archers, it seems, are curious folk. In a good way.

But since this is my blog post and I’m a traditionalist, I’m going to end with YouTube archer NUSensei’s fine demonstration of the difference between freestyle and traditional shooting. The defence rests (on the arrow shelf).

Ask the Experts : What’s the Difference Between a ‘Recurve’ Bow and a ‘Traditional’ Bow?

So, we’ve decided to move our occasional “Ask the Expert” series away from facebook and onto our blog. Mainly because our experts (our instructors) are chronically unable to write a short answer when asked anything about archery. Be warned if you’re at the club and you start a query with, “Quick question…” it might be a quick question but it’s usually a lengthy answer!

 

So, this “Ask the Experts” is from Roger (well done Roger!) and gives an account of the differences between Recurve Bows (as used in the modern Olympics), Longbows (think Agincourt, Robin Hood etc), Horsebows (the short ones with leather webbing around them that you sometimes see in the club) and finally a little bit on crossbows. Please do add any other “Ask the Experts” questions in the comments below – we love talking bows and arrows!

 

Over to Roger :

 

“The difference between a modern recurve bow, a long bow and a horse bow is fundamentally one of curves and materials.

 

When unstrung an English (or Welsh or Scottish) long bow was – and is – a straight stave (wooden pole) with a D shaped cross section where the flat part faces away from the archer. They are typically 3” longer than the archer is tall.  When strung, the bow takes a regular uniform curve towards the archer. They were traditionally made either from using several layers of different woods laminated together, or from a single stave of wood (self-bows). Laminated bows are made using woods that favour compression on the belly of the bow (the side that faces the archer), and woods that stretch well on the back of the bow (the side that faces the target). Self-bows tend to be slower and weaker although self bows made of yew or osage orange can be stronger as it is possible to find differing qualities of compression and tensional strength in a single stave, providing the same benefits as a laminated bow. The advantage of the long bow design is that it can be made very strong and can be tensioned to very high draw weights. In some cases these bows can reach over 180lb in draw weight (usually known as war-bows) – this allowed bowyers to manufacture bows that were capable of shooting an arrow through medieval plate armour at ranges as far as fifty yards or more.

 

The modern recurve bow is so called because the limb-tips of the bow ‘re-curve’ back away Recurve Bow in Clubfrom the archer after the usual longbow curve. They usually have a static (unbending) riser and curved limbs. They also have a window cut into the bow to allow the arrow to take a straighter path through the bow. The window helps with accuracy as it allows the use of a stiffer arrow that can fly straighter than those released from a traditional bow where the arrow must bend itself back around the bow as its released in order to reach the target. The rationale behind the limbs “re-curving” away from the archer at the tips is so that the very ends of the limbs can be accelerated faster than the rest of the limb – this results in energy being transferred more efficiently. Ultimately this results in faster arrow speeds and improved accuracy on the target. Modern recurve bows are now typically fitted with various accessories such as artificial sights, stabilisers and vibration dampers to provide a more consistent shot.

 

The horse bow or reflex bow is the original recurve bow. They were common in Eastern European countries, the Middle East and throughout Asia and parts of Africa in pre-gunpowder days. They are characterised by their short length and exceptionally recurved limbs. When unstrung a traditional horse bow will curve away from the archer forming a complete C shape, but in some instances are so flexible that the limb tips almost touch forming an O shape. Their short profile made them highly successful as hunting bows (as they’re more manouverable than longer bows). They were originally made of wood laminated with horn and animal sinew although today they may be made with synthetic materials which make the bow cheaper to make and easier to use.

 

Finally, while we’re thinking about traditional bows, a crossbow can be loosely described as a Crossbowshort bow that is allowed to lie horizontally on a stock from which position it can have an arrow loaded and released using a trigger mechanism in a similar configuration to a rifle. The main advantage of a crossbow as a weapon is that once the string is drawn back it can be locked into place until the trigger is pulled. This allows the weapon to be loaded without being pointed at the target and without requiring any extra energy to be held at full draw for extended periods of time. Crossbows typically have much higher draw weights as the hold is done mechanically. Drawing or ‘cocking’ the bow can also be achieved with mechanical assistance by using a cocking aid. This means that bows over 100lb may be loaded with the aid of a winch by a single person. Cross bow limb design covers most types of bow shape and materials ranging from un-recurved basic wood through reflexed horn and sinew, to space-age material and radical modern design.”

As well as Target Archery there are many other disciplines that use both / all types of bows. You can get involved in everything from clout shooting, Archery Tag, field archery, bowfishing and the curiously named ‘Popinjay’ shoots… but what they all are will be for another post…!

As always, comments and questions are welcomed and suggestions for other “Ask the Experts” are especially useful!

Pranava : A new bow comes with new challenges

I finally bought a bow! My very own and very first so I thought I’d share the experience. 
I first started shooting in October 2012. I contemplated buying a bow in December but just before I planned to go shopping I went on vacation. When I got back I felt a bit like I was starting all over again. After a couple more useful months of practice (in February 2013), I realised that I was still shooting the 18lb club traIning bow. As I’d been practicing for around 5 months at this point I felt that I could probably manage something a little heavier. So each week I pushed myself a little and in three sessions I moved from 18 to 26lb (still using 2020 Archery bows)!
At the same time as I was increasing the poundage of the bow I started to gather information about equipment to try and make myself look like a knowledgeable buyer and mask (at least some of) my ignorance. So, on a sunny Saturday in March I set off to my nearest archery shop. A number of people had suggested that I should try out different risers so this was my plan. However, once I got to the store I discovered that there were only two risers within my budget (having a budget makes life far simpler). 
The first riser that I tried was pretty awesome, and felt much heavier than the wooden club bow. By the time I tried the second one I was super tired from practicing with the first so it seemed heavier – despite the sales girl insisting that it was in fact lighter than the previous one. Even with the extra weight I thought that the second bow was pretty awesome as well! I basically couldn’t tell the difference at all. Except that the more expensive one was prettier to look at. I thought for a bit… and then thought a bit more… and then decided to buy the pretty one! 
So I ended up with a beautiful red Hoyt Horizon riser and 26lb SF Premium limbs to go with it. I did buy an entire kit, mostly going for the cheaper options where possible. In total I came out with the bow plus 8 Jazz arrows with red/white fletchings, a basic sight, bow-stand, quiver, arm guard, finger tab, arrow puller and bow-stringer. I also bought a backpack as I can’t possibly carry it all without one. Most people told me that the whole thing would take about 3 hours, but I reckon that I did it in only about 30mins! 
I was really eager to try it the next day, but as always seems to happen when I get very excited about something, bad luck followed and I woke up with flu. I had to wait an entire week before I could use my new kit. I turned up to the practice session at my usual time and found that It took me a good quarter of an hour just to fix everything together! I also made a good many mistakes as I did so and required a bit of help! Eventually I managed to get started and it then took me the next half of the session to nail down the sight marks. At this point I realised that shooting a club bow was a lot easier! 
My second attempt was much better. I set up my kit in roughly 10 minutes – and managed to do it completely on my own without help. I also learnt that there is an upper limb and a lower limb and that they are not interchangeable! Ahem. 
I’m now gradually getting to the point where I feel like the bow is right for me and its starting to feel like mine. Just as important as this is learning how to take care of it properly and – easier this one – learning to love it!
If you’re interested in taking the same course that Pranava did she was on the Fast Track Archery course – these courses run throughout the year and cost only £95. http://www.2020archery.co.uk/lessons-courses-7/Weekend-Beginners-Course

Dan – Traditional Bows : a Beginner’s Guide to Wooden Longbows

I got my first traditional bow last year and I was happily hooked soon thereafter. Even if I am wielding something that is more usually found in the gloomier regions of the Amazon Rainforest in an indoor hall near London Bridge it’s still rather a lot of fun! I soon decided to look into buying something better. What followed were many weeks trawling through the internet looking at random bits of tree and talking to some spectacular beards, and as such I thought it might be worth passing on some useful little tips which I picked up. 

Modern traditional bows are an oxymoron as they are normally made up of 2 or 3 layers of wood called laminates. This is because different parts of the bow require different technical properties, specifically the ability to withstand compression or tension, and it’s impossible for one type of wood to do both equally well. Laminate bows therefore utilise woods with different types of properties in different parts of the bow which makes them better but more expensive than single piece self-bows.

Your bowyer will be able to give you detailed expert advice on the best types of wood to use and different bowyers prefer different types of wood. The following however is a good starter for 10, regardless of whether you go for an off-the-shelf bow or a more tailored one.

Bellywood. The belly of the bow is the part of the bow which is closest to the archer, and requires a wood which is capable of withstanding compression. The most common bellywood is Lemonwood which is cheap to use and found in most traditional bows. It won’t last more than a couple of years though before it starts to have a bend in it called string-follow, but it is excellent for a first traditional bow. [NB according to many bowyers, string-follow actually improves the performance of a bow, so like wine your bow will improve with age!]

Other bellywoods include Ipe, Yew, Osage Orange and Putu Jumau. Each of these is excellent under compression making them ideal for the belly of a bow, if in doubt, go for the one whose colour you like best – a traditional bow can, and indeed should, be something beautiful.

Corewood. The core or middle of the bow is the foundation of the bow and is typically made of a very hard wood, indeed the harder the better. The most common are Purpleheart or Greenheart which are excellent corewoods and, because of their availability, they are cheap.

Other corewoods include Balau [“harder than the knockers of hell” as one chap colourfully described it], Ipe, Yew, Padauk, Bubinga, Snakewood and a whole host of other woods I have never heard of – as with bellywood if in doubt go with the one whose colour you like best. 

You will note that Yew and Ipe, and indeed several others, can be used as both core and belly woods, in such a case you would end up with a bi- as opposed to a tri-laminate bow. 

Backwood. The back of the bow is the part of the bow furthest from the archer and requires a wood which is capable of withstanding tension. By far the best backwood is Bamboo, which unfortunately is also the most expensive. If you are buying a tailored bow, it is worth sacrificing cost elsewhere in the bow to be able to have a Bamboo back. Hickory or Maple are also perfectly good choices for heavy (60lb’s or more) and lighter bows respectively.

Traditional bows come in a whole host of different types, shapes and sizes from delicate flat bows to 140lb warbows, each of which however will incorporate the ideas discussed above. Go on give it a go, you won’t regret it!

Josie: buying a bow

Buying a bow can seem like a daunting venture, but it really needn’t be if you follow a few simple rules.



[Please do look at comments for this post as this is a big topic with a lot of different opinions. This is Josie’s opinion and I’ve put (some of) my opinion in the comments – Heidi]

1. Know Your Budget

Obvious, perhaps, but the first key point and probably the most important. There’s little point lusting after the W&W Inno CXT if it’s way out of your price range. Don’t sell yourself short either: out of the whole setup, your limbs and riser are the thing to spend the most money on and really get right. Peripherals can be upgraded much more easily at a later date. The start-up gear will not be cheap. If you can, save up for a little while beforehand to give yourself a more generous budget. It will make a big difference in the long run.

2. Make a Kit List

Josie’s bow! 

The first purchase will be complicated and it’s easy to forget little things that may not seem important. For instance, if you’re buying a bow then you will need a stringer, an arm guard, a finger tab and bow stand. None of these require massive investment, the most basic models will do (though the finger tab perhaps not so – ask for advice on tabs and try some at the club. They need to feel right!). Make savings where you can. You don’t “need” to buy an expensive sight, clicker and long rod immediately. You can also get away without a quiver for a while; there are floor quivers at the club you can use. A bow square is a very useful thing to have (again, doesn’t have to be an expensive one). If you buy your bow at a shop they will probably fit the nock points for you. If they don’t, you’ll need one of these! Remember you’ll need nock points as well. Check that your riser comes with the necessary allen keys or you may need to invest in a set – hardware shops are often cheapest but check they include the right sizes for your bow.

3. Try Before You Buy.

This is vital. Every bow acts differently with different archers and it’s crucial to buy a bow that matches you. A well-matched bow is a seamless extension of the archer. As your first bow, anything other than a wooden bow will probably feel weird, but some will feel better than others. The right bow should feel comfortable in your hand and quite strong: if it’s too easy to draw you will grow out of it very quickly, too heavy and you won’t be able to shoot with it. Try some of the bows on the shooting line first of all (ask beforehand of course!), then it’s a good idea to visit an archery supplier. There are several archery suppliers around the UK, though none in central London. Familiarise yourself with what stock they carry and have an idea what you would like to try. Before you visit, give them a call to check they have what you want to try in stock! If they are low on stock they will likely hold something back for you. Check when would be a good time to visit – if you turn up unannounced at a busy time they may not have enough staff free to give you the time and attention you need. Put half a day aside for this: it will be time well spent – this is the first step along the archery trail so it should be sound. A good bow will make a massive difference not only to your shooting but also your confidence. It could be the difference between deciding it isn’t really for you or becoming an archery lifer. I’d advise against buying second-hand from eBay unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re getting. If something is disturbingly cheap there’s usually a reason for it!


4. Get The Right Arrows

Get properly measured for arrows and match them to your bow poundage and draw length. If you buy your bow at a shop they’ll probably go through this anyway. Non-matched arrows will not fly properly and will knock your confidence. Get good arrows but be aware you will probably need to upgrade them when you increase poundage which could be as little as 6 months down the line. It isn’t worth spending £300+ on X10 ProTours unless you really have a limitless budget! The 2020 coaches will offer advice if you’re not sure what would be best.

5. Don’t Forget The Case!

If you shoot barebow and don’t want to carry much around you can probably get away with a lightweight carry case. It’s a good place to start if your kit list is small and it won’t set you back much. If your budget is more generous and you plan to get lots of bits for your bow, have a look at what else is available. Good-quality archery backpacks are expensive so have a look on eBay in case there’s a bargain to be found. Sometimes it can be possible to use a non-archery bag, but bear in mind that these are not tailor-made for a bow so will not provide all the support (and pockets) you need. Your case offers storage, protection and portability: a full archery starter kit will cost a fair bit so show it the respect it deserves and keep it safe.

Well, I think that about covers it for now. Happy bow hunting!