Buying Your First Bow
One of the most frequent questions we get asked by people who are on one of our beginners courses is "which bow should I buy?". This though is perhaps the wrong question to ask and instead it should be "when should I buy my first bow?"
Whilst it is perfectly understandable to be excited about your new sport, it would be a mistake to rush out and buy a bow too early as this can result in having to replace parts earlier than you would otherwise need and/or buying something that may either cause you injury or impair your development and enjoyment of the sport.
For this reason we strongly suggest that our members make use of the clubs bow loan scheme. For a deposit of £50 we will loan you one of our beginners bows, a sight, tab, arm guard and a set of arrows. When you return the bow, the deposit will be refunded to you.
By using the club bows you will be able to work on developing your form, build your strength all of which will not only give you a better understanding of what you actually need but also potentially mean you can draw heavier bows thus saving you from replacing your equipment too soon.
We would normally recommend that a beginner starts with a recurve bow hence this article will focus on that. Whilst compound bows are gaining popularity in this country recurve is still the dominant discipline and is potentially cheaper, easier and safer for a beginner to start with.
So you've decided, or one of the club coaches has advised you, that it's now time to buy your own bow. What should you buy?
This is by no means a definitive guide. The single most important thing to remember when buying a bow is that it has to be 'right' for you. What is right for you may not be right for someone else and just because a particular bow may not be listed here doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy it.
As you will no doubt have seen the price of bows vary widely but keep in mind that, as a beginner, it is likely that you will replace most parts of your bow in the first couple of years depending on how often you shoot and how quickly you pick things up.
They come in different sizes, different colours are made by different companies and have different limb fittings. To make life easier for you we would advise that you buy a riser that uses ILF (International Limb Fitting). In theory any ILF limb will fit any ILF riser regardless of make. ILF is by far the most common fitting and gives you maximum choice of limbs. The choice of riser is very much down to feel. A £600 riser won't shoot as well as a £200 riser if it feels uncomfortable to you. Nor is an £600 riser necasarily more acurate than a £200 one. A more expensive riser may however have tuning/adjustment capabilities that the most basic risers don't have but for a beginner such adjustments can cause more confusion than benefit in the early stages.
Is one manufacturer better than another?
Yes.....and no. The biggest names in recurve bows are probably Hoyt and Win & Win (W&W) but that's not to say that they are the best, at least not at the beginners end of the market. The cheapest W&W riser is more money than a beginner would typically be prepared to pay but that doesn't mean you should rush out and buy a Hoyt either. One particular manufacturer who make some great risers for beginners and intermediates is Sebastian Flute (SF) In some ways these risers are argualbly better than the entry level Hoyt. Other brands that do beginner risers are Cartel and Kap but there are many others.
Models that we would suggest at worthy of consideerationare (in no particular order):
WINS Axion (around £110)
WINS Premium (around £150)
WINS Forged Elite (around £240)
Hoyt Excel (around £110)
Hoyt Horizon (around £150)
(prices and models correct 2017)
What size should you buy? The size of a recurve bow is determined by the size of the riser and the length of the limbs. The most common size is a 68" bow which typically would mean a 25" riser with medium limbs. However determining what size bow you need is an important step to get right with many variable and so you should really speak to a coach about it or someone at the shop.
How much should you spend?
There is no real way of answering this question. Our advise is that you spend as much as you are prepared to spend but keep in mind that you may still replace it in the first couple of years. The more you spend now the longer you might be able to keep it but far more important than price is how it feels to you. Don't spend £250 on a riser if it feels uncomfortable when a £100 model feels better.
Again this is something you will need to speak to a coach about or the shop as they come in different sizes, different weights, made of different materials and made by different companies.
What size do I need?
The size limb (and therefore the size of riser) you should buy will be determined by your draw length. The average person will shoot a 68" bow meaning that on a 25" riser they need Medium length limbs. Getting the correct bow size is important as if you shoot one that's the wrong size you won't be able to get the most energy from the limbs or you'll be putting too much energy into them. If your draw length is between 27"-29" you will probably need a 68" bow and therefore medium limbs.
What poundage should I buy?
This is why we suggest using the club bows to begin with. For most people archery uses muscles that they don't use that much in every day life, therefore it takes time to develop them. If you buy limbs that are too heavy you are 'over bowed' and could do yourself an injury and you'll find it very hard to be accurate. If you buy limbs that are too light you are 'under bowed' and won't develop the muscles needed or be able to reach the distances you want. By the time most beginners come to buy their first bow most will be looking to buy limbs between 24lb - 32lb but for some people 24lb will be too much and 32lb too light. Only you know how easy or hard it is to draw so ultimately it's got to be something that you feel comfortable with.
What make/model should I buy?
Limbs are made of all different types of materials such as wood, foam, carbon and often limbs will use a combination of these materials. The main difference in these materials is their speed. The faster they spring back the faster the arrow flies. As a beginner you are going to be increasing your draw weight so you will almost certainly replace them in the first year. Therefore don't spend a lot. Models we would suggest are worth consideration are:
SF Premium Fibre (around £60)
KAP Windstorm 1 (around £60)
WNS Axiom (around £70)
WNS Premium Alpha (around £95)
(prices and models correct 2017)
Assuming you aren't shooting bare bow, you'll need a sight. There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to buying your first sight and both are equally valid. 1. Buy cheap and replace sooner. 2. Buy more expensive and replace later, if at all. The reason why both are valid can be best demonstrated by highlighting the main disadvantages of both types of sight.
Cheap Sight Disadvantages:
1. They shake themselves loose frequently.
2. They are harder to adjust quickly and finely.
Expensive Sight Disadvantages:
1. They can cost 10x as much as a cheap one.
2. They offer a level of fine adjustment that a beginner won't make use of for several months.
To be frank all a beginner needs from a sight to begin with is a fixed reference point. On that basis a pin stuck in some tape on the riser does the job (not recommended long term of course). You do want something though that you can record your sight marks with, but any sight can do that.
It's up to you how much you want to spend but models we believe are worth considering are:
Cartel Midi Extension (around £10)
SF Axiom (around £25)
Decut 120 (around £40)
SF Velocity Carbon (around £75)
(prices and models correct 2017)
You can spend a lot more than that the Shibuya Ultima RC Carbon is a whopping £235 but you certainly don't need to spend anywhere near that as a beginner.
Arrows are obviously an important piece of equipement that you will need. However it is important to get the right length and spine (thickness/strength) of arrow and that is determined by your bow and draw length. Therefore you should talk to a coach or the shop before making a purchase.
There are dozens of different types of arrows made from a range of materials but as a beginner we would definitely suggest you buy aluminium arrows as these are cheap to replace and perfectly good enough.
Typically most shops tend to supply beginners with Easton Jazz or Easton Blues and these are available in sets of 8 or 12 as well as individually. 8 arrows is enough to begin with, you will probably bend and loose some over time but they can be easily replaced.
Other equipment you will need will be a tab, arm guard, string, stand and quiver. You may also wish to consider buying a case/rucksack in which to transport and store all your equipment.
A Tab is a very personal piece of equipment and often over looked as just a finger protector. Its more than that as it's one of only 2 points of contact you have with your bow. To begin with a tab is just a piece of leather but when you buy your first bow you will probably need something better as the heavier draw weights may hurt your fingers if you shoot with the cheap single layered leather tabs. The most important thing is that you get one that fits correctly. Too small and your fingers won't be protected, too big and the leather will catch on the string spoiling your shot. Speak to the shop to get the right size. Tabs come in all manner of shapes and sizes and prices. You don't need to spend a fortune. What you are getting in the more expensive tabs is a better quality leather which allows the string to slip off more easily, more adjustments and the name. We would advise getting something with a finger spacer to prevent you pinching your arrows off the string but beyond that it's done to personal preference, feel and budget.
When it comes to the string just ask the shop to provide you with one but ask them to set the bow up as well. They should then check to make sure that the brace height and nocking point height are correct which may require making some minor adjustments to the string (adding or removing twists). It's a lot easier for you if they do it first but it is something you will need to learn to check and do for yourself as well.
Your quiver, stand and arm guard are all just personal preferences.
After all that, enjoy your archery!