Article by Christian Monson
At first glance archery may seem like a relatively simple hobby. Just bows and arrows, right? But like anything, there’s a lot more to it than that.
If you’re just getting into archery, you want to get a bow that’ll help you learn the ins and outs. After that you can dive into the wonderful and elaborate world that surrounds one of humanity’s oldest sports.
Read up on the various kinds of bows and the different aspects of their construction. Once you know a little more about them, you can make an educated decision on which one is best to put you on a bullseye trajectory. Towards the end of the article, I give some specific recommendations about which bows are best to buy for beginners.
Types of bows
Modern archery includes three different types of bows. They all have advantages and disadvantages, so think about exactly what you want to do before choosing.
A recurve bow is the classic bow style you’re probably used to seeing in the media. “Recurve” refers to the fact that at the ends of the bow’s limbs, the bow suddenly curves away from the archer. This adds an extra spring that provides power without increasing the length of the bow.
Recurve bows are the only style currently used in the Olympics, so they’re popular with target shooters as well as hunters and beginners who want to work up to other bows.
Compound bows feature a pulley system or “cam” at the top of the limbs. If you remember simple machines from middle school, you know that this allows more energy to be stored in a much longer string all while requiring much less effort from the archer and creating a much more compact bow.
Compound bows shoot much faster and pack more power than other styles, so they’re mostly used by bow hunters who need accurate, lethal shots.
Longbows are the original bow humans have used since prehistory. As you can guess from the name, they’re large, sometimes as long as the archer himself, and shaped like the letter D. This makes them difficult to carry around and control. They’re not ideal for beginners. Experienced archers usually begin using them when they’re ready for a new challenge.
Features to consider
Draw weight refers to the resistance of the bow when you pull back on the string, or “draw.” More draw weight means more force and speed, but it also means the bow will be harder to aim and control. As a result, a beginner should go for a lower draw weight and build up to more powerful bows as they gain experience.
Your ideal draw-weight range is based on a few factors such as your sex, height and weight, and it will be different for each kind of bow. If you’re just starting out, use the chart below to find the suggested draw-weight range for your desired bow style and then look for a bow at the lower end of your range.
|Archer||Archer’s Weight||Recurve Suggested |
|Small child||31-45 kg (70-100 lbs)||10-15 lbs||15-25 lbs|
|Large child||45-59 kg (100-130 lbs)||15-25 lbs||25-35 lbs|
|Small woman||45-59 kg (100-130 lbs)||25-35 lbs||25-35 lbs|
|Average woman||59-73 kg (130-160 lbs)||25-35 lbs||30-40 lbs|
|Large woman||73+ kg (160+ lbs)||30-45 lbs||45-55 lbs|
|Small man||54-68 kg (120-150 lbs)||30-45 lbs||45-55 lbs|
|Average man||68-82 kg (150-180 lbs)||40-55 lbs||55-65 lbs|
|Large man||82+ kg (180+ lbs)||45-60 lbs||65-75 lbs|
Your draw length is the distance from the pivot point of the bow’s grip to where the arrow attaches to the string, or the “nock point,” when you’ve drawn the bow. You can easily find your draw length by measuring your arm span, the distance from one middle fingertip to the other with your arms outstretched at right angles, and then dividing it by 2.5.
Your draw length tells you the size of bow you want. Use this chart to find your ideal bow size as per the Archery Trade Association.
|Draw Length||Bow Size|
|14-17 in||48 in|
|17-19 in||54 in|
|19-21 in||58 in|
|21-23 in||60-62 in|
|24-27 in||64-66 in|
|27-29 in||66-68 in|
|29-31 in||68-70 in|
|31+ in||70-72 in|
Consider that when you hold a bow, you’ll be holding it with one outstretched arm. Even a light-weight bow can tire out your shoulder after a few minutes on the range. As a beginner you definitely want a lighter bow.
The weight of the bow is determined by a number of factors like its size and the material it’s made out of. First, figure out the specifics you need from your bow like size and draw weight. Then you can find the lightest bow in your price range.
Of course, the price is also something to keep in mind. You don’t want anything too expensive if you’re just learning how to shoot. For one thing, you’ll probably upgrade to more powerful and higher-quality bows as you gain experience.
What kind of bow is best for beginners?
When you put all these features together, you can begin to get a picture of the ideal bow for beginners. You probably want to go with a recurve bow with a draw weight in the low end of your suggested range. Also try to find a bow that’s the best mix of low cost and low weight.
Take a look at our recommendations for starter bows. They’re all quality bows that make it easy to start shooting. Just don’t forget to check and make sure the specs are right for you. You might want to read the reviews as well or look for videos of the bows in action. That way you can see if they can do exactly what you’re looking for.
- D&Q Archery Recurve Bow and Arrow Set
- Outdoor Recurve Bow and Arrow Set
- Outdoor Youth Recurve Bow and Arrow Set
USA / Rest of world
- PSE ARCHERY Pro Recurve Bow Package Set for Adults, Youth & Beginners
- Southland Archery Supply Spirit 62″ Beginner Youth Recurve Takedown Wooden Bow
- SinoArt 58″ Takedown Recurve Bow
A starter bow is just that–the first of many. Starter bows are great for learning accuracy and confidence, not to mention bow maintenance. Keep that in mind when making your purchase. You don’t need to get the best bow out there. It’s better to focus on features that help you develop your skills. If you end up the next Robin Hood, there will be a lot more bows in your future.