So, you’ve decided that you like archery and want to buy your first bow. That’s great! Buying your first bow often creates a mix of excitement, nervousness, and overwhelm in archers who are just getting started. You want to be sure you make the right choice and this can seem challenging with so many brands and models to choose from.
When you’re ready to buy your first bow, know there’s a sequence to follow in order to find the right bow. This process requires you to understand the different bow types and bow styles available, as well as determine your draw weight and draw length before buying a bow. Following this process makes it much easier for you to buy the right bow from the start.
To begin, simply follow the guidelines below to find the right bow for you.
Choose Your First Bow Type
Which bow is right for me? This is the first question you should ask yourself when buying your first bow. Choosing a bow is really all about your preferences, and every archer has their own. Buying a bow requires you to first choose a type of bow that works for you. Keep in mind that you want to buy a quality bow that performs well as you advance as an archer. Also know that you can always take archery lessons before buying your first bow, so don’t feel rushed to make a decision.
There are four main types of bows, with each bow type offering its own unique advantages. Well cover three of them here:
Longbows have a very simple design and are fun to shoot. They’re also the most challenging. These types of bows are easy to spot by their design. They are usually made of wood and the limbs arc gracefully throughout the entire shooting process. This bow choice is often chosen by new archers who are more interested in traditional style archery than modern archery (think – Robin Hood).
Why choose a longbow? If classical looks, historical appeal, and quiet shooting is of interest to you, then a longbow just may be the right choice for you.
Recurve bows are similar to longbows but have one distinct difference. Their limbs arc back like longbows, but curve forward towards the target at the tips. This design allows for faster speeds when compared to longbows. Recurve bows also tend to draw more smoothly than longbows, although well designed longbows can be exceptionally smooth.
Why choose a recurve? Recurves are the most popular traditional bow because they are simple to use, fast, and easy to transport. We have an entire article dedicated to recurve archery if you’d like to learn more about it.
Compound bows use the power of leverage to store more energy using cables and cams. This system of pulleys and cams offers a noticeable mechanical advantage, allowing you to shoot faster compared to longbows or recurves. Compound bows also feature a “let-off”. Pulling a compound bow may be difficult at first, but a let off allows you to hold much less weight at full draw.
Why choose compound archery? Compound bows are more powerful, easier to hold at full draw, aim, and shoot, making them a much more efficient bow choice.
If you already have an idea of the type of bow you want, great! You now need to choose your style. If you’re not quite sure which bow type is ideal for you, you can visit your local archery shop to try out all three different types of bows. Once you’ve decided on a bow, you can select a style that works best for you.
Choose Your First Bow Style
Once you have chosen your bow type, it’s time to choose your archery style. There are a lot of options available and each has their advantages and disadvantages. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll lump them into two main categories, traditional and modern archery.
Traditional archery is a simple concept – no sights, stabilizers, or extra accessories, just the basics. Traditional archery is typically performed with recurve bows and longbows. Technically, you could shoot a compound with minimal accessories as well, but it’s not common. Traditional bows tend to be made mostly using traditional materials, like wood. Examples of traditional style accessories include an arrow rest, string silencers, a finger tab, and a quiver.
Modern archery uses cutting edge technology to increase accuracy. While most people think a compound bow is the only choice, recurve is still an option! In fact, shooting a modern recurve is considered to be more challenging than a compound. Materials used include fiberglass, carbon, aluminum or magnesium alloy, and/or wood. Examples of modern archery accessories include sights, peep sights, stabilizers, rests, release aids, wrist slings, and quivers among others.
So, when deciding between traditional or modern archery, take into account your desire for modern features. If you enjoy the historical aspect of archery, choose traditional archery. If you like cutting edge technology and prefer precision, choose modern archery.
Determine Your Handedness
Are you left or right-handed? Your answer helps to determine whether you need a right-handed or left-handed bow. Even though it would seem to make sense that if your right hand is your dominant hand you need to buy a right-handed bow, this isn’t always the case. You might shoot better by choosing a bow that matches your dominant eye. To check your eye dominance simply focus on an object 30 feet away, extend your arms, make a small circle using your hands, focus the circle on the object using both eyes, then start moving your hands back slowly while staying focused on the object. Your hands will gravitate towards your dominant eye. There’s some debate on this, but many say it’s better to stick with your dominant eye and change your handedness if necessary.
Determine Your Draw Length
Draw length is one of the most important measurements when buying your first bow. It determines what size bow you need to shoot comfortably as the wrong size can be the source of many issues. This measurement is based off your arm length and can be measured in a number of ways. We have an entire article about how to measure draw length (with calculator), but here’s a quick reference.
The easiest method is to simply measure your armspan from the middle finger of one hand, to the middle finger of your other hand. Then, take this number and divide by 2.5. This number provides a close estimate of your draw length and can be used when searching for a bow that fits you.
Determine Your Draw Weight
Draw weight is the second most important factor to consider. Draw weight is the force necessary to draw back a bow to full draw. Your bow type, age, and gender all help to indicate your ideal draw weight. It’s important not to choose a draw weight that is too high because it will be difficult to shoot and you may hurt yourself in the process. It’s best to start with less draw weight and increase the poundage as you grow stronger. When shooting a recurve or compound, draw weight is determined at a 28in draw. So, if your draw length is longer you’ll shoot more poundage and vice versa for a shorter draw length.
If you are struggling to know the right draw weight for you, choose something lighter or go to your local archery shop to see what works best for you. For reference, there’s an entire article dedicated to finding your draw weight if you want to know more information.
Where To Buy Your First Bow
Now, you must determine where you’re going to buy your first bow. This is one of the most important decisions you make as there are advantages and disadvantages that come with each option.
Buying your first bow at a local archery shop is a great idea when purchasing your very first bow. Archery shops tend to be the best option if you’re looking to receive the professional assistance necessary to ensure you’re making all of the right choices as buying a bow at an archery shop gives you access to experienced staff as well as professionally trained sales people. Most people working at an archery shop can guide you in making a solid purchase decision.
If you decide to buy at your local archery shop, give yourself a few hours to really benefit from the personal attention. Also, be sure to dress appropriately for shooting, and don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions! The more you learn, the better.
Buying a bow online is easier than ever. Before deciding to buy a bow online, first make sure you have all of your bow buying criteria already figured out, including your measurements. Checking out top online shops like eBay, Amazon, as well as other credible online stores is all worth looking into. Only do business with sellers who are credible and/or have high ratings.
You can also check your local listings, like craigslist, etc., to see if any archers in your area are selling their used equipment. You can also buy a used bow from people who are looking to sell old equipment at the archery range. Visiting one or more local big box stores is also an option as long as the sales staff is knowledgeable. Just be sure you know exactly what you’re getting before you commit to buying.
There are many archery accessories for you to choose from nowadays. Know that your chosen bow style determines which archery accessories you can use. Sights for aiming, finger tabs, releases, arrow rests, and stabilizers are common accessory choices for archers buying their first bows. You can decide to use as few or as many accessories as you want, or need, as it’s completely up to you! Here’s a quick reference to accessories you’ll commonly see out on the range.
- Release aid
- Arm guard
- Wrist/finger slings
- Peep sight
- Arrow rest
Now that we’ve covered all the considerations, you should be ready to buy your first bow! Remember that buying a bow that fits you is your main goal. You also need to decide whether you’re buying a used or new bow. As this is your first bow, you don’t want to go overboard on price, so do a little online research to give you an idea of prices beforehand. Don’t be pressured into buying the best option, you can always upgrade equipment later…because everyone does eventually.
Every archer remembers buying their very first bow. Now that you know the process of buying a new bow, you can relax, have fun, and enjoy your new hobby as an archer!