GETTING STARTED IN ARCHERY – Which bow should I buy?

Maybe you want to be a competitor going around the world and shooting in tournaments.


2018 summer Olympics                                          photo attributed to:Jorge Mello

Maybe you have dreams of stealthily gliding through the wilderness hoping to arrow a big bull elk.

Photo by Te178407

Sometimes you just want to have fun with the kids watching them learn new skills.

Whatever your goals, you will need a minimum amount of archery gear to get started.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the tons of equipment available out there. As a beginner you only need to focus on what you absolutely need to begin your pursuit of the archery journey. You will still have to do some research to get what you really want in order to get started.


If you are lucky, there may be an archery range near you where you can rent equipment and take a couple of lessons before you decide to buy. If your budget is real tight,  try looking in pawn shops or swap meets for start up gear. Sometimes you can get real bargains. Just remember that used equipment can be gently used or extremely worn and terribly abused. It will be up to you to inspect the gear and see if you are willing to put up with that amount of wear and tear.

Do you know that your bow should be sized to you?  Do you have a short draw length or long?  Can you draw a heavy bow or do you need to start with something lighter in draw weight.  If you have an archery range in your area, give them a call and start asking questions.

Do they have instructors?  Can you rent equipment to get a chance to try this out?  If there is a big box sporting goods store in your city you can call them up and ask if they offer archery workshops or classes.  Ask if their archery department can help you figure some things out.
Don’t overlook the Library or the internet and check out archery magazines at the magazine rack.

I’m going to assume for the purposes of this article that you are new to archery and are looking for a little information. Hopefully, this information will help you decide which bow should I buy.

What kind of bow do you want to use? There are a lot of choices.


Maybe you like traditional bows or perhaps you want the top of the technology ladder in your bow. You might fall somewhere in between. Some bowmen don’t want a bunch of fancy or complicated bows and others want all of the bells and whistles. Let’s take a look at some examples.


Sometimes called self bows, they were carved from a straight piece of wood with notches on each end for the string. The self bow is simple and easily made.  They are probably very much like the first bows used by early man over 60,000 years ago. Yep, some archaeologists think the earliest bows were created and used that long ago. The self bow is usually shaped like a U when you draw it back.

Self bows have no sights, no arrow rest. The top finger of the shooters gripping hand became the arrow rest. These bows are usually not very powerful and shoot arrows a lot slower than modern bows, however, for thousands of years they helped humans survive. A lot of recreational archers and hunters enjoy the extra challenges presented when using these bows. They often carve the bow themselves just for fun.



Example of a Longbow  Photo attributed to Traumrune

They can be made from a single piece of wood or a laminate of different woods, leather and sinews.

Modern Long bows are often made of fiberglass and graphite and other composite laminates. Usually the long bow has an arrow rest carved into the grip area to help in aiming.  These bows are usually a little more powerful and shoot a little faster but the effort needed to draw the string back is also increased. Many archers like the idea of the long bow and take advantage of modern materials to make using them a little easier. A fiberglass bow can be made lighter than a wood bow and still be just as powerful


One of the greatest advancements in the bow was the development of the re-curve bow. The limbs are shorter, making it easier to use from horseback. the shorter length also made them easier to carry through dense woods while hunting.  The shape of the limbs curve back toward the archer and then at the tips of the limbs re-curve away from the archer.

photo attributed to Traumrune

The re-curve was also able to take advantage of laminate construction. A strong wood was glued or wrapped in sinew to combine with a flexible wood to make strong flexible bows that were less prone to breakage. They were shorter and more powerful than earlier bows plus the short bows didn’t interfere with horse mounted archers. The increase in power was remarkable and the Mongols and their leader, Genghis Khan, used the shorter more powerful bows to conquer and unite China.


are a big step up from anything before. Modern crossbows add pulleys, or wheels, to the limbs of the bow the effort needed to pull back the bow was reduced. The wheels are eccentric and once the bow is pulled past a certain point the pulling force required drops significantly.

You may start pulling the bow back needing fifty pounds of effort but as soon as the eccentric pulleys take effect you may be pulling as little as twenty-five pounds. It makes it a lot easier for you to hold back the string and aim your shot. If you have to hold the whole fifty pounds of pressure your arm will get tired very quickly and you may have to let off before you get your aim perfect. read this article I wrote called,  Recurve VS Compound Bow to help you choose a compound bow or recurve bow.

The crossbow is so named because it is shaped like a cross. It has a stock like a rifle and the limbs are horizontal to the ground instead of vertical like a regular bow.

Unlike other bows the crossbow had a trigger that held the string back instead of the archers arm strength. Also, the crossbow had a mechanical device that helped the archer pull back the bow string. With a lever system even the weaker soldier could draw back a hundred pound bow and with the trigger it would be held back until the archer fired.

The power of the crossbow changed the battle field almost as much as the advent of gun powder. More archers with more powerful weapons could attack at farther distances with much better accuracy.

A lot of modern hunters take advantage of the power and range of the crossbow. With modern lightweight technology combined with pulleys like those found on compound bows, modern crossbows are even more accessible. By using cocking levers and a trigger that doesn’t release until the archer pulls it, people with less upper body strength can join in the fun, especially children.


You can spend a lot of money or a little on your bow.  You can even rent equipment at some archery ranges. If you aren’t sure you can get started on your own ask around among your friends. Maybe they will be able to spend a little time helping you out.

There are all kinds of archery clubs around the country. You might consider calling them up and asking if they have someone to give you some lessons. You can even call an archery equipment supplier nearby and ask them if they know of resources to help you get started. If nothing else look up videos on you tube and give it a try.

The thing to remember is whether you are shooting targets for fun or hunting animals for food you have to practice with your bow to get good at it. Just buying a new fancy bow won’t make you a better archer. Practice is the key to success. Lots of Practice.

Have fun with it
Once you decide on what type of bow you want to buy and when you decide whether you will be primarily a hunter or a target shooter you can choose your specific bow and start choosing the rest of your equipment, such as arrows, arm guards, targets, quivers and releases.

Now that you know what kind of bow you might want to buy read my article on How To Select The Correct Arrows For Your New Bow

If you like this article be sure bookmark this website and come back once in a while.



  1. Hi Sam,
    A very comprehensive and descriptive site. I know absolutely nothing about archery but learnt a lot on your site. But as a complete newbie to this sport I would have liked you to go into some detail about “nock, fletchings, arrow shaft, tip insert, and tip or broad head” as i don’t know what they are or where. Your follow article explained a lot about arrows, weight, sharft size etc. …. but the nock and flecthings were a mystery to me. Great links (I haven’t used any in mine yet) great menu and i wish you all the success mate!

    • Hi Bobby.
      When you put the arrow on the string, the notch at the back of the arrow that goes on the string is called the nock. The fletchings are the vanes or feathers on the back of the arrow that help stabilize the arrow in flight.

      The arrow shaft is the long round hollow tube or wood stick that is the body of the arrow. The tip insert usually glues into the front of that long hollow tube on the opposite end from the nock. The tip insert is threaded to accept different broad heads, field tips or target tips. Tips are just the point of the arrow. The tips thread into the insert like a nut and a bolt. Hope this helps clarify things.

      Thanks for visiting my sight.


  2. Hello!!! I really enjoy this site and has actually got me interested in a new hobby to look into. I think your doing excellent and I look forward to the next visit!!!

    • Hi Amanda.
      Thank you for visiting my site. If you are a complete beginner You can google archery ranges and archery stores or archery pro-shops in your area to get a chance to go see what it is all about. A lot of stores and ranges offer lessons as well, so getting started is easy.


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