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What is a good bow for an archery beginner?

Q

"What is a good bow for a beginner who is new to archery?"

A

I don't need to add a name to the above quote because I have been asked the same question so many times in the last 5-6 years that I have been teaching archery in Toronto that it doesn't really need a name to go with the quote.

For beginners I recommend they start learning on a recurve bow, but what brand? What model? How many pounds should the the draw weight be? Are they getting a right handed or left handed bow?

#1. Eye Dominance

Lets start with right vs left hand issue, as that is arguably the most important question. Start by taking the Eye Dominance Test to determine whether you are right or left eye dominant. For best results get an archery instructor to help administer the Eye Dominance Test to make sure you are doing the test properly.

Don't worry about whether you are right or left handed, you don't use your hands to aim in archery - you use your eyes.

If you are right eye dominant you need a right handed bow. You will hold the bow in your left hand and pull it with your right hand, back to an anchor spot beneath your right eye.

If you are left eye dominant you need a left handed bow. You will hold the bow in your right hand and pull it with your left hand, back to an anchor spot beneath your left eye.

Thus if you go into a store or order online, you need to make sure the bow you are buying suits your dominant eye. So for example if you go into a store and they only have right handed bows available and all the left handed bows are sold out then you should WAIT. Order a bow that is suitable for you. Don't waste your time or money buying a bow that doesn't suit you.

#2. Draw Weight

You cannot pull a bow that is too powerful for you to pull properly. You need to be able to pull the bow string back to your mouth with your bow arm fully extended and your chest facing 90 degrees away from where you are aiming. If you cannot pull it back to Full Draw and hold it steady then that bow is too powerful for you.

If you pull it back and it feels too easy then the bow is likely too light for you. Ideally you want a bow that is a little bit of a challenge. Not too light and not too heavy of a draw. Finding the right amount can sometimes be tricky, but that is something an archery instructor can help you with. An experienced archery instructor can often just look at a person and will be able to make an educated guess as to an amount that will be a good draw weight for that person.

For most beginners I typically recommend a draw weight between 16 lbs and 30 lbs, depending on the physical stature and strength of the person. Now if you are reading this and thinking "I'm a big guy, I can handle 30 lbs" then you probably should be using 24 or 25 lbs instead. Overconfidence when buying your first bow often leads to people going into a store and the next thing you know you purchased a 50 lb bow you can barely pull (let alone hold steady) and will end up being unusable to you.

#3. Brand and Model Type

There are many companies available out there. For beginners I recommend the following brands and models below. (Prices listed in parentheses are in Canadian Dollars, adjusted for the exchange rate as of April 2015.)

Bear Grizzly ($425), Super Grizzly ($600) or Takedown ($1050)
Jandao ($120)
Martin Jaguar ($200), Sabre ($250) or Panther ($300)
PSE Razorback ($135)
Samick Polaris ($130), Sage ($150) or Red Stag Takedown ($240)

So for example if you are looking to get into archery on a budget, a 20 lb Jandao or 24 lb Jandao might be just what you need. If you want something prettier / more powerful, get a 25 lb or 30 lb Samick Sage. If you want something even prettier get a Samick Red Stag Takedown. If you want something that is higher end in terms of beauty, quality and durability, get a Bear Grizzly or one of its more expensive relatives.

So for example the bow shown on the right here is a Samick Sage, which comes in a minimum 25 lbs - which means that someone seeking to use that bow properly should be strong enough to be able to pull and hold it steady, otherwise they are just wasting their money.

Before buying anything however you should probably get some archery lessons first, just to make sure archery is the right sport for you. Your archery instructor will also be able to make equipment recommendations so that you are getting the right arrows for your bow, a good arrow rest, and everything else you need. eg. If you are buying a recurve bow you will want a Bow Stringer and you will need to learn how to string a bow properly.

If you want to get into archery, but you want to get into it very frugally check out my past post on DIY Archery Equipment on a Frugal Budget.

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