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The Ultimate Archery Equipment Guide for Beginners: Bows

Okay, so this is not the first time I have written an equipment guide for my archery students. It is however the first time I have endeavoured to write The Ultimate Archery Equipment Guide for Beginners!

And by that I mean it will be the most complete guide I have ever made, covering every topic in annoying excruciating detail. And because of this factor, this will actually be a series of different posts. Today we are talking about bows.

Part 1. Finding a Good Starter Bow

Getting a decent starter recurve bow isn't that hard honestly, you just need to find a 3-piece recurve bow that is between $120 to $200 CDN, and there are plenty of recurve bows to choose from. They are very common style of bow.

The Samick Sage
The Samick Sage is a very common choice, and it typically sells for about $150 CDN. This is the same bow I got my wife years ago, so that tells you a bit about the fact that I trusted the brand and the model to be a good match for her.

There are other brands and models to choose from of course, so here is the rundown of a few other models worth looking at:

  • The Jandao - $120
  • The Jandao Junior - $100 (Youth Bow, meant for kids 14 or younger.)
  • The Martin Jaguar - $149
  • The Martin Sabre - $199
  • The PSE Razorback - $135
  • The Ragim Matrix - $130 (No warranty.)
  • The Ragim Wildcat - $130 (No warranty.)
  • The Samick Polaris - $120
  • The Samick Sage - $150

Note - Prices may change over time and prices will vary from store to store.

The real challenge of finding a good starter bow is finding one that is a good poundage (draw weight) for you to start with. Lighter is always better in this case, so most beginners really should start with a bow that is in the 18 to 25 lb range. (Children and youths should be looking at bows in the 10 to 18 lb range.)

And I cannot stress this enough, starting with a lower poundage will always be better for your form and accuracy. If you want to build muscle and have more power, then just get a 2nd pair of limbs (say 30, 35 or 40 lbs) and alternate between focusing on your form and building your strength.

Far too many beginners try to be macho about it and get a heavier bow, and then they discover over time how exhausting it is. Using a lighter bow is better for your endurance, and while strength does help, endurance matters more when it comes to building good archery form. Eventually the macho facade falls to the side and the beginner archer who picked the heavy bow ends up becoming discouraged by their poor accuracy and inability to survive what is essentially an endurance test. Then their bow ends up collecting dust in a closet and they rarely shoot.

Thus my advice to students is to always get the lighter bow when you are first starting out.

The beauty of the 3-piece recurve is that you can always go get stronger limbs later on and use them instead or alternate which set of limbs you are using.

What about 1-piece recurve bows? What about longbows or horsebows?

One piece recurve bows tend to be higher poundages. Thus they make a good bow for someone who is more intermediate or experienced, and thus have a better idea of what they are getting into.

I don't actually recommend longbows or horsebows to beginners. The issue is one of learning how to cant the longbow, which is an extra form and accuracy challenge that is harder for beginners to learn how to do. It is better for beginner archers to learn proper form and how to shoot using a recurve first, and then switch to a longbow or horsebows later on.

The other problem with longbows and horsebows is that are frequently sold in poundages that are 30 lbs or more. It can be rather difficult to find a longbow or horsebow that is only 18 to 25 lbs. Thus this is another reason why beginners should wait until they are more experienced before attempting to make the switch.

One last issue is that longbows / horsebows / 1-piece recurve bows is that they are often more expensive, typically $200 or more, which will put them out of the price range of the average beginner who needs to also buy arrows, arrowheads, arrowrest, nock bead, bowstringer, archery glove or tab, bracer/arm-guard, dampeners, quiver, and anything else they need/desire. eg. Whistling arrows is clearly a desire and not a need. Suddenly they have spent $350 to $400 on archery equipment. If you raise the price of the bow and you are trying to stay within a beginner's budget, well then you can't spend $300 to $400 on the bow and expect to stay under budget when it comes time to buy everything else you need.

Shopping Tip - If you are in Toronto and looking for longbows, I recommend Gary's shop "Basically Bows". Expect to be spending closer to $500 to $600 to get everything you need however, as like I said, longbows are typically more expensive. Again, you really should start with something like a 3-piece recurve, which is why it is a good thing Gary also sells those.

What about compound bows?

If you are thinking about going the compound route there are two compounds bows that I recommend for beginners:

  • The Bear Cruzer (shown left below)
  • The Diamond Infinite Edge (shown right below)

So the reasons why I recommend the Bear Cruzer and Diamond Infinite Edge to beginners is because of multiple factors:

  1. They are both highly adjustable, with poundages ranging from 5 lbs to 70 lbs.
  2. They also have adjustable draw lengths.
  3. They can be adjusted without any need for a bow press.
  4. Both are reasonably priced.
  5. Both offer speeds of over 310 FPS.
  6. Both are great for practicing, bowfishing and bowhunting.
  7. Both are marketed as the first and last compound bow you will ever need.
  8. Both offer great value for money.
Now I should note that both Bear and Diamond have come out with different variations of these models over the past few years, making versions with different features, are faster, have the word "Pro" in the name, but they are more or less the same bow. They are just modifying the basic design to intrigue the interest of potential customers.

Another issue here is price. Compound bows can get very expensive, so the budget for someone getting into compound archery needs to be higher than someone getting into recurves. Instead of a budget of $350 to $400 for recurve equipment, expect to be spending closer to $600 to $1000 CDN to get everything you need to practice compound archery.

Hot Tip - Don't be one of those silly people who go and spend $2000 on a fancy compound bow you don't even know how to shoot and then forget to buy a case for transporting it, arrows, arrowheads, a full set of imperial allen keys, an arrowrest, a sight, a mechanical release, bracer/arm-guard, a D-loop for the bowstring...

Are there other styles of bows not listed here?

Of course there is, but none that I would recommend for beginners. Here is a list of examples:

  • Reflex Bows
  • Deflex Bows
  • Decurve Bows
  • Olympic Recurve Bows
  • Penobscot-style Longbows
  • Yumi Bows
  • Double-limb Recurve Bows
  • Cable-backed Bows
  • Scorpion (Spring Powered) Bows 
  • Frankenbows
  • DIY Stickbows or Self Bows
  • Pyramid Bows
  • Propeller Bows
  • Prehistoric Replica Bows

Seriously, learn how to shoot a normal recurve bow before even touching one of those. Likewise, learn how to shoot a longbow before trying a Penobscot-style longbow.

To use a car analogy, you don't go and buy a Bugatti Veyron (or any other kind of hypercar) when you are 16 years old and first learning how to drive. It is too much car for a beginner. Start slowly with something easier.

The same concept applies to archery. Buy a simple bow that is affordable. Learn how to shoot that bow really well. There will be plenty of time later to get a fancier / more exotic bow.

If you really want to spend more money, spend it on getting a few archery lessons instead. $170 CDN to get 3 archery lessons with an experienced archery instructor is well worth it when you consider how much you will fast track your learning process (and save yourself from breaking/losing a lot of arrows).

Happy Shooting!

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