Archery: How To Choose Your First Bow?

by | Nov 16, 2022

So you’re interested in getting into archery. It may be because you’ve just watched all three Hunger Games movies, or you’ve binge-watched every season of Arrow. But how do you choose your first bow?

Whatever the reason, in order to shoot arrows, you’re going to need a bow. But with so many options, brands, categories, and types of bow, it’s hard to even know where to begin.

Choosing your first bow depends on four key factors:

  1. Purpose
  2. Price
  3. Progression
  4. Preference

Once you have identified what it is you want from the bow, how much you want to spend, how far you see yourself progressing with archery, and lastly, what type of archery appeals to you most, making that all-important choice will come much easier.

In this guide, we’ll break down exactly how to choose your first bow. We’ll eliminate a lot of the confusion and give you guidelines on how to make your first purchase, whether you choose to buy in person from a specialist archery store, or online, as well as eliminate some of the myths about buying bows.

How to Choose Your First Bow

Without doing any proper research into buying your first bow, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of unwanted expenses, equipment that you can’t use, and getting so frustrated with archery that the bow you just bought on Amazon winds up languishing in the wardrobe after two weeks.

You need to ask yourself some important questions first before you reach for the credit card.

4 Key Factors In Choosing Your First Bow

1. Purpose

What is it that you want from your bow? You may have been inspired by seeing the Olympic games and feel like you want to compete. Or do you see yourself as a bowhunter, or maybe a recreational target shooter?

Or it might just be the social side of interacting with members at your local club once or twice per week.

There are many different styles and models of bows for different activities. Some have been designed with competition in mind, while others have been designed for more practical purposes.

Whatever the reason may be, deciding what you want to get out of archery before you buy your first bow is going to be the most important step you take. Otherwise, it could end up derailing your goals before you even start.

2. Price

How much are you intending to spend?

An entry-level Recurve bow could cost around $200, which is relatively affordable, but an entry-level Compound bow could set you back as much as $400.

Then you’ll need to factor in the cost of arrows and a lot of other accessories. Generally speaking, the more expensive the bow, the more specialised it will be. The lower the cost, the more generalised the bow will be.

3. Progression

How long do you intend to keep the bow?

Bows are built to last, but people are always swapping out old bows for the latest features, or because they just have to have the latest model.

It’s not uncommon for beginners to skip the entry-level bows and go for something that can

If you’re getting into archery for the long term or even mid-term, then it’s best to buy a bow that you can grow with.

4. Preference

Is there a particular style of bow that you feel drawn to? First impressions and the look and feel of a bow are all good determining factors in choosing your first bow.

If you don’t want something too flashy or hi-tech, you can always go with something more traditional.

The most important thing to remember is that you are buying the bow that you want and not the bow that someone tells you to buy.

Types of Bows

Before you make the decision to buy the first bow you see on Amazon, you have to understand that there are many different types of bows and that all of them will have some appeal to different people:

1. Fibre Glass Bows

Also referred to as a youth bow, this basic and inexpensive bow is usually marketed to kids and teenagers. It has a very basic design, but it’s not a very accurate bow.

Many beginners are often tempted by this type of bow as there is very little intimidation factor. However, fibreglass bows offer very little in the way of development.

2. PVC Bows

PVC bows are also very inexpensive and are a great entry-level bow. They offer a great way to get started in archery if building your own bows is something that appeals to you.

How to Choose Your First Bow

3. Traditional Bows and Primitive Bows

These types of bows might be for you if you value the history associated with archery. This category covers a wide range of bows including the English Longbow, The Japanese Yumi bow, Turkish bows and traditional horse bows.

4. Crossbows

Crossbows tend to sit in their own category away from archery due to their design and function.

Owning a Crossbow may require a license in some states as they are sometimes classified as a weapon.

They can be used for hunting and in target practice, but there are very few clubs that allow them due to local laws and restrictions.

5. Recurve Bows

Recurve bows are the most commonly used bows in archery today. Most clubs adopt them as the bows they use to teach beginner archers.

Recurve Bow

They come as either a one-piece or a takedown bow, meaning that they can be disassembled into different components.

They are easy to learn with and offer a lot of progression for the beginner.

6. Target Recurve Bows (Olympic Recurves)

Target Recurves are a more specialised type of Recurve bow. Made from modern materials such as carbon and aluminium, they are used in Freestyle competitions such as the Olympics and can be customised by adding on sights and stabilisers.

Olympic Recurve Bows

7. Hunting Recurve Bows

Hunting Recurve bows tend to be more compact and practical. Designed for use in the field, they are generally more aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable to handle.

Hunting Recurve

8. Compound Bows

Another commonly seen bow is the Compound bow. This unique-looking bow is designed for accuracy and efficiency.

The Compound bow can produce very high velocity along with precision. The bow is designed to be used with mechanical release aids and magnifying lenses.

Compound Bow

It offers a much easier learning curve, giving beginners a high amount of accuracy in a short space of time.

It comes in different variants including target and hunting versions.

Compound Vs Recurve

CompoundRecurve
Mechanical Precision Natural Simplicity
Consistent BullseyesMore Variable
Immediate ResultsLonger Learning Curve
Focus on Accuracy Focus on Form
High ExpectationsHigh Hopes

Bow Buying Myths

Myth #1. Go with the Cheapest Bow You Can Find

While fibreglass youth bows may seem like a good option for your first bow, they tend to be very poorly made and aren’t really meant for anything other than shooting at paper targets in your backyard.

Available at around $50 for a kit, they are a great way to encourage an interest in archery for kids who are curious, but these bows won’t offer any kind of development.

Even though they are a great short-term fix for kids, if you want to get into archery on a longer-term basis, then I would suggest investing a little more money for your first bow.

Myth #2. You Need to Start With An Entry Level Bow

Understandably, budget concerns might put someone off from spending thousands of dollars on archery equipment.

With that being said, a new archer that has had limited exposure at an archery club or with someone else’s bow can consider skipping the entry-level bows and going for something a little more advanced.

If you’re confident that archery is for you and you have the commitment, you could save money in the long term by getting a slightly more expensive bow that will allow you to grow into it as you develop.

Myth #3. You Need To Buy Your First Bow In Person

This one is also completely false. Buying blind can be a scary prospect but if you do your research and you know exactly what you’re looking for, there is no reason why you shouldn’t feel confident in buying your first bow online.

Choosing The Right Bow

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of bows available and the criteria involved when you choose your first bow, which bow do you go for?

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people can skip the entry-level, fibreglass youth bow. It’s ok for the kids to use in the backyard, but somebody even semi-curious about getting into archery can move onto the more serious bows.

While there is a bow progression leading up to the more specialised Recurves and Compounds, it’s a better idea to start with a Takedown Recurve bow like the Samick Sage. These generic, wooden, entry-level recurves are the go-to for most beginners.

Samick Sage Bow
Samick Sage

They’re adopted by most clubs to give beginners the best experience possible and are very affordable. You can expect to pay no more than $200 for the entire bow.

For anyone getting into archery with little guidance, the Takedown Recurve bow is the safest choice.

There is an easy learning curve and the skills that you learn with the Takedown are transferable to any bow you choose to learn in the future.

The other advantage of these models is that they are widely available in any archery store, with many different models to choose from.

If all your looking for is a straightforward bow, then you can’t go wrong with a Takedown Recurve bow.

Should I Buy a Bow Online or from an Archery Store?

You’ve now chosen which bow you’d like to get, but you’re now faced with another choice. Do you buy from an online store, or do you physically go to an archery store and buy in person?

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of each:

Buying in Person

Pros

  • Try Before You Buy

The first advantage of in-store purchases is that you can see and handle all of the products on the shelves. In most cases, archery stores will have a space where you can test out the equipment before you decide on a purchase.

  • Instant Customer Service

The second advantage is that you get immediate customer service. The shop staff will be able to help you address any issues or concerns as well as answer any questions you have while you’re in the store.

How to choose your first bow

Immediate Satisfaction

If you’re completely new to archery, you will be able to get measured up for your first bow while you’re in the store so that you can shoot with your bow as soon as you walk out of the door.

Cons

  • Limited Choice

If you go to a store you will often find that there are limited choices and options available. Certain stores might only stock certain brands which may not be what you’re looking for.

  • Specialised Stores

The second disadvantage is that you may find that some stores only specialise in Compound bows, Traditional gear or outdoor hunting products. This could make it difficult for someone looking for a different style to get the right kind of service.

  • No Local Stores

The main reason why people decide to order online is that there may not be any local stores in their home town. If you have to drive more than an hour to get to a store only to find that they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, can be more than a little frustrating.

Buying Online

Pros

  • Convenience

The number one advantage to buying online is, of course, convenience. There’s nothing better than to take your time browsing an online store without the added pressure of sales staff trying to talk you into buying something you don’t need.

  • Choice

The second advantage is choice. You have every archery brand, model and accessory you could possibly wish for at your fingertips, with online customer service available on some websites to help guide you if you need it. This is definitely what you need to help you choose your first bow!

Online Shopping

Cons

  • Online Minefield

It goes without saying that purchasing online can be a bit of a minefield. Sites like Amazon and eBay are the go-to sites for impulse buys and people looking for the cheapest option.

We mentioned choice being an important factor, but sometimes it can work against you. Narrowing your choice down can suit some people better. This is simply because too much choice can hinder the decision-making process!

They have hundreds of brands of new and used bows and archery equipment listed with thousands of 4 and 5-star reviews but be cautious.

Many sellers on these sites have vague and misleading descriptions which can give the impression that one size fits all.

You end up with a bow that you can’t use, and additionally, because it’s Amazon or eBay, there is zero customer support.

This is not to say that sites like eBay are bad because a lot of well-known brand names run their own stores on eBay, and some good deals are to be had, especially on used equipment.

But if you’re new to archery, it’s always a good idea that if you’re going to buy online, you’re buying from a reputable archery supplier with good customer support to back up your purchase.

Key Takeaways

When the time comes to choose your first bow, it can be a little overwhelming, with so many different makes, models and styles of archery. But if you take the time to follow the steps outlined above, you can hopefully see that beginning your journey into archery need not be so complicated.

As long as you’ve done your research and you know what you want to get out of archery and know what you expect from your first bow, you should be well on your way to sending your first arrows down range.

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