Buying a bow online – do’s and dont’s

When I was buying my first bow, every archer told me one thing: ‘’don’t buy your bow online’’. The main argument was that it can be quite hard to pick the right bow. This is especially the case when you can’t touch and feel the bow. Another advantage of archery shops is the advice from the salespeople.

In the contrary, I would never advice against buying a bow online, even if you are not an experienced archer. You should, however, do a lot of research on what type of bow you want and what product characteristics are important. Even if you decide to buy a bow in a store, I believe it’s important to do your research. If you purely rely on the advice of the salesclerk you probably don’t end up with the bow you need. Sadly some salesclerks will try to sell you a more expensive bow than you really need. But it is also very difficult for a helpful salesclerk to recommend anything, if you have no idea on what you need and want.

Regardless of whether you are buying your bow in a store or a webshop, you will need to do adequate research. But when you are buying your bow online you there are a few things that you should note. Since you can’t feel and touch the bow, it can be more difficult to make the right choice. In this article I therefore provide you with some tips I learned when buying bows online.

Make sure to get the right draw length

When you go to an archery store, the first thing they will do is measure your draw length. After saying hi and offering something to drink of course ;). You will not have this luxury when you buy the bow online, therefore you will have to measure the draw length yourself. For compound archers draw length often isn’t an issue, because the draw length is variable. But you should always check whether your draw length corresponds to the draw length of the bow. If the draw length doesn’t fit either of these two things will happen: you are not able to fire the bow, the bow gets damages from firing the bow.

If you want to buy a recurve bow with detachable limbs, I would highly advice to read the following article:

‘’Buying the right limbs for your bow’’

It is quite a long read but I believe it contains vital information when buying limbs for your bow.

Don’t pick a bow that is too heavy

This is by far #1 mistake archers make when buying a bow. Even archers that buy a bow in the store, and had the ability to feel the draw weight, often buy a bow that is too heavy. Sadly amongst archers shooting a heavy bow is often seen as more prestigious. If you, however, buy a bow that is too heavy for you, shooting accurate will be very hard. You can even experience muscle pain, joint pain or other issues, therefore it really isn’t worth it.

Many starting archers that buy their first bow online, try to mimic the draw weight with an elastic band. They measure the resistance from the elastic band with a luggage scale, and use this to compare it to the draw weight of the bow. When people find out that they can draw back 40 LBS they often decide to buy limbs with this poundage. This is a horrible way to estimate your draw weight, since you will always overestimate.

Let me give you an example. I can pull a bunch of resistance bands that add up to 90 LBS, without too much trouble. The compound bow I am using however is 60 LBS and the recurve bow is 30 LBS. The problem is that you will pull back the bow many times in one shooting session. If you are a recurve archer you will also hold the bow at full draw for at least 8 seconds. Therefore you should not estimate your maximum, but you should estimate what you can confidently pull for at least 30 shots.

This can be very difficult to estimate, therefore I added two lists where you can see the draw weight that I would recommend for a starting archer, for both compound and recurve archers.

Archers profile Recurve Compound
Small children 16 LBS or less 20 LBS
Larger children 16 till 18 LBS 20 till 25 LBS
Teenage female 18 till 22 LBS 25 till 30 LBS
Teenage male 20 till 24 LBS 30 till 40 LBS
Female 20 till 26 LBS 30 till 60 LBS
Male 22 till 30 LBS 40 till 70 LBS

If you want to be save, keep on the lower and off the range. Some archers might think that my estimations are on the low side, but I believe that it’s better to start with weaker limbs. If you start too high you will develop the wrong techniques and you will release the shot faster, giving you less time to aim correctly.

Make sure that it is a serious bow

I don’t believe that you have to start with the top of the line bow. Your bow, however, should have all distinctive features which allow you to tune and customize the bow. If you buy the cheapest bow available they often lack important features. Often these bows don’t allow you to add a sight, button or stabilizer. If you ever want to shoot the Olympic recurve style these features are essential. Therefore I believe it’s a better idea to spend $50 more and buy a bow that has all features you need right now or in the future. There are also a whole bunch of cheap compound bows available without let off. I can only face palm when I see those bows, the entire benefit of a compound bow is in the let off. Removing the let off just makes it an overcomplicated recurve bow.

Don’t forget the gear and accessories

Most people only buy the arrows and bow to begin with. This complete package probably set you back $200, so you don’t want to spend any more than necessary. Although I understand this feeling, you have to know that you can’t really efficiently and safely fire your bow without some accessories. Below I summarized the most important accessories you will need.

Recurve archery

Required

  • Arrows (if not included)
  • String (if not included)
  • Arrow rest (if not included)
  • Button
  • Armguard
  • Tab
  • Fingersling
  • Bow stringer

Recommended

  • A bag or case
  • Bow stand
  • String wax

Compound archery

Required

Recommended

  • A bag or case
  • Bow stand

For a complete overview for recurve bows, read my in depth article:

‘’ Buying your first olympic recurve bow, what you need and tips’’

Be prepared to assemble the bow

If you buy a takedown recurve bow, you don’t expect it to be delivered assembled. When archers order a compound bow, on the other hand, most archers expect it to be assembled. When you buy a compound bow in store, they often assemble and tune it for you. So, why would it be disassembled when you buy it online?

The first reason why the bow comes disassembled is because this makes the package smaller, which is easier for shipping. Often the bow is still in the original packaging when you buy it, which will never happen if you go to a brick and mortar archery shop. Therefore you will have to assemble it yourself. Except compound bows and recurve bows, there are even a few (cheaper) traditional bows that come disassembled

Often assembly involves attaching the limbs and tightening the screws, but sometimes more assembly is required. There are a few compound bows which require specialized tools, but in my experience those bows always come assembled. In general I don’t think the assembly process will be an issue for most archers, but the next point might be.

Don’t forget a D-loop or nocking points

If you always bought a bow in a store, you probably have never tied a D-loop or nocking points. Depending on the choice of you bow, it might not have any nocking points or D-loop preinstalled. It often doesn’t make sense for a manufacturer to install the nocking points or D-loop because you have to tune this to every specific bow.

If you buy an inexpensive bow, with multiple accessories often a D-loop or nocking points are most often included and sometimes preinstalled. Most bows from more expensive brands don’t have a D-loop or nocking points and don’t provide you with the materials to make your own.

Therefore it’s a good idea to check whether your bow comes with a D-loop or nocking points. You can easily tie nocking points yourself, if you buy serving. This will be a good investment for the future since, you can also repair your serving with this material, and one roll lasts a lifetime.

A D-loop, on the other hand, is made out of thicker material because it will be under tension when drawing the bow. This material is similar to paracord, but is less stretchy. If have added two video’s below on how to tie a D-loop and how to make nocking points

How to make nocking points

How to tie a D-loop

Learn how to tune the bow

A bow is not something that works right out of the box. You could compare it to buying a PC, you first have to spend time installing your operating system and configuring it, before you can really start using it. If you buy a compound or recurve bow tuning will be quite time consuming, which involves a lot of steps, see the steps below:

Steps to tune a recurve bow

  1. Setting the brace height
  2. Aligning the limbs
  3. Adding the nocking points
  4. Tuning the arrow rest
  5. Configuring the plunger
  6. Centering the sight

Steps to tune a compound bow

  1. Setting the brace height
  2. Aligning the limbs
  3. Configuring the draw length
  4. Configuring the draw weight
  5. Adding the D-loop
  6. Tuning the arrow rest
  7. Centering the sight

As you can see there are a lot of steps involved in tuning both a recurve and compound bow. I even left a few advanced tuning steps out, since I don’t believe these are absolutely necessary when you are just starting. Therefore you shouldn’t expect to have a regular shooting session when your bow has just arrived. You will first have to tune the bow before you can even start shooting. Next, the first session often involves dialing in the sight, which means that your first arrows will be very inaccurate.

One of the advantages of traditional archer is that you don’t have to tune every single part of the bow. This means that you can often start shooting the same day when your bow arrives. One of the advantages traditional archers have over the rest of us 🙂

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