Getting started with archery

Archery is an amazing sport, but it’s different from a lot of other sports. With ballgames, you just go to your nearest club and join a team. Archery is a more flexible sport. You can practice alone in your garden or you can join a team and shoot competitions. This makes archery a great option sport for all ages but getting started might be a bit overwhelming.

In this article, I will discuss everything you should know before you start and what steps you should take to get started. I try to make this as simple as possible with the 5-step process you see below:

  1. Decide how you want to start: archery classes, archery coaching, or self-taught
  2. Choose a bow type: beginner’s, traditional, recurve or compound bow
  3. Buy your equipment
  4. Learn the basic technique
  5. Start shooting

In this article, I will discuss each step in detail. There is a lot to cover, so you might want to bookmark or save the link to this page. Because you might not be able to read it all in one go. This article also contains a lot of links to other articles that you might want to read later.

What archery is like

Archery is a fun sport, but it may not be the best sport for everybody. Although it builds your upper body muscles, it’s not a cardio sport, so don’t expect to lose a lot of weight through archery. You need a lot of concentration and practice for archery. Therefore, it’s a great sport for kids to train these abilities.

Some people believe that archery is very expensive. But that depends on what kind of gear you buy. Most archers buy quite expensive gear, but to shoot well, that isn’t necessary. It might be a bit more expensive than most ballgames but not by much. Generally, membership fees of archery clubs tend to be lower than most other sports. So, what you spend more on your gear is compensated with the lower membership fees.

Although you can participate in competitions with teams, archery tends to be a more individualistic sport. When you are inaccurate you can only blame your own performance. This can be quite confronting especially for kids. In these cases, it’s important to stay positive.

The positive side is that your performance is not influenced by the archers around you and vice versa, even when you shoot in a team. Therefore, you can easily practice archery with the whole family. The less skilled archer won’t drag the other's performance down.

If you want to know more about archery, read one of my other articles for more information:

Decide how to start

There are three ways to learn archery. You can either follow archery classes, find an archery coach, or teach archery yourself. In most cases, you might have a mix of these. But it’s important to decide how you want to approach this hobby before you buy equipment.

Archery classes

If you join an archery club, they will probably offer you archery lessons. In a group, you will learn the basics of archery. These lessons can help you get a head start. Archery is quite a complicated sport and there is a lot of techniques to be learned so following a beginner’s course is very helpful.

Most archery classes will focus on recurve archery. You will learn to shoot a beginner’s bow with and without a sight. These fundamentals help you get familiar with the different aspects of archery. Most archers will have a preference to shoot with or without a sight within the first few lessons.

When you get more experienced archery lessons in larger groups will not be as effective. Every archer struggles with different parts of the technique. In those cases, archery coaching tends to be more effective.

Archery coaching

Most archery clubs will have a few archery coaches. These coaches can give you tips and guidance on how to improve your shot. In general, you first follow archery lessons before you find a coach. Since all archers must first learn the basic technique before they can refine it.

Some coaches may offer coaching for free, but others might request payment. Getting an archery coach tends to be the best option if you want to compete on a high level. Most recreational archers will improve their archery by peer feedback or by themselves.

Self-taught

If you don’t want to follow archery classes or coaching, you can also teach archery yourself. This involves more work because you need to get all your information from books, videos, forums, or online articles like this one 😉.

That doesn’t mean that this is a bad option, it just requires more research work. This makes you more knowledgeable about archery than blindly following a coach. Therefore, I always recommend archers to be involved in their progress and gather information by themselves.

Most recreational archers will improve their archery by themselves. But getting peer feedback can be very helpful.

Choosing a bow type

In archery, we roughly have three shooting styles: traditional, recurve, and compound. These shooting styles correspond to a group of bow styles. These are also often called classes, disciplines, or divisions. Read this article if you want to learn more about this terminology.

In this article, I will refer to these groups in terms of the type of bow they shoot. I also add a fourth group which I call ‘’the beginner’s bow’’. These bows are excellent to get started, but they are not well suited for competitions. Some recreational archers might stick with a beginner’s bow and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to participate in competitions, you will have to switch bows.

Choose how you want to learn archery before you choose a bow type. Most classes will focus on beginner’s bows, but that depends on the class you follow. Some offer classes for all 3 categories, but that depends on the club or organization.

  Beginners bow Traditional bow Recurve bow Compound bow
Suitable for competitions No Yes Yes Yes
Technical No No Yes Yes
Average price Cheap Relatively cheap Average Expensive
Accuracy Quite easy Difficult Quite easy Easy

Although there are a lot of differences between these different bows, I can’t discuss them all. I will only discuss the most important differences and generalize a lot. Of course, you can also buy a cheap compound bow, but most are more expensive than the other bows available on the market.

Beginner's bow

A beginner’s bow generally has the following three features

  • Takedown limbs: you can remove the bow limbs for storage
  • The riser is made from wood: this is the center part you are holding that connects the two limbs
  • The limb fitting is proprietary: the limb fitting is the connection between the bow limbs and the riser. Beginner’s bows have proprietary limb fitting, meaning that you can’t attach limbs from other manufacturers to this riser.

The cheapest option available is the beginner’s bow. These bows are simpler than recurve bows but a bit more advanced than traditional bows. Therefore, it doesn’t overwhelm you with a lot of doodads, which is excellent when you are just getting started.

You can shoot this type of bow with or without a sight. Therefore, it’s a great option if you are unsure about whether you prefer traditional or recurve archery.

Traditional bow

Traditional bows are the kind of bows you see in historical movies. For example, the longbows from England or the recurve bows from Mongolia. These bows are relatively simple but require a lot of training to shoot well.

These bows allow you to participate in traditional archery events that have strict rules on what you can and can’t use. The idea behind this is to recreate traditional archery without advanced equipment such as sights, stabilizers, and plungers.

Recurve bow

Technically, these bows are called an ‘’Olympic recurve bow’’, but most archers simply shorten it to ‘’recurve bow’’. Read this article, for more information on the origin of the name and what it means exactly.

Most archers shoot this bow type with a stabilizer and sight. But it’s also possible to shoot it without these features to recreate a more traditional feel. If you remove these features, the bow looks very similar to a beginner’s bow.

But there are some key differences, namely:

  • Nonproprietary limb pockets: these bows have either an ILF or Formula limb pocket which are supported by other manufacturers. Especially the ILF fitting offers you a lot of flexibility to mix and match risers and limbs.
  • Adjustable limb alignment and tiller: these options allow you to finetune your bow to the arrows and the shooter. For experienced archers, this is great. But for new archers, the sheer amount of tuning involved might be overwhelming and too technical.
  • Removable grips: having a comfortable grip is very important and every archer has different preferences. These bows have removable grips which allow you to test different grips on your bow.

There are more differences, but these three things are by far the most important ones.

Currently, recurve bows are seen as the gold standard within archery. Therefore, there are a ton of competitions that allow you to shoot with this kind of bow. It’s also the only shooting style that is allowed in the Olympics, hence the name!

Compound bow

Compound archery is the most modern and most advanced type of archery out there. These bows have a let-off that makes it easier to keep the bow at full draw. They are also very efficient and thus shoot hard and accurately.

Compound bows are quite technical, however. There is simply more going on when you shoot this type of bow compared to other archery styles. Compound bows are also a favorite amongst bowhunters because of its efficiency.

Buying your first bow

Below I will discuss per bow type what you need and what you should consider.

Buying a beginner’s bow

Most archers start their archery journey with a beginner’s bow. Some may borough one from a club or friend, but most archers will buy their own beginners bow. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be expensive. And since there is a lot of demand for these bows you can always trade it in when you want to upgrade.

If you want to shoot with a beginner’s bow, you need at least the following equipment:

  • A beginner’s bow
  • Some arrows (I recommend at least 9)
  • Arrow rest
  • Bow stringer
  • Armguard
  • Finger protection

This costs about $200 to $300 depending on what brand you buy.

Depending on your situation you might also want:

  • A quiver
  • Bow case
  • Sight
  • Stabilizer

Adding all these accessories would add about $100 to your total amount.

If you want to buy a beginner’s bow, I would highly recommend reading the article below for more in-depth information:

Buying a beginner’s bow – buyers guide

If you just want to get started as soon as possible, look at the recommended gear, by clicking the button below.

Buying a traditional bow

There are a lot of different traditional bows available. Think for example about English longbows and Mongolian bows. These bows each have their own shooting character. Most traditional archers are passionate about a certain bow. The shooting experience is more about the history of archery than shooting as accurately as possible.

Below I have listed down some bows you might like (links to Amazon):

There are a ton of options to choose from, so pick a bow that you like. Just like a beginner’s bow, you will need arrows, finger protection, a bow stringer, and an armguard. All things together may cost around $200 till $400 on the cheaper end. If you buy more expensive equipment it might cost $600 or more.

For these bows, you don’t need an arrow rest. The arrow rest is either integrated into the bow or you shoot directly off your hand. If you shoot off your hand, make sure to buy an armguard with a glove integrated, like this one.

Buying a recurve bow

Recurve bows are considerably more complicated than beginner’s bows. Therefore, I do recommend doing additional research before you buy this kind of bow. You need the same gear as for a beginner’s bow, but a lot of archers buy their limbs, riser, and string separately. A complete recurve bow set might cost $300 to $500 on the low end. Most archers average around $600 for their first recurve bow. Very high-end gear can get the total over $2000.

If you consider buying a recurve bow, I would highly recommend reading the article below. There is just a lot to consider that I can’t explain in detail in this article.

Buying your first recurve bow – what you need and tips

Buying a compound bow

Since you can’t disassemble a compound bow yourself, you can’t mix and match limbs and risers like takedown recurve bows. Therefore, when you buy a compound bow, you will buy a complete bow from one manufacturer.

Compound bows tend to be the most expensive bow because they are more complicated. High-end bows will cost $1000 or more. But there are some decent options available below $300, see for example this compound bow from amazon. Apart from the bow, you will also need the following equipment:

  • Arrows
  • Arrow rest
  • Sight
  • Release aid
  • Armguard

Taking this all together it will cost you about $700 for a full set.

Things to consider when buying a bow

Regardless of the type of bow you want to buy, there are some things that you must consider. I will discuss this one-by-one in more detail.

Draw weight

Draw weight explains how much strength is required to pull the bow back. If you buy a heavy draw weight bow, it will be harder to keep the bow at full draw. Therefore, if you buy a bow that is too heavy, you may start to shake or experience muscle issues.

Draw weight also determines how fast the arrow will fly. The heavier the draw weight the faster the arrow will fly. This is especially helpful at long ranges or when shooting when it’s windy. Arrow speed is also an important metric for hunters.

For new archers, I recommend buying a bow with a low draw weight. You can’t learn the right technique when your bow is too heavy. So, it’s better to stay on the low side. For more guidance on draw weight, read the articles below:

Bow and draw length

Whenever you buy a bow you must make sure that it can accommodate your draw length. Short bows are generally not suitable for long draw lengths especially when the limbs are not recurved. Most manufacturers will tell you for what draw lengths the bow is suitable. Especially when you are quite tall, you want to make sure that your bow isn’t too small.

Bow without recurved limbs
Bow with recurved limbs

Most compound bows have a highly configurable draw length. This allows you to configure your draw length anywhere between 16 and 31 inches. Just be sure that you don’t buy a kid’s bow because they will have a shorter maximum draw length.

Read the articles below. for more guidance on bow and draw length:

Arrow spine

Not all arrows will be a good fit for your bow. Arrows need to be a certain stiffness, otherwise, your bow will shoot less accurately. Arrow spine is indicated with a number between 100 and 1200. The higher the number the more flexible the arrow will be.

For a heavy draw weight bow, you want a stiffer arrow. Therefore, for a heavy bow, the arrow spine should be lower, 300 for example. For a bow with a lower draw weight, you want a more flexible arrow. The spine weight should therefore be higher, 800 for example.

We also consider the weight of the point and the length of the arrow shaft when buying arrows. In the article below, I discuss in detail how to pick the right arrow spine:

Where to buy your bow

When you want to buy a bow, you have two options. You can either buy a bow from a webshop or an archery store. There is also a third option, buying a secondhand bow, but I would advise against that. When you buy a secondhand bow, it’s unlikely that you find a perfect fit. Additionally, you don’t know whether the previous archer has shot the bow correctly. If the bow has been dryfired it might break after a few shots.

Archery shops tend to be more expensive than webshops. Most archery shops don’t even stock cheaper options. So, if you want to buy a bow from an archery store, expect to pay more. You of course receive more service, and they can also tune the bow for you. This is especially useful if you buy a compound or recurve bow.

Beginner’s and traditional bows can also be bought online. Since there isn’t much to tune, I don’t think there is a huge benefit to buying these bows in the store. If you buy a compound or recurve bow online, you must do some additional research on how to tune the bow.

Read the articles below for more information on buying your first bow:

Before you start shooting

When your bow has arrived, you probably want to start shooting right away. But I believe it’s better to learn the basic technique before you shoot your first arrow. Getting your technique right from the first shot is very beneficial for your long-term performance.

A lot of archers learn the wrong technique when they are just getting started. It can take weeks or even months to unlearn this because it starts to feel natural to you. Especially if you intend to shoot without a coach or teacher, you should familiarize yourself with the technique.

Therefore, I recommend reading the article below, before shooting your bow. You can also read it while you are waiting while your bow is being delivered 😊.

If you have bought a traditional or beginner’s bow you can string the bow and start shooting. With a recurve or compound bow, you first want to tune your bow. I have listed down two guides on how to tune your bow:

First day at the range

Alright now the fun can start, you can now string your bow and start shooting. See the video below, on how you string a bow.

Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes since you will be standing the entire time while shooting. For safety reasons, wear closed shoes, remove all jewelry, and only wear tight-fitting clothing. For additional guidance on what to wear, read the articles below:

Keep reading and improve your archery!

You have now read all the basic information there is to know about getting started. You can now improve your technique and setup by reading more tips and tricks for your specific bow type. If you have a beginner’s bow, you can read the recurve articles. Beginner’s bows are just cheaper recurve bows that lack a few features.

Sadly, I don’t have any articles for traditional archery yet. Since I haven’t shot with these bows enough to give you any substantiated tips.

Final words

Okay, you got through it. Pat yourself on the back for reading this article till the end. I have to say though, that this is just a gross overview. There is just so much to cover. I could probably write an entire book about how to get started.

But I tried to only focus on the headlines, that’s why I referred to a lot of other articles. In those articles, I will discuss smaller things in much more detail.

You probably don’t want to spend hours reading, so go ahead and buy yourself a bow. You just have to get started. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, we all do. You don’t have to get everything perfect with your first bow. Once you have shot a few thousand arrows, you will get clear preferences which you can use to upgrade your equipment.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please leave it in the comment section down below. I will respond to your question as soon as possible and you will receive an email notification once I replied.

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