Is archery an expensive hobby/sport?

We all know that some sports are more expensive than others. Compare soccer for example with sailing. If you what to practice soccer, you only need a ball and decent clothing. For sailing, you need a boat, equipment, and waterproof clothing. Although you need to buy a bow, arrows and equipment archery doesn’t have to be very expensive.

Let’s first answer the question from the title: No, archery is not necessarily an expensive hobby. Although you need a lot of gear when you are just getting started, most of your gear will last a lifetime. Sometimes it’s even possible to practice in your backyard which means that you don’t have to become a member of an archery club.

In this article, we will discuss how expensive each form of archery is and what you can expect. I will also discuss why archery isn’t all that expensive in the long run. At the end of this article, I will give some quick tips on how you can avoid breaking the bank and discuss why so many archers pay way too much for their gear.

What it costs per category

There is not one way to practice archery. There are many different classes, disciplines, and divisions as I discuss here. Therefore, I have estimated the most popular divisions with an upper and lower bound estimate.

The lower bound estimate is when you buy the cheapest (or near cheapest) option available. The upper bound estimate is when you buy more expensive high-end gear. In most cases buying expensive gear is not necessary, which we discuss later in this article.

Archery for beginners

This is the category for archers that want to get started with archery as fast as possible. Archers in this category start with a simple wooden takedown recurve bow, which I often call a beginner’s bow. These bows are very cheap and are quite similar to the bows used in the recurve discipline. There are some important differences, however, which I discuss in this article.

If you have a clear preference for one of the categories: traditional, recurve, or compound. I would highly advise you to skip these bows. On the contrary, these bows are a great option for archers that don’t know that category they prefer and just want to get started.

What you need

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
The bow $50 $200
The arrows (12 pcs.) $24 $120
Arrow rest $2 $15
Armguard + tab $15 $40
Quiver $10 $30
Total $101 $405

Additional equipment (optional)

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
Bag for your bow $20 $80
Bow stand $7 $20
String wax $5 $10
Bow stringer $2 $10
Total $34 $120

As you can see, getting started isn’t all that expensive. You must know, however, that almost all archers that start with this kind of gear upgrade within the first year.

Backyard archery

The major difference between this and the first category is that you need an archery target and target faces. Obviously, you don’t need to buy a target yourself when you are practicing at the club. Since you only see archery as a backyard sport, buying an expensive bow doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What you need

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
The bow $50 $200
The arrows (12 pcs.) $24 $120
Arrow rest $2 $15
Armguard + tab $15 $40
Quiver $10 $30
Bow stringer $2 $10
Archery target $50 $300
Total $153 $715

Additional equipment

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
Bag for your bow $20 $80
Bow stand $7 $20
String wax $5 $10
Total $32 $110

As you can see, archery targets are quite expensive. Although you can find cheap targets, they don’t tend to last long. Some targets are also only rated for bows with a low poundage (below 20 LBS). Therefore, investing in a more expensive straw target is often more cost-effective. Read this article for more tips on archery targets.

Traditional archery

Traditional archery is the first major archery discipline. In this discipline, you shoot with a historical bow without a sight or any other modern aids. Because you don’t use a sight, stabilizer, or any other accessories this discipline tends to be less expensive than compound and recurve archery.

What you need

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
The bow $150 $800
The string $10 $30
The arrows (12 pcs.) $60 $240
Armguard + tab/glove $15 $40
Quiver $10 $30
Total $245 $1140

Additional equipment

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
Bag for your bow $5 $15
Bow stand $7 $20
String wax $5 $10
Bow stringer $2 $10
Total $19 $55

When you buy a traditional bow it’s very important to choose the right arrows (tip and spine weight). With a recurve or compound bow, you can slightly change the tuning to account for different arrows. With a traditional bow, this isn’t possible.

Recurve archery

Although it’s often possible to shoot the recurve style with a beginner’s bow, there are some drawbacks. I won’t discuss why in this article. I recommend reading this article if you want to know why.

Although good recurve gear is a bit more expensive than beginners gear, the additional accessories you need make the biggest difference. Think for example about the sight, the stabilizer, arrow rest, and button. All these accessories are needed to shoot the Olympic recurve style and make it more expensive

What you need

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
The bow $150 $800
The string $10 $30
The arrows (12 pcs.) $60 $240
Arrow rest $2 $30
Plunger (aka: button) $10 $40
Sight $10 $150
Stabilizer set $40 $150
Armguard + tab $15 $40
Quiver $10 $30
Bow stringer $2 $10
Total $309 $1520

Additional equipment

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
Bag for your bow $20 $80
Bow stand $7 $20
String wax $5 $10
Total $32 $110

Compound archery

Many archers think that compound archery is more expensive than recurve archery. This is only true if you look at the gear produced by the biggest archery brands. In general, branded compound bows tend to be more expensive than branded recurve bows.

This doesn’t hold for unbranded gear, however. I see both great options for compound archery as for recurve archery. Since compound bows are often used for hunting, I believe there is even more choice for compound archers.

What you need

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
The bow $150 $1200
The arrows (12 pcs.) $60 $240
Arrow rest $8 $80
Sight $30 $150
Stabilizer set $40 $150
Armguard + tab $15 $40
Quiver $10 $30
Bow stringer $2 $10
Total $315 $1900

Additional equipment

Equipment Lower bound Upper bound
Bag for your bow $20 $80
Bow stand $7 $20
String wax $5 $10
Total $32 $110

Additional expenses

If you only practice archery in your backyard, you won’t make any additional expenses. Most serious archers want to shoot competitions and/or meet other archers. To do so you need to become a member of an archery club. Some tournaments and competitions have some additional fees.

Although fees differ per club, most clubs ask between $200 and $500 per year to become a member. In my experience, membership fees tend to be cheaper than other sport memberships. Because you don’t need a lot of space per archer, you don’t need a huge field as you need for other sports such as soccer and baseball.

Competition and tournaments fees differ widely per event. Some special multiday events ask more than $100, while some others are completely free. In most cases, you get either a hefty discount from events organized by your club or they are completely free.

For your reference, I pay a $260,- membership fee for my local club. Since I only participate in competitions organized by my club, I have no additional expenses.

Why most archers spend so much more

Although archery doesn’t have to be an expensive sport, for most archers it is. Sadly, there is a misconception amongst archers that more expensive bows shoot more accurately than cheaper bows. Although there is some truth to this, by far the biggest factor is the archer. A good archer can even shoot with a bamboo stick very accurately. In this article, I discuss what makes a bow accurate and why you can also buy cheaper gear.

This entire idea, that some bows shoot way more accurately than others is perpetuated by big archery brands. Therefore, most archers believe that they need expensive gear because they would otherwise be held back by their bow.

About a year ago, I bought a $140 compound bow from AliExpress and it just feels like a normal bow. Of course, the materials are cheaper, but it didn’t hurt my performance at all. The exact brand you are choosing doesn’t matter. It matters how good of an archer you are!

Cheap gear does not have to be crappy. This entire set is well below $300 and I already use it for one and a half years.

How to avoid breaking the bank

Before you go and buy a bow, please read these tips below:

  • Don’t blindly listen to the salesclerk: a lot of archers recommend going to an archery store to ask for advice. Although it’s always a good idea to ask for advice you shouldn’t solely rely on it. Do your research and try different alternatives. In my experience, most salesclerks try to sell you more expensive branded gear.
  • Don’t buy well-known brands: as discussed earlier, well-known brands are more expensive. In most cases, cheaper alternatives are a great option as well. So, a great way to avoid spending more than necessary is to avoid brands. Otherwise, you will be paying for the sponsorships of Olympic archers and the fancy branding 😉.
  • Skip the beginner’s bows: if you already know what type of bow you want to shoot (traditional, recurve or compound) buy one of those bows. You don’t need a beginner’s bow to start with archery. Many people start with a beginner’s bow because they are cheaper, and they don’t know what style they like. You can save some money in the long run by skipping the beginner's option if you know what you want.
  • You don’t have to go to a pro shop: if you really want to save money, you shouldn’t go to a pro shop. The archery pro shops often only have more expensive options and charge more for the same brand. I am not saying that their advice is not worth it, but you will pay a premium for it.

Final words

I hope that I convinced you that archery is not an expensive hobby as it seems. Some archers make archery seem very expensive, but this happens with all sports. Some people buy $200+ training shoes, while much cheaper would also suffice. You must make sure, however, that you buy gear which allows you to properly practice your sport. Some cheaper alternatives do not classify as a real bow, but more as a toy.

If you want to know more about archery on a budget, I recommend reading the articles below. I discuss what trade-offs you will make by buying a cheaper bow and what you should check before buying your bow:

If you have any comments or experiences you would like to share, please leave them down below. Any questions can be asked down below as well, I will respond as soon as possible and send you an email with my reply.

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