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Bows – Part 2 – A basic guide to choosing your first Bow

There are many factors that come into play when deciding what Bow to purchase. Uppermost of those factors I would suggest is what you actually want to use it for but an equally valid reason may be because you have an interest in history and want to try a Longbow, or simply you might just think that a certain bow looks nice. Personally I started archery because I had an interest in all things military from the middle ages and wanted to try a Longbow. I joined a club and took a Beginners Course but never did get myself a Longbow, although I did try a few at the club.
Whatever the reason for your choice there are some general things you should know before you buy one.

In a way it is similar to buying an item of clothing, before you buy an item of clothing you try it on to see if it fits, or if you are buying on the internet you need to know what size waist or chest etc you are so that you will be pretty sure that the item will fit you.

With regard to Bows some of the main things you need to know before buying include the following:

Length of Bow

With Recurves the following is a guide to what length Bow you should be looking at based on your height, they are not fixed in stone but will give you an idea of what you should be looking at:

  • under 5′ 6″ = 64″ Bow
  • 5′ 6″-5′ 10″ = 66″ Bow
  • 5′ 10″-6′ 2″ = 68″ Bow
  • 6′ 2″& over – 70″ Bow

Draw Length

Knowing your draw length is important. You might see Bows for sale with a draw weight of 36lb which will have been measured at a draw length of say 28″. If your draw length is 30″ or 26″ then you will be drawing more or less than the advertised weight respectively.
Draw length is also very important when purchasing Arrows, too short an Arrow can be very dangerous if it slips off the rest or your hand just at the point of release.

As one of the main things in archery is a consistent draw and release, you don’t want a bow that you can’t draw to your anchor point as you will find it a lot harder to be consistent

There are many ways to measure your draw length and they quite often give slightly different results. One way is to stand with your arm extended horizontally to the side (as if you are drawing an imaginary Bow) with your hand clenched in a fist (imagine you are holding the Bow). Standing side on but looking at your fist measure the distance from the centre of the fist to the side of your chin. This is where it is difficult if you have never used a Bow before because the exact point on the side of your chin that you measure to should be where you would normally draw the string to (your anchor point). This will vary a bit between individuals but as a rough guide measure to the front of your chin and add 1 1/2 inches.
Another way is to stand with your arms stretched out to either side and get someone to measure from the fingertip on one hand to fingertip on the other, take the figure and divide by 2.5 to get a rough guide.
If you go to a proper archery shop they should have an arrow marked with measurements. You then draw the arrow and that will give you the most accurate measurement

Draw Weight (Poundage)

Draw weight is how much weight is required to draw the Bow to your Anchor Point. A problem you often find with people who have never drawn a Bow is that they will often over estimate the Draw Weight that they can handle. You need to remember that although you may be able to draw a 50lb Bow once or twice, the main thing you need in archery is a consistent draw to a consistent Anchor point. If you are struggling to draw the Bow on your 5th or 6th attempt you will not be able to be consistent in your Draw which will affect your accuracy. With practice and correct technique you will be able to increase the poundage but as a beginner (using a Recurve) you really wouldn’t want to go above 36lb max to start with.
On some Bow Hunting sites you might sometimes see Deer / Elk taken with Bows of around 36lb by an experienced Archer but it requires (as with all poundage’s) stalking skills to get within close range, knowledge of the animals internal anatomy, the accuracy to put the arrow in the desired location, and the right type of arrowheads (more of which in a later article).

One major advantage of a Take-Down Recurve Bow is that as your strength and technique improves you can replace the limbs for stiffer/heavier ones to increase the poundage.

Arrow length

Arrow length is very important. Too short an arrow may slip off the rest or your hand at full draw can be very dangerous. A rough guide to Arrow length is to take your Draw Length and add 2″

How to get it right

If you buy from a shop like “Quicks” etc they will be able to measure all the above for you and give you advice, if buying off fleabay or somewhere similar then it really is a good idea to know the above before making a purchase. Too often people will buy a Bow from the internet without knowing even the very basics of what they are buying and will soon lose interest because they never seem to get better at hitting the ‘Gold’
At the very minimum I would suggest that a beginner goes to a ‘proper’ archery shop and get measured up and try some bows. Somewhere like ‘Quicks’ will have a range at the back where you should be able to try them out. From there you can then take your measurements and details of bows you like and either buy from there or buy cheaper on the internet, but at least you will be making an informed decision and not guessing
The best way by far to do all the above though is to take a Beginners Course at an Archery Club. The course will cost £45 – £55 and consist of 6 x 2 hour lessons. Most clubs will run them a couple of times a year but book early as they tend to get booked up fast.

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