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Archery Equipment Buying Guide

How To Buy Your First Bow

As a new archer, every member of your club will want to give you advice on buying your first bow. This document is an attempt to distill a little of that knowledge into a single guide, although one of the beauties of Archery is that no matter how long you are involved there is still more to learn, and there is always a degree of experimentation involved.

If you have the time, it is a good idea to visit a physical "bricks and mortar" archery shop for certain purchases, as noted below. Other items can be bought purely on specification, in which case an online shop may be cheaper, but for the starred items the 'feel' of it is more important – e. g. the weight of a riser, and the shape of its hand-grip cannot be described easily!

The first question any archer needs to decide is which category of bow they wish to shoot:

Once you have chosen, click on the relevant heading below to see what you will need to buy:

Compound

  1. A Riser* (the 'handle' part of the bow)

    One of the benefits of most Compounds is that you can adjust the draw weight substantially, without needing to replace the limbs, so buy the best riser you can justify.
    More expensive models tend to be slightly better in terms of features and performance the more that you spend.
    Before visiting a store, make sure that you know what draw-weight you have been shooting so far. Ask someone you trust for advice on ideal draw-weight and let-off before you go.

  2. A set of limbs to match the bow
  3. A set of cams to match the bow
  4. A string/cables of the correct length for your choice of riser and limbs
    (Items 1 to 4 above must be bought as a pre-assembled set.)
  5. A D-Loop if not already fitted, unless shooting “off the fingers” i.e. with a tab.

    This is a small piece of string which is what a release-aid clips on to.

  6. A Bow Stand – usually a simple slip-on or clip-on device.

    If a stand holds your bow, that is all it needs to do – so don't waste money on a fancy one.
    (If you are a millionaire and want to show off, put your money into a flashy sight - it might actually earn you an extra point, occasionally, which a stand never will.)

  7. A Quiver* plus belt

    This is pretty much personal preference, though more expensive ones will usually have more pockets, and dividers for your arrows. Some will have a hook for your bow, which can be great for long shoots with a heavy bow.

  8. An Arrow Rest (also sometimes known as a "Launcher")

    Rests come in many different styles, covering a large variety of prices. Getting a rest perfectly aligned can be tricky, so don't skimp too much on cost.
    You will also need a spare, or spare parts, (if not included) but you may not like your first choice of rest, so don't buy a spare just yet.

  9. A Sight

    As with rests, sights come in a multitude of shapes and styles. If you're not sure about this, get a really cheap one at first, until you know exactly what features you like/want/need.
    Most archers will use a sight that has a slight magnifying effect - get someone to show you theirs, so you know how much magnification you want.

  10. A peep-sight (very common, but optional)

    This fits into your string, and helps with bow alignment, much like the rear sight on a rifle.

  11. A Release-Aid

    A few Compound archers prefer to shoot “off the fingers” and therefore need a tab instead.
    There are a few different ways that a release can work, so it is important to discuss with another compound archer before you purchase anything. These can be surprisingly expensive, so getting the wrong one will make you sad.

  12. A set of Arrows. (A minimum of 8, but usually sold in sets of a dozen, with good reason.)

    Do not buy “all carbon” arrows.
    “All Aluminium” arrows should be the best value, so are recommended for beginners, but see our Arrow advice page for more info.
    Fletches are available in three main types: Feathers; Plastic Vanes and Mylar Vanes.
    Feathers aren't naturally waterproof, so are not a good choice for outdoor shooting. If your arrows need very big fletches, then feathers can be a good choice, as they will deform easily to pass any obstruction (your riser or arrow rest) unlike a plastic vane.
    Feathers are available as either right-wing or left-wing, which has a small effect on how the arrow flies. It has nothing to do with shooting left- or right-handed, but do not use/buy a mixture.
    Plastic vanes are generally cheaper than the other options.
    Mylar vanes are much lighter than plastic, but this really isn't significant compared to the overall weight of the arrow and point, particularly since compound archers typically use very thick (and therefore heavy) arrows. Mylar vanes are more fragile than plastic.
    Some archers use vanes (usually Mylar ones) that are designed to spin the arrow in flight, and therefore known as spin-wings (or similar). In order to spin the arrow, these wings rob the arrow of some of its speed, which is a bad thing. Some archers claim that a spinning arrow is more stable, and compare it with the rifling of a bullet, but this is a fallacy, as spinning a bullet is done to stop it from tumbling end-over-end, which isn't normally a problem with arrows.
    Fletches of all types are available in a variety of lengths and shapes. The shape is not massively important - it is the overall surface area that defines both drag and stability. The larger the area of a fletch, the more/faster it will stabilise your arrow. Conversely, the larger the fletch, the greater the air-resistance, and consequently the more it will slow down your arrow. Typically, for short distances (e. g. indoors) you need the arrow to stabilise quickly, and speed isn't very important, so larger fletches tend to be used. For longer distances, (i.e. outdoors) the arrow has plenty of time to settle, but speed (distance) can be crucial, so smaller fletches will suffice. More experienced archers will tend to have a smoother loose, so their arrows will require smaller fletches than a novice will.

  13. An Arrow Puller.

    For indoor use, the one that looks like a barrel with a slit down one side are best, but for use outdoors, the square type that fold in half give much more grip in the wet.
    Due to the relatively high power of most compounds, your arrows tend to go quite deep into the target, so a good puller is essential.

  14. A Bow Bag or Bow Case

    However big it looks now, you will manage to fill it eventually, especially for outdoor use.
    Compound archers quite commonly use a case made of hard plastic, since they generally offer more protection for the bow than a 'canvas' case.

The remaining items can be bought later, as you need them:

  1. A Bracer (arm guard) – many Compound shooters feel this is unnecessary, but better safe than sorry if you are noticing 'arm strikes'.
  2. A packet of spare Arrow Nocks of the correct size and colour.
  3. Low-temp Hot-melt glue (for arrow points and some types of nock.) This can be softened with the use of boiling water, or a small flame when you need to.
  4. A packet each of spare Arrow Fletches in the correct size and colours.
  5. Fletching glue.

    Do not stick your fletches on with any other kind of glue.

  6. A Set of Decals to identify your arrows, or a silver/gold marker pen**

    Many archers will number their arrows, to help them keep track

  7. A Bow-Sling or Wrist-Sling or Finger-Sling + spare (finger slings are easy to lose)

    Get someone to demonstrate the three types long before you decide to buy. Every archer will swear that one particular type is better than the others. For me, a bow sling is best!

  8. A Stabiliser set

    (Long-rod and fittings; v-bar and one or two side rods.) Roughly 50% of Compound shooters only use one side-rod.
    Stabilisers can be very controversial.
    When shooting outdoors, wind can grab a long-rod so manufacturers have a number of schemes to reduce wind-resistance, such as flattened oval profiles, or bundling three or four small rods together.
    The purpose of a long-rod is to provide a rigid but light-weight connection between the bow and the end-weight, so the rod itself is a compromise between strength and weight, but it is surprisingly difficult to get specific numbers for either factor.

  9. Weights and/or rubber vibration dampening devices.

    Your choice will depend to a large extent on your choice of stabiliser / long-rod. Again, these are mostly interchangeable, so can easily be left till later.

*Items marked with an asterisk are available in both right & left hand versions.
** Only strictly necessary if you enter a formal competition – ask an experienced archer for details.

Olympic Recurve

  1. A Riser* (the 'handle' part of the bow)

    Buy as expensive as you can afford, unless you are a junior. (If you have to buy a small riser then consider how long it will be before you grow too big, and need to buy an adult size.)
    If you are fully-grown, then buy the best riser you can justify.
    If you are still growing, then you should probably aim on getting 'value for money' from your first riser. If you are particularly small then you should definitly consider a wooden riser, though juniors who are particularly strong for their age may be able to cope adequately with a metal riser. Plastic risers also tend to be quite light, and quite cheap, but tend to be quite flexible (which is a bad thing.)
    There is a lot of snobbery in archery regarding wooden risers, but companies such as Border Bows are famous for making risers that are not only beautiful, but also of very high quality. Cheap wooden risers are much better value for money than a cheap metal riser, particularly if it is only used for a year or so before trading up.
    Archery is all about consistancy. A wooden riser is likely to flex more than a metal one, but this does not matter so long as it is consistant.
    More expensive models tend to be slightly better in terms of features and performance the more that you spend.
    ILF limb fitting is generally recommended for your first bow. (Bolt-on limbs are cheaper, but generally cannot be adjusted.)
    Many risers made by Hoyt use a limb-fitting system proprietary to them, which makes them an unusual choice for a first bow.
    A riser that allows you to adjust the limbs laterally is good, but not essential if you have good limbs to begin with. Don't waste money on your first set of limbs, as typically you will want to change them in about a year's time, and a beginner simply won't notice the difference in quality (if any) between cheap limbs and expensive ones.
    Do NOT buy limbs that are more than 4# heavier than you are currently shooting, (unless there is a VERY good reason) as you won't be able to handle it, and could injure yourself badly.
    BUT be aware that the effective weight of a set of limbs depends on bow length and also on draw-length, so may not be directly comparable between the riser you have learnt on, and the one you are about to buy.
    Before visiting a store, make sure that you know what draw-weight you have been shooting so far, and what length of bow. Ask someone you trust for advice on both these numbers before you go – beginners kit is often in short supply, so yours may not be ideal at the moment.

  2. A pair of limbs to match the bow – make sure they are the same fitting type

    Make sure you know what your current 'draw-weight' is, and get advice on what weight to buy – two or four pounds heavier is typical, but may be too much if you are already shooting the right weight. Generally, you should buy relatively cheap limbs, as most archers find that they want to move up a few more pounds after a season or so. Only a very good archer can tell the difference between reasonably priced limbs and the very best ones (except by looking at the sticker price.)

  3. Two strings of the correct length for your choice of riser and limbs
    Strings come in an infinite variety of types – ask the vendor for advice, but don't spend too much on your first as more expensive strings are only marginally more effective.

    Buy two identical strings, preferably in different colours, so that you have a spare, but can tell them apart.
    Don't buy Dacron as it stretches far more than modern string materials, but otherwise price is a reflection of quality. You won't notice the difference between brands, so the cheapest you can get from a reputable supplier will be fine.
    Brass nocking points are the best way to get your bow set up - do not let anyone change them for dental-floss until you have done bare-shaft tuning.
    Once your nocking points have been correctly set, don't forget to duplicate them on your spare string, then start shooting that one instead, so that they are both “shot in” - a brand new string will behave slightly differently at first.

    Strings are generally sold as a particular length, which will match the nominal length of your bow. It is not the same thing as the length of the string itself. If you have a short (or long) riser (the standard is 25" long) then your bow will be two inches shorter (longer) than the nominal length of your limbs. Junior bows in small sizes generally come with pre-matched limbs, so that you don't need to worry about the length in this way.

  4. A Bow Stringer
  5. A Bow Stand.

    Make sure you get one that has a spike for outdoor use. Apart from that, if a stand holds your bow, that is all it needs to do – so don't waste money on a fancy one.

  6. A Quiver* plus belt

    This is pretty much personal preference, though more expensive ones will usually have more pockets, and dividers for your arrows. Many models come with three plastic tubes, which is a bit strange, as indoor competitions generally use three arrow ends as a minimum, but you also need to carry at least one spare arrow.

  7. An Arrow Rest* (a spare is advisable)

    Rests come in several basic types, covering a large variety of prices. I could write an entire chapter on arrow rests, but the most sophisticated ones inevitably cost more, though the cheapest do pretty much the same job.
    You will need an arrow rest, but this will probably be fitted to the riser before it leaves the shop. You will also need a spare, or spare parts, but you may not like your first choice of rest, so don't buy a spare just yet. Price vs performance is fairly linear from £1 to £25 - beyond that the improvement in quality is minimal.
    The cheapest rests, made of plastic, will come with a small tab/spacer that will need to be cut off when you fit a pressure button.

  8. A Pressure Button

    The most expensive models are easier to adjust. This is not worth paying for, as it is rarely done. Some models come with a brass plunger, rather than a plastic one, which is slightly better as it won't wear out as fast.
    You will need a pressure button, but the cheapest works just as well as the most expensive, with one proviso - get one with a metal plunger if possible, as plastic ones wear out much quicker.
    Certain very cheap arrow rests come with a small flipper that is there to do the same job as a button, this can/should be cut off when you fit a button.
    If they think you are very new to archery, the shop may try to tell you that you don't need one. You do, but can easily buy one on the Internet a week or two later.
    A pressure button is basically just a spring with adjustable tension, so there is no way for one model to operate differently from another, and this is not an item that should be adjusted frequently.

  9. A Sight

    This is the place to spend money if you have it. The most basic sight will do the same job as the best, but this is one item that you will be adjusting regularly, and the best designs make that much easier than the cheapest. A spare sight-pin is a good idea, as the tip is both fragile and exposed, so is easily and commonly broken.
    Competition rules do not allow Recurve sights to have a magnifying effect, (but they are legal for Compounds,) so make sure that if there is 'glass' that it is 'plain'.

  10. A good quality Tab*

    This needs to fit your hand, so make sure you try all that you can get hold of, and try to ignore the price. Don't get one where the leather is too thick, or you won't be able to feel the string.

  11. A Bracer (arm guard)

    Price doesn't seem to have any relation at all to quality, so just make sure it is comfortable.

  12. A Chest Guard*

    This is a purely functional item, so get the cheapest one that fits.

The remaining items should ideally be bought only after you've had time to get used to your new bow:

  1. A set of Arrows.(A minimum of 8, but usually sold in sets of a dozen, with good reason.)

    Do not buy “all carbon” arrows.
    “All Aluminium” arrows should be the best value, so are recommended for beginners, but see our Arrow advice page for more info.
    It is tempting to buy arrows at the same time as you buy your bow, but while you may be able to exchange some items if they prove to be 'wrong' when you shoot them at your club, arrows need to be the right length, so are generally non-returnable (unless they are faulty.)
    Don't buy arrows until you've had your new kit for a few weeks. They need to be matched closely to what you are actually doing, and even if you don't change anything about your kit, your body/form will change as you get used to the new bow.

  2. A packet of spare Arrow Nocks of the correct size and colour.
  3. Low-temp Hot-melt glue (for arrow points and some types of nock.)
  4. A packet each of spare Arrow Fletches in the correct size and colours.

    Fletches are available in three main types: Feathers; Plastic Vanes and Mylar Vanes.
    Feathers aren't naturally waterproof, so are not a good choice for outdoor shooting. If your arrows need very big fletches, then feathers can be a good choice, as they will deform easily to pass any obstruction (your riser, arrow rest, hand) unlike a plastic vane.
    Feathers are available as either right-wing or left-, which has a small effect on how the arrow flies. It has nothing to do with shooting left- or right-handed, but do not use/buy a mixture.
    Plastic vanes are generally cheaper than the other options, but shouldn't cost much anyway.
    Mylar vanes are much lighter than plastic, but this really isn't significant compared to the overall weight of the arrow and point. Mylar vanes are more fragile than plastic.
    Some archers use vanes (usually Mylar ones) that are designed to spin the arrow in flight, and therefore known as spin-wings (or similar). In order to spin the arrow, these wings rob the arrow of some of its speed, which is a bad thing. Some archers claim that a spinning arrow is more stable, and compare it with the rifling of a bullet, but this is a fallacy, as spinning a bullet is done to stop it from tumbling end-over-end, which isn't normally a problem with arrows.
    Fletches of all types are available in a variety of lengths and shapes. The larger the area of a fletch, the more/faster it will stabilise your arrow. Conversely, the larger the fletch, the greater the air-resistance, and consequently the more it will slow down your arrow. Typically, for short distances (e. g. indoors) you need the arrow to stabilise quickly, and speed isn't very important, so larger fletches tend to be used. For longer distances, (i.e. outdoors) the arrow has plenty of time to settle, but speed (distance) can be crucial, so smaller fletches will suffice. More experienced archers will tend to have a smoother loose, so their arrows will require smaller fletches than a novice will.

  5. Fletching glue.

    Do not stick your fletches on with any other kind of glue. Ever.

  6. A Set of Decals to identify your arrows, or a silver/gold marker pen. **

    Many archers will number their arrows, to help them keep track.

  7. An Arrow Puller.

    For indoor use, the one that looks like a barrel with a slit down one side are best, but for use in the wet, the square type that fold in half give much more grip.

  8. A Bow Bag or Bow Case

    However big it looks now, you will manage to fill it eventually, especially for outdoor use.

  9. A Bow-Sling or Wrist-Sling or Finger-Sling + spare (finger-slings are easy to lose, wrist-slings less so, and bow-slings are impossible to lose.)

    Get someone to demonstrate the three types long before you decide to buy, and try them all, if possible.

  10. A Stabiliser set (Long-rod and fittings; v-bar and side rods.)

    Not recommended for smaller people until they have had plenty of time to get used to a heavy bow – get advice if you're not sure. Stronger archers may want to get a set that includes a v-bar and associated side rods, while most should just get a simple rod. Parts are largely interchangeable so there is no problem buying a set or individual parts later, via the Internet or second-hand.
    Stabilisers can be very controversial.
    When shooting outdoors, wind can grab a long-rod so manufacturers have a number of schemes to reduce wind-resistance, such as flattened oval profiles, or bundling three or four small rods together.
    The purpose of a long-rod is to provide a rigid but light-weight connection between the bow and the end-weight, so the rod itself is a compromise between strength and weight, but it is surprisingly difficult to get specific numbers for either factor.

    Most stabilisers use a standard screw thread, but a few have a quick-release fitting. This is supposed to make it easy to set up your bow, but frequently allows the system to dissasemble itself in use, which can be 'exciting'!
    Make sure that every piece has either a 'through hole' to take a tommy-bar, or flats to take a spanner. A few don't have either, which can be a real problem when they get stuck, as they inevitably do, or when the carbon-fibre part comes unglued from the metal bits.

  11. Weights and/or rubber vibration dampening devices.

    Your choice will depend to a large extent on your choice of stabiliser / long-rod. Again, these are mostly interchangeable, so can easily be left till later.

  12. A Clicker

    Don't start using it too soon, but they (should) be cheap, so buy one that fits while you are in the shop and can try different designs, since they vary considerably.
    If your arrows are a little long, then you may need a "Clicker Extender" or a clicker designed to fit on the the bar of your sight.

  13. A Bracing-Height gauge (T-gauge)

    There is no obvious difference between any of these, so buy the cheapest you can find.

*Items marked with an asterisk are available in both right & left hand versions.
** Only strictly necessary if you enter a formal competition – ask an experienced archer for details.

Recurve Barebow

  1. A Riser* (the 'handle' part of the bow)

    Buy as expensive as you can afford, unless you are a junior. (If you have to buy a small riser then consider how long it will be before you grow too big, and need to buy an adult size.)
    If you are fully-grown, then buy the best riser you can justify.
    If you are still growing, then you should probably aim on getting 'value for money' from your first riser. If you are particularly small then you should definitly consider a wooden riser, though juniors who are particularly strong for their age may be able to cope adequately with a metal riser. Plastic risers also tend to be quite light, and quite cheap, but tend to be quite flexible (which is a bad thing.)
    There is a certain amount of crossover between "Trad" and barebow, so many barebow archers will use a wooden riser, often with matching limbs that make it look very similar to a one-piece flat-bow.
    There are a handful of specialist Barebow risers, but they only vary very slightly from 'standard' risers, but of course come at a premium price!
    More expensive models tend to be slightly better in terms of features and performance the more that you spend.
    ILF limb fitting is generally recommended for your first bow. (Bolt-on limbs are cheaper, but generally cannot be adjusted.)
    A riser that allows you to adjust the limbs laterally is good, but not essential if you have good limbs to begin with. Don't waste money on your first set of limbs, as typically you will want to change them in about a year's time, particularly for shooting in outdoor competitions, as the right weight of limb can make it much easier to hit specific distances. (For BareBow, too much power can be just as much of a problem as too little.)

  2. A pair of limbs to match the bow – make sure they are the same fitting type

    Make sure you know what your current 'draw-weight' is, and get advice on what weight to buy – two or four pounds heavier is typical, but may be too much if you are already shooting the right weight. Generally, you should buy relatively cheap limbs, as most archers find that they want to move up a few more pounds after a season or so. Only a very good archer can tell the difference between reasonably priced limbs and the very best ones (except by looking at the sticker price.)
    Do NOT buy limbs that are more than 4# heavier than you are currently shooting, (unless there is a VERY good reason) as you won't be able to handle it, and could injure yourself badly.
    Before visiting a store, make sure that you know what draw-weight you have been shooting so far, and what length of bow. Ask someone you trust for advice on both these numbers before you go – beginners kit is often in short supply, so yours may not be ideal.

  3. Two strings of the correct length for your choice of riser and limbs

    Strings come in an infinite variety of types – ask the vendor for advice, but don't spend too much on your first as more expensive strings are only marginally more effective.
    Buy two identical strings, preferably in different colours.
    Don't buy Dacron as it stretches far more than modern string materials, but otherwise price is a reflection of quality. You won't notice the difference between brands, so the cheapest you can get from a reputable supplier will be fine.

  4. A set of brass nocking points – Barebow can take a lot of work to find the correct nocking-height, for which the ability to move them a millimetre at a time is invaluable.

    Brass nocking points are the best way to get your bow set up - do not let anyone change them for dental-floss until you have done bare-shaft tuning.
    Once your nocking points have been correctly set, don't forget to duplicate them on your spare string, then start shooting that one instead, so that they are both “shot in” - a brand new string will behave slightly differently at first.

  5. A Bow Stringer
  6. A Bow Stand.

    Make sure you get one that has a spike for outdoor use. Apart from that, if a stand holds your bow, that is all it needs to do – so don't waste money on a fancy one.

  7. A Quiver* plus belt

    This is pretty much personal preference, though more expensive ones will usually have more pockets, and dividers for your arrows.

  8. An Arrow Rest* (a spare is advisable)

    Rests come in several basic types, covering a large variety of prices. I could write an entire chapter on arrow rests, but the most sophisticated ones inevitably cost more, though the cheapest do pretty much the same job. For Barebow, (if you are doing 'String-Walking'), there is typically a lot more vertical pressure exerted on the rest during release, so some rests designed for 'Normal' Recurve use may be too delicate.
    BareBow archers often have relatively high nocking-points, if you do, you will probably find that a wrap-around rest makes it quite difficult to set things up correctly, as the contact point is usually much further away from the pressure button than for "same side" rests.
    You will also need a spare, or spare parts, but you may not like your first choice of rest, so don't buy a spare just yet. Price vs performance is fairly linear from £1 to £25 (for recurve rests – compound ones are more complex/expensive) - beyond that the improvement in quality is minimal

  9. A Pressure Button

    The most expensive models are easier to adjust. This is not worth paying for, as it is rarely done.
    The cheapest works just as well as the most expensive, with one proviso - get one with a metal plunger if possible, as plastic ones wear out much quicker.
    A pressure button is basically just a spring with adjustable tension, so there is no way for one model to operate differently from another, and this is not an item that should be adjusted frequently.

  10. A good quality Tab* - specialist “Barebow Tabs” are available, as well as 'normal' tabs.

    This needs to fit your hand, so make sure you try all that you can get hold of, and try to ignore the price. Don't get one where the leather is too thick, or you won't be able to feel the string.
    Specialist Barebow tabs may be all in one piece, (which prevents you from shooting 'split finger') and/or may have a series of markings that make it easier to judge your 'crawl'.

  11. A Bracer (arm guard)

    Price doesn't seem to have any relation at all to quality, so just make sure it is comfortable.

  12. A Chest Guard*

    This is a purely functional item, so get the cheapest one that fits.

The remaining items should ideally be bought only after you've had time to get used to your new bow:

  1. A set of Arrows. (A minimum of 8, but usually sold in sets of a dozen, with good reason.)

    Do not buy “all carbon” arrows.
    “All Aluminium” arrows should be the best value, so are recommended for beginners, but see our Arrow advice page for more info.
    Don't buy arrows until you've had your new kit for a few weeks. They need to be matched closely to what you are actually doing, and even if you don't change anything about your kit, your body/form will change as you get used to the new bow.

  2. A packet of spare Arrow Nocks of the correct size and colour.
  3. Low-temp Hot-melt glue (for arrow points and some types of nock.)
  4. A packet each of spare Arrow Fletches in the correct size and colours.

    Fletches are available in three main types: Feathers; Plastic Vanes and Mylar Vanes.
    Feathers aren't naturally waterproof, so are not a good choice for outdoor shooting for the other bow-styles. If your arrows need very big fletches, then feathers can be a good choice, as they will deform easily to pass any obstruction (your riser, arrow rest, hand) unlike a plastic vane.
    Feathers are available as either right-wing or left-, which has a small effect on how the arrow flies. It has nothing to do with shooting left- or right-handed, but do not use/buy a mixture.
    Plastic vanes are generally cheaper than the other options.
    Mylar vanes are much lighter than plastic, but this really isn't significant compared to the overall weight of the arrow and point. Mylar vanes are more fragile than plastic.
    Some archers use vanes (usually Mylar ones) that are designed to spin the arrow in flight, and therefore known as spin-wings (or similar). In order to spin the arrow, these wings rob the arrow of some of its speed, which is a bad thing. Some archers claim that a spinning arrow is more stable, and compare it with the rifling of a bullet, but this is a fallacy, as spinning a bullet is done to stop it from tumbling end-over-end, which isn't normally a problem with arrows.
    Fletches of all types are available in a variety of lengths and shapes. The larger the area of a fletch, the more/faster it will stabilise your arrow. Conversely, the larger the fletch, the greater the air-resistance, and consequently the more it will slow down your arrow. Typically, for short distances (e. g. indoors) you need the arrow to stabilise quickly, and speed isn't very important, so larger fletches tend to be used. For longer distances, (i.e. outdoors) the arrow has plenty of time to settle, but speed (distance) can be crucial, so smaller fletches will suffice. More experienced archers will tend to have a smoother loose, so their arrows will require smaller fletches than a novice will.

  5. Fletching glue.

    Do not stick your fletches on with any other kind of glue.

  6. A Set of Decals to identify your arrows, or a silver/gold marker pen. **

    Many archers will number their arrows, to help them keep track.

  7. An Arrow Puller.
    For indoor use, the one that looks like a barrel with a slit down one side are best, but for use in the wet, the square type that fold in half give much more grip.
  8. A Bow Bag or Bow Case

    However big it looks now, you will manage to fill it eventually, especially for outdoor use.

  9. A Bow-Sling or Wrist-Sling or Finger-Sling + spare (finger slings are easy to lose)

    Get someone to demonstrate the three types long before you decide to buy.

  10. A Bow-weight.

    This provides balance to the bow; the correct weight to use can really only be decided through trial-and-error, so seek out another Barebow archer and ask for help.

  11. A Bracing-Height gauge (T-gauge)

    There is no obvious difference between any of these, so buy the cheapest.

*Items marked with an asterisk are available in both right & left hand versions.
** Only strictly necessary if you enter a formal competition – ask an experienced archer for details.

Traditional

  1. A Bow – usually sold as a single piece, without separate/interchangeable limbs

    For Traditional bows, even those with detachable limbs, one usually has to change the bow if/when you want to change draw-weight. Most novice archers find that they need to change draw-weight after about a year of shooting, so think carefully about how much money you wish to spend, not just now, but in a year or two.
    More expensive models tend to be better in terms of quality the more that you spend.
    Do NOT buy a bow that has a draw-weight more than 4# heavier than you are currently shooting, (unless there is a VERY good reason) as you won't be able to handle it, and could injure yourself badly.
    Before visiting a store, make sure that you know what draw-weight you have been shooting so far, and what length of bow. Ask someone you trust for advice on both these numbers before you go – if you have only shot a 'standard' recurve until now, then going traditional may feel like a major change.

  2. Two strings of the correct length

    Strings come in an infinite variety of types – ask the vendor for advice, but don't spend too much on your first as more expensive strings are only marginally more effective, and string materials meant for recurves or compounds may be too “harsh” for your bow.
    Buy two identical strings, preferably in different colours.
    Traditional bows are often too fragile to use a modern, high-performance string, so buy whatever material the bow maker recommends. This may mean Dacron, or possibly even a cotton-based string.
    Brass nocking points are the best way to get your bow set up - do not let anyone change them for dental-floss until you have done bare-shaft tuning.
    Once your nocking points have been correctly set, don't forget to duplicate them on your spare string, then start shooting that one instead, so that they are both “shot in” - a brand new string will behave slightly differently at first.

  3. A Bow Stringer
  4. A Bow Stand

    Some longbow archers do without one, but they are a good idea for outdoor shooting. Styles vary, and recurve bow stands generally don't work.

  5. A Quiver* plus belt

    This is pretty much personal preference, though more expensive ones will usually have more pockets, and dividers for your arrows.

  6. An Arrow Rest if your bow uses one – the majority do not.

    Many Traditional bows don't use an arrow rest, but check with your dealer, and buy a spare if necessary, and buy it at the same time as your bow so that it matches the one sold with the bow.

  7. A good quality Tab* or shooting glove(s)

    This needs to fityour hand, so make sure you try all that you can get hold of, and try to ignore the price. Don't get one where the leather is too thick, or you won't be able to feel the string.

  8. A Bracer (arm guard)
  9. A Chest Guard*

    This is a purely functional item, so get the cheapest one that fits.

  10. A set of Arrows, matched to the bow

    (A minimum of 8, but usually sold in sets of a dozen, with good reason.)
    See our Arrow advice page for more info.

The remaining items may be bought when you need them:

  1. A packet of spare Arrow Nocks of the correct size and colour.
  2. Low-temp Hot-melt glue (for arrow points and some types of nock.)
  3. A packet each of spare Arrow Fletches in the correct size and colours.

    Fletches are available in three main types: Feathers; Plastic Vanes and Mylar Vanes.
    Feathers are mandatory for Traditional archers in some competitions (but not all).
    Feathers aren't naturally waterproof, so are not a perfect choice for outdoor shooting. . If your arrows need very big fletches, then feathers can be a good choice, as they will deform easily to pass any obstruction (your riser, arrow rest, hand) unlike a plastic vane.
    Feathers are available as either right-wing or left-, which has a small effect on how the arrow flies. It has nothing to do with shooting left- or right-handed, but do not use/buy a mixture.
    Plastic vanes are generally cheaper than the other options.
    Mylar vanes are much lighter than plastic, but this really isn't significant compared to the overall weight of the arrow and point. Mylar vanes are more fragile than plastic, and generally too small and fragile for use with traditional bows. .
    Fletches of all types are available in a variety of lengths and shapes. The larger the area of a fletch, the more/faster it will stabilise your arrow. Conversely, the larger the fletch, the greater the air-resistance, and consequently the more it will slow down your arrow. Typically, for short distances (e. g. indoors) you need the arrow to stabilise quickly, and speed isn't very important, so larger fletches tend to be used. For longer distances, (i.e. outdoors) the arrow has plenty of time to settle, but speed (distance) can be crucial, so smaller fletches will suffice. More experienced archers will tend to have a smoother loose, so their arrows will require smaller fletches than a novice will.

  4. Fletching glue.

    Do not stick your fletches on with any other kind of glue.

  5. A Set of Decals to identify your arrows, or an appropriate marker pen. **

    Many archers will number their arrows, to help them keep track.

  6. An Arrow Puller.

    For indoor use, the one that looks like a barrel with a slit down one side are best, but for use in the wet, the square type that fold in half give much more grip.

  7. Arrow-cleaning tassle, for outdoor use.
  8. A Bow Bag or Bow Case

    However big it looks now, you will manage to fill it eventually, especially for outdoor use.

*Items marked with an asterisk are available in both right & left hand versions
** Only strictly necessary if you enter a formal competition – ask an experienced archer for details.

Show your kit toone of the instructors from your beginners course, as soon as you get it, and ask them to check the various alignments (and show you how to do it yourself) or to point you at someone else who is more experienced with your bow-style. You will probably find that lots of people want to see (and fiddle) with your shiny new kit, but (as with coaching) it is best for everyone if you deal with just one person.

Kit for Outdoors

  1. In the UK, shooting outdoors isn't always as pleasant as we would like, so be prepared for all kinds of weather.

    Always carry some warmer clothing, ideally a sleeveless body warmer or similar - you don't want bulky clothing on your arms. A snug-fitting waterproof jacket is also a very good idea.
    Be positive too, though, and carry a sun hat, sunglasses and sun block for the nice days.
    A sunhat generally needs to have a soft brim, or it will get in the way of your string - only Compound archers (who typically have relatively short bows) can get away with wearing a base-ball cap.

  2. In some places, midges can be a problem, so carry a small bottle of insect repellent, especially if you are allergic to insect bites.

    Be careful with it though - some kinds are based on a chemical that is very effective at stripping paint, and melting certain types of plastic.

  3. When it does rain in the middle of a competition, you will soon find that your hand-grip gets slippery, so carry a small hand-towel to dry it off as necessary; drape it over the bow when it's not in use to stop it getting wet in the first place.
  4. A good pair of boots should probably be top of this list, preferably ones that are waterproof. Some outdoor competitions will mean you are on your feet all day, so they need to be comfortable.
  5. Serious competitors will want to buy a tent.

    There are a few models that allow you to stand up inside; have a look at what other archers use, and ask them about the pro's and con's.
    The tent-pegs provided with your tent (if any) will probably be a bit feeble, and there won't be many of them, so buy a pack of longer, stronger ones; ideally with a high-vis top on them.
    You will lose a few over time. . .
    Try and find a small hammer to knock them in with, but avoid the rubber mallets that camping shops sell, as they are rarely heavy enough or hard enough to be useful.

  6. A good, comfortable and strong folding/camping chair is pretty much essential for long competitions.

    Find a couple of tent pegs to keep it in place when its windy - the back can act like a sail if the chair is facing into the wind, and will lift a surprising amount of weight, sending all your kit flying.

  7. A flask for hot or cold drinks (depending on the weather) can make life much more pleasant.
  8. There are a variety of kinds of hand-warmers on the market, which can help to prevent you hands stiffening up.

    The cheapest and lightest are disposable, but tend to last longer than those that can be 'recharged' by immersing in hot water. The most expensive are basically a battery that you can recharge from a USB socket just like a phone.

  9. A good pair of gloves can be useful, but have to be taken off regularly, so tend not to be very effective. Some people use fingerless gloves for their string-hand, but be wary about trying to hold a bow with a gloved hand, as wool or nylon gloves are likely to slip.
  10. If you are going to enter an official "Open" competition check the rules beforehand - AGB has a dress code that prohibits blue jeans, or camouflage patterned clothing, and a few other things.
  11. Binoculars or (more commonly) a telescope can be very useful when shooting at longer distances - few of us have good enough eye-sight to be able to reliably see which arrow is which at 90m / 100yardsand it is surprisingly difficult to tell whether an arrow sticking out of the ground has landed in front or behind the target.

    It is hard to make recommendations, since there are so many to choose from, but do make sure that buy/make something to keep the rain off your scope, and make sure you know how to avoid it fogging up.
    Telescopes can generally be kept on the shooting line (on a tripod similar to those a photographer would use) but only if the tripod is 'tied down' usually with a tent-peg and string or a bungee. If not, it is likely to get knocked over, or blown over by wind.

  12. If you have a lot of arrows, then a ground-quiver can be a useful way to keep them safe but handy for easy access when you need a spare, or want to change the entire set.

    A ground-quiver (should be) a very cheap item to buy, and can usually double-up as a bow and/or cup stand.

  13. A basic first-aid kit: a few plasters; tape in at least two different widths; a small pair of sharp scissors; pain-killer tablets; anti-diarrhoea tablets.

    A short length of tubi-grip can be useful when worn on the bow-arm, to keep flappy sleeves in place, so that they don't get in the way of the string.

  14. Assorted bits & bobs.

    A small roll of electrical tape; single-use super glue; a multi-tool and/or pliers; allen keys in every possible size.

  15. Two black pens and a small notebook.

    You'll need to keep a note of things like your tiller setting, brace-height, sight-marks etc. and for scoring.