There are two main forms of archery, target archery and field archery. Target archery is the olympic version of the sport and the most commonly known, where a number of arrows are fired at targets at a set distance from the competitor. Field archery takes place on a course of targets set out in rough country, often woodland, and the target distances are not marked so the archer relies upon their judgement to gauge the distance.
The bows available for beginners vary greatly, but there are four main varieties of bows to choose from;
- Fibreglass – basic beginners bow; good for children with an interest in archery, but a recurve bow is more suited to someone who wishes to pursue the sport further.
- Recurve – the only bow style allowed at the olympics, mostly associated with target archery and is the most popular archery style in the UK.
- Compound – the newest type of bow; almost any type of compound bow is permitted as long as they are not electronic. The bows consist of cams which make it easier to draw the bow, giving a much greater weight.
- Traditional – the simplest form of archery bow; traditional bows include the English Longbows, American Flatbows and the Japanese Kyudo bows. Sets usually consist of wooden bows, and arrows with feathers.
Finding your dominant eye
Before finding a bow that’s right for you, you must first establish which side your dominant eye is on. This is an important stage and dictates whether or not you will need a right or left handed bow.
- Hold your hands at arms length out in front of you – palms pointing forward so you are looking at the back of your hands.
- Make a triangle with your hands – your two thumbs should be at the bottom of the triangle and your hands should be overlapping to form the triangular shape. The space should act as a viewing window so you should be able to see objects clearly through the hole.
- Look at an object in front of you through the triangular hole in your hands with both eyes open – find a small enough, or far away enough object that you can see clearly through the triangle formed by your hands
- Focus on the object – focus on the object in the distance, not your hands. Your hands should become blurred and the object in the distance should not. Ensure you are facing directly at the object because if you are turning in any way to look at the object it will skew the results.
- Slowly move your hands towards your face – don’t lose sight of the object as you draw your hands closer to your face.
- Draw your hands back until they touch your face – the triangle should end up over your dominant eye. Most people will naturally draw the triangle over one eye to maintain focus on the object in the distance.
Right or left handed
If you hold the bow with your right hand and pull the string with your left hand you are a left handed archer; on the contrary, if you are to hold the bow in your left hand and draw the string with your right hand, you are a right handed archer.
If you are right or left handed, this will translate not only to the bow you use, but also to any accessories you will need to acquire.
Choosing your bow length
It is crucial to select the correct length bow for your height and it is easily summed up by the following heights and bow lengths;
- Under 5’6’’ = 64’’ bow length
- 5’6’’ to 5’10’’ = 66’’ bow length
- 5’10’’ to 6’2’’ = 68’’ bow length
- 6’2’’ and above = 70’’ bow length
Choosing your draw weight
The weight of your bow will determine how far you can draw back your arrow before release. If the bow weight is too high, you may struggle to draw the arrow back and this will impact on the enjoyment of the sport. You are advised to start with a lighter bow allowing you to engage more comfortably.
The ability to draw back on the bow is determined by your strength and technique and it is safer to select a lighter draw weight as a beginner to prevent any strain. The draw weight of your bow is also determined by your age and gender. Here is a rough guide of what you can expect to find;
- Juniors 16-24lbs
- Ladies 16- 28lbs
- Mens 16-32lbs
As your technique and strength improve, it is possible to increase the draw weight that you use.
Choosing the correct arrow
Arrows come in many different materials and designs. The material and design that is right for you can be a very personal choice. As a beginner, it is better to focus on making sure you have an arrow that will accommodate your draw length.
To find your approximate draw length, the best thing to do is take a retractable tape measure and hold the main body of the tape measure in the hand you would usually hold the bow with. Then, draw back on the end of the tape measure the same way you would a bow string, to the corner of your mouth. Ensure you are standing as you would when shooting your bow, with lead arm outstretched and the drawing arm high and level with your lead arm.
You are advised to take the measurement you get from this process and add approximately two inches to the length for safety reasons, as firing an arrow that is too short for your draw length can be dangerous.
Best beginner compound bow
There are a baffling number of bows available on the market and it can therefore be difficult to choose one, but there are a few factors to consider when looking at compound bows for beginners. Once you have ascertained your measurements and have worked out which class of bow you will need, there are still many bows to choose from. There are a few starter bows available, but the best one on the market right now, in 2019, is the Diamond Archery Infinite Edge, as it has a diverse range of settings and can be adapted for a range of different user levels.
The Diamond Archery Infinite Edge is for anyone who has outgrown the youth and female category bows, or who wants to progress up a level. Here are a few specifications for the bow;
- Adjustable draw weight from 5-70lbs
- Adjustable draw length from 13’’-31’’
- Can shoot arrows up to 310fps
- Has an extremely smooth draw, making it ideal for beginners
- 7’’ brace height and 31’’ axle to axle meaning it is moderately sized and ideal for beginners
- Lightweight at 3.2lbs
- Package includes rest, sight, stabiliser, and a quiver. Ideal for a beginner.