Buying your first bow: The Guide for New Archers

It might seem a bit daunting picking and purchasing your first bow set up. This article will lay it all out for you. What to look out for in second-hand equipment, how to choose the right specifications for you and your ability, the dos and don’ts of archery equipment buying!

This article is aimed at kids and beginner archers, the knowledge to help you buy your first bow set up. If you are buying archery equipment for a kid, have a read of our Archery for Kids – Guide and Tips before starting your archery journey. For beginners who are ready to start archery and looking to take up the sport, have a read of our Beginners’ Guide to get the key information about equipment.

Let’s get started, learn the key information and get the right bow set up for you!

Do I need a license to buy a bow?

Before you look at buying equipment, you might be questioning whether you need a license to buy a bow.

The simple answer is, no. To own and buy a bow and arrows, you do not need a license. However, to use your equipment outside of a controlled archery setting, you would need to check local laws.

If you want to hunt with a bow and arrows, you will need to obtain a hunting license for that state and area. You will also need to follow the hunting laws where you are hunting.

Buying a bow and arrows is different to buying other weapons. You do not need to fill out forms or paperwork to walk out of an archery shop with your new equipment. You can buy pretty much every bit of archery equipment online from reputable pro shops around the US.

Gearhead Archery has a great summary of each state by state law for bows and arrows. Have a read here of the laws and regulations.

First steps to buying your first archery bow set up

With different types of bow setups available for all disciplines in the sport, the first thing you should do is set yourself a reasonable budget. Archery can cost as little or as much as you want it to. On average, it will probably cost from a few hundred dollars to a thousand or so dollars to get your first bow set up.

As with most sports, archery has different levels of equipment for different levels of ability to shoot bows. Talking to your coach, your kid’s coach or club friends will help you determine what sort of level archery equipment you should be buying.

Remember that when it comes to kids, they are individuals, and might need different equipment to what their friends might have. Bows come in differing mass weights, lengths, sizes, and adjustability.

All equipment can be bought either brand new through retailers, pro shops and archery stores, or second hand. While brand new might seem like the best option, if it is for your kid or you are a new archer, you might want to spend a little less, to begin with as they will grow and need new equipment soon.

We will help you focus on the main bits of equipment to purchase first and what will last the longest. Along with what archery equipment can be bought second hand to make sure you get the most out of your money and budget.

When should you buy your first bow setup?

This question is often asked, but usually, it comes down to your personal options, your ArcheryUP instructor’s guidance, and what you can afford. If you are at a stage where you want to take your archery more seriously, you should start investing in equipment.

Photo credit: Archery360. Your instructor will be able to help you buy your first bow.

Once you’ve completed your beginner’s course, you will have your basic form and knowledge from your ArcheryUP instructor. You can work together to discuss the specifics that you will need for your equipment.

While it is not essential to have your own bow and equipment to try archery, if you want to be able to compete and progress, it is probably best to have your own equipment.

Having your own bow means you can adapt it and personalise it to your specific needs and wants, like target shooting, hunting, field shooting.

What type of archery do you want to get into?

With different disciplines and different bows in the sport, such as target archery, 3D archery, field archery and bowhunting, you should know where you want to be. There are many interchangeable aspects of equipment to cover all bases. But if you want to specialise in one or multiple of the disciplines will determine what specific accessories you will need for your new bow.

For example, hunting bows have different arrow rests, fletchings, along with broadheads, which differ from competition bows.

Photo credit:West Virginia DNR. Bow hunting is a type of archery primarily done with a compound bow.

Do your research into the types of archery and which one you want to go into. This will help determine your fine-tuned equipment later down the line.

Buying second-hand archery equipment

Once you’ve set your budget for your archery equipment, you will need to find ways to fit everything into that budget. The second-hand archery equipment market is a very good option to look at for beginners and kids. As you and your kid grow with the sport, your bow and arrows will need to change and progress with you.

There is a very big second-hand market for archery equipment across the USA, as it is such a big sport. However, there are some key attributes you need to look out for to purchase your archery equipment second hand. Is it the right price? What condition is it in? Are you ready for it?

Before buying your new bow online second-hand, you will need to know what you specifically need. What draw weight (poundage) and draw length and arrow length. For compound, the let-off that you want, release aid (if you want a trigger, back tension or hinge).

Buying archery equipment through second-hand avenues, such as Facebook groups or from an archer directly, look at the piece of equipment brand new. Take the price of that and work out roughly 75% of the brand-new cost. The equipment should be at least that price, depending on the age, condition, etc, the equipment could cost less.

You might be questioning whether it is safe to buy second-hand archery equipment, the answer is usually yes. Provided you check the equipment, someone on hand to check the safety and condition of the equipment if you don’t know how to. Your local archery shop, pro shop, or your ArcheryUp instructor will be able to help you with this. Looking over the bow and arrows will help ensure there isn’t any damage that could cause you or others harm. A bow technician at a pro shop will also be able to help you put new strings on a compound, tune your bow or cut arrows.

As with all second-hand things, it likely won’t be in perfect condition. Make sure you ask for more pictures of the equipment than what they are advertising. So that you can make sure you are happy with the condition before purchasing.

Buying a barebow or recurve bow setup

Riser

In recurve archery, the riser is one of the easiest parts of equipment to buy. Especially on the second-hand market. This will also last you a long time, provided you get the right one for you. It is worth putting a larger chunk of money into the riser. This piece of equipment will probably last you the longest amount of time, provided you get the right one for you. It’s important to test out different ones to see how they feel when they shoot, which one feels right for you in the hand.

Usually, risers can take a lot of wear and tear and don’t damage too easily (but still check it over when you get it if it’s second-hand).

There are different measurements for a recurve riser, as explained in our Archery for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide. Risers come in 27”, 25” and 23” lengths. Kids will usually need either a 23” or 25” riser, with adults needing 25” or 27”. The majority of archers use a 25” riser.

Recurve risers come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Be sure to try different ones to get the best one for you!

Buying a riser seems simple enough once you know what length you want. However, there are different limb fittings. Brands like Hoyt sell some risers that will only fit Hoyt limbs, this is called Formula fitting. There is a second limb fit called International Limb Fit (ILF). This means any brand limb can go into any brand riser.

The last essential bit of knowledge for a riser is knowing whether you need a right or left-handed riser. Your eye dominance will determine whether you are right or left-handed. Your ArcheryUp Instructor will be able to guide you on this.

Limbs

When you buy your first set of limbs, remember that they probably won’t be your last pair. As you grow with the sport, you will get stronger and better limbs and higher poundage. If it’s a kid you are buying for, they will get taller and need longer limbs as they grow. It is usually advised to buy on the cheaper end of the scale for your first set of limbs, as you’ll likely outgrow them quite quickly.

As with the riser, you will need to be aware of what limbs you need to buy, ILF or Formula. ILF will give the most flexibility in regards to what brand you can buy and interchange with the brand of the riser.

Here is a quick demonstration of the differences between ILF and Formula limbs.

Discuss with your ArcheryUP instructor about what length limbs you need. While you can shoot shorter limbs, it is advised against if you have a long draw length. If you draw the limb further than it is designed to, it could damage the limbs over time and also will cause more resistance and feel really stiff.

A rough guide to limb lengths is:

– 66-inch bow for 26 1/2-inch draw length or shorter

– 68-inch bow for draw lengths between 26 1/2-inch and 29-inches

– 70-inch for draw lengths of 29-inches or longer.

Draw weight is very important to get right for your first set of limbs. If they are too heavy, you could end with an injury or it will be too difficult and not enjoyable. If you can, try a few pairs of limbs out before deciding on the draw weight you want. 

Most adults will probably use 18-32 poundage limbs to begin with. This gives growing room and also will help reduce injury, rather than going for the higher end poundage.

Buying a compound bow setup

When buying a compound bow, you’ll be buying the bow as a whole, not the separate riser, limbs, cams, etc. For a compound bow, you will need to know your full draw length, the axle-to-axle size you want, and the poundage you want.

To begin with, find the right draw length for your new compound bow. Compounds are limited with their draw length, unlike recurve bows. The cams will give a limited range of lengths, so ensure this is correct before committing to a bow.

You will want to pay attention to the cams that you get on the bow. Cams can change the way the bow feels, as well as dictate what draw length you’re getting. There are smaller cams, larger cams, faster cams, etc. They will also affect the ‘let-off’ of the poundage during your draw. Effectively, this means that at full draw, you will be holding less weight, giving you an easier shot and more time to aim.

There are many different beginner compounds on the market currently.

If you are looking to shoot in target competitions, your compound bow cannot exceed a 60-pound draw weight. Although this won’t be where you start for your first bow, it is good to have this knowledge in the back of your head, as it is different to a hunting bow.

A very rough guide to beginner draw weight on a compound is:

– Kids, up to 20 pounds maximum, to avoid injury

– Men and women after between 18 and 21 – 15 to 30 pounds

– Women aged 22 and above – 20 to 35 pounds

– Men aged 22 and above – 25 to 40 pounds

However, there are key factors, such as how strong you are as a person if you have any disabilities, etc. Being able to pick your bow weight comes down to you as a person.

Hence why this guide is very rough, a starting point to see where you are at. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed if you do not fit into this rough guide either way.

The limbs on a compound can either be one solid limb, made of a single piece of material, usually fiberglass. Or split limb, which is two pieces of material. These limb systems fit into the riser top and bottom.

Buying stabilizers for your new bow

As with most things in archery, there are different variations of stabilizers available. They come in different lengths, stiffnesses, thicknesses and colours, of course.

Depending on if you are shooting recurve or compound, you will have a different thickness and stiffness of the rod.

Talk to your ArcheryUP instructor about what length and stiffness you should go for. Also, go and try a bunch of different ones to get a feel.

There are different lengths available in stabilizers, with different price ranges available.

The different brands, lengths, etc, will all feel different to shoot. So personalising the feel to what you like will definitely help with your shooting.

Remember that you do not need to buy stabilizers right away, this is a progression piece of equipment and can be bought further down the line in your archery journey.

If you are looking to invest in stabilizers already, put more money into them than not. They can last for many years and rarely need replacing. You can grow with them, add weight to them and get stronger with them.

Buying Bowstrings

You should always buy a new string. That way you know it hasn’t had any strands cut, any damage to it and it is also only you who has used it. You can usually pick your colour, the number of strands, serving (middle part when the nock sits) colour.

Buying a string can come from a specialised pro shop, such as;

Americas Best Bowstrings

60X Custom Strings

FirstString BowStrings

Just to name a few.

You can pick your own colour for your strings, along with length and strands to help tune your bow.

Lancaster Archery, one of the biggest pro shops in America, also offers a wide variety of different strings available for all bow styles.

Compound, Barebow and Recurve bow strings are all different, so make sure you are aware of what you’re buying. Working with your ArcheryUP instructor on what string is best for you. The number of strands (thickness), the length, what serving is used. All of these factors will affect how your bow shoots and how your arrows fly.

A tip from the archery pros is to have a tied nocking point (an archery shop or your instructor will be able to help with this). This is instead of brass nocking points, simply to protect your fingers and also prolong the life of the string and finger tab.

If you want to learn how to tie your nocking point yourself, have a look here.

Compounds will also need to have a d-loop tied onto the center serving. This is an essential piece of a compound string set up. Your ArcheryUP instructor will be able to help with this as well.

Buying sights and accessories for your new bow

Compound and recurve sights are very different from each other. Compound sights need to be more robust and sturdier as a lot more vibration and more power goes through them than a recurve.

A recurve sight pin is a lot smaller than a compound one, so be aware when purchasing which one it is. Recurve sights usually have a pin or a fiber, whereas compounds have a scope that has a magnifier in them to help with aiming. With many different brands, sizes and colours of sights on the market, it’s best to try them out at a pro shop, make sure you like how they look when you aim.

Recurve sights are different to compound sights, with just a sight pin

A sight is definitely an item of equipment that can be bought second-hand, and for good value. But, like the riser for a recurve, this is something you will want to invest in as a sight can last many years before it needs replacing.

A compound bow will also have a peep sight. This is tied into the main bowstring, and not actually near the sight itself. Peep sights do not cost that much, starting around $17, but it is always good to have a spare.

Compound sights have a scope with a magnifying lens inside.

For a beginner, there are a lot of arrow rests out there. So how do you know which one to go for? The pros of the archery world usually use a Beiter or Shibuya rest for a recurve. These are very durable rests and are actually adjustable. Lancaster Archery has a great supply of rests ranging from all prices but start by looking at a Fivics, Decut, Beiter or Shibuya rest.

Compound archers will need to be looking for a compound-specific arrow rest. These will have launchers or blades on them, to aid with the arrow flight. The prices of these can range from $40 up to over $350, so be sensible with your choice and what fits your budget/needs at this stage.

Recurve and barebow archers will need to invest in a decent plunger button to complete their kit. This is the kind of equipment that is very much, buy cheap, buy twice. You will want to invest some money in a plunger button in order to make sure it will last you a long time.

Lastly, a finger tab or release aid. For barebow and recurve archers, a finger tab is essential. A tab will protect your fingers, which is its purpose. It will also help with your anchor point and getting the same full draw position. For barebow archers, there are specific barebow tabs. It is advised against getting a second-hand tab from someone unless it is genuinely unused. Tabs will take the shape of individuals fingers, how they curl their fingers around the string, how they shoot. So it molds your form and technique.

A barebow tab is different to a recurve tab, be aware when buying.

Release aids are slightly different, these can be bought second-hand or brand new, it doesn’t matter as much, provided they haven’t been adapted. Your ArcheryUP instructor can help you decide if you want a trigger, back tension, wrist strap or hinge release aid. They all work on different systems and will give a different feel when you shoot.

How do you know what arrows you need?

To buy the correct arrows for you, a bit of background knowledge is required. Arrows need to be personalized to you as a beginner. This means they will need to be the correct length, spine, weight, for what you are shooting and what your goals are.

Normally, it is better to get the first set of arrows a bit longer than what you would need, especially if the arrows are for a kid. This is because as you grow with your instructor, improve your technique, or physically grow, having longer arrows will give you this space. You won’t then need to buy a new set of arrows within the first few months as well.

Your first set of arrows will likely be a set of aluminium arrows. These are cheaper than the carbon fiber ones and will be better to start with. They are just as straight and consistent as carbon arrows but are more budget-friendly.

For your first set, it’s probably better to go to your local pro shop and get the technicians and your instructor to help you find the right ones, get them cut, pointed and fletched. This means they will be ready to shoot as soon as you get them, rather than having to put them together and risking injury or damage.

Should I buy archery equipment from Amazon or eBay?

It is usually advised not to buy archery equipment from Amazon or eBay, but from a pro shop, archery shop or online. If you buy from Amazon or eBay, you will probably be replacing the equipment within the first few months, there’s a reason it is cheap equipment.

Buying from an archery shop will also benefit you because there will be archery pros on hand to help you with your equipment. You can also take your ArcheryUP instructor with you, so you can pick out your first bow with guidance and knowledge that it’s right for you.

There are, however, some things you could buy from Amazon or eBay. Such as a brace height gauge. These pieces of equipment are generic and won’t affect the bow itself. It is used to measure your brace height (string to the button) to ensure it is the same each time.

You could also buy a bow stand, bow stringer, equipment bag, wrench keys, finger sling/wrist sling, quiver or toolbox to keep all of your tools and little bits of equipment that might get lost.

What to do next

So, you’ve got your knowledge, you know where to look, let’s get you buying your first bow set up! Head over to our website, ArcheryUP, to link up with your local instructor to get started on your archery journey and buy your first bow.

While you’re there, have a look at our other archery related articles to help you on your journey, such as Archery for Kids, the Beginners Ultimate Guide.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on all things archery!

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