Choosing your first bow is a difficult decision when you’re just starting out in archery. If you’re new to the sport then a simple recurve bow is likely your best option. But what other options are there?
Before we go into the details, let’s start with the basics.
What is a bow?
A bow is basically a big spring. When it’s drawn back, energy is stored in its two limbs. Let go of the string and that energy is released, shooting an arrow at the desired target.
There are four types of bows that are used in archery:
A recurve bow is what most people use when they decide to start playing archery. There are four main parts to a recurve bow: the riser, two limbs and a string.
The riser is the part of the bow an archer grasps. The limbs are where energy is stored when the string is pulled back. The defining feature of a recurve bow is the tips of the limbs that curve away from the archer. This curvature stores more energy and delivers a more efficient shot.
Recurve bows can range from simple, wooden recurves to modern, metal designs. Most include attachments that are standard in modern-day competition. This a good bow for beginners because it is easy to fire and reliable. Recurve bows are used by archers in the Olympic Games.
A compound bow is the modern evolution of the recurve bow. It utilizes stiffer limbs and a pulley cam system to create a much more efficient bow.
The bow can be hard to draw but as the cams rotate the apparent draw weight becomes lighter. This is known as the “let-off”. When the bow is fully drawn, the archer holds a smaller percentage of the bow’s draw weight. This allows the archer to relax and concentrate on aiming at a target.
Due to the mechanical aspect of the bow’s design, the compound bow is more accurate, higher in velocity and flatter in trajectory when shooting. The bow comes with a number of complex accessories that are especially useful to bowhunters.
A longbow is a very simple bow drawn back by hand and is not significantly recurved. Made from a single piece of wood, the longbow has narrow limbs in a D-shaped curve.
Longbows have been made by many different cultures and date as early as 3,300 BC. The most famous longbow design is the traditional English longbow. It was used against the French in the Hundred Years’ War and was a very effective weapon at penetrating chainmail.
There are several practical advantages to using a longbow. It is light, quick and shoots quietly. However, when compared to other types of modern bows, the longbow is less accurate and does not shoot as far.
A crossbow is a small bow mounted onto a wooden or fiberglass stock. It has a trigger mechanism to release the bolt, which is a shorter arrow shot from crossbows.
Because the bow is short, it takes a lot of energy to pull back the bow string. You need to place your foot in the stirrup and use a cocking device to hook the string into the nut. Energy is stored in the tension of the bow’s arms so when the trigger is pulled, the bolt is released.
Crossbows require very little skill to master, especially when compared to a longbow. Although they are easier to fire, crossbows require more time to reload. Since most archers shoot a stationary target, this usually is not an issue.
Recurve: Good for beginners, stationary shooting and archery competitions
Compound: Perfect for hunters and archers who like more power
Longbow: Ideal for archers who like to stick to traditional shooting
Crossbow: Attractive to hunters who want to spend less time practicing