Choosing a Traditional Bow
Before you purchase your Traditional Bow, whether it be your first bow or your dream bow, there are some serious questions that you need to ask yourself.
Follow this guide to come closer to a decision and contact me if you have any problems or questions.
- Inform Yourself
- If you are a complete stranger to Archery then the best thing to do is to find an archery centre near you that you can attend a few times to see if the sport is for you. Most people see a movie and decide that they are going to pick up a bow and do the “Robin Hood” or shoot as fast as Legolas from Lord of the Rings.
Unfortunately reality is a little different and, although those levels of skill can be achieved, there is no point in buying a bow if you have no idea on how to shoot it first.
Find a place where you can practice archery so that you may learn the correct shooting techniques and then proceed to purchase your first bow.
- Know the Reason
This is probably the most important point to understand. The question you want to ask to yourself is : “What do I need this bow for?” All bows differ from one another for various reasons. If you want to be a hunter there is absolutely no reason to go out and buy an enormous longbow that will remain stuck on every bush you walk near.
The same goes if you want to be a ranged shooter (50-100 meters) and you choose a bow that is so weak that you won’t be able to reach 30 meters. If what you would like to shoot at a consistent 30 meter target ,like most people in field archery, then don’t go out and purchase a bow that is so heavy for you to pull that you have to go home after 20 minutes of shooting. Otherwise you will not enjoy the sport and you will never pick up a bow again.
Ask yourself truthfully “What do I need this bow for?” and you will be much happier when you achieve your goals.
- Draw Weight:
Commonly referred to as the Poundage of the bow, is the hardest factor to choose.
Draw Weight or Poundage refers to how heavy a bow string is to pull back. The same looking bow can be 20 pounds or 70 pounds just because of the density of the materials used.
A 50 pound bow means that every time you are drawing back on the string you are pulling around 22kg. If you can think of having to pull that much weight for 2 hours you may rethink your needs.
Before you purchase a bow be truthful to yourself as there will be nobody that you have to impress by having an overly heavy bow!
If you have time to find an archery range or if you are in Perth Western Australia and can come to my store it is a lot easier to find your Draw Weight. Don’t guess your draw weight because you will be upset with yourself when it arrives! Everyone likes to think of themselves as small Hulks so they ask for a 60- 70 rocket launcher instead of a well balanced bow to fit their body.
I have had clients that have purchased bows elsewhere that have come to me and asked “I can’t string this bow, why is it so hard” or “I cant pull this bow past my chin”. Unfortunately when you are miss informed it is hard to buy correctly.
The poundage of a bow does not mean that it will go further then a lower poundage of another bow. If you have a 30 pound Deluxe bow for example, the arrows will be at least 30-40 feet per second faster then a 30 pound Intermediate fibreglass bow, although the latter will be more sturdy because of it’s materials.
Lastly keep in mind that if you want to go hunting the minimum amount of poundage required to kill an animal cleanly and without too much suffering is 45 pounds. This ,I believe, is a silly way of measuring a kill shot as you can have a 45 pound bow that has no where near as much power and arrow speed as a 45 pound mechanical Compound so be careful when choosing.
- Draw Length:
The Draw length is a lot easier to understand compared to the Draw Weight.
The Draw Length signifies how far you pull the string from normal brace to your anchor point(anchor point is where you pull the string back to before you release)Where a 2 meter tall man may have a 32 inch draw, a 1.6 meter tall youth may only have a 26 inch draw.
The easiest way for you to measure your draw length is to ask an archery store or club to measure you up. In general most people below the height of 180 cm will draw 28 inches and lower with the 3 finger release method.
Above 180 cm you will be 29 inches and up depending on your height.
IMPORTANT Make sure you DON’T Buy a bow that is designed for 26 inches when you have a 32 inch draw because it will come apart in your hand and most likely injure the user.Remember that all bows are measured at 28 inches unless otherwise specified. Make sure that if you can’t draw 28 inches you find an appropriate poundage bow for yourself as you will not pull the full power of the bow.
The cost of a Traditional Bow is a controversial point. Some bow makers will charge a lot for their bows even though they may not have as much experience or quality of bows as others.
I try and import bows that are quality and resell them for an amount similar to the cost the bowyer sells them for. After shooting many different types of bows from different makers I can say that although some bow makers charge a lot of money for their bows the quality and performance may not be as high as some other cheaper bow makers.
The cost of bows can vary all the way from around $200 AUD all the way to $4000 AUD. Bow makers can work by themselves and have a product which requires so much time to make that the cost has to reflect their time used. Some others have a lot of helpers that can reduce quality and cost.
The best way to choose a bow is to feel what it’s like to draw on and shoot, not by thinking of how much it will cost. If you are low on budget try and find a bow that performs well, if it breaks then you can buy another. Otherwise you will find a bow that will not perform well and you the sport will become boring and not enjoyable.
- For more experienced users:
There are other factors to think of when you purchase a bow. If you have shot a few bows in your life you will know that all bows have different characteristics.
For example some bows are really smooth to draw back where as others have a lot of “stack” (explained later). Also some bows have a lot of hand shock or can draw a lot heavier then the same poundage on another bow.
- Stack is the term used to describe how heavy a bow is to pull the further it’s pulled back. For example some 30 pound bows start off where you are pulling 10 pounds and increase steadily as you reach 28 inch draw and 30 pounds. Some other bows may go from 15 pounds to 30 pounds before you reach full draw meaning that it will feel a lot harder to hold your anchor point and to pull the string back.
- Some bows feel smooth all the way from when you start pulling them to when you release the arrows, some others feel like they become harder and harder to pull.
Hand Shock – Hand shock is the term used as to the vibrations that the bow will inflict on your body after an arrow is released.
Personally the smoother the bow the more I like it. Some other archers however are more willing to sacrifice their arm and shoulder in exchange for power. When you shoot a low shock bow you will barely feel any vibration moving up your hand, wrist and arm. This can lead to more accurate shooting in prolonged times as you can hold on longer before having to take a break. Some other bows can give you such shocks that after a few minutes of shooting you want to go home and hire a masseur.
Remember that just because a bow gives you a lot of hand shock does not necessarily mean that it is more powerful, some bows just have a lot of hand shock.
- For Horse Archers:
Horse archery is a beautiful way of participating in the sport of Archery. There are some factors that you need to think about before you purchase a bow which can be different from field archery.
Length of the bow –
- The length of the bow can be very important as if you have a bow that is too long or chunky it may hurt your form and hit your horse as you shoot. There are the Japanese horse archers that use a very long bow called the Yabusame. They have a much smaller lower limb so that it doesn’t go in the way of the horse. This is not for a beginner horse archer by the way!
- I prefer the smallest bow possible so that it’s light and it doesn’t get in the way.
Arrow Shelf – The arrow shelf that you can see on a lot of field archer’s bow can be used for horse archery but if you ever want to enter any competition a shelf is NOT allowed.
The maximum amount of shelf that a bow can have is 3 mm which doesn’t really allow for your arrow to sit on the shelf but at least it gives you an consistent location to always shoot from.
Poundage of bow – In most horse archery competitions the furthest away that you will be shooting is 20-30 meters. For this reason I would not recommend purchasing a bow above 40 pounds unless you wanted to use it for other activities also. Obviously everyone can purchase whatever poundage they would like but if you are only shooting 15 meters there is really no point in having a 70 pound bow.
There are many different factors to think of when Choosing a Traditional Bow. Try and find one that suits you as much as possible so that you will enjoy shooting it and will want to continue shooting it for a long time. Most people purchase many bows in their life time to try and find their favourite bow. Some are harder to shop for then others but in the end the person that needs to be happy shooting is you!