Some thoughts on the first bits and pieces a new archer should buy

Quick break from my series on target panic to revisit a topic which I think will be of interest to many.

Several years ago I wrote a post offering advice on what equipment newbies should consider purchasing, before buying their first bow. Since I have been working with several new archers in the recent months I thought it a good time to revisit this post and update it where necessary.

As a coach I often get asked by my students about buying a bow. How much do they cost? What should I got for?  Where do you recommend I go?  I’ve seen one on E-Bay is it any good? I always reply by saying wait a few weeks or even a couple of months before you buy one. In that time use the club equipment for until you have a better idea of what is suitable for you.
But sooner or later your students will want to purchase their own bow (which is great don’t get me wrong) but there are a few things that might be worth getting first. So I have put this post together to offer some thoughts.

First things for any new archer to buy (before a bow) should be
Whistle – What a whistle? What’s that got to do with archery? Well put simply it’s for safety calls and is a necessity for insurance on some club sites including ours. All members of the NFAS should have a whistle on them so they can signal if necessary.

A tab or glove of their own. Normally I recommend a beginner starts with using a tab to protect their fingers. As they progress I have them trying both a tab and glove, along with trying different sizes and shapes until they find something they prefer. Recently I’ve found several students opting for a glove which I think is partly due to the colder weather.

This is the single thickness tab

This is the single thickness tab


Personally I think a tab is best, though it took me ages to find one that I was completely comfortable with. I feel tabs are easier on their fingers and promotes good finger position on the string.

Quiver, you can pay a small fortune for some quivers, but when you are starting out go for something simple. So long as it will hold 4-6 arrows and is comfortable to carry on your belt it’s a winner. Quick note about back quivers here. I’ve tried back quivers, several in fact and never found one I was happy with so have stuck with a field quiver. I know some people  love them but for your first quiver, keep it simple.

simple quiver image

simple quiver

Some quivers will have a pocket or pouch on them which can very be useful for holder a whistle, stringer, spare string.

Top Top – pick up an arrow tube to store arrows when not in quiver. I carry 3 or 4 arrows in my quiver and the rest are in an arrow tube on my back. Safe, dry and there if I need them. You can use an extendable poster tube, which are cheaper, just make sure you drop some foam in the bottom of the tube to protect it and stop arrows puncturing the plastic. 

Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

An arm bracer or arm guard that fits. What I mean is it doesn’t fall down the arm or is so tight it cuts off circulation to your arm. Like quivers there are loads of different designs, some that go all the way up the arm, others that only cover the forearm. Some are plain others are covered in intricate designs carved into the leather. At the end of the day function is more important, so get one that fits, works and you like.

Arrow puller, while not the most glamorous of archery elements they do makes life easier for drawing arrows, allowing you to grip the shaft more easily, especially on cold days.
Arrow rake – no matter how good you are, sooner or later you will be needing one for finding those arrows that fall short (a cheap decorating roller can be used, once modified for the purpose )

What kind of bow should I buy?

I will cover this in more detail in a separate post but what I will say is in my opinion for a first bow the most sensible option is the take down recurve practise bow.
They are relatively cheap (£55-£75 depending on where you get them), so if they don’t stick with the hobby it’s not such a huge investment. Also you might be able to pick one up from club member who has progressed. The advantage of a takedown is the limbs can be upgraded to heavier poundage as archer develop their strength and skill (I did this after a few months myself, with some shops giving a discount if you trade your old limbs in). Worth noting that not all limbs fit all bows, but I will go into more details in a future post about fittings and ILF bows (International Limb Fittings).
I have found the bows are forgiving to use which is what you want as a beginner.
Such bows come in a vast variety of sizes, shapes, poundage so good for all abilities, heights, draw lengths etc. so are easy to find one suitable for all shapes and sizes of archer.
As I said I will cover this in more details in the next post.

Thanks for reading

Buying equipment – more bits and pieces part 3

Ok so this is the third part to buying equipment etc. I hope you’ve found the other posts useful.

Hopefully you or your students have bought the basic bits and bow mentioned in the previous posting. What I want to cover now are things to consider after you have your bow and some advice on keeping it in good working order.

When you get it and afterwards.

Once you have your bow there are a few things worth remembering. Check the bow for damage – may sound strange but just because its new doesn’t mean it hasn’t been damaged in transit. If you have taken my advice you will have gone to an archery shop and tried a few out and they will have shown you how to set it up etc

Check the bow for damage – may sound strange but just because its new doesn’t mean it hasn’t been damaged in transit. Below shows a wooden riser that split after a couple of weeks of shooting.

Damaged riser

Damaged riser

Use your phone camera – yes technology can help here. A camera phone is a great tool for monitoring bracing height, nocking points, possible damage etc.

Protection – bow bag or cases. These come in lots of different sizes and shapes. Hard plastic cases, soft carry all style bags and backpack variants. What ever you choose get one that holds your bow and offers it protection. I have a simple soft case for my trainer bow, but for my competitive recurve I have a hard case with foam padding that holds my bow securely whilst in transit.

When putting your bow away make sure it is dry. I shoot all year round and in all weathers from baking heat to snow (there have been times I’ve shot an arrow and by the time I’ve walked up to draw it, there’s a layer of snow on it) But when you are putting your bow away dry any excess water off before putting it in the case. Then when you get it home open the case and double-check it is dry.

I use a Bazooka case, it’s a case originally designed for fishing rods, but is extendable up to 7 ft, for my flat bow. It means it doesn’t get knocked about in the car.

Bracing Height – Check your bracing height for the bow. This can vary depending on the style of bow, limbs etc.  and may change over time as the string stretches slightly, so you will need to monitor it.

Another advantage of getting it from an archery shop is they should check and set this for you when you get it. Make a note of it and better still a photo so you know exactly what it is. Get a bracing rule / gauge.

Bracing on bow

Bracing on bow

String – make sure you get the right length string and some string wax. String wax is often forgotten in the excitement of buying your bow, but is very important as it protects your string and binds the strands together. I wax the string every other time I shoot.

String loops

check for wear and wax

Limbs – Another area that can see wear are the limb pockets.

Limb pocket and bolt

Limb pocket and bolt

It is not uncommon for archers to be a little over enthusiastic when fitting in the limbs and over tightening the bolts or cross threading them.

Limb fitted into pocket

Limb fitted into pocket

This is something to look out for if you are buying a bow second hand. Check the limb pockets aren’t warn or the bolt damaged. Also check the limbs for any scratches or signs of damage along their edge. A good way of doing this is to run a cloth duster down the llimb edge. If it snags on anything then it might show damage on the limb edge such as a split or splinter.

Check for wear

Check for wear

Also check the limb string grooves for any sharp edges or signs of wear.

Ok that will have to do for now. I hope you have found this useful, My plan is do write another one shortly on arrows.

As always, thanks for reading.and let me know what you think