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

Equipment review – custom archery tabs from Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft is a small business in Leicestershire making a vast array of leather goods.
I first encountered them at the 3d championships this year where they had a large tent selling all kinds of products from quivers to arm braces, pouches to six gun holsters. I ventured into this Aladdins cave looking for a suitable belt pouch to house my Ventolin inhaler. They didn’t have one on show but offered to make me a custom belt pouch for the next day. Which they did and I have used ever since.
A few weeks after the championships a friend was round trying out his new Blackbrook afb and showed me a tab he had commissioned from Dixie. This got me thinking and I contacted Dixie to see if they would be able to make something similar for me.
They produced a couple of designs based on my specifications, one single layer and one double. The double was made large enough for me to mount  an old finger spacer from a worn out tab on.

This is the single thickness tab

This is the single thickness tab

The first design of the double layer worked okay but I felt it needed a slightly larger backing piece to extend to match the facing piece.

Mark 1 tab - needed the backing piece extended

Mark 1 tab – needed the backing piece extended

We also extended the leather covering the forefinger slightly.

Mark 2 tab before having spacer fitted

Mark 2 tab before having spacer fitted

The mark two was produced and I have now used this in earnest shooting the club 40 target course, on practice bosses at home and for a couple of shoots.
The extra length protects the ring finger well and the second layer whilst offering additional protection to the fingers, still allows me to feel the string on my fingers when at anchor.
I know a lot of people may think what’s wrong with the normal ones in the shops and my answer is nothing. I used one for several years along with shooting gloves and there are countless ones on the market. The reason I sought out a custom design was to see if it made a difference to me and I believe it does.
The tab is more comfortable to use than a glove  as I have found the glove in warm weather to be very warm and uncomfortable,  making my hand sweat.  I’ve taken to talc in the inside to make it more comfortable. I also tend to take my glove off between shots on warm days.
The cost has been cheaper than I expected and the service has been fabulous. Dixie Leathercraft are really friendly and helpful. I shoot split fingers or mediterranean lose meaning my first finger is above the arrow nock with the other two below the arrow. For this reason when I’m using a tab I have a finger spacer between the first and middle finger.
Mounting the finger spacer was pretty easy. I used my old tab as a guide initially marking the reverse side of the leather where the tab spacer would be.

Mark 1 below the mark 2. You can see how the backing piece now covers the full tab

Mark 1 below the mark 2. You can see how the backing piece now covers the full tab

The spacer on old tab was attached via two small screws which were easily removed from the worn out tab. I made two small holes in the new tab with a braddle for the screws and a third to allow the elastic strap through. If you have one you might want to use a leather hole punch for the elastic hole as it would make it easier to feed the elastic through.
Close up of the securing screws, the elastic is knotted through a hole in the metal plate

Close up of the securing screws, the elastic is knotted through a hole in the metal plate

The old tab had a metal plate triangular in shape with two holes in one end for the screws and the third I threaded the elastic through tying a knot so it wouldn’t be pulled through.
Once the elastic was fed through the tab I then fed the elastic through the gap between the two screws, screwing them tightly to the spacer then secured the elastic in place.
Elastic threaded through between the 2 screws before they are tightened

Elastic threaded through between the 2 screws before they are tightened

Before securing them I made sure the loop of elastic was the right size to accommodate my middle finger.

Shows the spacer and elastic loop on finger

Shows the spacer and elastic loop on finger

Finished leather tab

Finished leather tab

The extra length of leather can be easily folded over the metal plate .

Finished leather tab showing how the leather can be folded over

Finished leather tab showing how the leather can be folded over

I hope people find this of use . I know there have been a few articles and posts on tabs versus gloves. I think Bow International magazine ran an article on custom tabs and spacers a few issues back.
Thanks for reading.