Archery is an inclusive sport that allows you to participate at whatever skill level you choose. From backyard target shooting to formal or field competitions, from family fun to bow hunting or bow fishing, archery offers exciting challenges for everyone. Archery is also a sport that all ages can enjoy. You don't have to be particularly strong to participate, and compared to many sports, the cost is small.
Over the years, archery bows have existed in many different forms and have evolved in both style and construction. Many bows today are made of modern components such as fiberglass and carbon fiber, while advancements in technology have resulted in several types of shooting mechanisms. We will center this discussion on four different types of bows, including Longbows, Recurve Bows, Compound Bows, and Crossbows.
Longbows were the dominant weapons on battlefields until the rise of firearms in the mid 16th century. Their simple design consisted of a long, slightly curved, single piece of wood without any arrow rests or sights. Today many longbows are made from laminated strips of wood and typically include a leather-wrapped grip and a string. Longbows are much more difficult to aim than other modern bows and do not possess the same velocity as compound or recurve bows. Longbows require practice and patience to master, but many archers enjoy the tradition and challenge of learning how to use longbows.
Named for their distinct shape, recurve bows represent the first step in the evolution of archery bows. The central part of the bow limbs curve toward the archer, while the tips of the limbs curve or "recurve" away from the archer. This special curve stores more energy in a shorter length limb, resulting in more arrow speed with less strength needed to use the bow. Recurve bows can be made from wood or machined aluminum. Their construction includes a centered shelf for the arrow to rest on which provides a truer arrow flight.
Recurve bows are great for teaching archery. Beginners usually start with a bare-bow recurve, which only has the bow limbs, a string, arrow rest, and a riser to help balance the bow. As the archer becomes more skilled, components such as sights, clickers, and stabilizers can be added. Recurve bows are also used in competitive archery including the Olympics.
Invented in the 1960s, compound bows work with an innovative system of cables, pulleys, and eccentric cams to assist the archer in holding a heavy draw weight at full draw. This system allows the archer to hold the draw longer so there is more time to aim. However, it does take a lot of strength to initially draw the bow. Once drawn, the draw weight of the bow is reduced or "let off" by as much as 85%.
Compound bows are less affected by changes in temperature and humidity than bows made of natural material. This provides consistency in accuracy, distance, and arrow velocity. Because of their complex make-up, compound bows are typically not used by beginners.
Modern crossbows look like firearms and are designed with a short horizontal bow attached to a muzzle that's held on a rifle-like stock. Bows are drawn by way of a crank mechanism, and the string is attached to a trigger device and locked in place until it's fired. Crossbows have short firing ranges and need heavier draw weights to perform at the same level as a compound or recurve bow. They are generally effective out to around 50 yards and have draw weights between 150 and 200 lbs.
Crossbows come in both recurve and compound models. The simplicity in the design and use of recurve crossbows makes them popular with first time users. However, recurves do not provide the same accuracy or power as a compound crossbow.
Because regulations on crossbows can be strict and vary greatly between states, it's always advised to check your state and local laws regarding crossbow usage.
Most arrows consist of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end and with fletchings and a nock attached to the other end. The shaft is typically composed of wood, fiberglass, aluminum, carbon fiber, or a composite of materials.
Wood arrows are the most basic type of arrow. Their fletching is usually made from feathers rather than plastic vanes as on other arrows. Wooden arrows are prone to warping and less durable than other types.
Fiberglass arrows are more brittle, but they can more easily be produced to uniform specifications.
Aluminum arrows are a popular high-performance arrow because of their straightness, lighter weight, higher speed, and flatter trajectory. They are slightly heavier than carbon arrows, but are stiffer and break less easily. Aluminum arrows are also easier to cut to a custom size.
Carbon fiber arrows are very light, flying faster and flatter than aluminum arrows. They can also be considered more dangerous. Carbon fiber doesn't bend or snap, instead it splinters into small shards, which could potentially damage your bow if not used properly.
Today, arrows made of composite materials are the most popular used at tournaments and Olympic events.
The arrowhead or projectile point plays the largest role in determining the purpose of the arrow. Some arrows may simply use a sharpened tip of the shaft, but it's far more common for separate arrowheads to be made for placement on the arrow tip. The most commonly used arrowheads are target points, field points, and broadheads.
These arrowheads are bullet-shaped with a conical point. They are designed to penetrate targets easily without causing excessive damage to them.SHOP TARGET POINTS
Similar to target points, field points have a distinct shoulder to prevent missed shots from becoming stuck in obstacles like tree stumps. Because field points offer flight characteristics and weights similar to broadheads, they are also used for shooting practice by hunters.SHOP FIELD POINTS
Used for hunting, broadheads are designed with two to four sharp blades that deliver a wide cutting edge so as to kill the prey as quickly as possible by cleanly cutting major blood vessels. Since they would damage most targets, broadheads are not used for practice. There are two types of broadheads used by hunters. The fixed-blade broadhead has rigid, unmovable blades, while the mechanical broadhead deploys its blades upon contact with the target. This allows the mechanical broadhead a more streamlined flight.SHOP BROADHEADS
There are many options to choose from when it comes to bows and archery equipment. The best way to determine how to get started and which bow is right for you is to talk with someone who understands archery equipment and then try out some bows to see which one fits your size and abilities.
One of the first things to consider when choosing a bow is whether it is right or left-handed. This is usual determine by the dominant eye. For a dominant right eye, choose a right-handed bow. The right-handed bow is held in the left hand, and the string is drawn with the right hand.
Another thing to be determined is bow length. Bow length relates to the arrow length being used. To help determine what approximate arrow length you need, stretch your arms out in front of you with palms together and fingers extended. Then measure from the center of your chest to the tips of your fingers. Add one inch to this measurement to get an approximate arrow length. The following conversions can be used to help you choose the right bow length:
|YOUR ARROW LENGTH||14" - 18"||18" - 20"||20" - 22"||22" - 24"||24" - 26"||26" - 28"||28" - 30"||30"+|
A third option to be determined is bow weight or draw weight. This is the pounds of force needed to draw the bow to 28". If the bow is pulled more than 28", the pounds of force will increase. If it's pulled less than 28", the pounds will decrease. Typically, a man would choose the 28-lb. draw weight and a woman would choose the 24-lb. draw weight. However, if you have a shorter draw length, you might consider increasing to a 32-lb. draw weight. For a longer draw length, you might want to lower the weight. If you're not sure, go with the lower weight as even a bow with a 20-lb. draw weight is still powerful.
For young people just starting out we offer many youth bow kits made with small frames and adjustable draw weights that will fit the needs of the child as they grow. One of our most popular compound bows for youth is the Barnett Vortex Junior Compound Bow (item #429043).
Crossbows are also becoming more popular as a method of hunting. While some purists may feel that crossbow hunting is not true bowhunting, it is still a great introduction to the world of hunting with arrows. However, laws and regulations as they relate to crossbows are continually changing. So it's always advised to check your state and local laws before trying crossbows.
Hopefully, these tips will help you make the right choice, but it's still recommended that you try out your bow or crossbow before purchasing. We invite you to come into your local Gander Mountain and check out our wide selection. You'll also get expert advise and be able to see which bow or crossbow feels right for you.Back to Top