Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Traditional Bow


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Choosing a traditional bow is a personal decision, and you should answer these 4 questions before dropping the string.

Remembering your first is always easy. Your first car, first teacher, first date, first deer, or first whatever. They just have a way of sticking in your memory. It’s the same with your first traditional bow. It’s something you’ll always remember. I can remember the first time I held a real traditional bow in my hand and the feeling I got when the arrows launched from the string. Looking back now I’m sure the salesman had better things to do for that half hour, but he cheerfully stuck around anyways and discussed archery with me.

I also remember thinking there was an awful lot the consider when choosing a traditional bow. I knew little of the differences between bows and what to be looking for. In fact a few of the questions I asked that happy salesman probably surprised the heck out of him.

If you’re choosing a traditional bow, and need a bit of direction, here are a few things to consider.

Type

The first thing you’ll need to understand is the basic differences between the types of traditional bows. When browsing most retail outlets you’ll likely find two main groups of traditional bows; longbows and recurves. Longbows are very simple and are a straight, and long, bow. Recurves have an obvious curvature of the limbs both when the bow is strung and unstrung. As you can imagine, this curve is what gives the bow is name.

Bear Montana Longbow

Bear Montana Longbow

The main difference between longbows and recurves is the power and speed of the bow. All things equal, a recurve bow will shooting faster and provide more power than a longbow. The secret is in the recurved limbs. Since the limbs naturally rest toward the back of the bow, they will store more energy than a longbow. This allows more energy to be imparted to the arrow upon the shot.

Other differences between the bows are less pronounced and seem more personal in nature. Some people argue that longbow is more forgiving than a recurve, while others believe a recurve can be more accurate. Odds are that with practice you’ll become comfortable with whatever style of bow you shoot.

Purpose

Before choosing a traditional bow for the first time you’ll want to think about the purpose the bow will have. Will it be a hunting bow or a target bow? Are you trying to get competitive or just want to shoot one for kicks? Different trad bows out there are best suited for different purposes. Having an idea of what you want to do will make your shopping a bit easier.

Olympic ILF Riser

Olympic ILF Riser

If you are looking to get into target shooting you’ll probably want to buy a modern target recurve bow. Recurve bows are the bows used by top target shooters in the world like US Olympic bronze medalist Brady Ellison. These bows are designed specifically for target shooters and are often dubbed as ILF bows. ILF simply means International Limb Fit, which means any ILF limbs (the parts of the bow that bend) will fit any ILF riser (the part of the bow you hold). When buying a target bow you may need to purchase a riser and limbs separately.

If you are buying a traditional bow for hunting you will probably be looking to buy a longbow, or a more simple recurve. Although you certainly can hunt with a target bow, it’s not very common and not what they are designed for. Hunting bows generally don’t accept as many accessories and oftentimes are made from wood while some are still made from composite materials. That being said, they are well-designed for the task of hunting animals in the field.

Poundage

The next thing you’ll need to consider when choosing a traditional bow is the poundage you’ll want to shoot. This will once again relate to the type of shooting you will be doing. Target shooters generally shoot a lower poundage than hunters, with 50# being a high weight for target shooters. On the other hand, most hunters don’t start talking about hunting with a bow unless it is 45# or greater. Some states even have laws about the minimum bow weight you can use to hunt large game with. You’ll need to learn about your specific state laws if you’re looking to hunt.

Generally though there is one main guideline for choosing bow weight. That is, lighter draw weights are easier to draw, hold, and aim steady. This allows you to be more accurate, especially while you are developing muscles and form. On the other hand, heavier weights give arrows a flatter trajectory. This makes aiming easier because you have to compensate less for arrow drop during the shot. People have been successful in all arenas shooting heavy and light bows, so deciding on poundage is another personal decision. In my opinion new shooters are best to start out with a lighter bow so they develop good shooting techniques.

Budget

SAS Spirit Recurve

SAS Spirit Recurve

Finally when choosing a traditional bow you’ll likely want to consider your budget for the purchase. Lots of traditional bows would be great for just kicking around, beating up, and having fun with. These bows retail for very affordable prices, but won’t give you a quality bow. On the other hand, some bows come with a hefty price tag, but offer some of the finest engineering, materials, and performance in the world. There are also lots of options in the middle that can provide a great shooting experience without skipping a mortgage payment.

Choosing a traditional bow is a highly personal decision. You need to consider what style you want, what you’ll be using it for, the poundage you want to shoot, and fit it all into your budget. One you’ve got your bow in hand though you’ll have an entire new world opened up to you. Archery has primal excitement and majesty whatever you decide to shoot. Your first step into this world will be one you’ll always remember.

NEXT: WHY INTRODUCING KIDS TO ARCHERY IS SO IMPORTANT

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