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In archery, you have to choose a right-handed or left-handed bow depending on which of your hands and which of your eyes are dominant. But what if you inherit a left-handed bow and you know you are a right-handed archer – can the bow be converted from left-handed to right-handed?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Bows are manufactured differently for right- vs. left-handed people and most manufacturers don’t offer conversion as an option. Likewise, most experts don’t recommend it.
Visit an archery enthusiast chatroom and you’ll see just how generally unpopular the idea is.
In order to understand if and how a bow might be converted, it’s first important to understand the basics of bow construction, what makes a bow a “leftie” or a “righty,” what determines whether a conversion is possible, and if a shooter decides to do it, how to go about making the switch.
Can a Bow Be Converted?
The possibility of converting a bow from left-handed to right-handed depends on several factors. In some cases, whether it can be done and whether it should be done are two different things. Depending on the make and model of the bow, it may be a very costly maneuver. Or it may not be possible at all.
When it comes down to selecting a bow for archery, the consensus seems to be: buy a bow that fits you. As targetcrazy.com recommends: “Get the right sort of bow for your handedness unless you have no choice.”
If you’re determined to convert, your only choice may be to search out a local archery shop to find that special someone who can make the modification for you. Because it’s not an often-recommended solution, it may be a costly endeavor. Before you put in the research of finding that specialist, it’s probably worthwhile to think about other options for your left-handed bow.
Why Do You Want to Modify Your Bow?
Maybe you got a good deal on a left-handed bow and you figure it’s a quick fix to shift a few things over and turn that bow into a righty. Or maybe you’ve shot as a left for years and are switching it up to try your hand at the other side.
If you have a bow that doesn’t work for you as-is, maybe the best option to sell the bow that’s not right for you and buy the one that is built for what you need. A bow that’s built for you.
Let’s take a look at how a bow is put together.
The Basic Anatomy of a Bow
For this purpose, we are talking about a recurve bow, the traditional bow you may think of when you envision competitive target shooting, such as in the Olympics.
|Middle part of bow, where limbs attach. It has three main features:
|Curved portion of riser, where you hold the bow
|A cutout just above the grip, through which you view the target
|Usually attached to sight window, it’s where the arrow sits
|Upper and lower parts of the bow
|Small grooves cut into limb where string attached to bow
|The source of all energy for the bow
|Spot on the string where the nock (end) of arrow is fitted
|Part of bow facing the target
|Part of bow facing you
What Parts Change to Make a Bow Left- or Right-Handed?
According to hand orientation, the arrow rest changes sides and the strings are aligned differently. If you decide to purchase a sight for your bow, it will go on the right side for a left-handed bow and visa-versa for a right-handed bow. Not all bows are manufactured in a left-hand version – because sales are slim in comparison to righty versions.
According to worldatlas.com, only 10% of the Earth’s population is left-handed. And, while eye dominance is the best indicator of what orientation bow to use, only a small fraction of bows is created to be left-handed.
Accessories for Your Bow
The good news is that while few bows are manufactured to be for the left-handed, most accessories can be used with bows built for either hand.
Sights can be set up for left- or right-handed use, or for ambidextrous use.
It’s always a good idea to make sure if any accessory is limited to a particular orientation before you buy.
Popular accessories for your bow may include:
- Hip quiver and belt: easiest way to carry your arrows
- Collapsible bow stand: handy for propping up your bow anywhere
- Finger sling: a loop around your bow fingers to keeps your bow from sliding
- Arm guard: to protect the forearm that is extended
- Finger tab: a leather ring that protects the fingers that draw the string
- Sight: an additional sight purchased to assist aim
- Clicker: gives an audible “click” to indicate the bow has been sufficiently drawn back
Another Option for that Left-Handed Bow
If you’re a right-handed archer in possession of a left-handed bow, you can always train yourself to shoot with your left hand. Depending on your ocular orientation, adjusting yourself to shoot with a lefty bow might turn out to be a solid option.
If you are both right-hand and right-eye dominant, this may be more trouble than it is worth. You will have to close your dominant eye and switch your bow to the unfamiliar hand.
But if you are a righty with left-eye dominance, you are technically a “lefty” in archery hand orientation, so it can’t hurt to try.
There are just two main differences for positioning yourself to shoot left-handed:
- Stand with your right hip facing the target.
- Hold the bow with your right hand on the grip.
Types of Bows Used in Archery
When choosing a bow, you have four main bow types to choose from. Some styles are better suited for beginners, while others may be selected for additional challenge as an archer gets more experienced.
Once you determine what type of shooting you are interested in, it’s a great idea to talk to a local archery shop or archery instructor to learn which of the following types of bows is best for your training.
This type of bow has been around since 1000 BC. and is the only type of bow you’ll see at modern Olympic events. The name comes from their shape, as the limbs of the bow curve in two directions or, recurve.
This type of bow is commonly used to teach archery to beginners and has a simple construction.
Compound bows are a more modern invention. First produced in the 1960’s, they involve a system of cables and pulleys. They are more powerful than recurve bows and are generally considered too complex for beginners.
Longbows were dominant between the 13th and 16th centuries. They are very simple, but much more difficult to aim than more modern bows.
Crossbows originated in China around 700 BC and were used for their ability to pierce body armor in warfare. They have a short bow and are held horizontally. They use a crank and trigger mechanism and the string can be locked in place until the archer fires.
Archery for Beginners: Where to Start
If you’re interested in archery, but just aren’t sure how to get started, there are a lot of great resources to offer help. Check out this article I wrote about How to Get Started in Archery TODAY!
Whether you are interested in it for the exercise, the social aspects, or are interested in getting competitive, archery is a widely practiced sport with many points of entry. Local organizations provide education, training and events that can get your practice underway.
- Local park districts
- Private camps and clubs
- Private ranges
- Community colleges
- State and local archery associations, such as the National Field Archery Association or World Archery
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.