How To Tell If A Bow Is Left Or Right Handed

When choosing a new bow, you’ll want to make sure that it’s right for your needs as an archer. One of the most important things to choose correctly is the handedness of the bow – whether it is left or right-handed. This governs which hand you use to hold the bow and which hand you use to draw back the bowstring.

So how do you tell if a bow is left or right-handed? There are a few signs you can look for to correctly determine the handedness of a bow. These signs may vary slightly depending on the type of bow but will all affect how you hold and use the bow when shooting. Arrow rest orientation and targeting sight position are the main ones to check. 

I’m sure you still have lots of questions.

And you likely want the above answer explained in a little more detail too.

Not to worry; I really do have you covered.

Continue reading, and you’ll learn all you need to know about the differences between left and right-handed bows.

And more importantly, which one is right for you.

Difference Between A Right And Left-handed Bow

Whether a bow is left or right-handed determines how it is operated during a shot. Knowing the handedness of a bow allows an archer to use the correct hand setup for both holding and drawing the bow. You can often look at how the bow’s handle is shaped to determine the handedness.

Choosing a left or right-handed bow can be confusing for novice archers. 

The key thing to bear in mind is that the handedness of a particular bow determines which hand you use to draw back the bowstring. 

So a left-handed bow means that you pull the bowstring to full draw with your left hand, and a right-handed bow is drawn with your right hand.

The hand that you use to hold the bow while you’re shooting is always opposite to the handedness of the bow. 

So if you have a left-handed bow that you draw with your left hand, it will be your right hand that holds the grip of the bow. 

If you’re shooting with a right-handed bow, your left hand will be the one gripping the handle of the bow.

But it can be difficult to determine the handedness of each individual bow at a glance. 

To correctly choose a bow that gives you the correct handedness, you need to examine its composition more closely. 

The easiest thing to look for is how the bow’s arrow rest is orientated. 

Arrow rests are usually situated on one of the sides of the bow’s riser, which essentially means the middle part of the bow that incorporates the grip.

On left-handed bows, the arrow rest is situated on the riser’s right-hand side because the arrow needs to be on the opposite side of the bow to your drawing hand. 

For right-handed bows, the arrow rest is found on the left side of the riser. This is a good way to determine the handedness of recurve bows.

Compound bows are designed to be shot only one way – either left or right-handed. They cannot be used interchangeably. 

Most compound bows have built-in targeting lenses, and you can use these devices to determine the handedness of a compound bow. 

The sights on these bows must be positioned on the opposite side to the bow’s handedness. 

So for a left-handed compound bow, you’ll find that the targeting sight is located on the right-hand side of the bow’s frame. 

For right-handed compound bows, the sight can be found on the left side of the frame.

Can A Left-handed Bow Be Changed To Right-handed?

While this may be technically possible for some bows, it is rarely recommended. Most bows, whether they are recurve bows or compound bows, are designed with a specific handedness in mind. Therefore it’s not possible to change left-handed bows to become right-handed ones in most cases.

If you were to convert a left-handed bow into a right-handed one, you’d need to visit a specialist archery shop to determine if it’s even possible for that particular bow. 

If it is deemed to be possible, this usually means that the arrow rest must be switched over to the opposite side, and the bowstring must be restrung into a different alignment to suit the new characteristics of the bow.

The position of the arrow rest is an easy way to determine the handedness of a bow. 

Arrow rests are always positioned on the opposite side of the bow’s riser to the archer’s drawing hand. 

So for a right-handed bow, the arrow rest needs to be fixed onto the left-hand side of the bow.

When potentially converting a left-handed bow to become right-handed, the arrow rest must be switched from the right-hand side of the bow’s riser over to the left-hand side to allow you to shoot it properly.

Even if you find an archery store that can convert a left-handed bow into a right-handed one, it’s probably going to be extremely expensive as it is not a recommended practice from virtually any bow manufacturer. 

It may even be cheaper to completely sell the left-handed bow and buy a separate one that is suited for a right-handed shooter. 

Unless you love this left-handed bow so much that you can’t part with it, moving on is always going to be the cheapest and easiest thing to do.

What Does A Left-handed Bow Look Like?

Left-handed bows have a couple of visual cues that can notify you that they are suitable for left-handed shooters. The exact nature of these cues depends on whether you’re looking at a compound bow or a recurve bow, but you can usually use the position of the arrow rest or the targeting sights to identify a left-handed bow.

Left-handed bows are much harder to find than right-handed bows because of their low sale value. 

It’s estimated that just 10% of the global population is left-handed, and an even smaller number of these people are going to be interested in archery. 

That said, it is possible to find left-handed bows out on the market.

By closely inspecting the design of a compound or recurve bow, you can determine if it is a left-handed bow. 

The easiest identification method to use is to look at how the bow’s arrow rest is orientated in relation to the riser of the bow – the part that you use to grip the bow. 

A left-handed bow will show its arrow rest on the right-hand side of the riser. This allows a left-handed archer to draw the bowstring back with their left hand while holding the bow’s riser in their right hand.

When trying to find a left-handed compound bow, you can also use the position of the targeting sight lens to figure out if the bow is left-handed. 

The sights on a compound bow are usually positioned on the opposite side to the dominant (drawing) hand of the archer. 

This means that a left-handed compound is going to have its targeting sight positioned on the right-hand side of the compound bow’s frame. 

Individual compound bows are only designed to be used with one particular handedness in mind, so being able to identify a left-handed compound bow is crucial for shooting success and comfort.

How Do You Know If You Need A Left Or Right-handed Bow?

Figuring out which handedness you need for your bow is important for achieving a comfortable and consistent shooting technique. Your preference is usually determined by whichever of your hands is most dominant. This is the hand that you’ll need to draw the bowstring with.

If you aren’t comfortable holding and shooting your bow, you’ll struggle to achieve consistent accuracy and good results. 

This means that finding a bow with the correct handedness is extremely important. 

The easiest way to find which type of bow that you need is by determining which of your hands is your dominant hand. 

This is going to be the hand that you instinctively use for virtually every task, whether that is writing with a pen or using your computer’s mouse.

You’ll be using your dominant hand to draw back the bowstring, and this is the function that a bow’s handedness is referred to. 

So a right-handed archer will usually need a right-handed bow because they’ll be drawing back the bowstring with their right hand.

This can get confusing for some novice archers because you aren’t actually holding the bow in your dominant hand, which is exactly the function that our dominant hand performs during most other tasks. 

Instead, you’ll need to stabilize your dominant drawing hand by holding the handle of your bow with your non-dominant hand. 

So a right-handed archer will grip the handle of the bow in their left hand while they pull back the bowstring with their right. 

However, your eye dominance also plays a role in choosing which handedness of bow to use. 

Most people, almost 60%, have their dominant eye on the same side as their dominant hand. 

This confirms that they need a right-handed bow. But for some right-handed archers, their dominant eye might actually be their left one. 

In this case, they’ll need to use a left-handed bow to give them a better aim because that’s what an archer uses their eyes for. 

This is especially true if you like to close your non-dominant eye during a shot. 

Likewise, some archers with dominant left hands will notice that their right eye is dominant, which means that they need to choose a right-handed bow and not a left-handed one.