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Ultimate Guide To Archery For Beginners

Beginner’s interest in archery keeps growing consistently every year. More and more people are discovering archery for the first time and today there are more archery beginners than ever. With that in mind, we put together the Ultimate Guide to Archery for Beginners.

If you have ever wanted to learn archery, this guide will give you all the information you need to start training to become an Archer of legend.  This guide gives you crucial information about:

  • What Archery Equipment You Need
  • How to String a Recurve Bow
  • How to Nock an Arrow
  • How to Shoot a Bow
  • Archery Targets
  • An Archery Practice Routine for Beginners

Archery Equipment

As a sport, archery requires some equipment. It can be intimidating if you have ever watched a professional or archery in the Olympics but don’t worry. You don’t need all of the fancy accessories of a professional when you’re just learning. This section covers where you can find this equipment and what you should plan to spend on it. 

An archery beginner needs to purchase:

  • A bow of your preferred type (see below)
  • String
  • Arrows
  • Arm guard
  • Finger tab
  • Quiver
  • Bow stand
  • Bow stringer
  • Target 

Types Of Bows

Before we get into the types of bows, we need to cover some basic terms used for the parts of the bow that are the same across all types of bows. These include:

  • Riser – this is the main bulky part or body of the bow
  • Limbs – there is an Upper Limb and a Lower Limb. These are the bendy parts of the bow
  • Back – the side of the limbs that faces away from you and towards the target
  • Belly – the side of the limbs that face you
  • String Nock / Limb Tip – the end part of the limb that you slip the string loop around
  • Grip – the part of the Riser that you hold onto
  • Shelf – the part os the riser that is cut out for your arrow rest
  • Arrow Rest – what holds your arrow on the shelf as draw back the arrow, aim, and release
  • Bowstring – attaches at the string nocks, from tip to tip, the most important part of the bow
  • Serving – the part of the bowstring that is thickened and more rigid; where your nocking point goes
  • Nocking point – the precise point where you attach your arrow to the bowstring

Now that we know our basic terms, we can talk about the three main types of bows:

  • Recurve bows 
  • Longbows
  • Compound bows

Recurve Bows

A group of beginners practising with their recurve bows.

Recurve bows are called “recurve” because the ends of the limbs curve away from you and towards the target. This results in the bowstring coming into contact with the limb just before the string nock.

Beginners are usually best off with the recurve bow, as it is the easiest to use. You can choose between right and left-handed bows, depending on your preference. The bow will have a shelf for the arrow to rest on, so you’ll know which hand it was meant for: for right-handed bows, the shelf is cut on the LEFT side of the riser; for left-handed bows, the shelf is cut on the RIGHT side of the riser. 

On average, you can find an excellent beginner’s bow for between $150-200. We wrote an article that details the Top 10 Most Affordable Recurve Bows that are great for beginners.

Longbows

Longbow enthusiasts at the Traditional Longbow event.

Longbows are perhaps the most recognizable type of bow. The design is very simple and effective. Longbows differ from recurve bows because with a longbow, the ends of the limbs do not curve towards the target and the bowstring does not come into contact with the limbs. When strung, the longbows make a very long D shape.

Longbows are often the cheapest type of bow if you are looking to practice more traditional archery. Check out our article about Everything that makes the English Longbow Awesome if you’d like to know more.

Compound Bows

Two people practising with their compound bows.

The biggest difference between compound bows and recurve bows and longbows is the use of cams to produce more power. They are called “compound” because the combination of the limbs bending and the cams rotating amplifies, or compounds, the force that can be produced by the bow.

Because of the forces produced, compound bows are almost always made out of advanced synthetic materials like carbon fiber, aluminum alloy, are some combination of both.

For that reason, compound bows tend to cost more than recurve bows and longbows. It can be pretty daunting choosing your first compound bow, so we put together a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Your First Compound Bow to help make it easier.

Arrows

There are a wide variety of arrow types. Arrows can be made of carbon, aluminum, a combination of the two, or wood. A set of 12 beginners’ arrows will probably cost you around $40. Your arrow has four parts: 

  • The main body of the arrow is called the shaft.
  • The groove at the end of the arrow that catches the string is called the nock.
  • Fletchings, or the feathers at the end
  • The point of the arrow is called the Point. These can be either Field Points for target practice or Broadheads for bowhunting.

Arm Guard

An arm guard is used to keep any clothing from hindering the bowstring and prevents you from getting hit by the string. It might not seem like it, but a hit from the string can be very painful. You put the arm guard on the inside of the forearm of the arm holding the bow. An arm guard shouldn’t cost more than around $15. 

Finger Tab or Archery Glove

A finger tab covers the fingers you use to draw the string. More expensive types can be adjusted to more securely fit your fingers. Decent finger tabs shouldn’t run you more than $10. However, some companies make gloves that incorporate finger tabs in them. 

Quiver

The quiver is the name of the pouch that holds arrows and other archery equipment. There are different types of quivers. A side quiver attaches to the waist and sits at your side. A ground quiver sits on the ground next to you. A quiver will likely cost around $25. 

Bow Stand

As the name implies, a bow stand holds your bow off the ground when you’re not using it. You can find bow stands relatively cheaply on the internet, somewhere around $20.

Bow Stringer

The name says it all. This device helps you string or unstring a bow. It can be challenging to learn to use one on your own, so ask for help from an experienced archer. The stringer should cost around $10.

Archery Target

A target is made into three parts:

  • The face of the target is made from reinforced paper,
  • the boss, or inside, is tightly packed material which catches the arrow, and a
  • the frame holds everything together.

High-quality targets can be somewhat expensive but well worth the investment if you plan to shoot a lot. It will be your second largest investment after the bow. By far the very best archery target you can buy is the Bulldog XP Plus Series, available from the Archers Hub Store.

How Much Does Archery Cost?

traditional archery gear

Given everything we just covered above, you can expect to pay around $$$ total for all the archery equipment you’ll need to get started.  We have a more thorough article about How Much Does it Cost to Get Into Archery?

Where To Buy Archery Equipment

In addition to looking for sports shops near you, archery equipment is always available on websites like Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Good, Bass Pro Shops, and Cabela’s. 

How To String A Recurve Bow

A bow stringer helps you both string and unstring a bow. It can be a little challenging to get the hang of, but it is a fundamental skill you will need to learn. A bow stringer works by helping you flex the bow, allowing you to put the string in place. 

  • Once the bow is ready, find the top string loop. The top loop is larger than the bottom loop for easy identification.
  • Bring the top loop down the top limb. 
  • Put the bottom loop into the string grooves on the bottom limb.
  • Put the bow stringer’s saddle end over the top limb behind the loop. The saddle end is flat and lies flat on the limb.
  • Put the pouch end over the bottom limb tip.
  • Stand on the stringer, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the bow up so that it curves and slide the loop to align with the grooves.
  • After the top string loop is secure, you can take the bow stringer off.
  • While you do so, turn the bow like how you would hold it to shoot it as a precautionary measure. If something goes wrong, the bow will unflex suddenly and can injure you.
  • Finally, check to make sure the string is sitting correctly in the top and bottom grooves.

Here’s a video from our favorite archer, NuSensei, demonstrating how to use a bow stringer:

How To Nock An Arrow

Nocking the arrow means putting the arrow against your bowstring and preparing to shoot. A nock locator is a small piece of metal that you attach to the bowstring, which lets you set the arrow against it. 

  • Take an arrow and grasp it under the fletching.
  • Keep your bow pointing at the ground to prevent any accidents.
  • Put the arrow on the arrow rest.
  • Click the nock on the end of the arrow into the bowstring. The click will be audible so listen closely.
  • If you haven’t secured the arrow properly, you might accidentally fire it in a direction you didn’t intend, so be careful.

How To Shoot A Bow

Now that you have learned how to prepare your bow and arrows, it is time to get down to the actual shooting! The necessary steps remain the same, regardless of your bow type.

  • Take your stance
  • Nock an arrow
  • Grasp the bowstring
  • Draw the bow
  • Find an anchor point
  • Aim
  • Fire!

How To Shoot A Compound Bow

Shooting a compound bow isn’t very different from shooting any other kind of bow. However, there are a few key differences. Many archers choose to use a device called a release aid to help them shoot. There are different types of release aids to choose from. Your fingers, gloves, or finger tabs can interfere with the shot, so a release aid keeps the shot clean. 

Compound bows don’t rely as heavily on an archer’s strength as other types so that you can shoot farther and faster. However, that comes with a price: maintenance. Compound bows need frequent upkeep, unlike different bow types. 

How To Shoot A Recurve Bow

Shooting a recurve bow isn’t very different from shooting any other kind of bow. As long as you keep a relaxed grip on the bow so that your knuckles make a 45-degree angle sloping away from your body and maintain an erect posture, you should be ready to aim and fire your recurve bow. 

How To Shoot A Longbow

Shooting a longbow isn’t very different from shooting any other kind of bow. In fact, longbows shoot the same way as recurve bows. The main difference between longbows and recurve bows is that longbows don’t fire arrows as fast as recurves, but the bowstring doesn’t twang as much with longbows, so they’re quieter. 

How To Find The Best Archery Ranges Near Me

The easiest way to find an archery range is to simply type it into Google or whatever navigation app you prefer. You can search based on location and read their reviews for a good rundown on what to expect. However, if you want to be sure that you are going somewhere good, there are a few things you should establish.

Firstly, what are you looking for? Archery ranges offer different services depending on the range. If you are looking for classes or one-on-one training, you might have to look somewhere that isn’t the first search result you get. Some ranges have 3D courses that feature foam or stuffed animals as target practice in their outdoor space. 

If you plan to go to an archery shop anyway to buy your equipment and learn more about your new hobby, you should be aware that most shops have a small range in their store. Usually, the range is one lane only and used so that customers can test out their bow, but employees often enjoy teaching a newbie about archery there. 

You can also often find an archery club near you. This is a great way to meet other archers who can give you tips and tricks to improving your shooting. Typically, a club will meet every so often at a range convenient for all members, so you know that the range will be a decent one. Many clubs have entry fees, though, so consider that. 

Beginner Practice Routine

When it comes to learning archery, practice makes perfect. In place of having a professional trainer, take the time to do your research and try out different aspects of shooting to find what works for you. Ultimately, everyone is different, and there is no right routine to practice that will make you the perfect shooter.

We put together a very thorough article that explains a great practice routine that will help you level-up your skills.  

In the rest of this section. we’ll talk about the basics of how to practice effectively.

Learning the difference between stances and practicing holding your bow up in them is a great way to get used to the bow’s weight. Additionally, you can put on your gloves and practice drawing the bowstring back without an arrow. The draw weight of your bow will depend on how long the bow is, but it’s not as easy as the movies make it look.

Holding a stance and the draw improves your arm and back muscles, making it easier when it comes time actually to shoot. Focus on keeping your grip relaxed, just like your shoulders. If you tense everything up when you loosen the string, the bowstring will snap back and catch you painfully on the inner forearm.

Additionally, remember that the bow will tip after releasing the arrow or the string. You need to give the bow room to move and not break your arm trying to stop it. Plus, tensing your muscles will make your arm shake, and a shaky bow leads to a shaky aim, which is something you definitely want to avoid.

Aiming

More advanced archers might use sights, small devices that you can attach to the front of your bow. Traditional archery doesn’t use a sight, but competition-oriented archers might like to. Whether you use one or not, we have some suggestions for practicing drills to improve your aim when you’re a beginner.

Holding Aim

Start a small distance from your target, nock an arrow, draw your bow, and then look down the end of the arrow. Ideally, you want to line up the tip of the arrow with your target. Don’t fire! Instead, carefully bring your arm down and back up further before sighting your target again. 

Do this multiple times, adjusting your distance with each one. This exercise also helps you train your muscles so that you can pull up your bow and quickly draw without overthinking it every time you want to shoot.

Mirror Drawing

As the name implies, you stand in front of a mirror and draw your bow, sans arrow. This allows you to get a good look at your stance, your grip on the bow and the string, and to make sure that your elbow is level with your shoulder. All of these things are crucial when it comes time to drawing and aiming. 

Just make sure you don’t use an arrow and accidentally shatter your mirror.

Shooting Blind

 in this drill, you want to stand much closer to your target than you would normally, only ten feet away at most. Again, as the name implies, you will nock your arrow, raise your arm, draw your bow, but then you close your eyes. Hold your arrow for a few seconds to see if your muscle memory kicks in and gives you an approximate aim. 

Then, release the arrow. Safety is paramount for this practice! Don’t ever fire blindly if anyone else is around or standing far enough away from the target that you would have a real chance of missing. There is no reason to put yourself, others, or your property at risk. 

Changing Up Your Distance

Even if you never plan to compete, being able to shoot at various distances can do wonders for your ability to aim. 

Changing your distance will allow you to better understand outside forces that impact your aim, like wind resistance and gravity. In learning to account for those things at longer distances, you will improve your ability to hit from shorter distances too. Plus, you’ll need more strength to fire from further away, so it’s also a great exercise to help build up your muscles.

Changing Your Shooting Angle

This may not apply unless you are planning to use your archery skills for hunting, but it is a good drill nonetheless. Learning to shoot at a target above or below your sight level is a big challenge, and this drill should be left until last because of its difficulty. 

Your stance is the first thing that changes with your angle. You still need to remain standing, of course, but you have to consider bringing your elbow up or down, which can shift your legs to accommodate the bow. Plus, you will be working different muscles, so don’t be shocked if you are sore in the morning!

Final Thoughts

Archery may seem intimidating at first, but this guide gives you a good overview of everything you need to know to embark on your career as an archer. Remember to always ask for help from a local archery enthusiast or store when you are just starting out to learn to string a bow properly and know what kind of bow is right for you. 

Happy shooting!