Buying a bow can be as intimidating as it’s exciting, given the multitude of products on the market and the technicalities involved. But relax and take a deep breath. You’ll soon discover that the shopping process can be fun if you approach it with an open mind and a positive attitude.
There are several things to consider when buying a bow. This guide will discuss basic steps you should know as you prepare to buy your target or hunting bow.
Factors To Consider Before Buying A Bow
Where To Buy: Archery Shop Vs. Online
Deciding where to shop is an essential step in purchasing a bow. Archery shops and online stores are the most common options to consider, and each comes with its pros and cons.
An Archery Shop
Archery shops are perhaps your best bet when deciding where to buy a bow. They have facilities that allow you to try out and shoot different bows under guidance. The shop employees are usually experts and knowledgable pros that will offer advice, help you try out various bows, and select the best option. Aside from this, you also get to enjoy essential facilities like shooting ranges and after-sales service.
Another popular way to shop for bows is online. You can check out e-commerce websites or auction sites and enjoy the convenience. On the downside, buying your bow online means you can’t test the grip, weight, or other features to get the perfect fit. You’d also need to have done your research and decided on the bow you’d be getting beforehand.
Another thing is, except you have the expert know-how, you might still have to walk into an archery shop to get your bow correctly set up, a service charged at a few extra bucks.
Create A Budget
Ever heard of the saying “buy cheap, buy twice?” One simple fact you must understand about purchasing a bow is that expensive is not always good, and cheap is not always cost-effective. Instead, you should seek a balance between the two. Before you walk into an archery shop or order a bow online, be sure to determine how much you want to spend.
Consider the following while creating a budget:
- Kit bows or bare bows? If you’re going for bare bows, be sure to factor in archery accessories
- The top-shelf, name-brand bow shoots well but often has staggering price tags
- Pro-line bows don’t come with hunting superpowers as the price tags suggest
- Mid-range bows sometimes have cutting-edge features of some top-of-line bows
- The amount you spend on a bow does not necessarily determine success in the field
To better guide you with coming up with a budget, below is a rundown of the different categories that bows fall under:
A flagship product is a company’s core product or the top product in its selection. Therefore, most top-of-the-line bow models cost between $1,000 - $1,700. For this amount, besides cables, strings, dampeners, and the like, the bow should have all metal parts (no plastic) and include all the company’s latest tech. It should also impress in terms of shootability and speed (IBO speed of around 330 fps or better).
A bow in this category costs between $700 - $900 and usually has features of recent flagship models. As a result, it provides near-flagship performance and will most times miss only a few top-end components. Nonetheless, it promises a fantastic performance.
Budget bows generally cost between $500 - $600 and offer the least performance of the three categories. Instead of metal, the bows have a plastic cable guard and cast riser and are slower due to older cam systems. While budget bows don’t quite match the performance of mid-line or flagship bows, you can still kill a deer with this bow, so you don’t necessarily have to avoid it.
A suitable alternative to spending a lot of money is to buy a used bow. You can shop online for a used bow or at your local archery shop for incredible deals. Unlike new bows, you must be very careful with the process. Inspect the cables, strings, cam, and limbs for splits, cracks, or signs of damage. Also, check the draw length and adjustability to ensure you get value for your purchase.
Try Multiple Bows
Now, this is the fun part and is the primary reason we recommend you shop in a store – so you can test and shoot multiple bows. After discussing your budget with the employees, they’ll suggest several bows for you to try. When it comes to bow testing, the more options you try, the better.
Bow testing is a process, take time to shoot each bow several times. Clear your mind and allow yourself feel each bow. Every archer, including the experienced ones, choose bows that feel right.
When testing each bow, you should feel for certain things, including a comfortable grip and valley, smooth draw cycle, and minimal hand shock. The one that feels best on these fronts may just be your winner.
Bow Specifications to Look Out For
The draw weight is the amount of force you would need to pull back the bowstring to reach full draw before the bow is fired. Although most bows come with a draw weight specification, bow shoppers sometimes end up with a bow with too much draw weight. If you think the strain of pulling back the bowstring once is too much, consider the pain you’ll feel repeating the process 50 times or more.
Checkout our guide for draw weight below:
- Adult men: 45 – 75 lbs. compound bows, or 35 – 45 lbs. recurve bows
- Adult women: 25 – 50 lbs. compound bows, or 20 – 35 lbs. recurve bows
- Teen (14 – 17): 15 – 35 lbs. compound bows, or 15 – 25 lbs. recurve bows
- Kids (8 – 13): 10 - 25 lbs. compound bows, or 10 – 15 lbs. recurve bows
The draw length is the farthest distance from the string to the deepest part of your grip when the bow is at full draw. It describes the length you’d need to draw the bowstring until you’re at anchor position. Choosing a product with the right bow draw length will come in handy if you hope to achieve the best accuracy. Your draw length will determine your bow's length and the actual draw weight.
While you can easily measure the draw length at a local archery shop, you can also do it at home. To do this, you first need to get your wingspan - the distance from the tip of one of your middle fingers to the tip of the other. Divide your wingspan by 2.5, and you’ll get the right draw length for you.
When you draw your bow, go all the way back until it stops and check how it feels. Does it feel a little soft and spongy or hard and solid like you hit a brick wall? You can choose whichever one you prefer.
The valley determines how much you can relax at full draw before the string is let down. It is the amount of space between the back wall and the bow shooting and is where the weight begins to let off in the draw cycle. When you shop, check to ensure that your pull into the valley is comfortable and quiet.
A comfortable valley depends on individual preference and is relative to each shooter. A shallow valley doesn’t allow much play at full draw and keeps the muscles tight and engaged while pulling into the back wall. A deep, relaxed valley, on the other hand, lets you really settle in at full draw, fully relaxing your muscles and allowing you to focus on your shot.
The grip refers to the point of contact with the bow. Not that you’ll actually be gripping the bow. Rather, the grip allows the bow to balance against your hand as you shoot.
The bow’s grip is a crucial consideration because a poorly-designed grip will feel uncomfortable and can reduce your shooting accuracy. When you shop, ensure the grip sits comfortably between your palm and the pad of your thumb, with your fingers gently wrapped around it.
Shock, Vibration, and Noise
That jarring feeling you get after firing an arrow is referred to as hand shock. Bows that don’t transfer energy will feel like they’ll jump out of your hands. Ideally, the less the jump or vibration, the better the outcome. Bows that don’t vibrate or shock much are called dead-in-hand bows. Such bows prevent you from gripping too tightly in anticipation, reducing the likelihood of torquing the bow and throwing the shot.
Less vibration also means less noise. You’d want to close your eyes and carefully listen as you try out different bows. Some bows are noticeably quieter and are especially ideal for hunting.
Decide the Riser Material
The riser is a vital part of the bow. Not only does it connect the upper and lower limbs, it practically functions as the motherboard of your bow. The curved portion of the riser forms a part of the grip, and it features the sight window and arrow rest. All your accessories are directly attached to the bow’s riser. Hence, you should go for a riser that allows for the attachment of all the accessories you want.
Bow risers come in various materials, including wood, carbon, and aluminum. Carbon risers are the most durable option. They are lightweight and send the arrow quickly. Some manufacturers combine carbon and carbon hybrid materials to reduce vibrations and increase flex. Aluminum risers are heavier and consequently more expensive than carbon risers and are used in general archery. Heavier risers are beneficial for the stability of your shots since they vibrate less. This makes them preferred by experienced archers. Most beginner risers, on the other hand, are made of wood. Wooden risers are a lot lighter but not very strong. They are more prone to bending and breaking and are less resistant to moisture.
Speed generally refers to how fast the bow can fire an arrow. However, more than the speed, you must also consider a bow that is easy to draw and fire. The reason is that bows, especially compound bows, have various efficiency levels.
High-efficiency bows offer the best combination of shootability and speed. Check out the manufacturer’s IBO rating to know how fast it will shoot. However, many bow companies and manufacturers don’t usually advertise bow efficiency, so you’d want to find out the bow’s speed and ease of handling and shooting by testing different bows.
Accuracy and Forgiveness
A bow that forgives won’t allow minor mistakes in shooting form significantly affect your execution. As for accuracy, you mostly need to worry about your accuracy with a select bow and not the bow’s accuracy in itself.
The best way to test the forgiveness of your new bow is to try different shots with several forms, intentionally making slight shooting errors. Then, choose the most forgiving option.
Shop For Accessories
One bow-buying mistake you don’t want to make as an archer is compromising on archery accessories. It’s not uncommon for archers to buy the best bows they can afford but skip on archery accessories. When planning your budget, be sure to make provisions for accessories, including bow case, quivers, sight, stabilizer, bow stringer, wrist sling, arm guard, among others.
Color and Limb Choice
This feature is more aesthetic than function. Check out the color and finish that appeals to you and buy it. You can also extend this to the limb choice.
Choosing the right archery bow to buy is a very personal decision, but many factors come into play. We’ve discussed the essential factors to look out for to choose the right bow that’ll enhance your shooting accuracy and comfort.
Be sure to take your time when you go bow shopping. Don’t be afraid to shoot each bow several times. The staff at the archery shop will understand. You’re making a huge investment, after all.
More importantly, remember the bow kind of chooses you. When you eventually find the one that feels right, you’ll know it.
Don’t forget to get a high-quality bow case to protect your bow when you’re out in the field, on hunting trips, or during storage. Our store also offers some of the best archery accessories to perfectly complement your bow and enhance your archery experience. Do well to check it out.
Happy bow shopping!