Buying your first bow
By Stan Siatkowski ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
After you take a few introductory lessons and join an archery club, you may have access to club-owned equipment which is suited to the purpose of learning the basics of the sport. With practice, patience and good technique, you can become fairly accurate with such equipment, but soon you realise that most instructional level bows, arrows and accessories are fairly limited in their capabilities. Also, you will find that if you want to shoot somewhere other than your own club, often equipment is not available.
Many new archers soon decide they want the convenience and accuracy of their own, custom-fitted equipment. But with the dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of models of bows, arrows and accessories available in the marketplace, deciding just what to buy can be a pretty intimidating task. So, how best to go about it?
As with any purchase, the two most important considerations are the purpose, and the cost. These are decisions you have to make for yourself, and then you can proceed in getting further advice.
Archery equipment is available for a number of different uses, and while it is possible for just about any bow to be used for any purpose, you will have to compromise efficiency for utility. There are different types of equipment best suited for different archery activities. It's not unlike selecting which car to buy. A small sportscar is great for driving the highways and country roads, but wouldn't be much use carrying a family around. You don't want to be off-roading with a minivan, and you don't want to take a limousine to the hardware store to pick up a load of timber.
In considering your first bow, you need to have some idea of what aspect of the sport you're going to be involved in. Is your primary purpose going to be competition target, field or 3-D shooting? Or are you thinking of going hunting? Perhaps you just want a bow to play around with and aren't particularly interested in winning tournaments or bagging a trophy goat. What type of shooting do you like - barebow or freestyle? What type of bow do you like - a recurve bow, a compound bow, crossbow or a traditional longbow?
Archery is not a particularly expensive sport to be involved in. Equipment costs are comparable to golf or skiing, but the participation cost is considerably cheaper.
How much do you want to spend on your new equipment? You can buy a basic starter bow and accessories like you may be learning on for about $200-250 or you can easily spend 10 times that on a top-line competition target bow. Remember, the bow itself is only part of the total cost - you'll also need arrows, a sight, stabilizer, rest, quiver, case and other accessories as well, so you should be aware that generally your total cost for a complete set-up will be about twice the price of the bow itself. As with just about anything else, the more you pay, the better quality you get. But you don't have to get the top-of-the-line stuff to get the best performance, especially for your first purchase. Decent bows (and that's a very subjective opinion) can be found in the $300 range, and you can get a fairly complete, good target or hunting set-up that includes everything you need to shoot for $500-600.
Once you've made a decision regarding the purpose and your budget (and there are no right or wrong answers there - it's solely what YOU want), it's time to get some advice. There are too many variables to go through here, and the best recommendation is to go to a reputable archery dealer. You can buy equipment by mail-order or over the Internet, but although you might save a few dollars, unless you're absolutely sure you know what you want, it's probably not a good idea. You might also consider buying a second-hand bow. People are always trading in for new models, so good deals are often available, but be very careful that what you're buying is in good condition and suitable for you. Depending on age and condition, used bows sell for 50-75% of the price of new ones, but keep in mind that they don't have a warranty and may need repairs.
The knowledgable archery equipment supplier will try to find you the best bow and accessories that fit your purpose and budget. For example, if you're into target shooting, you'll need to have a bow of the right length and draw weight. The grip type, stabilizer arrangement, arrow rest, and most importantly, the arrows (type, length, weight, size, fletching) all have to be correctly fitted and adjusted for you to get the maximum effectiveness. If you're into hunting or 3-D, are you going to shoot large or small game or 3-D targets? Close or long distances? Open terrain or bush? Bright or dark conditions? A good dealer will ask you a lot of questions to find out what will be best for you, and then give you a number of suggestions for you to consider before you make your purchase. The dealer will also be able to adjust your equipment, keep it maintained and do any required service as problems come up (and they will!).
If you think you may be interested in buying your own archery equipment, think about the two questions, and when you have an answer, ask the experienced members of your club to recommend a good archery dealer, and go from there.
A few final words of advice...
You can't BUY success in archery (or any other sport). No matter how good the equipment you get, you still need to have proper technique and you must practice! Don't get caught up in the technology. If the equipment can do the job you want it to do, you don't need to spend thousands on the latest space-age model just because it's "new". Whatever equipment you end up with, remember to use it safely and legally. Shoot only in a safe direction, and at appropriate targets only.
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