Buying your first recurve bow (Updated 9/5/17

This is a guide to buying your first Recurve bow.  It is based on my personal experiences buying my own kit through the years and assisting friends and members in selecting their kits.  I am not an expert!  I do get asked the same questions from the beginners every course hence this document.  I have covered buying new and second hand here.



First, we need to establish your budget - for a new intermediate level kit you should expect to spend around £400-£500 depending on the riser (handle).  If money is very tight then there are beginners packages available from £250 which are based on the ILF limb system and fully upgradeable like the more expensive alternatives.  The riser (handle) and accessories will be quite crude however.  You may end up spending more money upgrading these bows to a satisfactory standard sooner than expected, than if you had opted to purchase an intermediate level kit to begin with.
I could go as far as to say you can buy a training bow kit much like what you are using on the beginners course (but with extras) for even less -  I do feel that these will limit your progress ultimately (I have found them hard to tune)and the limbs/riser cannot be carried forwards to a "proper" bow, but the choice is entirely yours.  If budget is extremely tight I would recommend a 2nd hand bow - that process has its pitfalls described at the end. 

We can advise you which shop offers the most complete kits at the best value. You might think that you can save a few quid by buying the parts of the kit from separate retailers.  I have crunched the figures many times and have rarely been able to match the price of a complete kit (taking into account the cost of postage buying from several suppliers).  Also, once all parts have been received, you'll need to pay a shop to set the bow up properly for first use - this is inclusive when buying a kit complete so pushes the final cost up more.

Once you have completed your beginners course, Beeston Rylands Archers's insurance policy will allow you to shoot with us for a further two sessions for free to assess whether our club is a good fit to you (time limit of 1 month to attend these sessions).  During this time you'll be allowed to use the club's training bows - in fact, as a fully paid up member of the club you can continue to use the club equipment for a month or two (as long as it does not conflict with any other beginners course running during that time) to develop you technique.  This is important so that when you finally go to purchase your first bow you will have a consistent draw for which the shop can accurately measure your arrows against.

Before making the trip to the shop, always ring ahead to make sure they have the stock you wish to purchase (Riser - model, colour.  Limbs -poundage) to avoid disappointment.  When you get to the shop you'll be able to handle other risers too - you might change your mind seeing them in the flesh!  Any good shop will allow you to try (as in shoot!) several risers before committing to purchase.  If possible, try to budget for a riser with separate limb alignment.  Your riser should be able to last the entire length of your archery career - if possible, spend as much as you can on this one item.

At any shop you should be able to try out different poundage limbs too.  Request to try out limbs in and around the range you are comfortable with.  My general rule is to find the limb poundage I am comfortable with and buy the next one up as I will develop and grow stronger in my first few months.  This way you will offset having to upgrade limbs too soon as you outgrow them.  Otherwise, budget to upgrade sooner than later.  If you know that you will not be a regular archer, buy what feels comfortable otherwise you may never "outgrow" your limbs and struggle with your bow on the occasions you can make it to the club.  All risers can be adjusted to increase or decrease the poundage of the limbs (to a degree).  This will allow you to squeeze some extra mileage out of your limbs too.

When you get to the stage of measuring arrows it's important to have a good and consistent technique already. If the arrows are cut too short the results could be disastrous and possibly would lead to injury.
Shop professionals will guide you throughout the process too so you will be in safe hands!  General practice is to add an inch to the arrows to accommodate expansion in your draw.

The shop we will recommend supplies an almost complete kit (although the most complete kit compared to their competitors) - there are few items you need to still need to purchase to round it off:

  • Arrow puller
  • Bracing height gauge
  • String wax
about an extra tenner in all.  The shop is also open to a few upgrades to the kit package - here is a list of items that are most commonly upgraded in the first year so if your budget allows, it might be preferable to swap these out now and make a small saving:
  • Tab - around £12 upwards for a tab with adjustable shelf and finger hooks (Decut or Soma)
  • Button - Shibuya DX will last you a lifetime (SF/WNS risers normally come with quality buttons and rests though)
  • Sight - micro adjustable sights now start at a reasonable £40-50 for the Decut or Avalon Tec.  £60 should get you a SF Velocity - all three are much better than the standard SF or Cartel sights normally bundled into kits.  I would recommend a micro adjustable sight as my priority upgrade!
Factor in the cost of some semi decent allen keys - metric AND imperial.  The archery world knows no standards :( supplied tools are normally made from cheese.
Also, there is always someone at the club looking to sell on old kit so ask around or check out our Facebook page (club members only).  We'll advise to it's suitability as bow and arrow lengths are roughly tailored to the owner.

Finally - the process of purchasing your kit can take up to three hours!  Longer if the shop is busy so be prepared!  This is not a quick process although once they start building your arrows you should be safe to leave the shop for an hour to search for food!  I've seen people bring packed lunches with them - tea is sometimes provided for free (shop dependent!).   Once your kit is finished take advantage of the shooting range on site and have a go on your new bow.

If you decide to pursue the 2nd hand route you need to be aware of the following:

  1. Testing - if buying via the popular online auction site, the biggest problem with buying 2nd hand is not being able to try what you are paying for.  Buying a nice riser can be a decision of the heart but it has to sit nicely in the hand too.  Luckily, at the lower (cheaper) end of the spectrum more archers in the club are more likely to have the same model equipment and they may let you have a touch or more! Obviously this does not apply to buying face to face.  In 2016/17 there are many Facebook groups dedicated to selling used archery equipment.  Payment is on trust and offers no Paypal protection although bargains can be had.  If not sure, check with experienced club members before proceeding.
  2. Risers - it's difficult to know the history of a riser.  Generally they are robust pieces of equipment and there should not be any issues other than worn or chipped paintwork.  If the riser is cast rather than CNC machined then maybe it would be advisable to pass in case it has been dropped.  Avoid anything with a custom paint job - I've read several accounts where risers have been oven baked after spraying only to crack in use.
  3. Limbs - the history of limbs are hard determine also.  If they have been dry fired (fired without an arrow) it is difficult to tell.  Look for splits and cracks along the edges and avoid.  The lacquer on older limbs may be cracked/crazed - it will be more noticeable when the limbs are strung.  Nothing to be afraid of as purely cosmetic but you should adjust the price you are willing to pay accordingly.  Whilst you are going through the process of building up technique and physique and finding your ideal poundage I do not see a problem with buying cheaper 2nd hand limbs.  Once you have found your ideal setup I would purchase new, higher quality limbs.  These will last you many years and you have the benefit of a guarantee should the worst happen in their first year.
  4. Arrows - these are made to measure and as such it can be difficult to find the exact arrow for you 2nd hand.  Be prepared to spend money to alter the arrows to suit you.  To be honest I would recommend you buy a new set - Easton XX75s are an ideal entry level arrow.  Always buy arrows in store where you will be measured by experts first.  Buying the arrows from a shop may put them in a better frame of mind for assisting with step 7.   Buying online could be an expensive and dangerous mistake if you get any details wrong. 
  5. Sights - if buying a low end sight then buy new as the minuscule saving won't be worth it.  Otherwise, EBay/Facebook can be a great source for higher quality sights (Shibuya, Sureloc, Axcel).
  6. Misc - Stabilisers, stands, quivers and non mechanical bits and bobs should be OK to buy 2nd hand.  Do your research to make sure you are making a worthwhile saving for the effort.  The length of rods is normally determined by the size of the archer and the bow.
  7. Setup - Once you have assembled your kit you'll need to have it set up properly before using it.  I have posted several guides on the website that can guide you through the process.  If it seems too complicated (and some of it is) take it to a shop to have experienced staff set it up.  There will be a charge for this service - around £20.
  8. Price - I was always told by Dave Riley, the general rule of archery is to pay around 50% of the original value of the piece of equipment.  On EBay it is quite common to see items to go for much higher - try not to get carried away!

Shopping List:

  1. Riser (handle)
  2. Pressure button
  3. Limbs
  4. String
  5. Bow stringer
  6. Bow stand
  7. Sight
  8. String wax
  9. Bracing Height Gauge
  10. Arrows
  11. Arrow rest
  12. Arrow puller
  13. Quiver
  14. Stabiliser (long rod)
  15. Finger tab
  16. Arm guard / bracer
  17. Finger sling / wrist sling
  18. Case (rucksack / hard)

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