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Recurve bow:

Recurve bow

Compound bow: 

Compound bow

Images from http://www.discoverarchery.org/.

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Archery Buying Guide

At the most basic, archery equipment consists of a bow and arrow. This does oversimplify it, of course, as there are different bows, arrows and other equipment that could make your time at the shooting range that much easier.

Archery equipment can also hurt your wallet, so as suggested by SANAA, make an appointment at your closest club for lessons and equipment buying advice. Take your time getting to know what you need before you rush out to buy equipment. Buying twice because of being in a rush will be a hard lesson.

Bows

There are different types of bows, but the common ones are the recurve bow and the compound bow.

Recurve bow

Recurve bows are generally less expensive and less complicated than compound bows (at least to start with). They are also the only bows that are currently used in the Olympic games.
There are a couple of issues when compared to compound bows. The first is that the bow is less compact. The second is that once the arrow is drawn back, the full draw weight will have to be held until the arrow is released.

A recurve bow consists of the following:

Riser - the riser is both the grip of the bow and the base that everything attaches to
Limbs - attached to the top and bottom of the riser the limbs are connected by the string. Limbs determine the poundage of the bow and also contribute to the length.
String - pulled back with the draw and released to propel the arrow forward
Sight - a front sight can be added to assist with aiming

Optional extras:
Stabiliser - steadies the bow at full draw and reduces movement when the arrow is released.
Clicker - a device used to indicate when the correct draw length has been reached. Used to achieve better consistency.
Kisser - a device attached to the string to get a consistent anchor point. The archer touches the kisser consistently with the lips or part of the face.

The limbs of the recurve bow curve slightly forward (as suggested by the name) and this allows it to store more energy for releasing the arrow. Compared to a normal (or straight) bow, the compound bow can shoot further and harder with the same effort.

Compound bow

These bows are more compact than the recurve and is suited to hunting, target archery and paraplegic archery. The bow is designed to let-off 50 to 80% of the draw weight at full draw making it easier to hold the draw while aiming. This makes the compound bow a preferred bow for hunting as holding the draw while waiting for the target is that much easier.

The bow consists of much the same components as a recurve bow, but with some additions:

Riser - the riser is both the grip of the bow and the base that everything attaches to
Limbs - attached to the top and bottom of the riser, the limbs on a compound bow is more horizontal and does not contribute a lot to the length of the bow
String - pulled back with the draw and released to propel the arrow forward
Buss Cable - works together with the cam system
Pulley/Cam system - transfer power from the limbs to the bowstring during a shot.
Cable rod - keeps the cables out of the path of the arrow and absorbs some vibration.
Sights - in addition to a front sight, a rear peep sight is often used. The peep sight is inserted in the bowstring and gives a consistent alignment between the peep and front sights.

Compound bows are often used with a trigger release to improve shooting. They provide a consistent way of releasing the string leading to more stable arrow flight. There are different options to choose from: wrist strap / trigger release, handle / finger release and automatic / hydraulic releases. Which one you choose  depends on which type of archery you will be doing. Also keep in mind that whatever option you choose, you will have to spend some time practising to get used to it.

Optional:

Stabiliser - steadies the bow at full draw and reduces movement when the arrow is released.
Silencing aids - various accessories for reducing vibration for a quieter shot. Useful for hunting.

Other less common bows include:

Self bow - made from a single piece of wood.
Longbow - as the name suggests is quite long, often over 1.5m.
Composite bow - made from more than one type of material including horn, wood and sinew.
Japanese bow (yumi) - used in Kyudo. The bow is over 2m in length and made from bamboo, wood and leather.

Arrows

A bow without arrows is just an expensive wall decoration. Shooting arrows at something is the only reason we get a bow (that I know of).

Arrows can be found with different length, weight and material.
To determine the correct length of arrow to use, you need to know your draw length. Once you know your draw length (in inches) add 0.5" up to a maximum of 1" to get the correct arrow length. For safety, rather go for a longer arrow instead of going too short.

Arrow weight should not be below 5 grain per pound of draw weight. If it is below this, you will severely damage your bow when shooting. Choose an arrow that is between 5 and 8 grain per pound of draw weight.

The material composition of the arrow can differ widely. There is no set answer to what is best, so the best advice is to experiment until you find a arrow that works for you.

Another very important consideration is the spine. This is the degree of stiffness or resistance of the arrow to bending. All arrows bend in flight, but it is important that the arrow is neither too stiff or too limber. A stiffer spine will be used when increasing arrow tip weight, length of arrow or draw weight. Most arrow manufacturers have a chart to help you choose the correct spine and a visit to a pro archery shop will help as well.

For help in selecting an arrow, visit a pro archery shop. With the correct information, they will be able to help you in all aspects of choosing the correct equipment.

Protection

Finger tab - a finger tab is a small piece of leather or synthetic material that protects an archers fingers from the bowstring. While adding protection from friction with the string, the finger tab changes the way the string is released a bit.

Arm guard - worn on the arm that holds the bow. This protects the arm from accidentally being caught by the string (something that can be very painful) and also keeps any clothing from getting in the way.

Clothing

Clothing for archery is not specific, but I can give some recommendations:

 

- Wear clothing that is not too loose.  Loose clothing can interfere with a shot.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Chances are that you will be standing for a while when going shooting and comfort and stability are both very important.

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