Beginners guide to archery (Archery 101)

Beginners guide to archery (Archery 101)

Welcome to Phoenix’s beginners guide to archery. This archery 101.

In this guide you will learn:

  1. How to find if you’re left or right-handed
  2. About the various types of archery bows and styles. And you’ll find out which type is best for your style, level, and abilities
  3. How to choose the right arrow type to match your bow

Also, I’ll be offering you some advice on what archery equipment you will need when you’re new to the sport.

How to find your dominant eye shooting eye

Before you start shooting any bow you need to find your dominant shooting eye.

For instructions on how to find your dominant eye, you can either watch the short video above. Or do the following:

  1. First, make a little triangle with your hands like this (see the Youtube video cover) and look at something.
  2. Next, put your hand away from you whilst keeping them in a triangle shape.
  3. Last, bring it slowly back to the eye you want to look through.

Your hand will naturally be attracted to your dominant eye.

As you can see in the video, when I did it, my hand ends up on my right eye.  So that means I’m right-handed.

I’ll hold the bow in my left hand. And I’ll pull the string back with my right hand (with the arrow under the dominant eye). That’s how you find your shooting eye and how you aim.

You need to do this before you decide what bow you want to shoot. That way you’ll know whether you need to buy a left or right-handed bow.

So, before you go any further find out which is your dominant shooting eye.

The 7 Type of Archery Bows

Fiberglass bows

Fiberglass bows are great for groups like scouts, schools, and army cadets. They’re also a decent choice for the absolute beginners or very young archers.

The reason? Because they’re tough, robust and difficult to break.

Some wood bows types are easy to break. Especially if you dry fire them.

Archery Tip 1: What is a dry fire?

In archery, a dry fire (or dry loosening)  is where you fire a bow without an arrow in place. This can happen for various reasons. Sometimes it might be because the bow is missing the arrow, or the arrow breaks whilst being drawn, or the arrow is misfired.

When a dry fire occurs when energy – which should have been transferred to the arrow – ends up being sent back into the bow. This can cause significant damage to the bow.  The amount of damage depends on the bow type being fired and the amount of energy which is released.

Compound bows are significantly affected by this due to the amount of energy stored in their limbs when drawn.

In addition, fiberglass bows don’t come in many weights like the other bows.

The maximum weights on fiberglass bows are around 26 pounds for the model in the video.

Fiberglass bows are also ambidextrous too. So, you can shoot them whether you’re left or right-handed.

To conclude: they’re versatile, virtually indestructible and don’t require much strength to shoot. This is why they’re a great choice for kids clubs, schools, and beginners. They’re also cheap to buy.

The downside is that fiberglass bows don’t come in heavy draw weights and poundages.

Prices for fibreglass bows start at about £35.

A great beginners fiberglass bow to start with is the Rolan Snake Bow.

If you buy a fiberglass bow from us we’ll put the rest on, we’ll put the string on, and we will put the nocking point on.

If you run a club, school or another group we can provide you with these bows in bulk. Just get in touch with us regarding prices and availability.

Junior recurves

Wooden bows are what I would class as the next step up in a beginner’s bow (when compared with the fiberglass bows).

Yet again, a junior recurves are a good choice for a new archer, the cubs, the scouts, girl guides, the army cadets, schools, young archer, and absolute beginners, etc.

It’s easy to know whether the bow you are using is right or left handed. The arrow shelf would sit over your knuckles

The bow I’m shooting is a right-handed bow in the video and the image above image.

You can tell it’s right-handed because the arrow should be sitting over your knuckles.

If it’s left-handed, it wouldn’t feel correct when firing. And the arrow wouldn’t be over your thumb. It would feel weird.

The bow in the above image and video does not use ILF limb fittings.

Archery tip 2: What are ILF fittings?

ILF stand for “International Limb Fitting”. ILF fittings are a standardised way of fitting limbs onto risers. If a riser is described as ‘ILF’ it means that ILF limbs can be fitted to it. This ensures that limbs and risers are compatible with each other, even if the limbs and risers are manufactured by different companies.

When using ILF fittings you need to unscrew the bolt to take the limbs off. It can be a bit slow. In the video, it takes me a minute to unscrew the bolts and remove the limbs.

Tip: always make sure you put the limbs on the correct way around. It might sound obvious but not all wooden bows show you how to do this.

Basically, the limb which has the weight on it goes to the bottom. And the other limb goes to the top.

When dealing with ILF fittings, the limbs with the weight on it goes to the bottom

Always have the curve facing away from you. Also, the limb with no writing goes to the top. The other limb with writing on it goes to the bottom.

I would recommend using a stringer to fit your string. I wouldn’t try any other way. You can buy bow stringers from our shop.

This above picture and the link is a bow stringer. They are around £5.50. You can buy cheaper ones, but I don’t like them.

The ones I recommend are thick. They’re like car seatbelt material. They’re strong and will last years.

In conclusion: Wooden bows are great bows for new archers and juniors. However, they’re more advanced than the fiberglass bows.

Wooden bows come in various sizes: from junior heights right up to adults’ sizes (Around 54” – 70” tall).

The average draw weight for a wooden bow is around 10 pounds up to 38 pounds.

And the prices of these bows start at around £70.

In my opinion, there’s little difference when it comes to brands and makes.

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t matter really what they say on them. They’re all probably made in the same factory in China. But that doesn’t stop them being great bows.

We can get the Sebastian Flute ones which are now WNS. The ones in the video and pictures are Armex ones. We can get Core ones too.

There’re loads of them about. And we can get whichever ones you want. If you think of a bow make, we can get it. Just contact us (phone 01282 425 967) if you have your eye on anything.

Wooden recurves

Wooden recurve bows are made of wood but use fiberglass limbs. They also have a wood core and wood risers. You can shoot off the shelf or use a rest with these bows.

The bow in the video doesn’t come with any bushings. This means you can’t attach things like sights and stabilizers to the bow. So, it’s better for those seeking to practice traditional style archery.

Wooden recurve bows more advanced, and I wouldn’t recommend them for the absolute beginner.

Likewise, wooden recurves are not as customizable as the recurve with metal risers.

The bow in the video is a takedown bow. You can tell it’s a takedown as the limbs come off. And the limbs in the image and video are ILF limb fittings.

You can get one-piece recurves. And, like the takedowns, these come in various sizes.

In this pic I’m holding a takedown recurve bow (left and a one-piece recurve (right)

The size of the bow you choose is determined by your height. Contact us if you want any advice on this. Just let us know how tall you are, and we’ll find a bow which is suitable comes with suitable draw length.

Rule of thumb is: at 60-inches in height you will have about a 29-inch draw. If you wanted a longer draw (like 30 plus) you’ll want a longer bow.

One-piece recurves come in various sizes, weights, and styles. And you can get left and right-handed versions of these types of bows.

When choosing a recurve bow you need to decide whether you want a one-piece or a takedown style.

A lot of people like the takedown style as you can pack them away in a small space. They can be packed into your car more easily as you can disassemble them (or take them down).

I can’t recommend you one over the other. It’s just down to what best for you and your circumstances.

Olympic style recurve

The Olympic style recurve is your next type of recurve. The one in the video has metal risers.

They’re totally different than the other types of recurve.

The bow in the video above and the picture below uses ILF (International Limb Fittings).

An Olympic style recurve bow with ILF fittings

To fit ILF limbs you simply slide the grooves into each other, click the limbs, and that’s it. They’re fitted (see the video for clearer instructions).

ILF always have an upper and lower limb. It should be written on them which is which.

Again, I recommend you use a stringer when fitting your bow strings.

The recurve riser in the video is bushed. This means you can fit a button, a clicker, sights, and you can fit stabilizers.

Olympic style recurves are more rigid when compared with other types of recurve.

When fitting ILF fittings be careful of them falling off. These limbs are not held in properly until you put them under tension with a string.

I would consider Olympic style recurves to be the next step up from wood. You can buy a variety of metal risers for them and they vary in design.

But they’re better bows. They’re the type of bow which will grow with you. As you progress you can continuously upgrade the limbs and risers.

Prices for the risers start at around £50 upwards. The better Olympic style risers can cost you upwards of hundreds of pounds.

The limbs start at about £60. But, as with the metal riser, you can pay a few hundred pounds for the better ones.

Again, if you order one of these bows from us it’ll come fully set up with everything fitted. And it’ll be ready to shoot when it arrives.

English longbow

The English longbow. A classic weapon of medieval times

In the video, at around 7 minutes, the bow I have in my hand is an English longbow.

The one in the video is laminated with 3 types of different woods – Bamboo, Lemonwood, Hickory.

You can buy the proper traditional English wood longbows which consist of one piece of Yew.

When firing this type of bow, you hold the bow in the middle and the arrow is shot off your hand.

Archery Tip 3 – Be careful when shooting off your hand

I would recommend you an archery wear an archery glove when shooting off your hand. Otherwise, you might cut your hands or get feather burn. Especially if you don’t use the wrong types of fletching on your arrows.

There’s no shelf on these bows.

The English longbow comes in various weights. They tend to use the old-style horn nocks. You can see the horn nocks at 7:40 mins in the video.

The new English longbows are a lot better than the old ones.

You can buy them in one piece of wood, three, four, basically whatever you want.

They come in various kinds of woods: purple heart, snakewood, etc. But the rarer wood types make the bows expensive.

The English Longbows are totally different to shoot compared to most bows. They’re nowhere near as accurate as the modern equipment. But they do have a lot of history.

Remember the swearing V sign with your fingers. It owes its origins to the English longbow.

American Flat Bow (AFB)

The pictured is a flatbow with the Howard Hill type grip. It’s a big grip which isn’t for everyone

In the video, at around 8:35 mins, I am using a Howard Hill style American flatbow. You can tell it’s a Howard Hill style as it has a big grip.

The American Flat Bows have a shelf which is used to fire your arrows. So, there’s no shooting off your hand like there is with the English longbow.

I personally prefer to shoot off a shelf rather than shooting off my hand.

The Howard Hill style (with the big grip) isn’t to everyone’s taste. Many archers find them difficult to use.

The more modern flat bows have what’s called a pistol grip. A good example of this is the Bucktail Blackhawk. As you can see the image below the pistol grip is still a nice big grip.

To conclude, the American flatbow is more advanced than the English longbow. But they’re not cut past centre.

Overall, they’re not a bad bow. If you like traditional style archery, they might be for you.

Compound Bows

A typical compound bow. The rods sticking out either side are stablisers

Compound bows are the most complex type of bow.

They are the most powerful, accurate and fastest type of bow. They give the archer a mechanical advantage.

Archers can achieve shooting speeds of up 370 feet per second. The very best bows can transfer up to 89% of their draw energy into the arrow. And these bows shoot the arrow at a flatter arc too.

Compound bows can be fitted with lots of accessories (like stabilizers, sights, etc). The purpose of these accessories is to help improve your shooting even further.

At 9:50 mins, the bow I have in my hand is an Obsession compound bow. That bow is my personal one.

In the above picture, the long rods at the front and the back are stabilisers. They help to balance the bow perfectly.

Also, on my bow, I’ve got an HHA single pin which helps me aim. You can put up to five pins in them or you can shoot them without sights. The sights are optional.

And, on my bow, I have an arrow rest launcher. I also use a D-loop because I use a trigger.

Compound bows can be shot with a trigger. I show you my bow trigger at 10:19 in the video. I use a trigger instead of my fingers.

The bow in our archery video is quite a big axel to axle bow. These are great for target shooting, 3d shooting, and are good for field archery.

The draw length of a compound can be adjustable by changing modules.

A typical cam and module on a compound bow

On my bow, you can change the draw length from 24 to 32 without having to change the modules or cams.

Some bows don’t have modules: they have what they call a rotating module. To use a rotating module, you just spin round them around to set your draw length.

The bow in the video has around a 70% let off. This means that when you pull it back, at around 10 inches, it starts getting easier when approaching full draw.

At full draw, you end up holding 70% less of your draw weight. Therefore, you can hold it steadier and aim for longer.

There are many different makes and styles of compounds.

Another style of compound bow is a lever bow. You can see one of these in the image below and in the video around 11:23. When you pull the bow back the levers move.

A lever style compound bow

Pt 3: An introduction to archery arrows

There are 3 main arrow types for archery. They are:

  • Wooden arrows
  • Carbon/composite arrows
  • Aluminium arrows

Wooden Arrows

Wooden arrows are suited for your traditional bows and wood recurves.

I wouldn’t recommend using wood arrows when shooting a compound bow. There’s a risk they can explode. Possibly injuring youself and damaging your bow.

They’re fine to use with recurves, flat bows or longbows. However, I wouldn’t recommend you shoot them from an Olympic style recurve.

Wood arrows come in all various spine sizes which are designed for your different bow weights.

Wood arrows can also use a variety of fletchings (like feathers, or plastic).

Fletchings can vary in size: you can get 2”,3”,4”,5”, and 6” inch fletching to use with this type of arrow.

If you need any help or advice with arrows just get in touch. I’ll make sure you get the right arrows for your bow.

Carbon Arrows

Carbon and composite arrow are one of the newer types of arrow.

These are suitable for use with recurves and your compounds. I wouldn’t recommend them for use with a longbow.

You can shoot them off your hand or a bow shelf. But I would recommend changing your fletching’s to feathers, not the plastic ones.

On modern bows, your arrow is shot off the arrow rest. This means your arrow doesn’t catch your bows shelf or your hand.

To summarise: carbon fibre arrows are a lighter, a faster, and stronger.

You can buy them in shapes and sizes. If you are not sure, just give us a ring. We will help you out. And we’ll make sure you don’t buy the wrong ones for your bow.

We stock various archery carbon fibre arrow brands including Eastern, Victony, Carbon Express, Gold Tip, to name a few.

Aluminium Arrow

As with the carbon arrow, I wouldn’t recommend using these with a longbow. These are better used with recurves or compounds.

I wouldn’t shoot aluminum arrows with plastic vains off a rest/shelf (unless it’s a good quality rest).

Aluminum arrows are a bit weaker than carbon but lighter than wood.

Again, these arrows come in different weights and sizes. Some aluminium arrows are not compatible with certain types of bows types. If you want help with this just get in touch.

Health and Safety

In our ‘beginner’s guide to archery’ we have purposely left out things which you might find in other archery guides.

We don’t want to show you things like ‘how to shoot your bow’ or ‘how to string your bow’. You might be wondering why.

Well, it’s because these things are best learned from an experienced archery teacher on a safe and properly set up archery range.

We do not recommend that you try teaching yourself archery. Or try to learn archery on your own.

If you attempt to learn archery on your own you run the risk of picking up poor archery technique. More importantly, you may injure yourself or even kill somebody if you don’t know what you are doing.

Bows and arrow are weapons. They were intended to kill things or people. So, it’s wise to treat archery equipment and technique with the utmost respect.

So, you should always make sure you practice archery as safely as possible. Because you are essentially learning how to operate a weapon.

At Phoenix Archery we strongly recommend that you join a local archery club or get archery lessons from a qualified teacher. This will ensure that you learn archery the correct way and safe way. And this will hopefully stop you injuring yourself or others.

Don’t be stupid. Get yourself some archery lesson and shoot safely. You’ve been warned.

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