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An Introduction to Archery | The Basics


In order to get to the tips, it will be necessary to make sure we are all starting from somewhere near the same reference point, so allow me to go through some basic discussion of equipment.

1) Beginners

The question of the right equipment is based upon many factors. What type of archery do you plan to participate in? The answer to this question will determine many answers about equipment. As a beginner, let's assume that you want to start out with some target archery. Most target archers shoot a recurve bow, however if your intent is to hunt once you become proficient, then a compound bow may be your choice. Since compound bows are pretty expensive, it still might make sense to start with a recurve and then move on to the compound later, after you have had time to determine if you like the sport.

The recurve bow is the only type recognized in the Olympic Games, and is the most widely used in tournaments. Most beginning archers shoot a recurve, and many enthusiasts never shoot anything else. Most recurves are five to six feet in length, and tend to be of a 'take down' design; that is, they can be dismantled for transport.

2) Recurve Bow

All bows have largely the same essential components.

Limbs which bend when the string is drawn, and store the energy used to propel the arrow. The limbs are usually made of wood, fiberglass, carbon fibre, or some composite of these.

A riser -- this is the handle part between the limbs. In a one piece bow, the riser and the limbs are, of course, the same piece of material. The riser will ususally be made of wood or metal.

A string, usually made of dacron. The reinforced bit in the middle is called the serving. Near the middle of the serving is the nocking point, where the arrow is mounted.

An arrow shelf or arrow rest on the riser. This supports the arrow while it is drawn. A shelf is a cutting into the bow riser itself, while a rest is something mounted on the side of the riser. An extended shelf cutout is sometimes referred to as a sight window. Some bows have both shelf and riser; traditional longbows have neither.

A sight (maybe). More about sights later. Bow Parts

3) Compound Bows

The compound bow is characterized by a system of cams and pulleys, which have the effect that the draw weight decreases as you come to full draw. This makes it much easier to aim, because you aren't holding the full weight of the draw while you're sighting. In addition, because you don't have to hold the full draw weight, the peak draw weight of a compound can be higher than that of a recurve, leading to a faster arrow with a flatter trajectory (but see the discussion of draw weight below -- it isn't quite as simple as that).

Because a compound offers such an advantage over a recurve or traditional bow, most archery organizations recognize compound archery as a completely separate discipline with its own rules. In most cases, any kind of technological aid is permitted, including multiple-point sights. Most compound archers use a 'peep' mounted on the bowstring as the back sight, and a three to five pin sight at the front. However, telescopic sights and spirit levels are usually allowed as well. There are even front sights that project red dots on a lense.
Bow PartsParts Legend
1. Idler Wheel

2. Top Limb

3. Limb Tiller

4. Riser

5. Cable Slide

6. Cable Guard

7. Arrow Rest

8. Brace Height

9. Grip

10. String

11. Cable

12. Limb Pocket

13. Bottom Limb

14. Speed Nocks

15. Bottom Cam

4) Longbows

The traditional longbow is at the opposite end of the complexity spectrum from the compound. It is a stick of wood with a string tied between its ends. Most archery organizations impose strenuous restrictions on what can be done to make the longbow more accurate -- basically nothing. Sights, even one-point, are usually forbidden, and in many cases you'll have to shoot 'off the knuckle', as even arrow rests aren't allowed. Arrows usually have to be of wood and feathers, but most governing bodies stop short of requiring the feathers to be hand-tied to the shaft. Shooting a longbow can be a lot of fun because nobody expects you to hit much of anything.

Longbows are made of various types of wood; the most traditional is yew, although teak and maple are also used, either singly or in laminations.

5) Other Types of Bows

Short, one-piece "hunting bows" have always had a certain following, particularly among field archers. These have the same recurve shape, but are shorter and usually have a much heavier draw weight. In addition, there has recently been an increase in interest in traditional bows other than the English longbow. For example, short "Mongolian" bows have started to appear in archery retailer's catalogues, as have American-style flat bows.

Cross Bows have gained in popularity recently, for both hunting and target shooting. Cross Bows come in a re-curve style as well as various compound styles. In order to get the desired speed as measured in feet per second (fps),
a cross bow typically has a pull of about 150 pounds or more. Since speed as measured in fps is a product of the length of the distance from the arrow at rest
to the point it is launched, a cross bow has a much shorter bolt than a typical arrow, so it needs more acceleration for that shorter distance to achieve a speed comparable to an longer arrow from a compound bow.

6) What are the parts of an Arrow?

Arrows are made up of four primary components; the shaft, the nock, the tip or point with insert, and finally the fletching. Please see the illustration below: Arrow Parts
The foundation of every arrow is the SHAFT. The shaft of the modern arrow is a long hollow tube usually made of aluminum or carbon/graphite composite materials. Wooden shafts may still be found, but are not as popular due to differences in weight and straightness. The rear of the arrow is fitted with a small piece of molded plastic called the NOCK. The nock allows the arrow to click onto the bow's string. At the front of the modern arrow is a small sleeve (usually aluminum) called an INSERT. The insert is glued into the end of the shaft and is threaded on the inside which allows the arrow's TIP to be screwed in. The tip may be a practice point (as pictured above), or it could be a broad head, a judo-point, a blunt-tip, a field point, a fishing tip etc. A standard insert allows you to screw-in and use a variety of tips in the same arrow. A wooden shaft arrow does not have an insert. The tip is a slightly different type that fits over the end of the wood shaft. The final component is the arrow's FLETCHING. The arrow's fletching is usually made up of colorful parabolic shaped pieces of soft plastic (vanes) or feathers. Some arrows still use actual feathers, but the modern arrow usually has the more consistent plastic vanes. In most cases, the three fletches are glued onto the shaft in an equally spaced circular pattern, with two fletches one color and the the third fletch a different color. This third fletch is called the cock-fletch. The fletching is very important, as it provides steering and stabilization for the arrow during flight.

7) What is the Best Arrow for You?

How much do you want to spend? Since carbon arrows cost considerably more than aluminum arrows, this is often a major factor. Prices on both carbon and aluminum arrows vary depending on manufacturer, straightness, quality, and material. For the most part the more you spend the straighter and more durable the arrow will be. You can now buy carbon arrows for as low as $50.00 per dozen, you need to look at the quality your getting for your money. For example, you might spend $50.00 on a dozen carbon arrows that are rated at +/- .008 straightness when you can go out and buy a dozen aluminum arrows for $40.00 and they will be rated +/- .006 straightness. This leads us into the second question.

What will you be using your arrows for? Do you use your arrows for hunting, target shooting, 3D shooting, or backyard shooting? Most archers like to use the most accurate arrow they can get for target and 3D shooting while most hunters want value. The truth is that 90% of archers won’t be able to shoot an arrow with a straightness of +/- .002 any better than they will be able to shoot an arrow that has a straightness of +/- .006. One thing you might want to keep in the back of your mind is if you are going to shoot targets or 3D’s, lines do count. Therefore if you shoot a larger diameter arrow you might get a few extra points at the end of the day. Now for the hunters out there, weight is another item to consider. Weight = KE (Kinetic Energy) right? Well this is a whole other topic which has been discussed for years so we will leave it alone for now.

What kind of speed do you want? Yes that’s correct, I said speed. This seems to be a favorite topic when arrow selection is brought up. When archers start looking for the “fastest” arrow they can shoot they go right for the carbons. For the most part Carbon arrows are faster than aluminum arrows. Now you did notice that I said for the most part. In the last few years aluminum arrows have stayed pretty much the same but carbon arrows have made some major changes. You can now go out and purchase carbon arrows in many different camo patterns. This might look nice but what you need to pay close attention to is how much weight the camo wrap adds to the arrow and more weight means a slower arrow. An example would be the Terminator carbon arrow by Game Tracker. Just by going with the neat looking camo you are going to add 1.7 grains per inch to your total arrow weight. This turns out to be 47.6 grains to a 28” long shaft, which translate to 10-15 feet per second loss of speed. Now this might not be a problem if you’re going hunting but if you were expecting a fast arrow you might be disappointed. Another item to look at is the weight of the components. What kind of nocking system does the arrow have? Will you use carbon inserts; aluminum inserts, or use glue in target points? These are all things to be considered when talking arrow speed. What it comes down to is if you want a fast arrow, look at the whole picture not just the weight per inch.

How much time do you want to spend? You’re probably saying to yourself, what is he talking about? Well, one thing that most archers don’t think about is how easy do the arrows tune. If your trying to ride the edge with a fast light arrow it might take you a little more time to get your bow set up and your arrows flying true. On the other hand, a heavier arrow with a spine better suited for your bow will be easier to tune, especially when using broadheads.

Quality! Quality is almost a given, but lets take a closer look. When we talk about arrows and quality we need to look at several things.

>>>>>a) Straightness: Although arrow manufacturers will publish their arrow specs, it never hurts to verify them yourself. This is something you can ask the shop where you buy your arrows from to show you. Most pro shops have a tool to straighten arrows. Check a few and get the average.

>>>>>b) Weight tolerance: This is generally a huge surprise to archers when they find out for the first time that they might buy a dozen arrows and have a weight difference of 10, 20, or 30 grains between arrows. The only way to really control this is to weigh your arrow before you buy them. This is another reason to find a type of arrow that you like and stick with it.

>>>>>c) Durability: How tuff is the arrow? For aluminum arrows you need to look at the size. An example would be a 2315 Easton Super Slam. Now the size (2315) actually represents two things. The first is the outside diameter in 64ths of an inch, and the second is the wall thickness, in this case, 0.015", or fifteen thousands of an inch. When talking durability with aluminum arrows you need to pay close attention to the second two numbers (the wall thickness). The thicker the wall the more durable the arrow will be. Now you also need to know that the thicker the wall the more the arrow will weigh. Arrow wall thickness range from 12-19 in most cases. Carbon arrows are a little different. The keys to a durable carbon arrow is type of carbon used, type of wrap, thickness of the arrow wall. This should be an after thought. If you buy a good arrow it should hit where your aiming and you shouldn’t have to worry about how durable it is. If you decide to buy the most durable arrow you might not be happy with the performance of the arrow.

8) A few last things to remember

Carbon is more forgiving than aluminum.
Carbon reacts faster than aluminum so it straightens out faster in flight.
If bent, aluminum arrows can be straightened, carbons can't.
Although carbon arrows don’t bend, they will get "out of round".
Tests have shown that carbon will penetrate better than aluminum.
Some carbons are much harder to remove from targets that aluminum.
KE (kinetic energy) is a combination of weight and speed.
Do your homework and if you have any more questions, ask your local pro shop.

Stay with a company that has been around for a while. Some companies pop up, get you to buy their products and then vanish into thin air. By staying with one of the big companies you might spend a few dollars more but the next time you need arrows they will still be there.

How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow

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