Advice wanted before purchasing a traditional wooden recurve bow
March 14, 2012 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Looking for help in selecting a traditional (recurve?) bow (no 'modern' styles).


Any advice on traditional bows/arrows/accessories and or considerations to take when purchasing a bow would be GREATLY appreciated!

I figure many factors come into play when selecting a bow that works well with the body, so I will start of by giving a link to the type of bows I am talking about:

I am a male, 170lbs and will most likely be 190-200 by December (have gained 20 pounds in the past 6-8 months).
My wrist flexor/extensors and lattisimus dorsi are of greater strength in proportion to many others my weight (along with my trapezius, but I don't think that comes into play as much when drawing a bow, unless it just transfers weight load?) I am of good strength, and I dedicate a lot of my time to proper training and diet. I rock climb as well, the chalk and grit of rock and iron grips (on various metal bars) have calloused my hands thouroughly

I only tell these specific things because I feel they MAY be important in selecting a bow. I am aware there are many others physically stronger than me (in other words, I'm not trying to be a douche, just want to shave that off seeing that this is the internets and all...)

Any advice will help me in selecting a bow, and more over so, suggestions of actual bows with reasoning behind it. All advice would GREATLY be appreciated, as I don't know much about bows at all.

I know I could spend time learning a lot on the internet, but I never really got to spending hours on the subject, and figured I would like to ask this for my first question.

I am particularly curious about the reputability of online retailers, what other items I should consider purchasing (wrist guards? why? are there different types of arrows?)

I don't want the types of bows they use in the Olympics, I wish to physically feel what man did in the past. Obviously this sort of activity is purely recreational.

I currently reside in Flagstaff, Arizona, and will be leaving very soon. I'm not sure how my location would help, except maybe for reputable local sellers.
posted by JamesBlakeAV to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The most traditional bow type is a longbow, made from wood.
You can make one yourself if you like.

If it is just a matter of feeling your own strength drawing the bow then a recurve is fine, but most recurve bows are pretty high tech and not really traditional or anything.

The complicated super high tech ones are called compound bows. They have cam wheels which mean that you hold less weight at full draw.

Things you need to know:
Bows are sized for their users over a couple of different metrics.
Draw Length is how far back you pull the string. If you are very tall with long arms you will need a greater draw length.
Draw Weight is how much force is needed to draw the bow back to its designed draw length.

Arrows are designed to match the bow and the archer. You need a certain length to match your bows draw length. To short is very dangerous, too long is inaccurate.
Then you need a certain stiffness based on the bow type/arrow length. This is because arrows wobble in flight.

If you are aiming for tradition then things are a bit easier, because wooden longbows use wooden arrows.

Other things:
Arm guards are a good idea because the string can sometimes hit your wrist as you release and that can really hurt.
You need a quiver of some sort. This is a thing which holds arrows and is attached to you. This ensures you can make a repeatable action to nock an arrow, draw and fire.
Recurve and compound tend to have belt quivers. Longbow archers that I have known tend to prefer leather back quivers. This may be related to the authenticity thing.
You will also probably want a tab. This is a leather finger guard that slips over the fingers to keep the string from biting into them as you draw the bow.

There appears to be a good archery shop in flagstaff and they will let you try out the bows before you buy one and advise on draw length, etc.

They seem to have crazy loads of compound bows in stock, because hunting I guess?
I do see some recurves too, but no longbows. They may have them.
Best bet would be to go visit and try some different styles out and see if any of them are traditional enough.

There is also an archery club who I am willing to bed would be happy to offer you advice.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:36 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

What bow feels comfortable differs so much from person to person that the best thing I can recommend is to actually shoot with a variety of shapes, sizes, weights and styles and see what you like. The best way to do this if you want to use traditional style bows is to look for your local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism or similar medieval reenactment group and look up when they have archery practice (they will). Then show up and they'll almost certainly have spare bows beginners can practice with. Try a few, make some friends, ask to try their bows too, and after one or two sessions like this you will know exactly what you want (and have some good leads for where and how to buy it).
posted by lollusc at 4:11 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "but most recurve bows are pretty high tech and not really traditional or anything"

Would just like to make note, for other readers, and the recurve bow saw heavy use during and before second millineum B.C.

Very age-old roots, it seems. I was just taken aback that a simple bow shape was not considered "traditional", so I had to take it upon myself to check that bit out.
posted by JamesBlakeAV at 5:00 AM on March 14, 2012

I found my bow at a second hand shop, so I don't have any advice about where to get one.

One thing to be aware of is that with a recurve bow you will need arrows that are fletched with actual feathers. The kind with plastic feathers won't fly straight because the feather part wont bend enough when it comes off your bow.

I haven't purchased anything from here yet, but 3Rivers Archery has been really great about answering my questions. I do historical reenacting, so I think they'd be helpful to you as well.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:51 AM on March 14, 2012

Re: Recurve bows not being traditional, it wasn't the shape I was talking about, more the material.

My recurve, for example is made of a magnesium alloy handle and carbon fibre limbs.

I was just trying to make the point that "Not being a compound bow" does not equal "Traditional bow design".

So, yes, recurve bows can be entirely traditional and historic in origin, but can also be super high tech modern constructions.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2012

Response by poster: ^ Thank you for enlightening me. Apologies.
posted by JamesBlakeAV at 1:34 PM on March 14, 2012

I recently started practicing traditional archery - more or less, I use carbon arrows with my longbow. I got most of my questions answered by these guys. Seriously, they're brilliant at this stuff. (They also have fantastic customer service.)
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 2:45 PM on March 14, 2012

And I didn't read the answers thoroughly enough. TooFewShoes already pointed you to 3 Rivers.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 2:46 PM on March 14, 2012

There's quite a bit to actually fitting a bow, and your best bet is to hit your friendly independent archery shop. Avoid chain stores like Big 5 or Cabela's, as their salespeople tend to have a broad but shallow knowledge base, whereas the staff at an archery shop will know their specific trade inside-out.

You can pick up a random bow and some random arrows and generally lob them in the direction you want to go, but going to the shop, they'll help you select arrows of the appropriate length and weight, and help you get the bow set up the way you want. (Will you be using a peep or not; will you be using sights or shooting "plain vanilla"; etc.)

If you're brand new to archery, it's a good idea to start off with a lighter-weight bow, perhaps rent one for a bit, and work your way up. You'll find that you're using muscles you never knew existed, and it's very important to develop proper, stable form early on. It's much easier to develop good form at the start, than to try to fix it after bad habits have developed.

Shooting a lighter (draw weight) bow early on will help you learn how to smoothly draw, hold, aim, breathe, and so on. Excellence in archery is all about consistency, drawing to the same position time after time after time. I shoot right-handed. On my hunting and target bows, at full draw, the first knuckle on my index finger is tucked up in that little hollow under the ear, at the jawbone. This repeatable position makes sure I'm sighting through the peep the same way every time, and that I'm not putting an unusual angle on the bowstring. If you're shooting the heaviest bow you can (barely) draw, you're too busy fighting to keep it drawn and you're not focused on a steady shot. Remember, on a recurve, there is no "let off" like on a compound. From no draw to full draw, you're holding 100% of the bow's draw weight.

Once you develop good form, go ahead and move up to a heavier bow. What you shoot is largely determined by personal preference. Do you want to be as traditional as possible? As high-tech? Would you rather shoot a hand-made wood bow with wooden arrows you fletched yourself, or a Frankenbow built from the latest materials, shooting carbon arrows? Do you plan to shoot with a release or with fingers? Is your primary intent hunting, target, 3-D, or a little of everything? There's a difference in arrow construction for hunting vs. target, and a difference between a hunting quiver and a target quiver. Having a nice long chat with the shop can help you avoid costly mistakes buying the wrong equipment or stuff you don't really need.

Most archery shops love to talk shop, and will give you all sorts of tips on proper care of your bow, some important dos and don'ts, and so on. Have fun!
posted by xedrik at 4:13 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just bought this, not at that website but at Flag's local shop:


The guys there helped me with EVERYTHING!!!
Got everything I needed as well.

50lbs draw weight

went from horrible aim to a hands-spread apart around the bulls eye with their help, and even hit the eye twice, all in under an hour. (This was at 10 yards, though, haha)

Thanks for all the help everyone!
And I'll be browsing three rivers now and then just to check out different gloves. I'm kinda diggin that robin hood style one haha
posted by JamesBlakeAV at 8:02 PM on March 14, 2012

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