Arm my 12 year old
September 1, 2014 5:58 PM   Subscribe

My daughter has gone to a few archery camps, she enjoys the sport, and we were told she seems to have a knack for it. I'd like to outfit her.

I've read previous threads including this one but I'm hoping to get some more directive advice. We do have a couple archery shops but they are more than an hour away so I think, despite my desire to support independent small shops, I probably want to buy online.

She likes the historical/magical aspect, and is into basic, low-tech stuff, so I think a fairly basic recurve bow is the way to go.

She's 5'1" and growing fast.

I want to get a quiver and some (how many?) arrows. Again, something that looks a little rustic rather than high tech would be more up her aesthetic alley.

I am willing to spend enough to get something that is not just a toy, but I don't want to spend a lot. Lowest price for a reasonable model.

Can you suggest a specific bow, arrows, and quiver? Can you suggest an online place to buy it?

I prefer to avoid Amazon if possible.

Thank you!
posted by latkes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I understand the distance outweighing the priority to support small businesses, but are you sure it wouldn't be worth the drive for her to be able to see, hold, and draw different bows? That's the direction I'd lean. I don't mean to second-guess; I have no experience shopping for archery equipment online, so maybe I'm wrong. But I do have relevant experience (I won state and regional championships) and from my perspective, especially for a child, it's the type of purchase I'd want to shop for, if not actually make, in person.

My first bow was a just-because bow. It was okay for learning the very basics on. But when I showed proficiency and stepped up to an actually decent bow—which it sounds like maybe is where your daughter is at?—I picked out a bow in person, one that fit me and felt comfortable, and suddenly it was like the sun had risen. I could learn. I could improve. It was night and day. I don't think the change would have been quite so dramatic if I hadn't actually picked a bow off the rack. I still remember how that bow felt. It just fit. It was when I really settled into the sport.

So my advice would be to either visit a couple of those stores you mentioned, or research which of them is the biggest or best-reviewed and visit just that one. Alternately, ask for advice on where to shop from your local range. You don't have to buy from a shop if price is a concern, but I would do some shopping in person. I hope that's helpful, and my apologies if it's not. Good luck to your daughter. It's a great sport.
posted by cribcage at 7:02 PM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Have you talked to the people who run or teach the classes she went to? When I took an archery class, the teacher offered to put in an order to buy bows (at a discount) for any of us that wanted to continue with the hobby after the class was over. She also helped us figure out what sizes we'd need based on the class equipment.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:35 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok. Don't spend money on an expensive, hand made bow just yet (although they are cool). I would get this bow. Takedowns come apart easily and are MUCH easier to store. If you store a traditional bow wrong you will ruin it (like stacked in a corner with a twist on it from its own weight). It is also much, much easier to transport. You can get it in a variety of weights, I would start with 30#. Not too heavy, but heavy enough it will build muscle and teach proper technique.

You can get her pretty cool gear that has a historical/fantasy aspect to it, like a leather quiver, armguard (and with proper technique the armguard isn't really necessary-I shoot a 60# plus without one and never get a string bite unless I am careless-and that means it is time to stop cause I am tired, but it is good to start with one). This site has some great stuff.

There will probably be an archery club nearby, if not you can always try out SCA. If you are familiar with SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) you can get some really, really neat archery stuff at any major war. Just look around on the site, assuming your in Oakland Ca, you are in the kingdom of the west. You might contact their Seneschal about finding out when the next major event near you will have a merchants area to go shopping in. You can also ask the seneschal about an (target) archery group. Most groups also have an archery group that shoots together weekly and is a great, free place to get some basics down and progress in skills. Assuming you don't mind her dressing up funny and hanging out with some goofy, but well meaning lunatics.

I would get carbon fiber arrows to start with. Wood arrows are great but require care and break easily when she misses and hits the only rock for miles around (trust me, she is going to miss when starting). If too pricey, get the correct weighted aluminum arrows. Your best bet here is to visit a local archery store. (for the bow also but something like what I linked too is the best beginners bow in my opinion).

Start her off using a glove as well, not a trigger. Triggers are more accurate, but the glove will build better technique and strength.

BTW women can shoot just a heavy a bow as a man. You don't use arm strength to pull a bow-you use back and chest muscles mainly and women can be just as strong as a man in that area. There is a reason that the ancient legends of the Amazons were archers-men and women are equally effective with a bow.

That will get her started. You should be able to get basic gear for less than 300 and then probably a new dozen arrows every year. After you first bought set of arrows you can spend about $100 and get everything you need to build you own, same with bow strings also. That can be covered in a separate question, or just read up at three rivers archery.

If you have land, being able to practice every day is a HUGE thing. Use straw bales as targets (wood celsior is even better but harder to find). Archery is the kind of thing you have to grow up doing to be really, really good at it. Especially traditional without all the compound bow/sights/shooting aid crap. I find it just gets in the way of having fun with it and improving my skill. However if you can get her to a practice area at least once or twice a week that will be enough to build skill and give her a touch of badassery. Good luck.
posted by bartonlong at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's very difficult to choose a bow for a child without actually trying them out. I say this as an archery coach who spends a fair amount of time teaching 8-12 year olds to shoot.

A recurve is generally the bow that coaches suggest using for the first year. But my experience with children at the younger end of the above age range is that they may not always be the ideal choice.

An alternative is the Genesis bow by Matthews. The Genesis is the bow that most US school archery programs use - they've sold umpteen million of them, and they're tough and reliable, with almost no set-up required. It's a zero let-off compound bow, which means that it's mechanically closer to a compound bow, but shoots very like a recurve, either barebow or with a sight attached. The benefit of the Genesis is that it has a variable draw length, which means that the same bow can be used for many years as the child grows, and even into adulthood. If I have to recommend a first-time bow for a young person who doesn't have the chance to try some bows in a shop, then it's this one. There's a 'mini' version too, which is a little lighter, with a shorter draw length. Which would be best in your case will depend on your daughter's draw length (you can find lots of ways to measure this online). The Genesis also comes in a nice range of colours, which may make up for its slightly too-modern look.

Ordinary "take-down" recurves can be great, but with children there's often an issue with draw length and limb weight just not being enough for them to get much energy into the arrow. I also have issues with the build quality of many of the smaller-sized take-downs. An average 7- or 8-year old will often get quite frustrated at how hard it is to achieve any distance in the shot. Again, the Genesis helps here because it's very efficient, and maximises the transfer of energy into the shot.

Your budget option is a basic fiberglass flatbow. They come in a range of child-friendly lengths and draw weights, and are priced to make upgrading fairly painless.

Choice of arrows matters! It depends on draw length (how far she pulls back on the string) and draw weight (how stiff the bow is). With the Genesis, there's a recommended arrow (uncut 1816 aluminium arrows, if I remember correctly). For other bows, you'll really need to get advice from a shop - arrows are spined (given a certain amount of flexibility) to match the specific bow and archer. The wrong spine will give you arrows that consistently fly 'wrong', fishtailing or porpoising in the air as they fly. Go too far wrong on the arrow spine, and it'll be hard to get the arrows to hit the target in any sort of group.

You'll want 8 arrows as a minimum. Archers normally shoot arrows in sets of 3 or 6, and you need a couple of spares. Wooden arrows tend to be used by 'traditional' archers - those who shoot barebow without a sight and use longbows or flatbows (or any of a dozen other types of traditional bow). Traditional bows are not usually the first stop for a beginner, especially a child. I'd go with some Easton Jazz or Blues arrows, which are aerospace alloy, quite affordable, very sturdy, and come with purple or blue shafts, respectively. Carbon is something to be cautious about - if they shatter or chip, you'll end up dealing with potentially serious medical consequences with the splinters. Most experts recommend only handling carbon arrows with gloves. Also, alumin(i)um arrows are easy to locate in grass with a metal detector - until you lose an arrow deep in the grass roots, you won't believe how hard they can be to find. The carbon ones will lay buried in grass until you mow it, then potentially end up shredded and stuck in someone's foot. My club won't allow all-carbon arrows on our outdoor range for this reason (people play football there sometimes).

I'd second finding a club - preferably a target archery club rather than a field archery or hunting club. Find one that runs a proper beginner's course with a qualified coach. They teach more than the essential technique. They teach safe shooting, which is absolutely the most important thing to learn as a beginner.
posted by pipeski at 7:48 AM on September 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Definitely take her to an archery shop and let her try out a few bows. She might be more drawn to the aesthetics of a wooden longbow, but may find it's much more satisfying to shoot a modern recurve or compound bow (mostly because it's very difficult for a beginner to hit anything with a longbow).

Also resist the temptation to buy a heavier draw weight bow that she'll grow into. It's hard to develop good technique and she's probably more likely to give up on a bow that's harder to shoot.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:18 AM on September 2, 2014

Also vouching for the Genesis. The president of a local company that makes parts for bows used one in an adult competition (and did well) to prove that they're small and affordable but by no means toys or ineffectual.
posted by kattyann at 8:07 PM on September 2, 2014

Response by poster: Hi all. These have been really helpful answers. You've convinced me to make a trip to the archery shop with her, but those of you who suggested specific products were also very helpful in that I'll know how to ask more intelligent questions when I get there.

I'm also looking into SCA and the local archery clubs and classes.

I'll update, maybe with some photos, when we've made our big purchases.
posted by latkes at 11:24 AM on September 7, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for your help friends!

We went to my local archery shop and had a really great experience. The guy there spent about an hour or more with us and explained a lot to me. We tried out a few bows and ended up with a hybrid that is comfortable and appropriately weighted for my kiddo. It was really fun and then after we went to the range in Golden Gate Park to try it out.

Success and thank you!
posted by latkes at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2014

Thanks for the update, and good luck. It sounds like you are both having fun. Archery was one of my favorite parts of my childhood. One summer I spent a week or two at a national archery workshop. I don't remember the name or organization; that year, it was held at the Pomfret School in Connecticut. It was immensely helpful. But the best part was, my parents sent me there alone and the workshop was almost entirely adults, and that's how I was treated. It was those experiences of adult-immersion (for lack of a better term) that made me the independent person I am today, and archery is a sporting culture well suited to that—as compared to, say, baseball or hockey.
posted by cribcage at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2014

« Older Title of 80s/90s film with "disinterested" vs....   |   Snacks friendly for braces! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.