Like most clubs, we have a range of basic bows and other kit in varying sizes to suit beginners, but sooner or later everyone wants to buy their own equipment. Some are itching to start buying right away, some can take longer to raise the money or just decide what they want. The thing is, there is a huge choice out there, so how do you decide?
The first thing we always say is please don’t buy the first thing you like the look of on eBay or a dealer’s website. It really is important (honestly) that you get the right size bow, at the right draw weight, and the right size arrows to go with it. Other bits and bobs like tabs and bracers are less critical, but still come in a wide range of styles and sizes.
The consequences of buying the wrong kit could just be that it doesn’t work very well and you end up having to pay out all over again for stuff that does work. In the worst cases, badly-made or poorly-maintained equipment can be dangerous. There are many second-hand bows that are shown strung back to front, for example. Have they been shot like that? The bow could be damaged. Arrows that are too weak could snap as they are shot and there is no telling where the bits are going to end up. There are some good deals to be hand on used equipment, but you need to know what you are getting. If it is enough money that you would be upset about losing it then don’t!
Talk to your coaches. It is best, if possible, to go to a specialist dealer who will take the time to measure you up properly and let you try out different things until you are happy. Most dealers are good like that. A few are not, but experienced archers will usually know which is which. The good dealers generally have short shooting ranges where you can try things out. This is so you can find out what fits best, but also so the dealer can check everything is working as it should.
Arrows, in particular, can be tricky. The spine charts published by the manufacturers are generally pretty good, but the actual spine that works best for you might be different. Better quality limbs are more efficient and faster than cheap ones, even at the same draw weight, and will need stiffer arrows. It also depends how you shoot. I once heard both sides of a dispute between an archer and a dealer where the archer claimed he was sold the wrong arrows because they were not what Easton’s chart recommended, but the ‘wrong’ arrow actually worked better with his technique.
Talk to other archers. Most people will let you have a look at what they use or even try it out. That will help to give you an idea of what draw weight you want, and ho well different things work in practice.
Beware of reviews. They can be useful, but any review is only one person’s opinion and they might not be entirely unbiased.
The people who know best are generally the ones who won’t focus on particular makes or price points but will do their best to find kit that suits you. Listen to them!