A Beginners Guide to Archery

If you are a complete beginner looking to start up and maybe buy your first recurve bow and arrows or traditional archery kit or you just want to find out more about the fantastic sport of archery then we hope this simplified guide will start to aim (sorry!) you in the right direction.

Browsing through all the products on our website will more than likely feel overwhelming and will probably lead to confusion and frustration. Above all there is no such thing as a silly question and every top archer in the world started off with no kit or knowledge of how to shoot a recurve bow or longbow. Ask away - we have heard a lot and have lots of help and knowledge on hand to guide you.

Even if you just want to know what the best wood for bows is or whether you should shoot one type of arrow over another just give us a call.

The first thing we would say if you are just starting out is to go and find a beginners course to join. These are usually available at a local archery club or we have our own Archery GB coaches who can train you at our Archery Centre here in Birkenhead. If you want to know where your local club is please take a look at Archery GBs Club Finder or the NFAS website. Being taught how to shoot safely by a fully qualified coach will give you the best possible start in the sport and teach you everything you know to get you started.

All Archery GB courses are taught using a beginners Recurve bow. This is so that all the basics can be taught as easily as possible and the course is standard to all beginners regardless of location.

Basic types of archery

There are many different types of archery all with their own scoring systems, rules and categories depending on your choice of equipment. Try them all and see which ones you enjoy the most. Here's a basic overview to get you started

  • Target archery: Shooting at round paper faces at fixed distances as seen at the Olympics
  • Field Archery: Shooting at either 3D animals or paper faces within a woodland setting at unmarked distances
  • Clout Archery: Shooting at a flag at set distances depending on age and gender up to 180 yards away. Score zone is marked on the floor around the flag
  • Flight Archery: Shooting an arrow to gain a maximum distance. No scoring.

Basic styles of bow

Recurve Bow
The bow most beginners start with and associated with the Olympics. Can be a modern style with stabilizer rods, balance weights and sights and or a more basic traditional style hunter recurve without all the bells and whistles usually made from wood and laminates.

Compound Bow
The most high-tec of bows born around the 1970s and made for maximum accuracy. Consists of cams to make drawing higher poundages easier to hold at full draw. Used with a mechanical release aid.

Traditional Bows
English Longbow: if you think of archery then odds are that you thinking of Robin Hood. An English Longbow is the most basic (and the most fun) form of archery you can enjoy. A simple stick and string that utilises the archers skill and instincts to the maximum. It's the most challenging but also the most rewarding of the bow types and each bow is hand crafted with no two bows alike. Shot with wooden arrows and feather fletchings.

American Flatbows: also known as the American longbow and was developed in the 1930s. The American flatbow was popularised by Howard Hill and quickly displaced the English longbow as the preferred bow for target shooting. The modern Olympic-style recurve bow is a development of the American flatbow usually using fiberglass rather than wood for the backing and belly of the recurved limbs.

Horsebow: A bow style historically used by archers in the Eastern/Asiatic world. Shorter than a Longbow with recurved limbs and some have rigid limp tips (Siyahs). Can be shot from horseback but can also be shot without the horse! 

Equipment basics - a beginners recurve bow

Equipment basics - arrow breakdown


What's next?

We could have pages and pages of explanations for you here but that information is very much widely available to find on the internet plus we really do recommend that you join a beginners course to learn the basics rather than watch videos or read about it in books. Keep it safe and shoot well!