Archery 101

Welcome to Archery 101. This page was designed to help anyone who wants to become better at archery. There is a lot to the sport of archery so we broke it down into manageable sections.

Here are some quick links to the sections on this page.

Archery for beginners

If you are just starting out in archery or want to just learn a little more about this ancient sport, learn this section. When you are done, you will have an understanding of the history of archery, the different archery bows of archery, and the parts of a compound bow.


The Definition of Archery and Archery History

Archery by definition is the art, practice, or skill of shooting with a bow and arrow.
The bow and arrow was invented around 25,000-30,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic Period. This highly advanced tool at that time was instrumental in hunting and warfare.

The use of bows and arrows has been discovered all over the world either through ancient art or archeological findings. Many battles throughout the history of mankind were won with the use of this accurate shooting instrument.

Archery has been a major tool for hunting and warfare throughout the development of mankind up until the advent of firearms. Although still used by certain African tribes during warfare, archery is more commonly a target shooting past time or big game hunting option.

Archery Bows – Compound Bow, Recurve Bow, Longbow, and Crossbow

The Compound Bow

First developed and patented (1) by american inventor Holless Allen in 1966, the compound bow revolutionized the sport of archery. The much more energy efficient compound bow uses a system of stiff limbs, a bowstring, cables, riser and cams (pulleys) in order to store a large amount of energy into the bow’s limbs while relieving the archer from peak draw weight at full draw.

Modern compound bows may have a draw weight ranging from 45-70 lbs but when at full draw, due to the mechanical design of the bow, the archer is only holding 20-25% of the draw weight at full draw.

When drawing a bow that requires 70 pounds of force, the archer draws back reaching peak draw weight well before full draw. While at this moment of the draw, the bow’s limbs are under their greatest ‘load’ or bend. After peak weight is reached, the compound bow’s cam system ‘rolls over’ already having stored maximum bend or load in the limbs, the draw weight is lessened, and the archer is actually only ‘holding’ 14-20 pounds.

During the shot, the cams release the stored energy and the arrow is delivered with great kinetic energy. Modern compound bows can reach speeds exceeding 365 feet per second. Draw lengths are adjustable on a compound bow by changing modules, cams, or by adjusting setting on the cams.

The Longbow

The longbow was the first bow ever invented. Hunter gatherers typically made this bow out of yew wood, but longbows have also been made of osage orange, hickory, oak, beech, birch, ash, elm, and bamboo. Longbows, throughout the years have been between the lengths of 4 and 7 feet, with an average length between 6-6.5 feet.

Modern longbows have a draw weight of around 50-60 lbs while longbows of the past reached draw weights of 150+ lbs. The effective range of longbows has been known to be around 200 or more yards. During medieval warfare, thousands of archers would fill the sky with potentially lethal arrows from the furthest lethal distance. The historically significant longbow is still available for purchase and is still used today in traditional target archery and hunting.

The Recurve Bow

The recurve bow is a bow, when not strung with a bow string, that has tips that curve forward of the archery. When the archer strings a recurve bow, the forward curved limbs are bent back towards the archery to enable the archer to string the bow string on the limb tips. The strung recurve’s tips are now vertical in lie and the bows limbs are now preloaded with stored energy allowing the bow to shoot a much faster arrow than its predecessor the longbow.

The recurve bow’s energy storing limbs allows the bow to be shorter in length than the longbow thus becoming more convenient to use in tight quarters situations such as in thick cover or on horseback. The recurve bow is still a popular bow choice for use in traditional target archery and hunting.

crossbowThe Crossbow

The original crossbows consisted of a bow with recurved limbs which was mounted on a stock similar to a gun stock. The limbs were fashioned to have a stronger resistance to bending therefore required much more force to draw back when compared to longbows and recurve bows. Due to the high draw weight, various mechanisms were created to aid the archer in drawing the crossbow to full draw.

When the crossbow’s string is pulled back to full draw, a locking mechanism is engaged, locking the bow’s string, keeping the crossbow at full draw until the archer triggers the shot.

Crossbows were one of the most devastating wartime weapons in ancient East Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean.(2) Modern crossbows work under the same mechanics but utilize a cam system just like a compound bow. The crossbow is currently a very popular choice of avid target archers and bowhunters.

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How to Select Archery Equipment

If you have decided to give archery a try, you will need some equipment. What archery equipment is the best to use? That depends on you. Everyone is different as far as physical capabilities and personal preferences. Our suggestion is to visit and archery pro shop and try different kinds and different models of bows. There are two things that are crucial to know before purchasing a bow, what draw length you need and what draw weight you are comfortable pulling.

Draw weight and draw length

Draw weight is the force needed to pull a bow back to full draw. You must be comfortable drawing your bow back in a variety of different positions and conditions.

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Draw length is the amount you have drawn the bow back at full draw. This measurement is in inches and must be chosen wisely so the archer can maintain proper archery form. If the draw length is too short or too long, inconsistent accuracy is normally the result.

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Selecting the right bow

When choosing the the right bow, you’ll need to go and try a few of them out. Visit your local proshop and shoot a variety to see what bow feels right for you. Try not to be a brand loyalist and open yourself up to what the market has to offer. If you try out numerous different bows at your proper draw length and draw weight, you will be able to focus on the feel of the bow. You’ll know what bow is right for you.

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For more information on the more popular compound bow manufacturers, visit these links:

How to choose the right archery arrow

Once you have acquired a bow that feels right for you, now it’s time to select some equipment so you can start shooting. One of the most important pieces to the puzzle is the right arrow.

Archery arrows are made from a variety of materials which include wood, aluminum, carbon fiber and fiberglass. Wooden arrows were the most commonly used until 1939 when James Easton made the first arrow shaft out of aluminum. Aluminum offered a very straight rigid arrow which became the most popular arrow all the way into the 1990’s.

archery arrow spineIn 1983, the Easton company developed the first carbon arrow. The carbon arrow, which is considerably lighter than the aluminum and wooden arrow, offered excellent straightness and the ability to flex and return to its original state without losing its original shape. These benefits of the carbon arrow are what makes it the most popular arrow on the market today.

The notched part of the arrow which attaches to the bow string is called the nock. In earlier times a groove was cut into the wooden arrows to serve this function. Today’s modern nocks are made of a hard plastic and insert into the end of the hollow arrow.Near the rear of the arrow, just forward of the nock, are the fletchings. Fletchings, which are fin shaped materials, induce spin to the arrow due to their offset installation and help to stabilize and perfect the arrow’s flight.

When the bow is out of tune and the tail of the arrow is not on the same path as the head of the arrow, the fletchings react with the air’s friction and stabilize the arrow’s trajectory. The fletchings ensure the tail and the head of the arrow follow the same path leading to greater accuracy.There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right arrow for archery. Factors like type of arrow, length of arrow, and spine of arrow are all crucial for achieving ultimate accuracy in archery.

arrow selectionThe modern archer’s best tool for selecting the right arrow for archery is archery software. This state of the art of software eliminates guesswork and will ensure that you select an arrow that is spine perfectly for your setup.

You’ll also need a quiver to put those arrows in. A quiver is either a bow mounted or hip mounted device that holds your arrows until you are ready to shoot them. When it comes to hunting, it does matter what kind of quiver you use.

For more information on finding the right arrow and selecting the right quiver, visit these links:

Learn how to work on your own bow

If you want to become the best archer you can possibly be, you should learn how to work on your own equipment. The pages listed below this section will walk you through learning how to tie archery knots, how to use a bow press, and how to install various components that you will use in archery. Once you master the basic bow technician procedures, you will be ready to tune your own equipment.

archery accessories

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How To Tune a Bow

papter tuning a bowOnce you have all the above mastered, it’s time to learn how to tune a bow. Learning how to tune your own bow is instrumental in achieving success in archery. We like to say that when you are out at the range or in the field hunting, you never want to be able to blame your equipment. If your equipment (bow and accessories) is tuned, then it’s up to you for executing the shot properly. Visit the following pages and master all of the bow tuning techniques.

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How to shoot with proper archery form

torque free archery gripThere are two main things that you have to master to become proficient in archery without the help of other. Those two things are being able to tune your own equipment and how to shoot a bow and arrow with proper archery form. Proper archery form is the human factor when shooting a bow. Proper archery form includes the proper stance, grip, body position, proper use of archery release and the use of back tension while executing a shot. This is the most important section on this page. If you master proper archery form, you will see your accuracy increase dramatically.

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Competitive Archery

Competitive archery or target archery is a great way to hone in your skills as an archer. You can compete against your peers on a variety of different platforms. You can participate in 3D archery course to test your skills on lifelike animal targets. If long distance target shooting entices you, then perhaps a field archery course or tournament will be a fun challenge. You can also try your luck at indoor target archery to see how many times you can nail the bullseye at 20 yards.

No matter which route or routes you choose, competitive archery is a great pastime that will allow you to perfect your archery skills.

For more information, visit the links below:

Archery Clubs and Archery Retailers

For more information on finding an archery club or archery equipment retailer near you, visit the links below.