Archery is the most traditional form of target shooting. If you’re new to the sport, you may have noticed that different archers have completely different bows from one another, similar to how there are different types of golf clubs in golf or bats in baseball. However, this variety does not make archery complicated; it is just a matter of choosing what type of bow you want to master.
What are the different types of archery bows? There are four main types of archery bows:
There are many different types of bows and divisions in archery, but these are the main types that cover them all. It is important for you to know all the aspects of each type of bow since each of them represents a path you must take and commit to for possibly most of your archery career.
It might seem counterintuitive to have so many different types of an archery bow when all you need is a stick and string to shoot arrows. However, each bow type was created to specialize in fulfilling different needs. As new technological advancements were reached, new types of bows started emerging.
The technology behind bows has updated out of necessity, but sometimes it has been purely out of the need for recreation and making the shooting process more efficient (as is the case with compound bows, discussed later on in this article).
All types of bows consist of the same concept of pulling a string that, with the tensions of the limbs, will fire an arrow upon loosing said tension. However, each bow type has its unique world, with different parts and techniques. Every bow also has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Making the right choice when deciding which type of bow you will start with can be of extreme importance, since you will most likely have to invest in it and, most importantly, put hours, days, or years of practice into that specific type. Below are outlined the four main types of bows along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Compound bows are one of the more complicated bow types from a technical perspective. They were invented less than a century ago. They use a levering system to allow the bow to harness more power with less input force from the archer, making them ideal for precise long-distance shooting. Compound bows are fired with a release mechanism.
The main purpose of the compound bow is to be an ideal hunting bow, which it achieves with its high power and velocity. However, competitive compound bows are also available if you wish to stick purely to the sporting aspect of archery.
Compound bows are also perhaps the most customizable type of bow, since there are a plethora of attachments available for it, and aspects such as the draw weight and length have a pretty large degree of customization for each user.
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A recurve bow is the type of bow that most people think of when they think of archery. It is the most common type of bow, and its history goes back to the times of medieval warfare. A recurve bow consists of a main piece called the riser, which is connected to two curved wooden (or plastic) limbs that hold the string.
Recurve bows are the most common competitive bows and the only type of bow that is currently featured in the Olympics. Recurve bows are fired by hand.
Because of this, a recurve bow requires a lot more practice and dedication before you start seeing any sort of ‘impressive’ results.
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The longbow is also one of the more recognizable types of bow, and it is particularly famous due to its heavy usage by the English during the Middle Ages. The longbow consists of a skillfully cut and carved piece of wood tied with a single string forming a “D” shape.
It was widely known due to it being particularly powerful. However, it is a lot less common nowadays.
The feeling mentioned above of history and challenge can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. A longbow can’t really have any attachments, not even a sight or an arrow rest. Therefore, shooting a longbow can be quite difficult and physically demanding. It requires years of practice and commitment.
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A crossbow is perhaps the most peculiar out of all the four main types of bow. Crossbows have been around since antiquity. They have a system similar to a bow, but the bow rests horizontally on a piece of wood (or other material) that somewhat resembles the shape of a rifle.
It works by pulling the string and locking it on the trigger mechanism and then releasing the arrow by pulling said trigger.
Crossbows are arguably the easiest type of bow to shoot. It only requires user input while loading an arrow. After that, all you need to do is aim and pull the trigger; this means that it is much easier to gain experience with a crossbow than with conventional bows. Crossbows are also extremely powerful.
Now that we have explained the four main types of bows let us move on to compare and contrast them to figure out which one would be the right choice for you.
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Each type of bow is out there for a reason; each of them can be the right fit for different archers. Of course, it is important for you to know yourself and your situation before you make a decision since each bow is more demanding than others in different aspects.
Speaking of price, let us move on to the types of expenses that come with owning an archery bow—because owning a bow is not just about purchasing one!
Archery can be a pretty expensive sport. There are many additional expenses after buying a bow that is necessary to keep your bow in good shooting condition. These expenses can come from accessories to regular maintenance.
Bows have multiple accessories; some come with the bow (but are interchangeable), and others are purchased separately. These accessories enhance your bow’s performance and vary depending on what type of bow you have.
An accessory that is worth mentioning and is universal across all bows is a quiver. Quivers allow you to carry and have easy access to your arrows. They can be worn on the hip, on the bow, or (less commonly) on your back.
Let’s address the white elephant in the room. Arrows are just as vital as the bow itself. There is no archer without both a bow and arrows. Arrows come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials, which vary depending not only on your type of bow but also on the length of your arms.
Arrows have to be perfectly cut for your draw length; this has the objective of reducing the mass of the arrow as much as possible without making it difficult or impossible for you to fire it at full draw.
Arrows also have different fletching orientations and thicknesses for each type of bow:
You might also need to purchase different heads for your arrows if you wish to hunt with your compound bow or crossbow. There is a large variety of broadheads for bowhunting.
However, you can’t use broadheads for target practice as both the target and the head might be damaged. Instead, you will need target heads for your arrows.
One thing you must be aware of is that arrows do break over time. Always make sure to check how your arrow is doing by slightly bending it and see if you hear any cracking noises.
If your arrow is slightly damaged, it can become a serious hazard for your safety. Always be sure to replace your arrows when needed.
There are some important things you need to know before you take up archery as a sport or a hobby, especially as you decide on the type of bow you require. These things have to deal with requirements and caveats, which will require you to know yourself and your situation very well.
Dry-fire requires a section of its own because it is so crucial to both your bow’s safety and your safety. Dry-fire is the practice of shooting a bow without an arrow loaded on it. This doesn’t sound as dangerous on paper, but it can be one of the most dangerous things you can do with your bow.
When you draw your bow, all the force generated from the tension of the limbs is stored and released onto the arrow, which sends it flying yards away at high speeds. When there is no arrow present, all of this force has nowhere else to go other than back into the bow itself, which can have a pretty devastating effect.
When all the force is released upon your bow’s limbs, it can cause them to snap, which will result in irreparable and expensive damage. However, the main risk is that the string might also snap and whip towards the user, posing a serious hazard since the string is usually resting on your face before shooting.
Always make sure that you have an arrow properly placed on your bow to avoid any possible harm to your bow or yourself.
To get the best out of your bow, you need to keep it in good shape through constant maintenance. However, maintenance is usually quite easy and inexpensive. Basically, all bows require to have their strings waxed. You can usually tell when your bow needs waxing by looking for hairs that are sticking out of your main string.
Another way you can prevent damage to your bow is through trying to keep it away from moisture. Or, if you had to shoot on a rainy day, make sure you thoroughly dry it, since moisture can cause rust on any metallic parts of your bow, which can lead to damage developing slowly over time.
In the case of compound bows and crossbows, dust is also a threat to your bow, since it can interfere with the complicated firing mechanisms of your bow. Dust can be easily dealt with by wiping it away with a piece of cloth, but make sure to get any small or tight spaces on your bow as well.
This damage can be avoided by purchasing a bow bag or a case for safe transportation. Even if you don’t plan on taking your bow outside of your property, a bow bag or case is still important for protecting it. Recurve and longbows can be easily dismantled, so they usually only need a bag. However, compound bows and crossbows need a case.
Lastly, make sure you don’t lend your compound bow to anyone else since the draw length has to specifically tuned for the archer, and overpulling can occur, which could damage the bow. Or even worse, they could not know the dangers of dry-firing.
There are many types of bows out there, but the main types of bows are compound, recurve, longbow, and crossbow. These bows have many similarities and differences. Their shooting styles and their equipment are different for each, so choosing your type of bow will be a commitment throughout your archery career.
Some people will find certain types of bows better for them. There are a lot of extra expenses, such as arrows and attachments that come with owning your bow. No matter what type of bow you have, you must constantly practice improving on the field. You must also give it constant maintenance and make sure never to dry-fire it.
Archery is a very demanding sport, but it is definitely fun and so very worth it. Every type of bow provides its own little adventure.
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