The minimum equipment needed to participate in archery would be a basic bow and some arrows, plus maybe a target of some sort. However modern day archery can become much more complex than this if wanted. These equipment pages are an introduction to some of the common items of equipment used in archery today, mainly aimed at a beginner in the sport/hobby. There are much more detailed articles to be found on the web or in books.
The earliest know bows have come from caveman paintings on the walls of his cave, which depict hunting groups using spears, rocks and early bows and arrows. The bows will have been made from a single piece of wood from a branch of a tree with some sort of twine tied at each end to give some tension in the wooden bow. A roughly straight piece of sharpened wood was used for the arrow and so the bow and arrow as a hunting weapon was born. Modern day bows have improved from that early branch and twine into highly tuned and sophisticated pieces of equipment. There are many excellent resources on the web and in books that go into great detail about bows, but we will provide some basic information on the three main types of bow in modern day use, which might prove useful as an introduction to beginners in the sport or hobby.
This might be the earliest style of the recognised bows in use today, but it is by no means a toy. For centuries this was the most lethal of weapons available. In the Bernard Cornwell "Grail Quest" trilogy about the adventures of a 14th century English archer, he describes the long bow weapon in detail, with information about the care with which the wood was chosen, shaped and often laminated to give the enormous power of the finished bow. It would still be accurate and lethal to the English archers of the time at distances well beyond the point where French crossbow bolts fell harmlessly to the ground. Archers had to be trained form a very early age to obtain the adult muscle power in the back required to pull the huge poundage of these weapons. In contrast, modern long bows for recreational shooting are not so long or have the same huge poundage. Whilst modern woods, glues and construction techniques have vastly improved, their construction is still similar with laminated woods and simple accessories like grips. No sights, arrow rests, pulleys or similar to be seen anywhere. The bow hand also forms the arrow rest and aiming is by line of sight alone. But there is still a large long bow following to this day, and even some of our own members bring in their long bow to shoot.
Probably the most common bow in use today, this is the type of bow that we use for our beginners to learn on, and many go on to use a recurve bow exclusively during the lifetime in the sport of archery. The Recurve name comes from the shape of the ends of the limbs, which curve away from the archer. This is designed to give a small mechanical assistance, because at rest, the string is in contact with the limbs several inches before the point at which it is actually attached. As the string is pulled, the arms bend inwards and the curvature of the ends unwind increasing the mechanical advantage as the effective length of the string increases under increasing tension. This type of bow can be constructed from a single piece of material (such as wood) but is more commonly these days made in several parts, with the two arms (aka limbs) attached to the central section called a Riser. Click the image for a larger breakdown of the common components of a recurve bow.
All parts of the bow can be adjusted to suite the individual archer, from size to strength. It is important to get a bow that perfectly matches your unique physical characteristics and the club will be happy to measure you up for a bow (as will any respectable archery shop). Once purchased most bows have several ways to "tune" them (often many ways!) to improve their overall accuracy. More information on tuning can be found elsewhere in this web site.
Gaining popularity over recent years is the compound bow. The pulley systems employed on this type of bow have several affects, particularly giving the bow a much greater draw weight than for a comparatively sized recurve bow, but with the advantage that as the archer reaches the anchor position, the pulleys roll over dropping the pulling weight down to typically 10%-20% of the maximum for the bow, making it much easier to hold and aim. As the string is released, the energy stored in the pulley and string system accelerates through the maximum strength built into these bows, giving the arrow far more energy and speed resulting in greater accuracy over much longer distances.
The bow was originally designed in America as a hunting weapon for larger game, and is still very much in use for that sport today. But its accuracy over longer distances has seen it accepted in recent years as a competition bow as well, with top archers achieving magnificent scores over the longer distances.
Many more accessories are allowed on this bow to improve accuracy, such as optical enhancement in the site to give a magnified view of the target, and mechanical release aids which help reduce the twisting of the arrow in flight associated with long bows and recurve bows which only use fingers to hold and release the string. This oscillating is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Archer's Paradox, but it can be significantly reduced with mechanical release aids.
The average compound bow is essentially too powerful to use in our short hall, and the arrows have a tendency to bury themselves into the bosses, often causing more than the average damage to them on impact. However, members do bring compound bows to use on occasions, though these are often referred to as Robot Bows by some of the traditional members of the club!
There are many other forms of bows still in use today, including Turkish bows, many forms of ceremonial bows and Kyudo bows for example, and many more. Not forgetting the many forms of cross-bow. But I'll leave these for you to investigate further for yourself if interested, as this page is primarily to give a basic introduction to the most common forms of bow in use today, and those which may well be seen at the club. If you want more information, please contact the club and we will be happy to try and assist further.