Basic Equipment


The Longbow

The Longbow is the most basic of bows. The English Longbow is pictured at right. The shape is unchanged from its invention approx. 9,000 – 6,000 B.C.

It is shaped from one piece of timber and the grip is usually made with a strip of leather bound around the bow. A small shelf is cut into the side of the bow for the arrow to rest on. There is no bow sight attached.

Shooting is done by aiming with the tip of the arrow at full draw. The point of aim will vary with the distance away from the target


Recurve bows range in length from 1220mm (48 inches) to 1780mm (70 inches). Most target bows will average about 1727mm (68 inches) in length.

As a rough guide to choose the length of a bow to suit you, a person with a draw length of less than 710mm (28 inches) could use a bow between 1575mm-1675mm (62 – 66 inches) and a person with a draw length of more than 710mm (28 inches) could use a bow between 1575mm-1780mm (66-70 inches).

The draw weight of the bow is usually written on the back of the lower limb. The weight is noted in pounds (lb) at a draw length of 710mm (28 inches). (e.g. #20 @ 28 which means at a full draw of 28 inches the force required to hold the bowstring at this length will be 20 pounds – about 9 kg). Bows for beginners should have a draw weight between 15-20 lbs. for the kids and between 20-25 lb for the adults.

Most basic recurve bows are made from laminated timber usually with a clear finish on the riser and the limbs having a layer of fibreglass applied each side for strength. The types of timber used in the riser can vary, giving a multi-coloured appearance.

The bow shown in the picture on the right is a one-piece bow. There is another type called a “Take-Down Recurve” which has a pocket at the top and bottom of the riser for the limbs to bolt into.


Compound bows can vary in length from 840mm to 1220mm (33 to 48 inches) measured from axle to axle. (Hunting model pictured at right.) The smaller lengths are for juniors and the larger lengths are for adults.

The riser is usually made from aluminium alloy for strength. The limbs are fitted with an eccentric wheel. (i.e. The axle is off-set from the centre of the wheel.) The bowstring is attached to ‘tear-drops’ at the ends of the plastic-coated steel cables, with the cables fitted from top to bottom wheels. The cable guard holds the cables off to one side for the arrow and fletch clearance.

The draw weight of a compound bow is usually adjustable within a 7 kg (15 lb) range by turning the adjustment bolts in the limbs. The compound bow has a peak draw weight and a let-off percentage. For example, the peak draw weight for a particular bow could be 14 kg (30 lbs) with a let-off of 50%. This means that the maximum draw weight of 14kgs. will occur at approx. 3/4 of the draw length and as the eccentric wheels roll over, the lever effect will give a 50% less weight at full draw. So at full draw, the archer will be holding a draw weight of only 7 kg (15lb).

This type of bow is very popular, as the archer is able to use a stronger bow with less effort.



Arrows can be made from wood, fibreglass, aluminium and carbon graphite. Aluminium arrows are made from extruded tubing to exact diameter and thickness. Each arrow is marked with a number e.g. 2013 which means the arrow is 20/64th inch (7.94mm) diameter and 13/1000th inch (0.33mm) thick wall. The arrows are made 760mm long (30 inches) and have to be cut with a cutting tool to the draw length to suit each person. The arrow maker ‘Easton’ produces a chart which matches the size of the arrow to the draw length and draw weight of the bow. The arrow will bend a certain amount as it is fired and this amount of bend is critical for correct flight and clearance from the bow. It is very important that the arrows are ‘matched’ to the archer and their bow.


Nocks are made from rigid plastic and are glued to the rear of the arrow. The top row shown in the picture are used for aluminium arrows. Nocks come in 6 different sizes to suit the range of diameters of arrows. The nocks are shaped so that they will clip onto the bowstring and hold the arrow in place. The other nocks shown are specifically for ‘Beman’ carbon arrows and ‘Easton A/C/E’ carbon/aluminium arrows.


Fletches are made from soft plastic in various shapes and sizes. Feather fletches can be used, but are not as durable as the plastic fletches. Usually three fletches are glued to the arrow shaft near the rear of the arrow. They are usually angled to make the arrow spin as it fly’s, to give a more stable, straighter flight. The orientation of the fletches in relation to the nock must suit the type of arrow rest used. The bottom two diagrams show the rear view of the arrow. The view on the left shows the fletch positions for a ‘shoot-around’ arrow rest used on recurve bows and on compound bows that are shot using fingers. The view on the right shows the fletch positions for a ‘launcher’ arrow rest used on compound bows that are shot using a ‘release aid’.

Arrow points

The types of arrow points used for target archery are shown. The top three are used for aluminium arrows. The 7% Bullet Point will give the arrow approx. 7% front of centre balance and the 9% Bullet Point will give 9% f.o.c. balance. The other point assembly’s are for carbon arrows. The points and inserts come in various weights, so the amount f.o.c. balance can be very accurately controlled. The reason why this is important is that any small variation in weight, can dramatically effect the amount of bend in the arrow as it is released and the overall arrow speed.


Arm guards

Arm Guards are reinforced leather or plastic protective guards that are worn on the inside of the bow arm. They are worn to protect the arm from the bowstring as it moves forward after the release.

Finger tabs

Finger Tabs are used to protect the fingers as they release the bowstring and also provide a smooth surface for the bowstring to slide on. Most finger tabs are made from leather with some having multiple layers of material for extra protection. Other types of finger tabs can have attachments as shown in the picture, to help keep the fingers apart and anchor under the jaw. The size of finger tab should not be any longer than the finger tips.


A ‘Ground Quiver’ made from steel rod is spiked into the ground to hold the bow and arrows. A ‘Belt Quiver’ and ‘Holster Belt Quiver’ hold the arrows and, if fitted with a pocket, can hold spare nocks, fletches, tube of glue, etc.

Chest Guard

A Chest Guard is used to prevent injury to the breast of women archers. The prolonged repetition of pressure from the bowstring can lead to the formation of a lump within the fatty tissue, which is clinically difficult to tell apart from cancer tissue without a biopsy. They are also used for the purpose of keeping loose clothing from interfering with the bowstring, especially if wearing clothing for colder or wet weather. The chest guard is made from a nylon or plastic open mesh material held around the chest with an elastic strap.

Release aids (compound bow only)

Release Aids are mechanical hand held triggers used instead of a finger tab. They can only be used with a compound bow in accordance with the archery shooting rules. They use ‘jaws’ or a loop of string to hold the bowstring and release the bowstring by depressing the trigger. There are many different types of release aids. The basic types as shown in the picture are:- The ‘chonco’ type which is held in the hand and triggered with the index finger. The ‘Finger’ type which is held in the fingers and triggered with the thumb or little finger. The ‘Wrist’ type which wraps around the wrist and triggered with the index finger.

Bow sling/Finger sling/Wrist strap

A ‘Bow Sling’ is an adjustable leather strap attached to the bow. The sling should fit loosely over the hand. The purpose of the bow sling is to allow the archer to relax the fingers of the bow hand and not have to hold the bow to stop it falling out of the hand on release. The ‘Wrist Strap’ does the same job, but is attached to the wrist and a loop is placed around the bow and clipped to the loop around the wrist. The ‘Finger Sling’ can be a strap of leather or a length of string with a loop at each end. It is attached between the index finger and thumb with the bow loosely held in the hand.

Foot markers

Foot Markers are placed in the ground to mark the position of the front of each foot on the shooting line. They help the archer maintain a consistent stance position. Golf tees can be used as good foot markers.