Quick Start Guide to Archery | Archery Basics

By Andy Ryan


Updated at

Welcome to the world of archery! This quick start guide will introduce you to the basics of archery and help you get started with choosing the right equipment.

5 Main Archery Types

Archery is a fascinating sport with various styles to choose from. Let’s briefly explore five main types of archery and see which one might suit your personality best.

  1. Target Archery: If you appreciate precision and consistency, target archery might be for you. This archery style focuses on hitting bullseyes on stationary targets at different distances. It is the most common form of archery and is practiced both indoors and outdoors. Target archery is ideal for those who enjoy a methodical and structured sports environment.
  2. Field Archery: For nature enthusiasts, field archery offers a more adventurous experience. As a field archer, you’ll shoot at targets placed at various distances in natural outdoor settings. This type of archery requires adaptability and creativity as you maneuver through challenging landscapes. If exploring the great outdoors while engaging in a fun activity sounds appealing, field archery is worth considering.
  3. 3D Archery: Are you a fan of hunting simulations and lifelike experiences? 3D archery involves shooting at three-dimensional foam animal targets of various sizes, shapes, and distances. This style is perfect for those who appreciate the challenge of adjusting their aim according to the target’s size or angle. Hone your hunting skills without actually harming any animals in 3D archery.
  4. Traditional Archery: If your interest lies in history and simplicity, traditional archery might be the ideal choice. This type is all about shooting a bow and arrow without modern aids like sights or stabilizers. It is both demanding and rewarding, as it requires mastery of form and technique. Embrace the roots of archery and connect with the past through traditional archery.
  5. Bowhunting: If you seek the thrill of the chase and have a passion for ethical hunting, bowhunting could be the perfect fit. Pursuing wild game with a bow and arrow tests your patience, tracking skills, and precision. This type of archery combines elements of traditional, field, and 3D archery; however, it is regulated and requires proper licensing.

Keep in mind that the type of bow you choose will depend on the archery style that suits you best. Now that you’re familiar with five main archery types, you’re one step closer to finding the one that aligns with your interests. 

Types of Bows

Recurve Bow

A recurve bow is a great starting point for beginners, as it’s the simplest type of bow. It has a unique shape that curves away from you at each end, which provides increased power and accuracy. They are used in various forms of archery, including target archery and some bowhunting.

  • Target Archery: very popular choice
  • Bowhunting: can be used but not the top choice

Check out our full guide on how to choose a recurve bow – How To Pick A Recurve Bow (6 Basic Tips)

Compound Bow

A compound bow is a more advanced type of bow that uses a system of pulleys and cables to make it easier to draw and hold. This mechanical advantage allows you to focus more on aiming and less on the physical strain of drawing the bow. They are ideal for hunting and some forms of target archery.

  • Target Archery: popular choice
  • Bowhunting: highly recommended


The longbow is a traditional type of bow that has a simple, straight design with no recurve or compound features. It requires greater strength and skill to use effectively, making it a challenge for new archers. Longbows are primarily used for traditional archery and historical reenactments.

  • Traditional Archery: highly recommended
  • Historical Reenactments: highly recommended


Crossbows are a unique type of bow that use a horizontal design with a trigger mechanism to release the string. This design allows you to aim and shoot with greater ease and accuracy, especially for those with limited mobility or strength. Crossbows are primarily used for hunting and some target archery.

  • Target Archery: can be used but less popular
  • Bowhunting: highly recommended
Bow Type Description Best suited for
Recurve Bow A traditional bow design that curves away from the archer Target archery, field archery, beginners
Compound Bow A modern bow design with a system of cables and pulleys, allowing for greater accuracy and speed Target archery, hunting, tournaments
Longbow A tall and straight traditional bow, often made from a single piece of wood Historical archery, field archery
Crossbow A bow mounted horizontally on a stock, with a mechanism for drawing and releasing the string Target archery, hunting, historical fun

In summary, choose a recurve bow for a simple and versatile option, a compound bow for ease and hunting efficiency, a longbow for traditional archery, and a crossbow for ease and accuracy when hunting.

Selecting Proper Arrows

When choosing arrows for archery, it’s essential to consider several factors, including material, spine, length, and weight. These elements will significantly impact your shooting accuracy and consistency.


Arrows come in various materials, such as:

  • Aluminum: These arrows provide great accuracy and durability. They are also available in a wide range of sizes to suit different bow types.
  • Carbon: Carbon arrows are lightweight, making them excellent for speed and penetration. They are also generally more durable than aluminum arrows.
  • Wood: Wooden arrows offer a more traditional feel, and they are preferred by traditional archers. Due to their nature, wood arrows are less consistent and durable than aluminum or carbon options.
Arrow Type Description Best suited for
Aluminum Lightweight and durable, with consistent spine and weight values Target archery, beginners
Carbon Stiffer and lighter than aluminum, providing greater speed and accuracy Target archery, hunting, competitive
Wood Traditional material, often used for traditional bows and longbows Traditional archery, re-enactments


The spine refers to the stiffness of the arrow. Selecting the correct spine is crucial for accuracy. Factors to consider while choosing the right spine for your arrows:

  • Bow draw weight: A higher draw weight generally requires a stiffer spine.
  • Arrow length: Longer arrows usually need a stiffer spine.
  • Point weight: Heavy points demand a stiffer spine.

You can use arrow selection charts provided by manufacturers or consult with an expert at your local archery shop to determine the appropriate arrow spine.


Measuring arrow length is essential for safety and performance. To find your ideal arrow length, start by taking your draw length, then add 0.5 – 1 inch to it. This ensures that the arrow doesn’t surpass the bow’s arrow rest at full draw. To measure draw length, you can ask for assistance at an archery shop or use the “armspan” method.


Arrow weight affects the arrow’s speed, penetration, and kinetic energy. While heavier arrows provide more penetration, lighter arrows offer a flatter trajectory and higher speed. Ensure that your chosen arrow weight falls within your bow’s recommended range. Too heavy or too light arrows can cause damage to your bow or decrease accuracy.

Remember that selecting proper arrows is a crucial step in improving your archery skills. Take the time to research and consult with experts so you can make an informed decision and enhance your shooting experience.

How to Buy a Bow

When buying a bow and arrows, consider the following factors to make the best choice for your needs:

  1. Purpose: Identify your main goal for using the bow – recreational, target practice, or hunting.
  2. Budget: Determine how much you’re willing to spend on your equipment.

Choosing the Right Bow

To choose a bow, consider the following:

  • Draw weight: This relates to the amount of force required to pull the bowstring back. A lighter draw weight is suitable for beginners, while a heavier draw weight may be needed for hunting purposes.

    Archer Recommended Draw Weight
    Children 10 – 20 lbs
    Women 25 – 35 lbs
    Men 40 – 60 lbs
  • Draw length: Measure your arm span from fingertip to fingertip, then divide by 2.5. This will give you a rough estimation of your draw length, ensuring that the bow fits you comfortably.

Archery Basics

Stance and Posture

To begin, position your feet shoulder-width apart and perpendicular to the target. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet. Stand tall and relaxed, maintaining a straight back and slightly bending your knees.

Nocking and Setting the Arrow

Next, nock your arrow by placing it on the arrow rest and clipping it onto the bowstring. Ensure that the index fletching (the different-colored feather) is facing away from the bow. Remember to check your arrow positioning and nock alignment each time you shoot.

Drawing the Bow and Aiming

Grasp the bow grip with your non-dominant hand, while extending your arm fully toward the target. With your dominant hand, hook three fingers around the bowstring under the arrow. The string should nestle comfortably in the first groove of your fingers.

Begin drawing the bow by pulling back the string slowly and steadily, maintaining proper alignment. Aim at the target by aligning the bowstring with the sight pin on your bow. Train your eye on the target while keeping your focus sharp and breathing steady.

Releasing the Arrow

Finally, release the arrow by relaxing the fingers that are gripping the bowstring. Your hand should naturally move backward, following the motion of the release. Once the arrow has been released, hold your position until the arrow hits the target, ensuring that you maintain proper form throughout the shot.

Common Mistakes and Solutions

Grip Issues

One common mistake in archery is grip-related issues. Gripping the bow too tightly can cause inconsistency in your shots. To correct this:

  • Relax your grip on the bow handle
  • Use a finger sling or wrist sling for additional support
  • Practice holding the bow with minimal pressure

Another grip issue is placing too much pressure on the handle with your fingers. To solve this:

  • Rotate your hand slightly so that the pressure is on the palm’s heel
  • Keep your fingers slightly bent and relaxed

Improper Release

An improper release can significantly affect your shot’s accuracy. Here are some mistakes and solutions:

  1. Plucking the string: If you pluck the string rather than gently releasing it, the arrow’s flight will be erratic. To fix this:

    • Maintain a relaxed grip on the string
    • Focus on moving your hand directly back when releasing the string

  2. Flinching: A sudden movement right before release can cause the arrow to go off course. To prevent flinching:

    • Breathe slowly and deeply during the shot process
    • Concentrate on your target and your form as you release the arrow

  3. Trigger punching: This means pulling the trigger too abruptly, which leads to shaky shots. To avoid this:

    • Practice slowly squeezing the trigger
    • Use a back tension release aid to encourage a smoother shot

The follow-through

This is an important part of the shot as well and is often overlooked. Don’t move your bow after the arrow is fired. Keep your aim and stance until it has for sure left your bow.

So stay in the same stance and keep the aim and your shot will start to show some extraordinary results as well.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Be patient and continually refine your technique to overcome these common mistakes in archery.