How To Buy A Bow (Ultimate Beginner’s Guide)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
bow archery

When I first got into archery I bought the first shiny bow that caught my eye and found myself having to upgrade shortly after to something that was more suitable for me, don’t make the same mistakes I did!

Whether you practice archery as a professional or just as a past-time activity, buying the right bow is crucial. However, choosing which bow to buy can be incredibly difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are so many things to consider before you zero in on a brand. If you’re thinking of buying a quality bow but don’t know what to look for, our guide will help you understand the nuances and features to keep an eye on.

In this guide, we will cover all the important aspects of bow-buying, including;

  • Where to buy it
  • How to choose the right bow
  • How much to spend on a bow
  • Mistakes to avoid while buying a bow

Let’s get started!

Where to Buy a Bow?

There are three typical places from where you can buy a bow.

1. An E-Commerce Store

Buying a bow online is a great option if you’re looking for a deal. A lot of e-commerce stores like Amazon and eBay sell archery equipment, including bows. Usually, you can select the characteristic you’re looking for and cross-reference other brands with ratings to get an idea of what’s available for what price range. (1)

A great other option is the secondary used market if you’re are a little more frugal a great spot is either facebook marketplace, craigslist, or amazons secondary used market for these. You can usually get a pretty good value on a used bow through one of these but make sure the bow doesn’t have any noticeable issues or faults. A thorough inspection is a must before buying or making sure the seller has a high level of trust.

2. An Archery Pro Shop

You can also buy a bow from a pro shop that exclusively sells Archery products. Not only can you get a bow from these shops, but you can also browse through a collection of other gears that can come in handy. Make sure that you set a budget before entering a shop so you’d have a rough idea of what to ask for. Keep in mind that if you’re looking to eventually purchase a full archery kit, do not splurge all your budget on just the bow. There are other things that you will need to add to your Archery inventory as well, which we will discuss later in the guide.

If you’re a beginner and buying a bow from a pro shop, do not be tempted to go for the most expensive one, even if you’re told that it shoots the best. That may be so, but it’s better to understand how these things work before you use your hard-earned money on a bow. Choose a bow that feels right to you and which also falls within your budget.

3. From a Third Party, Such as a Friend or an Acquaintance

If you choose to buy from a friend or an acquaintance, chances are you would be choosing a second-hand bow, which is totally fine, as long as you make sure that you pay for a bow that works well and has no damage. In the next section, we will cover the important things to look for while determining whether a bow is worth buying or not. 

When is the Best Time to Buy a Bow?

When you’re contemplating the right time to buy a bow, think of the following two things and make a decision based on that. 

  1. Your Needs  
  2. Your Budget 

Ask yourself, do you need the bow right now? (can you wait until discount season around Christmas) If yes, then what kind? (Well cover types later in the article) Once you’ve determined what make and model of a bow you need to buy, plan your budget accordingly.

If you want to cut costs, you can choose to buy the bow during the discount season. A lot of e-commerce sites sell the same products at a discounted price during a particular part of the year for bows usually you can find up to 40% off deals around Christmas. Be on the watch for these discounts. You can also buy a bow online second-hand if you only want to have a first try at archery.

Choosing the Right Bow

As we mentioned before, selecting a bow is a difficult process. You would need to consider the specifications of the product before you cough up the money to ensure that you don’t spend on something that is of no use to you. Thankfully, just like other products, there are some parameters based on which you can ascertain whether a specific bow is ideal for your needs or not.

Here are seven factors that you can consider before zeroing in on a bow that’s right for you. 

1. Draw Length

Draw length is another important factor to consider while buying a bow. It refers to how far you can pull back the bow before releasing it.

The ideal draw length again can vary from shooter to shooter. The increased length of the draw can provide more power to the strike, but on the downside, it may impact the accuracy. However, it’s best to try some bows to see which draw length suits you, rather than going by what everybody else is buying.

You can also get yourself measured for draw length at a bow shop to gauge which bow might suit you the best if you are a complete beginner. 

We have an article for determining your draw length if you’re still confused.

2. Draw Weight

Draw weight refers to the force that is needed to pull back a bow, another important thing to look for while buying a bow. You might have to try pulling different bows to see which one is appropriate for you. The key is to see if you can pull a bow back comfortably, and that you don’t have to strain yourself. Otherwise, you’d end up buying the wrong size. Although, testing the product for these factors can be tricky if you buy a bow online.

3. Let-Off

If you’re new to Archery jargon, Let-off refers to reducing holding weight when you draw the string to its fullest. For instance, if a bow weighs 40-pounds, with a 75 percent let-off, it would weigh 10 pounds at full draw. Many people think that the higher the let-off, the easier it would be to shoot it.

However, the bows with lower let-off are the ones that are much faster and which shoot with precision. While buying a bow, ask the Archery pro shopkeeper to inform you of the let-off of the bow, along with its weight, so you can make an informed decision before buying the bow. Although, you don’t need to choose the bows with lower let-offs. More often than not, the ideal let-off varies from shooter to shooter. The best thing to do is to try bows of different let-offs and see which one is the best bow to buy. (2)

4. Cams

In addition to everything else, pay attention to the design of the bow’s cam as well. Aggressive bows can prove to be faster than the rest, but you’d have to spend more money for those. Additionally, you’d also need some experience and power to use bows with aggressive cams. If you’re unsure about which one to choose, you can buy moderately fast cams and see how well you work with them. Also, you can choose to take it up a notch once you’re comfortable in the existing setup.

5. Brace Height

Brace height refers to the distance between the inside of the bow’s grip and the bow’s string when it is not drawn. The brace height can play a role in the accuracy and speed of the bow, and thus, should be given the utmost attention. 

6. One Cam vs. Two Cams

Bow cams are circular-looking gears that manipulate a bow to draw weight. A lot of manufacturers have now started encouraging people to buy two-cam bows. While it can have several benefits, the right thing to do is to practice with both kinds of bows and see for yourself if the two-cam ones render a better experience or not before wasting your money on them.

7. Bow Length

When speaking of compound bows, they’re measured from axle to axle. A lot of people like shooting short bows, which includes bows with less than 36 inches of difference from axle to axle, as these are lightweight. However, they can be tricky to aim accurately. Longbows can also come with a few disadvantages. The ideal thing to do is to choose an average size, not too long, not too short.

How Much Does it Cost?

Bows can be expensive. However, if you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re not a professional archer just yet and are looking for beginner or intermediate-level bows. If yes, then you can buy an excellent beginner’s bow for anywhere between $150 to $200. If you’re willing to spend more, and also have a lot more experience than a beginner, then you could also choose better quality intermediate bows, the prices of which can range from $500 to $700.

Other Necessary Gear

While practicing archery, you’d need more than just a good bow. Here is some gear that you might want to add to your Archery kit as well. 

  1. Arrows
  2. Arrow Rest
  3. Stabilizer(s)
  4. Finger tab (If you buy a longbow or a recurve bow)
  5. Release (If you buy a compound bow)

Once you’ve chosen a bow that meets your needs, the Archery pro shopkeeper can help you choose accessories to go with the bow that you bought. Buying bow online can make things simpler.

What Mistakes to Avoid While Buying a Bow

There are a lot of mistakes that people tend to make while buying a bow. To ensure that you buy the right archery equipment, avoid these three mistakes. 

Buying from the Wrong Retailer

Before you choose a retailer, read online reviews to know what the store’s warranty policy is like, how knowledgeable their in-store reps are to help you choose and how well-reviewed their products are. This will ensure that you don’t end up buying from the wrong retailer. The experience and skill set of the in-store staff are also important to get a good recommendation. 

Buying the Brand Your Buddy Told You To

It should be noted that every shooter has some unique preferences when it comes to Archery equipment. What works for your friend would not necessarily work for you. So don’t buy from a brand solely because your friend recommended it. It’s better to check out several brands before shortlisting the ones you like. 

Compromising on Accessories

One of the most common bow-buying mistakes is using all your money on just the bow by compromising with the accessories. Avoid doing this at all costs if you want to have a good archery or hunting experience. Keep some budget aside for the accessories, and choose mid-priced bows to smartly allocate the money for other important things as well. 

(1) e-commerce –
(2) informed decision –