The 2 most likely questions for a budding archer to ask immediately after their first lesson are: “How much does a bow cost?” and “Where can I buy one?”. I generally recommend that any aspiring archer holds off buying a bow until they’ve been shooting regularly at a club for a while (6 months or more), but sooner or later we all hear the siren call of shiny new archery equipment.
Where can I buy a bow?
There are plenty of places you can buy a bow; Amazon and eBay are filled with beginner kits, second hand bows, and general equipment. Heidi, archer-in-chief at 2020, bought her first bow (a second hand beginner kit) via eBay and never looked back. However, while you might be able to find a bargain, many new archers may not know their draw length, required poundage, or simply how a bow fits together. Without the guiding hand of an expert, it is easy to end up with a duffer.
When buying your first bow, I think your best bet is to buy directly from a dedicated archery shop. Most archery shops these days have websites if you just want a quiver or a finger tab, but if you’re starting out with your first bow, you would be better off taking a trip to a physical brick and mortar store.
At the store, you will be measured up and usually asked about your price range. Plan to stay in the shop for 2 or 3 hours; most shops have an in-house archery range and you will often be given the opportunity to try out any bows in which you might conceivably show an interest. It is a brilliant experience and is basically a free archery session!
There are a couple of great shops in the Greater London area (Quicks and Perris). We also like Aim4Sport in Bedfordshire and as a club we buy most of our gear from Clickers (based near Norwich), and there are many more dotted around the UK. Some of them are specialised (such as the Longbow Shop in Cheshire, which mainly deals with traditional archery), but most shops have a range of bow types and equipment.
It is always worth calling ahead of your visit to make sure they have what you are looking for and that they will be sufficiently staffed to help you out.
From personal experience, I’d also try to (a) drive to the shop (or at least research your travel arrangements) because they tend not to be next to train stations and (b) take a day off work and go on a weekday if possible, as some shops can get busy on weekends.
How much should I spend?
A bow can cost as little as £25 to £50; possibly even less for a kids’ starter kit. A reasonable bow, not unlike the training bows you get in a club, might cost around £60, (although not if sold as a complete kit). However, if you want to go to a shop and build a bow to your own specifications, you’ll probably pay a little more. I would suggest a budget between £150 and £350, which will include money for arrows and a bag and maybe a few other accessories such as a sight. Obviously you can spend much more than £300, but do remember that modern recurves are modular and so you can spread out the cost over time; for example, cheap bow limbs can be swapped out for better and more expensive limbs later, and you probably won’t want a clicker and v-bar setup straight away.
I would argue that most archers should start with a modern recurve bow as a good ‘first bow’ as they are easier to handle than many traditional bows; experimenting with bow poundage and technique is far cheaper than with a fixed traditional. That said, this is a personal preference: if you want to shoot a horse bow, buy a horse bow!
Whichever bow type you opt for, the key is to be open with the shop about your budget: they are usually excellent at recommending equipment within your price range. A good archery shop is very unlikely to be foolish with your money; they are usually run by archery enthusiasts, and most importantly they value repeat customers!