How Does An Archery Bow Work?

Archery has been known as a sport to man since the time when the first hunters fashioned bows and arrows for themselves and went hunting wild animals. In present times, archery has gained more popularity as a professional sport as well as a hobby. The basic concept of archery, however, has remained the same.

Irrespective of whether you are practicing archery as a hobby or for competing in a tournament, it is essential that you should have the right kind of equipment. The bows used for archery have evolved from the simple traditional bows to many different designs that can be used for perfecting different techniques.

This is why choosing an archery bow that serves your needs is not a simple matter of walking into a shop and picking out the bow that looks best. Read on to find out more about archery bows so that you can make the right choice.

How Does An Archery Bow Work?

To understand the different types of archery bows, it is important first to understand the basic mechanism that an archery bow works on. Although the design of an archery bow has undergone a lot of change from the traditional bow to the bows that are used for tournaments, the core functioning remains the same.

A bow consists of a string attached to elastic limbs made of wood or any other material. When an arrow is nocked at the center of the string and pulled back, mechanical energy is stored in the string which when released propels the arrow forwards.

Types of Archery Bows

Archery bows are divided into two categories; the first is hand-drawn, that is, the string has to be manually drawn back and the second where a mechanism is used to pull back the string automatically. The mechanical bows are less popular and are also not allowed in most tournaments. The hand-drawn bows are further divided into the following four types of bows:

Recurve Bow

The recurve bow is by far the most popular type of archery bow. It is the official bow for Olympics archery tournaments and is also the preferred bow for beginners who have just started learning the basics of archery.

The recurve bow is recognized by its unique shape in which the central part of the bow’s limbs are curved towards the archer, and the edges are curved outwards. This shape makes it easier for the archer to put in more power into his arrow without much effort.

Compound Bow

The compound bow is designed with a completely unique system of cables and pulleys that assists the archer in holding heavy draw weight at full draw. This means that although it will require some strength to draw the bow initially, the archer can hold the draw easily and take his time in aiming the arrow on the target.

The compound bow is popular for field archery and 3D archery as it greatly improves the chances of hitting the target without causing muscle fatigue. Moreover, compound bows also remain unaffected from elements of nature such as humidity. Thus, their accuracy and arrow velocity does not change be even a fraction.

Traditional Bow / LongBow

Longbows were the traditional choice of weapon for battles fought in between the 11th to mid-16th century. Their simple design comprising of a long piece of curved wood that was often as tall as the archer himself was easy to make and use during that time.

Now, however, longbows or traditional bows are more of a challenge for the archer as they do not come with any arrow rests or sights. Their arrow velocity is also far inferior to that of recurve or compound bows. These bows are used in many kinds of archery including field archery, 3D archery, and target archery. However, because of the difficulty in their use, they are chosen by professional or skilled archers only and are not recommended for beginners.



The crossbow is also one of the oldest designs of archery bows and is believed to have been an invention of China. The crossbow design, as well as its mechanism, is slightly different from that of the other types of bows.

In a crossbow, the bow is drawn back with the help of a crank mechanism that attaches the string to the trigger mechanism. The string stays attached to the trigger until the archer fires the arrow.

Crossbows are believed to be the best bows for target archery as they are highly accurate and also provide a longer firing range. However, because of their mechanism, they require heavier draw weights which can lead to fatigue much sooner.

What Wood is Used in Archery Bows?

The traditional archery bows were almost completely made of wood. For example, the very first archery bows were made of yew. However, other varieties of wood such as hickory, mulberry, ash, cherry, and walnut also became popular choices for constructing a strong bow.

Over time, the bow design underwent a lot of modification and other natural products such as animal horn and sinew were also included in their construction. Exotic woods such as yucca, lemonwood, and ironwood have also been known to be used for constructing some truly unique archery bows.

Now, professional-grade archery bows are also made from fiberglass and aluminum which are stronger and more long-lasting. However, wooden bows are also equally popular both for beginners as well as experienced or professional archers.

How to Pick the Right Archery Bow?

When you are going to buy an archery bow, it is best to consider the following factors before selecting a bow for yourself:

1. Draw length

The draw length signifies the distance that the archer will have to draw the string to draw maximum force while shooting the arrow. The draw length should be proportionate to the arm span or the length of the archer’s arm.

2. Draw Weight

A bow’s draw weight denotes the physical force that is required for pulling the string higher so as to ensure deeper penetration of the arrow into the target. For beginners, a draw weight of 40 pounds is considered optimum.

3. Brace Height

The brace height of a bow is the total length of the grip or the middle portion of the bow where the two limbs meet. A bow with a shorter height will be faster, but it will also be more difficult to aim with. A brace height of 6 ¾ inches is recommended for beginner archers.

4. Limb construction

The construction material, as well as the design of the limbs, will make a lot of difference to the bow’s strength as well as durability. Bows made of composite materials, i.e. a mix of wood, aluminum or fiberglass are generally more popular. The limbs can also be designed to be split into two for added strength.

5. Risers

You may have noticed several holes drilled into the middle section of the bow. This middle section is called a ‘riser,’ and the holes are used for placing various attachments such as quivers or stabilizers. The riser is generally made from carbon fiber or aluminum, but the former is more lightweight though a little expensive.

Do You Need a License For Archery Bow?

The law regarding the requirement for a license for owning or using an archery bow varies from one state to the other. Most states of the US allow you to own a composite or recurve bow legally even when you don’t have a separate license.

However, a lot of states put restrictions on owning a crossbow as it falls under the category of a firearm. Additionally, there also are restrictions in terms of bow’s height and draw length in certain states.

How Much Does An Archery Bow Cost?

An archery bow’s cost depends a lot on the type of the bow, quality of material used and accessories included with it. For example, you can expect a standard quality composite bow to be priced anywhere between $300 and $500. If you are aiming for more professional bows, you will have to shell out much more than this. The archery bow accessories such as sights, stabilizers, arrow rests, and plungers will also cost you at least $100 per piece.

Which Archery Bow is Best For You?

If you are just starting out with archery and are at the beginner stage or if you want a bow specifically for training for an archery tournament, then we recommend the recurve bow.

It is the most suitable bow for beginners as well as young kids or teenagers as it does not require a lot of physical strength for drawing and therefore does not cause the archer to get tired easily. Recurve bows are also the most popular bows for archery tournaments.

On the other hand, if you want a bow that can shoot at long distance, provide deeper penetration and greater accuracy for targets such as while hunting, then a composite bow would be better. Composite bows can also be used for target archery tournaments but should not be used by beginners.

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