Getting Started in Competitive Archery: The Gear

Do you want to get started in competitive archery? Great! It’s a fun, challenging and lifelong sport. Let’s review some basic equipment you’ll need to start competing.


Recurve or compound, your local archery shop can get you fitted with the best bow for you. Photo Credit: ATA

The biggest purchase you’ll make for competitive archery is your bow. You’ll choose between recurves or compounds, based on your preferred shooting style. The Olympics are restricted to recurves, but the World Archery Federation hosts international competitions for compounds.

To shoot archery competitively, you’ll need to shoot lots of arrows in practice and in competition. To shoot your best, your bow must fit you perfectly. Work with a certified instructor or bow technician at a local archery shop to ensure your bow fits. That includes making sure your bow is the right draw length, and matches your dominant eye.


Some cool science goes into selecting the right arrow, including its proper length, weight and diameter. Arrows must be cut to fit your draw length, and their weight and spine – stiffness – must match your draw weight.

Outdoor tournaments require at least six arrows, while indoor events require at least three, but you’ll need several spares. Many competitors shoot different arrows based on whether the event is indoors or outdoors. “Generally speaking, archers shoot larger-diameter arrows indoors and smaller-diameter arrows outdoors,” wrote author PJ Reilly in the article “Indoor vs. Outdoor Arrows.” “The ‘fat’ arrows are built for cutting scoring lines, while the ‘skinny’ ones are meant to cut through wind.”

Indoor tournaments generally feature shorter distances. Outdoor tournaments feature longer distances, and archers must expect Mother Nature to throw some curveballs. However, not all competitors shoot different arrows for different events. Archery’s various governing bodies have different diameter regulations, so check each tournament’s regulations beforehand.

Need help picking the right arrows? Visit your local archery shop.


Quivers hold all your arrows and rest lightly against your side or on your back. Photo Credit: ATA

A quiver holds and provides quick access to your arrows. Different quiver styles suit different competition formats.

A target hip quiver leans the arrows’ fletchings forward with the points facing down. These quivers have built-in plastic tubes that separate the arrows and make them easy to sort. They also have storage pockets and clips for tools and accessories.

A field hip quiver is better suited for field archery or 3-D courses. These quivers lean the fletchings backward and the points down. This style better positions the arrows to avoid catching them on branches and other obstacles. However, because this quiver hangs behind you, you can’t see which arrow you’re grabbing.

Back quivers sling across the back. Field and 3-D tournament archers sometimes choose this quiver style because it stays out of the way while they walk the course.

Finger Tab (Recurve Bow)

To smoothly release arrows with a recurve bow, most archers use a finger tab. A select few, however, use a shooting glove. Finger tabs are made of leather, and fit between your draw-hand fingers.

Mechanical Release Aid (Compound Bow)

A mechanical release aid helps you draw your compound bow more efficiently. Photo Credit: ATA

Compound bows require a mechanical release aid, which uses a trigger system to release the string. These releases are handheld, or they attach with a wrist strap using buckles or Velcro. Handheld releases come in two-, three- or four-finger releases. Visit an archery shop to test different release aids to learn which one works best for you.

Arrow Pullers and Lube

An arrow puller is a tool that makes it easy to pull arrows from targets without damaging fletchings or stressing your hand strength. Arrow lube also makes competition day much easier. Lubricating the arrows makes them pull out of targets with little effort.


Armguards protect your inner forearm from bruising. Photo Credit: ATA

Armguards come in several styles. Have fun making your choice, whether it’s a fancy or simple armguard. It should reflect your style.

Binoculars/Spotting Scope

Binoculars help you see how you’re shooting. If you shoot outdoor tournaments with farther distances, you might want to buy a spotting scope and tripod.

Competition Clothing

Check the tournament’s dress code before competing. Most don’t allow jeans. Photo Credit: USA Archery

Most tournaments have a dress code that prohibits short shorts, sleeveless shirts and open-toed shoes. Bring comfortable clothing and layers like jackets and raincoats if you shoot outdoor tournaments. Always check the tournament’s dress code beforehand.


Many tournaments don’t provide seating, so bring your own to avoid fatigue from standing all day. Come prepared and stay comfortable.


Make sure you’re staying hydrated and fueled during the competition for maximum performance. Photo Credit: Horse Journals

You’ve put in many hours of practice preparing for the big day, but you won’t shoot your best if you’re not hydrated and well-fed. Bring healthy snacks and plenty of water to the tournament.


Bring a pen to mark your arrows on the targets.

If you have questions about equipment, visit the experts at a nearby archery shop.




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Learn the basics here, from the different styles of archery to how to choose the bow that’s right for you.


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