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How to Get Started in Barebow Archery

Barebow shooting is quickly growing in popularity in competitive archery. One reason for its growth is that you just need a recurve bow and arrows to compete.

You can shoot barebow equipment to compete in 3D, field, indoor and outdoor target archery. If competing isn’t your thing, you can enjoy the discipline and challenges of shooting barebow just for fun.

What is barebow?

Barebow archery can be defined many ways, but World Archery’s definition is the most common:

“A bow of any type provided it complies with the common meaning of the word bow as used in target archery, that is, an instrument consisting of a handle/riser and grip (no shoot-through type) and two flexible limbs each ending in a tip with a string nock. The bow is braced for use by a single string attached directly between the two string nocks, and in operation is held in one hand by its grip while the fingers of the other hand draw and release the string.

“The bow as described above shall be bare except for the arrow rest and free from protrusions, sights or sight marks, marks or blemishes or laminated pieces (within the bow window area) which could be of use in aiming. The unbraced bow complete with permitted accessories shall be capable of passing through a hole or ring with a 12.2cm inside diameter +/-0.5mm.”

What You Need

Barebow Gear List

Finger Tab

Most barebow archers use a three-piece recurve bow, consisting of an aluminum riser and two limbs. A common riser measures 25 inches, but some archers prefer a 27- or 29-inch riser. Limbs come in short, medium and long lengths. The length you choose depends on your draw length and personal preference. To learn more about choosing the right bow length, click here.

Draw weight is an important consideration because starting with a draw weight that’s too heavy can cause injuries and bad habits. Many top-level barebow archers shoot 35- to 40-pound draw weights. Beginners should consider 25- to 30-pound draws, and slowly work up to heavier weights.

Barebows need few accessories, but three are vital: a plunger, a barebow weight, and an arrow-rest. Arrow-rests have a strong wire that holds the arrow and guides it as it leaves the bow. These rests usually bolt onto the riser, differing from the stick-on arrow-rests used by Olympic recurve archers. Barebow arrow-rests require a strong wire because these archers typically use the string-walking method to aim, which puts downward pressure on the rest.

A plunger works in unison with the arrow-rest to guide the arrow as it leaves the bow. It also helps archers adjust the tune of their arrows. Barebows have no sights, so archers aim with the arrow tip. They easily make small adjustments left or right by increasing or decreasing the plunger’s tension. That’s why many barebow archers use plungers that click-adjust without tools, which lets them use the plunger like a sight’s windage knob.

Barebow setups must pass through a 12.2-centimeter ring at competitions. Photo Credit: ATA

A barebow weight is important because it balances the bow for aiming, and then stabilizes the bow as it’s shot. These weights come in many configurations, and weigh up to 28 ounces. Rules governing their use are specific, so be sure you understand them if you plan to compete in USA Archery or World Archery events. For instance, barebow weights cannot include a vibration dampener, they must install below the arrow shelf, and the bow with weight attached must fit through a 12.2-centimeter ring. Read the full rules here.

A finger tab has two main parts: a leather piece that goes between the bowstring and archer’s fingers, and a metal plate with markings used for string walking. Marks on the tab must be of uniform size and color. These marks are usually straight lines on the tab face, and barebow archers can buy tabs with approved string-walking marks.

You can buy all the necessary gear for barebow archery at a nearby archery shop. The shop’s experts can also make recommendations, set up the equipment, and teach you how to shoot. Find a shop by clicking here.



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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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