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Exploring Archery: Types of Bows

You’ll find many great options when you go bow shopping. The difficulty comes in selecting the right type of bow. Much depends on your needs and tastes. Some people choose bow styles based on what looks cool. Others select a bow based on  how they’ll use it. Let’s explore some options to help you select “the one.”

Olympic Recurve

The Olympic recurve is the bow Olympians use, and it’s also the bow thousands of recreational archers prefer. Recurve shooting is a fantastic, challenging discipline. Olympic archery combines exercise and mental discipline.

These bows can be used for 3D, target, indoor and field archery. In outdoor target tournaments, including the Olympics, adults shoot targets at 70 meters. Olympic recurves have three main pieces: one riser and two limbs. The bow disassembles for customization and transportation. You grip the bow’s riser, which is also where its sight and arrow rest attach. The bow’s limbs create its power, and bend in unison when drawn. When archers release the bowstring, the limbs snap forward, propelling the arrow to the target. Long rods jut from an Olympic bow’s riser. These stabilizers help archers steady the bow for precise aiming. Other accessories include a sight, clicker and arrow rest.

Compound Bow

If you love precision marksmanship, consider a compound bow. These bows can be incredibly accurate. With lessons, you’ll consistently hit the center. You can shoot compounds for recreation, competition or bowhunting.

Different compound bows have different uses. Target compound bows have one job: accuracy. They provide excellent shooting experiences. You can trick them out and accessorize them for maximum accuracy. Their target accessories include long stabilizers and finely adjustable magnified sights.

Hunting compounds must be accurate and portable, so they’re smaller and lighter than target bows. Their accessories are usually more durable to withstand outdoor hazards. That doesn’t mean you can’t compete or shoot targets with hunting bows. In fact, you’ll find competitive divisions for them, or you can change a few accessories and compete with target archers.

If you like recreational archery, you have your choice of compounds. You can even custom-design your bow. If you like a target sight’s adjustability and the portability of a hunting bow, you can choose a set-up that meets your preferences.

Barebow and Traditional Archery

“Traditional archery” and “barebow archery” are interchangeable terms, but they can refer to two distinct shooting styles. Barebow archery typically means competitive shooting without sights. These bows are usually recurves that have metal handle sections called “risers.”

The term “traditional archery,” however, covers a wider range of bows. This group includes recurves and longbows, which might be crafted from wood or modern metals and carbon fiber. Whatever your preference, these simple, effective and strikingly beautiful bows heighten traditional archery’s allure.

What separates recurves from longbows? Recurves get their name from the bow’s swept tips, which curve away from the archer. Recurves typically shoot arrows at faster speeds than what straight-limbed longbows can deliver. Longbows lack the recurve’s curved tips, but have a graceful bend and classic design when strung. These bows and their accessories are available at archery shops, where you can test-shoot different bows to see what you enjoy most.

Horseback Archery



Horseback archery is a fast-paced adrenaline ride that blends speed with accuracy. If archery wasn’t challenging enough, imagine trying to shoot targets while controlling a horse galloping faster than 30 mph. Horseback archery is part of cultures throughout the world, and its varying competitive formats reflect every culture’s traditions.

The equipment and shooting style of horseback archers differs from other archery disciplines. The bows are short – about 48 inches –  and are made in the traditional Asiatic horse bow style. These bows are made from a variety of materials, but it’s common to see a combination of wood and fiberglass. The arrows are also made from a variety of materials. Those wanting to take advantage of modern materials shoot carbon arrows; archers who want the traditional aesthetic shoot bamboo or wood.

Horseback archers don’t use sights. They rely on a combination of muscle memory, hand-eye coordination, arrow trajectory and subconscious distance calculations to the target. Shooting quickly while controlling a galloping horse are just some of the sport’s unique challenges.

If you want try horseback archery, you can find clinics and clubs across the United States. Further, horse bows are fun to shoot, even with both feet on the ground. Several companies make horse bows and sell them at archery stores. After that, you’ll just need a quiver and arrows to start enjoying this ancient discipline in your backyard, or at a nearby club or archery range.

Now that you know about the wide variety of archery styles, schedule an archery lesson at a nearby archery shop. This introductory course will allow you to try the sport and get hands-on experience. That experience will make choosing an archery discipline much easier. Find an archery shop near you, and get started today.



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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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