Some people like looking at cars. I like looking at bows. In the short time I’ve been shooting, I’ve quickly become addicted and definitely have developed my own bow preferences. However, when I first started looking at getting a bow, I had no idea what to look for. I knew Hoyt, Mathews, Elite, and PSE made good bows. But when it came to the specifics of what I needed in a bow, I had no idea. After a lot of research and driving the local bow shop pros crazy with questions, I made a decision and bought my first bow. Nine months later I bought my next bow. From both of these experiences, I found that there are five things to consider when buying a bow–five questions to ask yourself.
- What’s your price range? If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t buy it. Buying my first bow and then my second were both financial sacrifices for my family. I didn’t have a big budget, so that limited the type of bows I could purchase. When I bought my first bow, I didn’t look real hard at the high-end models. While they were there calling my name like sirens in the night, my price point dictated what models I could peruse. I recommend being patient and saving to buy a higher quality bow, rather than just buying the cheapest one available. Eventually you will want to upgrade, but you can ensure that you won’t have to do this a month later by being patient and buying a higher quality bow.
- When should you buy? I recommend buying a bow between November and March. Companies typically come out with new bows in October and November, so after November shops are trying to unload their last season models. This is what I did with my first bow. It was originally priced at $500, and I purchased it for $260.
- Where should you buy? Websites such as CamoFire or Lancaster Archery Supply (under their clearance sections) are a great way to get a quality bow at a discounted price if the pickings are slim at your local proshop. You can find good deals at your local shop; however, you will get the most bang for your buck by waiting and buying a pervious year’s model or a consigned model. If you choose to buy a consigned model to save money, be sure that you trust the integrity of the shop, or you may end up buying a lemon. You can always ask to shoot the bow before you commit to purchasing. Remember, you get what you pay for.
- What’s your purpose of use for this bow? What are you going to do with this bow? While you might think, like I did, that all bows are essentially the same, they are not. At first, I wanted a bow that would work equally well for hunting and target shooting. While you can definitely shoot at targets with a hunting bow, if you plan on competing, you need a bow that is designed for competing. My Mathews, No Cam, and PSE Vision are designed for hunting and casual target shooting, not competitive, indoor Vegas-style competitions. For the typical person purchasing a first bow, I recommend a bow designed for hunting, as most people don’t become competitive shooters. Should you want a bow that can cross over into semi-competitive and still provide you with a hunting rig, you need to look for some specific design details. Briefly, look for a bow that has a longer axel-to-axel length, at least 32”, ideally 33”-35”. This will also depend on the shooter’s height. Also look fora high let off 80% and up. If you plan on hunting be sure you comply with local regulations for let off when hunting. Finally, look for an adjustable draw weight in order to lighten your draw weight for competition. Obviously, you’re going to need to do good research for this one. Talk to the pros at the bow shop, and let them know what you plan on using the bow for. For example, I use my bow primarily for hunting, and I value accuracy over speed. I know I can generate enough energy out of my rig, so if my bow is a little slower, it’s okay because I’m putting my arrow right on the money every time. Having a super accurate bow not only allows me to hunt more effectively, but I can also compete with it from time to time.
- Do the aesthetics of your bow matter? I recommend making sure you like the way your bow looks. While not the end-all be-all, you want your bow to be easy on the eyes; otherwise you’ll be thinking of upgrading sooner than you expected. Companies are always coming up with great looking bows, and the temptation to buy a new bow can be very strong. Bow envy has caused many an archer to buy a new bow sooner than expected. Functionally, if you buy a bow that’s camouflaged, consider adding some brightly colored accents to your bow. While out hunting you may have to set your bow down, and a brightly colored dampener could be the difference between losing and finding your bow.
In the end, the point of shooting a bow is enjoyment. Don’t stress too much about buying the absolute perfect bow your first time…or even your second time. Bows can be replaced, and you’re never locked in forever. Do your research, talk to a lot of the right people, hold a bunch of bows, and enjoy the experience that is archery.