Archery is a sport in which both the physicality of the shooter and the physical performance and design of the bows and its parts work in tandem to produce accurate and reproducible shots. To that end, the bow itself contains significantly more pieces than most casual observers can surmise; with each piece serving a particular function in making the shot the most accurate and reproducible. The upside to all of this is that for beginners and intermediate archers, many pieces are not essential. In the following post, we here at Trojan Archery will attempt to introduce what we consider to be the “essentials” to getting you started on your journey of archery development. For a comprehensive list of all the different things that you can attach to your bow, see our full equipment guide/recommendation. Note that the information here is not meant to be comprehensive and should be taken as a starting point; if you have access to a more experienced archer (e.g. one of our officers) consult them before making a purchase.
Before tackling the bow itself, there are a few wearable pieces that should be considered first. These pieces are rather universal and you will always want to maintain your own set. Note that if you are shooting as a part of an archery club (e.g. Trojan Archery), these pieces can be loaned out to you. Note that in most cases, competition rules forbid the use of camo-patterned equipment.
- Arm Guard: A piece of tough material ranging from plastic, to canvas, to leather use to cover up the arm holding the bow. It is intended to protect the arm against unintended contact with the bowstring during the shot.
- Chest Guard: A piece of netting/covering to be worn over the chest on your bow arm’s side. Like the arm guard, it is intended to protect the covered regions from accidental contact with the bowstring mid-flight.
- Finger Tab/Glove: A leather glove or finger covering worn on the bow hand. It is used to reduce friction between the drawing hand and the bow string. You may not think that the act of shooting will hurt your hand, but after 60-100 arrows, small amounts of chaffing will accumulate. The gloves are typically used by bare bow shooters while the tabs are used by Olympic recurve shooters. Compound shooters will use a release aid instead of a tab/glove.
- Quiver: a tube used to hold your arrows and often time has pockets for other accessories. Competition rules forbid the use of back quivers so stick to hip/field quivers.
- Stringer: Used to bend back your bow for stringing.
- Arrows: Their use is self-evident. They are listed here for the sake of completeness. Arrows are fairly personalized pieces of equipment that depends on your physiology, shooting form, and competition need. Investing in them is only recommended for competing intermediate to advance archers.
All of the pieces below constitute the actual bow itself and will be marked with a C if it is found only in compound bows. In almost every case, the equipment are not interchangeable between the two disciplines.
Note that while recurve bows are bought in pieces, compound bows are essentially bought as a complete package (the whole bow plus some accessories). Because of this and the higher number of moving parts in a compounds, we will, for the sake of brevity, only talk about what is considered the “big” components when discussing parts exclusive to compound bows.
- Riser: The center portion of the bow usually associated with the grip of the bow. It serves as the attachment point for almost all of the other parts and accessories. Risers have a built in handedness and are not interchangeable for left-handed and right-handed shooter
- Limbs: the pair of springy arms that gets drawn back and stores energy during the process of shooting. They determine how much energy you can impart to the arrow as well as the drawing weight of the bow. Since most archers grow rather rapidly in draw weight at the beginner and intermediate stages, expect to change limbs rather often until you reach ~30lb draw weight for recurve.
- Cams (C): a compound exclusive, cams are the pulley systems attached to the compound limbs that enable the let off as well as enforces the “wall” in a compound draw.
- Arrow Rest: a small arm–usually plastic or metal–attached to the risers where the arrows sits through the entire shooting process. It is meant to elevate the arrow and prevents it from falling away from the body of the riser.
- Plunger (Recurve only): a spring loaded rod attached to the riser to push the arrow slightly off the body of the bow (while still staying on the arrow reset) and facilitates the realization of the archer’s paradox.
- String: connects the two limbs and is drawn back to convert mechanical energy of the drawing motion into stored energy in the limbs.
- Nocking Point: a marker placed on the bow string to denote where the arrow’s nock should make contact with the string to achieve horizontal alignment. It is also usually big enough to prevent the arrow from tipping forward off the bow. In a compound bow, the nocking point is actually a small loop of string–termed the D-loop–that flanks the arrow’s point of contact and acts as the point of contact for the release aid.
- Release Aid (C): A mechanical trigger used in the drawing and release of the bow strings. Sometimes seen in adaptive archery forms, they are an essential part of a compound shooter’s gear. They can technically be viewed as a form of protection for the drawing hand during release.