With so many choices for bows, finding the right bow for a new archer can seem like a daunting task, especially for women. Women face a mathematical challenge of inventory availability. It’s like having a size 10 shoe size, the stores don’t typically carry every shoe that is available in a size 10. The same is true for most archery shops, the inventory that fits most women is limited. However, there is a solution for you to shop; even if the bows that are available don’t fit your needs. Here are five things you can do, to help select your new bow.
- Determine your draw length.
The draw length is (basically) the distance between the bow and your anchor point when you are at full draw. Technically, from Hoyt’s web site, “The ATA Standard Draw Length is arrived at by measuring the “Draw Length to Pivot Point” which is the distance from the string’s nock point to a vertical line through the pivot point of the grip, and adding 1 and 3/4 inches. The 1 and 3/4 inches represents the average distance from the far side of the bow to the bow grips pivot point.”
You can get close to your draw length with this common practice: Let your arms hang down at your side, very relaxed; then as if you were in a swimming pool, let both arms float up (there will be a slight and natural bend in your arm); measure the distance from tip to tip of your middle finger in inches; then divide by 2.5; the answer should be close to your draw length. Common mistakes occur by over-extending your arms or stretching your arms out straight. I recommend you get measured at the store where you will buy your bows. Ask them for a fit guarantee, which means if they measure you, and the bow doesn’t adjust to you, that they will correct it or replace your bow.
- Determine the poundage of the bow you will shoot. The poundage of the bow effects the force/speed of the arrow. For shooting longer distances and/or hunting I recommend shooting the highest poundage you can pull back comfortably. Comfort is important; as if you struggle to pull the bow back each time, you will end up with bad form. If you are planning to hunt with a bow, you need to check the hunting regulations in the State(s) where you will hunt, to ensue you buy a bow with the right poundage. The rules are not the same in every state. It is ok to start with a lesser poundage bow to learn with. I started shooting at 28lbs, and worked my way up to be able to hunt at 60lbs, and compete at 50lbs.
- Determine your eye dominance. Eye dominance dictates if you should shoot with a right or left handed bow. Many left eye dominate people are right handed, and it can be awkward at first, but if you want to shoot your best, it is important to push through and shoot to match your eye dominance. Otherwise, you get reduced to always having to close your dominate eye, or wearing very unfashionable eye patches. You can read our article on determining eye dominance here.
- Go Shopping! Start online by visiting web sites (Hoyt, Mathews, Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s). Look at the specifications of the bows and see what your options are. You can also just go to the store and tell the salesperson your draw length and weight you want, and they will help you find options.
- Try or test it before you buy it. This is easy if they have the inventory available, but note, it may take some time if they have to adjust a bow to fit you. If they don’t have the inventory, don’t despair. If they have a bow you are interested in, but don’t have it to fit you, they can order it. However, you need to take the bow that doesn’t fit, to the line, knock an arrow, and hold the bow extended out, at pre-draw. This will give you an idea of how the bow feels. Is it balanced in your hand? Is it heavy? Is it comfortable?
There are many other factors some like to consider in choosing a bow (brace height, color, axel to axel length and etc.), but finding the bow that is most comfortable should be the most important factor. Again, it’s like shoes; if you buy the most beautiful pair of heals, the most expensive ones out there and you might wear them a time or two, but mostly they will sit in your closet. We don’t want that to happen with your bow, so find the one that fits you and will empower you with confidence every time you hit your target.