Buying Your First Bow

This is a primer on buying the first bow for a young archer who has been taking lessons or coming to the JOAD Club and has decided that they are invested enough in this sport to own their own equipment.

This can be a difficult decision to make for a lot of reasons.  Many parents are not archers themselves, so looking at a bunch of archery equipment is like trying to read a foreign language and there are hundreds of bows and equipment options to choose from.  Also, living in California, you cannot put your hands on many of these items because archery shops don’t keep much in stock due to difficulty competing with online retailers.  This will ease your burden with a few simple guidelines and, as always, Coach Woody or Nico are happy to discuss in more detail.

You can skip to the bottom to see a list of the equipment we use for the JOAD bows and hyperlinks to them at our favorite online retailer.

An important note:  Upon reaching the bottom of this page, you may find yourself thinking,

“What am I supposed to do with all these parts? Do they come put together? Does my kid know how to use them?”

We’ve all been there as new archers or parents to new archers.  Please talk to Coach Woody during this process and set up an appointment with him to help set up the bow, show your archer how to put it together and take it apart each time he or she shoots, and for fine tuning.  This lesson costs $45 and will take an hour to cover everything including shooting the new set up to get acquainted with it.

Some thoughts on the major components:

The Riser

The primary rule governing your purchase should be to buy the nicest riser you can financially justify.  There are 2 major components to a bow that affect the way it shoots and which require the most monetary investment: the riser and the limbs.  The riser is the part you hold onto and which acts as the command center of the bow since everything else attaches to it.  More expensive risers warrant their prices because they consist of a higher level of engineering and are made of higher grade materials which improve performance accordingly.  Archers will feel the difference between a $300 riser and a $1000 riser, which is why there are only 3 or 4 risers that are consistently used by everyone at the Olympic level.

Our JOAD club primarily uses the Galaxy Crescent riser ($80)


Galaxy is a newer American company which produces entry level equipment designed and constructed to out-perform its prices.  They took all the best ideas from the other companies and figured out how to make a quality piece of equipment with low overhead which meets all ILF standards.  This riser has some adjustability for tuning the limbs and is compatible with sights and stabilizers.  Most of our club’s bows are built using this riser and I have been very happy with its performance as a beginner bow. It feels good in your hands during the shot and it comes in a lot of cool colors.

I also like this bow for kids because it is light weight.  A club needs to have bows that both an 11 year old and an 18 year old can shoot. There is a big difference in how much weight these kids can hold up comfortably.  If you have a young, small child talk to Coach Woody before you buy a heavier riser.

All that being said, if your archer is serious about archery and old enough that you trust their input, there is a tremendous difference between this riser and a $450 riser from a top manufacturer like Hoyt or Win&Win.  There is another big jump in performance from $450 to $700 plus.  If your archer plans to seriously compete and continue to compete at the collegiate level, get out the credit card and buy the more expensive riser now.

Olympic Recurve risers generally come in 4 sizes. We use 25” risers in the club, but ask Coach Woody which size is right for your child.  Shorter kids may get some benefit from a shorter riser and we have a lot of flexibility to adjust total length of the bow to your child by varying both riser and limb length.

The Limbs

Limbs are the component that generates the power for the shot. Because they are flexing and moving, the materials and craftsmanship are paramount to performance.  For a new archer, you do not need to make a huge investment in limbs right away because your archer will likely require new limbs in time as they get bigger and stronger.  Limbs are sold in pairs.  Make sure you purchase “ILF” standard limbs.  ILF certification is a universal engineering standard meaning the limbs will be compatible with any ILF riser you purchase.

Our JOAD club primarily uses the Galaxy Bronze Star recurve limbs ($80)


These are entry level limbs which perform above their price level.  I have been very happy using them on most of the JOAD bows based on their performance, the feel of shooting with them, and their durability.

A more expensive set of limbs will feel smoother while you draw back tension then release it and they will snap forward faster creating a faster arrow.  These are good things, so again, if a more expensive limb is in your price range, go for it, but don’t spend more money on limbs at the sacrifice of riser quality or at buying other important equipment.  You can shoot entry level limbs for a while and buy more expensive ones later.

Limbs come in many draw weights.  The draw weight defines the amount of resistance required to pull the string back during the shot.  Higher draw weights create faster arrows and help create better shots.  You will want to discuss this with Coach Woody before purchase to find out what draw weight your child has been using so far and to possibly conduct a stress test to see how much weight your archer can handle.  You definitely want to get the highest draw weight your archer can handle comfortably, but you don’t want to overdo it because that can lead to injury and an unhappy archer who is struggling with their equipment every shot.

Limbs come in 3 sizes: short, medium, long.  We generally use medium limbs in the club, but a shorter archer may get more performance from a set of short limbs.  This ensures that they flex the limbs into the optimal power band during the shot for a fast and accurate arrow.  Again, talk to Coach Woody.

Limbs are not left or right handed, they are universal.  The only other thing to be aware of is that there is a defined top and bottom limb which must be placed accordingly while assembling the bow.

Finger Tab

                This is a required piece of equipment as it protects your hand from the string (and the string from your hand.)  A finger tab is far superior to a shooting glove or shooting barehanded for getting a clean release from the string and avoiding injury/soreness.  I primarily use the Cartel Smart Finger Tab ($20) for the club, but there are a lot of options which you can explore.  Finger tabs are inexpensive and you can’t really go wrong as long as you get one designed for Olympic Recurve (1 finger over/2 under) shooting.



                You need a string!  Buy the one in the links below. It’s great and as your archer gets more advanced we can discuss other options later.  You want a 12 strand string. If not available go with 14.

Arrow Rest

You also need an arrow rest.  This is what the arrow sits on during the shot.  There are many options and some risers come with a free rest, but the NAP Center Rest at $20 is a great option with some adjustability which will last until your archer wants a higher level rest.  Cheaper rests will break down quickly and increase the time you spend fixing the bow or the money you pay me and Nico to do it.


I am also going to include a link to a replacement arm in the links below.  It’s only $10 and it is really nice to have in case the arm breaks down for some reason while you’re at a tournament or in the middle of keeping score at Ohlone Archery.

More expensive rests require a little more skill to use (so the arrow doesn’t fall off during the shot) and they require more fine tuning, but they reduce friction on the arrow which leads to a faster arrow.  They will also require the purchase of a plunger.   This is an adjustable piece of equipment which helps control the flex of the arrow as it leaves the bow helping produce an accurate shot.   The NAP Center Rest has a built in plunger simplifying things.



Nico continues to build arrows within a great price range. You can purchase ready-made arrows, but I recommend you set up an appointment with him after you receive your new bow to test shoot arrows and purchase complete arrows that match the combination of your new equipment and archer’s shooting style.  Not to mention your archer will probably want to select his or her own color combinations for the vanes/feathers.

Arrow shafts are basically made of 3 materials: Wood, Aluminum and Carbon Fiber.  We do not use wood in Olympic Recurve, forget about that for now.  Aluminum and Carbon are both equally acceptable and are both used in high performance products.

Ready-Made Aluminum: $39.99

Custom Aluminum: $49.99

Carbon Fiber:  $49.99 and up depending on selection

Premium Carbon or Aluminum: $79.99 and up depending



The sight is a requisite part of Olympic style archery because it is the most accurate method of aiming.  Many archers choose not to utilize a sight – this is called barebow archery and it scratches a more traditional itch.  I would like everyone to use a sight and work towards the Olympic style, but that is a personal decision and I am happy to coach either style. If your archer is not sure which style is right for them, I have sights that we can experiment with.

I have paid a lot of attention to sights over the last few years because there is a very limited range of options to choose from with huge price jumps between models, and poorly engineered/manufactured sights breakdown quickly regardless of retail price.  The X-Spot Recurve Target sight is what I recommend as an entry level option.  It acts and feels like a much more expensive sight at a third of the cost.

X-SPOT Recurve Target Sight ($89)


The next few sights I would feel comfortable recommending start at $300.  You can feel the difference as they produce less vibration on the bow and offer finer controls, but they don’t technically do anything this sight does not.


Stabilizers help balance the bow by reducing vibration and distributing weight around it.  Some archers choose to use 1 stabilizer which sticks out of the front of the bow, but in the Olympic style of shooting we use 3.  This spreads the weight and vibration around the archer for higher performance.

I would like to see anyone with their own bow using at least one stabilizer, but this is something you can purchase at a later time if you want to spread out the cost of archery equipment over time.

I recommend the Cartel Maxion Carbon Stabilizer ($40) as entry level equipment.


The Maxion stabilizer gets the job done and I have not seen one break or lose parts yet.  More expensive stabilizers do a better job of reducing vibration, but most JOAD archers are not shooting with a high enough draw weight in their libs to generate a level of vibration to require a more expensive stabilizer.  I would say this kicks in over 30lbs of draw weight.

Stabilizers come in several lengths.  Talk to Coach Woody about which length matches your child.

Side stabilizers are shorter and slightly cheaper, the matching Maxion ones are $20 each.

If you are going to purchase all 3 stabilizers, you will need a V-Bar.  This is what mounts to the riser and allows you to connect all 3 “stabs” where only one hole exists.  You can purchase the Cartel Maxion V-Bar for $20.  This mount has no adjustability, which is something your archer will eventually want to explore.  V-bars which are cheap, act cheap and fail to stay tight while shooting or end up with stripped screws.  If you want to get an adjustable V-bar like the Easton Adjustable V-Bar ($75)

You may also want to consider a V-Bar Extension.  This is a short piece of stabilizer that fits in between the V-Bar and the riser.  This pushes the whole set of stabilization equipment 2-5 inches away from the riser to create some space to work with mounting things and it provides options for increasing the total length of the stabilizer setup.  Not required, but sometimes very helpful in achieving the correct balance for the bow without having to make it heavier.



                A quiver is what we call anything that holds arrows.  If your archer will only be shooting at Ohlone Archery, then he or she is free to use our ground quivers as they do today with the loaner equipment.  If they will be shooting in the backyard, going to another range like Redwood Bowmen, or going to competitions they will need to purchase a quiver.

Hip quivers are the most popular option in Olympic Recurve archery. You can get a simple one that only holds arrows for $11 or a slightly nicer one that has pockets for $18 or more.  Those pockets are really nice to have at an outdoor range or a competition.  Explore the web for your options.

Of note, if your child tends to be rough on stuff, a more expensive quiver will be more durable.




Last but not least, you are going to need something to carry all this new stuff in.  There is a vast array of options for this which ranges from a basic nylon bag to a bullet proof, locking case on wheels.  I suggest you explore the web for options, but here are a couple recommendations:

The most popular backpack-style bag is the Easton Club XT at $59.  It includes an arrow tube, holds everything you need to carry and has a variety of pockets to organize items in a logical manner.  I have not seen one tear or fall apart yet.  You won’t need a larger bag until you want to carry more than one bow – which can be an issue if parent and child both want to take one bag to the range.  You can squeeze 2 bows into this bag and up to 12 arrows in the tube (dependent on fletching), but it can be a stretch.


The Decut Honor case is a hard case which is perfect for travel if you think you might want to travel with your archery stuff on vacation or to far away competitions.  It locks, which meets airline standards for checking sharp objects and has 4 rolling wheels.  $169 is a pretty great price for a case like this.



So, after all this, how much are you in for?  Here are several common scenarios (where “basic” = lowest cost option such as Galaxy brand equipment), pre-sales tax and shipping of course:

  1. Basic Barebow purchase (bow looks like one of my JOAD Club bows) – you carry it around in the box it came in.
Riser $80
Limbs $80
String $18
Arrow rest $20
Finger Tab $20
Arrows (6) $40
Total $258
  1. Basic Olympic Recurve bow with sight and one stabilizer, plus backpack to carry everything
Riser $80
Limbs $80
String $18
Arrow rest $20
Finger Tab $20
Arrows (6) $40
Sight $89
Front Stabilizer Only $40
Backpack $60
Total $447


  1. Basic Olympic Recurve bow – I’m buying one of every possible piece of equipment.
Riser $80
Limbs $80
String $18
Arrow rest $20
Extra Arrow Rest Arm $10
Finger Tab $20
Arrows (6) $40
Hip Quiver $11
Sight $89
Front Stabilizer $40
Side Stabilizers $40
V Bar $20
Backpack $60
Total $528
  1. Olympic Recurve set-up for archer with aspirations to win State or National Competitions, especially with aspirations for Senior or Junior Olympic Team (consider they often have at least 2 complete bow set-ups in case the primary bow has an equipment failure during competition. Top level athletes will offset this cost with sponsorships.)
Riser (Hoyt Faktor) $800
Limbs (Hoyt X-Tour) $800
String (custom) $40
Arrow rest (Shibuya) $40
Plunger (Beiter) $130
Clicker (Beiter) $16
Finger Tab $70
Arrows (12) (Easton X10) $450
Hip Quiver $100
Sight $350
Front Stabilizer $250
Side Stabilizers $200
V Bar $130
V Bar Extender $70
Additional weights and shock absorption eqpt. $120
Hardcase $300
Total $3,866


The Links:

Galaxy Riser:

Galaxy Limbs:

Cartel Finger Tab:


Arrow Rest:

Arrow Rest Replacement Arm:

X-Spot Sight:

Cartel Stabilizer:

Cartel Side Stabilizers:

V-Bar entry level :

V-Bar Adjustable:

Quiver simple:

Quiver pockets:

Easton Backpack:

Decut Rolling Case:

Arrows: talk to Nico!