First of all, if you are a total and complete beginner, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING. This may come as quite a strange piece of advice, but it is better to have a few coaching sessions with a club before you decide to take the plunge. This will not only save you money if you decide the sport is not for you, but, will also give you a good grounding in the basics of the technique and the equipment that you require.
Types of archery
Target Archery - Target archery is the most popular form of archery, in which members shoot at non-moving circular targets at varying distances. All types of bow - longbow, barebow, recurve and compound - can be used. In Great Britain, Imperial rounds, measured in yards, are still used for many tournaments and these have slightly different rules to FITA (metric) rounds, which are used internationally. Archers are divided into seniors and juniors, with juniors being those under the age of 18.
Modern competitive target archery is governed by the International Archery Federation, abbreviated FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc). Olympic rules are derived from FITA rules. FITA is the IOC (International Olympic Committee) recognized governing body for all of archery. Currently 142 nations are represented by FITA archery governing bodies. Numerous outdoor and Indoor tournaments throughout the year are an important part of the sport for those of a more competitive nature. Nevertheless club and recreational archery is just as important for people who find they have little time for any serious commitment, though still enjoy 'shooting arrows' with friends, family or colleagues in the familiar surroundings of their club.
Archery is also one of the few sports that is enjoyed with few compromises by people with most types of disability. Special guidance and instruction is available, even for the visually impaired. It is not uncommon to see disabled archers sometimes in wheelchairs, shooting alongside their able bodied friends on the same tournament shooting line.
Field Archery - Field archery is an all year round outdoor sport. It brings people into the countryside where as well as carrying out the sport, field archers also grow to appreciate their surroundings and conserve the countryside.
In field archery the targets vary widely in size and represent anything in size from a field mouse to an elephant and are placed in open or wooded countryside and at distances unknown to the archer. The ground is rarely flat and the archer may be shooting up or down slopes, across lakes or through gaps in woodland to reach the targets. The varying target sizes, distance and the lay of the ground test the archer in many ways both physically and mentally.
A field archery course normally consists of between 28 and 40 targets, with the most common course layout being 36 targets. In field archery all of the targets which are either flat picture faces mounted on a foam or straw "boss" or are 3D foam models, each are different and the archer moves around the course, following a previously planned route. Scores are awarded for accuracy on each target.
NOTE: - Hunting with a bow or crossbow in the UK is ILLEGAL
Clout - A rarely practised discipline, most archers take part in clout archery only for fun. Basically, it is a test of trajectory skill. In clout archery, the target (15 meters in diameter) consists of five concentric circular scoring zones on the ground, which are outlined on the ground. The innermost circle is worth five points, and scores decrease to one point in the outermost circle. Each archer shoots 36 arrows at the target, 165 meters away for men and 125 for women.
The recurve bow is the direct descendant of the bows of antiquity, with limbs, the 'springy' parts above and below the bow handle to which the string is attached, that curve away from the archer, it is currently the only type of bow allowed in Olympic competition, and hence it is occasionally called an 'Olympic' bow. The force required to pull back, or 'draw', a recurve bow increases in direct proportion with the distance pulled.
Bow handles (risers) are made of aluminium alloys and are machined for a combination of strength and lightness. Some bow handles are made of a magnesium and aluminium mixture. Some lower cost, beginners bows, have wood risers, these also are commonly used by young children. Some hand-made bows also have wooden risers.
Bow limbs are generally constructed of man-made materials, such as fiberglass, carbon and syntatic foam. The limbs store the energy of the draw and release it to the arrow. The string and the limbs are commonly removed from the riser when the bow is not in use, allowing for easy storage this is commonly known as a "take-down" bow.
Bows have stabilisers to reduce torque (twisting) in the arrows upon release. They also have sights to aid in aiming and rests to help align the shot.
Most bow strings are made of 'Fast Flight', or other high-tech high-modulus man-made fibres. The important point to be made about the string is that it must not stretch under normal environmental conditions, as that would change the bows pull weight and make consistency impossible. A layer of string material called the serving is placed where the arrow is nocked to snugly match the notch on the arrow, and a small ring is permanently placed on the serving to mark where the arrow rests when nocked. A small button, called the kisser button, is often used to assure that the back end of the arrow is always pulled back to the proper, repeatable anchor point. When properly drawn, the kisser button rests right between the lips.
An arrow is pulled back to the anchor point using the middle three fingers of the draw hand. These fingers are often covered with a glove or a leather "tab" which protects the fingers. A tab may have a metal shelf built in so that the two fingers on either side of the arrow do not squeeze it.
On Olympic bows a clicker is a small, spring-loaded lever that is held out away from its resting point by the arrow. When the arrow is drawn back to exactly the same point each time, the clicker slips past the tip of the arrow, producing an audible "click", which tells the archer he has the arrow at the same, repeatable release point. This causes very close to the same amount of tension to be used on every shot, so the arrow flight is the same.
A sight allows the archer, when the arrow is properly drawn, to line the bow up with the centre of the target by eye. The sight generally has adjustments in up-down and left-right dimensions with calliper-style read outs so that ageing equipment, weather, temperature and distance to the target may be accommodated. Olympic archery allows for sights which do not have lenses or electronics associated with them.
Arm guards and chest protectors protect the skin from string burn, as well as provide a low-resistance surface that the string may skim over easily upon release. A pair of binoculars or a sighting scope allows the archer to see the arrows in the target, and thereby make corrections to the sight as required. A quiver to hold arrows and other equipment completes the archer's accessories.
The Compound bow, unlike the Olympic bow, is never taken down between uses. The great tension pre-set into the lambs can only safely be countered when the bow is couched in piece of equipment called a bow press. The cams are synchronised when this is done, and are held in place by the tension. Compound bow cases must be able to accommodate the entire bow.
Because the Compound bow's forte is accuracy, equipment which increases the accuracy is deemed fair for compound use while it is not for Olympic archery. The site may include electronics and/or lenses to increase accuracy, and a release aid, rather than fingers, may be used. A release aid is a mechanical "finger" that grips the string and releases it when the trigger is pressed by the draw hand.
The traditional bow is almost the complete opposite to a compound bow, in that it is the simplest type of bow, with little or no provision for sights or stabilisation. Ranging from the traditional english longbow of the battles of Agincourt and Crécy, to the native American flatbow, to the Mongol bows used by the hordes of Genghis Khan, traditional bows are generally what the general public would recognise as a bow, being, in their various guises, a simple bent stick with a string. Arrows are usually fashioned from wood.
Barebow is the 'halfway house' between the tradtitional bow and the modern recurve bow. Whilst bows are nearly identical in appearance and materials, barebow rules do not permit sighting devices, draw check indicators, and stabilisers.
With thanks to Custom Built Archery for the reproduction of much of this guide