How to Buy a Traditional Bow

Archery is a skill with many applications; it has traditionally been instrumental in warfare, and today it is a popular hobby for recreation and hunting. Modern archers most often utilize compound bows - bows with a system of pulleys that reduce the amount of force needed to draw the bow back. However, many archers have felt the urge to re-embrace the simpler bow designs of the past by buying traditional bows. The label "traditional bow" refers to 2 types of bow designs: longbows and recurve bows. Learning how to buy a traditional bow for yourself is a matter of assessing your needs and matching a bow to those needs.


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    Decide between a longbow and a recurve bow. The longbow represents one of the earliest and most time-tested bow designs; it is constructed from a single stick and a string. The limbs of the longbow curve gently back towards the archer's body, and the shaft is very long. A recurve bow has limbs that curve away from the archer's body towards the tips, with the string contacting the limbs over several inches (several cm).
    • Longbows tend to be easier for beginners to shoot than recurve bows. Their incredibly simple design means that they are nearly maintenance free and often very inexpensive. A significant drawback to longbows is their enormous length, which makes them difficult to transport and to maneuver through a wooded area.
    • Recurve bows are more popular than longbows for hunting applications. The design of the recurve bow allows for greater speed using the same amount of force. In addition, recurve bows are often smaller and can sometimes be disassembled for transport.
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    Determine your ideal draw length. Draw length is the distance between the bow's handle and the string when fully pulled back, and it is crucial in determining to what length to cut your arrows down. Longbows and recurve bows can usually be drawn to a wide range of lengths and still function well, so determining your draw length is primarily helpful for cutting arrows.
    • To measure your draw length, stand up and span your arms out on either side of you. Face your palms towards the front, and have someone measure the distance between the tips of your middle fingers. Dividing this number by 2.5 will yield your ideal draw length.
    • If in doubt about your draw length, have your arrows cut slightly longer rather than shorter. An arrow can be a bit longer than necessary and still work well, while an arrow that is too short will force you into a shorter draw and generally poor form.
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    Decide on a budget for your traditional bow. In general, traditional bows are cheaper than compound bows because of their simpler design. However, prices can vary considerably with quality of materials.
    • One area in which the price will vary is aesthetics. Bows made from exotic African hardwoods will be pricier than those made from walnut or another common wood, for example. However, the difference in appearance can be dramatic.
    • Bows made from quality materials generally perform better as well. Quality construction tends to mean a smoother draw and faster shooting. Reduction in hand shock and the bow's overall longevity are also important benefits of more expensive, higher quality materials.
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    Choose between endless loop and Flemish-style bowstrings. When buying a traditional bow, you'll have 2 choices when choosing a bowstring: the endless loop style or the Flemish style. Either of these styles of string can be constructed from any material, perhaps the most popular for traditional bows being Dacron.
    • The endless loop style consists of a continuous loop of string that is bound together at both of the limb tips and at the center of the string for drawing. This style of string is very strong. Endless loop strings are ideal for recurve bows, because the bow design can more easily cope with the force of the string.
    • Flemish bowstrings consist of a single length of braided string. One end is looped, but the other end is left free; because of this, you can change the length of the bowstring by knotting the free end in a different location. Flemish bowstrings tend to reduce user fatigue, and are therefore ideal for counteracting the high shock associated with longbows.


  • Both recurve bows and longbows are available in a variety of lengths and draw weights. Your ideal length and draw weight will depend on your body's height and weight.
  • As with other types of bows, practice thoroughly with a traditional bow before using it in a hunting application.

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Categories: Archery