Please note that Victoria Bowmen does not offer archery equipment for rent.

Just as a guide, below you will find a basic list of what you can expect to purchase as a starting archer joining the club. (Please note that you do not need to bring your own equipment for lessons.)

Before purchasing their own archery equipment, new members should first speak to an experienced club member and seek guidance on selection and sourcing of their gear. You can speak to your coach or instructor or contact the board’s Equipment Director.


For the purposes of competition, competitors are classified by the type of bow they shoot.

Unadorned longbow


The longbow is the most basic of bows, roughly unchanged from its original creation for the purpose of hunting many thousands of years ago.

It is normally shaped from a single piece of wood, with the grip shaped to fit the hand and a small shelf cut into the side of the bow for the arrow to rest on. Other than the string, the bow has no ancillary equipment attached.

Shooting is done by using the length and tip of the arrow to aim at full draw.

Diagram of a recurve bow labelled with the sight window, riser, grip, arrow rest, upper and lower limbs, bowstring, serving, and nocking point.

Recurve Bows

Recurve bows derive their name from the laminated double-curve shape of the limbs. Recurve bows are also referred to as Olympic recurves, so named since they are the only bows currently allowed in Olympic competition. For target shooting purposes, recurve bows normally range in length from 64 – 72 inches, with selection dictated by the draw length of each individual archer.

The draw weight of a bow will vary depending on the physical strength of the archer and the purpose for which the bow is to be used. Bows are generally available from 18 – 54 pounds, progressing by 2 pound increments. Novice adult archers should normally select a bow in the 20 – 30 pound range.

The draw weight of a bow is usually written on the front of the lower limb. The weight is noted in pounds of draw force, at a standard draw length of 28 inches. For example: #20 @ 28, which means at a full draw of 28 inches the force required to hold the bowstring will be 20 pounds.

When drawn by someone with a draw length shorter or longer than 28 inches, a bow’s draw weight varies by a factor of approximately 2 pounds for every inch of variance from the 28 inch standard. The draw weight will increase by 2 pounds for every inch above 28, and will decrease by 2 pounds for every inch below 28. For example, an archer with a draw length of 30 inches using a #20 @ 28 bow will be holding 24 pounds of force at full draw.

Photo of a compound bow labelled with the sight, riser, stabilizer, rest, limbs, cable, cams, string, D-loop, and peep sight.

Compound Bows

Compound bows vary in length from 30 inches (76cm) to 44 inches (112cm) measured from axle to axle. (Hunting model pictured at left.) The shorter lengths are used by archers with shorter draw lengths, or bow hunters who want a bow that is easier to manoeuvre in a tree stand or when stalking. The longer lengths are more commonly used by target archers.

The riser is usually made from aluminum alloy for strength. In the most common configuration, there is an eccentric cam wheel mounted on an axle at the end of each limb. The shape of the cam and string configuration varies between different bow designs. Four common types are single cam, hybrid cam, dual cam, and binary cam.

The cam system provides a mechanical advantage, and so the limbs of a compound bow are much stiffer than those of a recurve or longbow. The compound bow is more energy-efficient than other bows.

The bowstring and cables of a compound bow are terminated with small loops that connect to the cams or the end of the limbs. The cable guard holds the cables off to one side to provide fletch clearance for the arrow. On some compound bows the cams are set to one specific draw length, and on others the draw length is adjustable. The draw weight of a compound bow is usually adjustable within a 10 lb (4 kilogram) range by turning the adjustment bolts in the limbs.

The compound bow has a peak draw weight and a “let-off” – usually from 65% to 80%. As the string is drawn back, the cams rotate and their effective radius changes. Unlike a recurve or longbow, the draw force curve of a compound bow has a quick rise to peak force, and then diminishes to a much lower holding weight at full draw. For example, the peak draw weight for a compound bow could be 40 lbs with a let-off of 70%. This means that the maximum draw weight of 40 lbs will occur near the start of the draw, and at full draw the archer will be holding a draw weight of only 12 lbs.

Bow Accessories

Arrow Rest

The arrow rest is attached to the bow to vertically position the arrow while it’s being drawn.

Cushion Plunger

A cushion plunger provides correct horizontal positioning for your arrow and will absorb some of the side-to-side motion of the arrow upon its release, aiding accuracy.


Sights are movable platforms that position a sight pin for aiming purposes.


Stabilizers help eliminate the shock of string and limb movement upon the release of an arrow. Stabilizers and their attached weights add mass to a bow, enhancing the stability of the shooting platform. The main types of stabilizers available are main rods, V-bars, side rods, and extensions.


Clickers are flat, thin tabs attached to risers to improve arrow loading and drawing. Arrows are loaded underneath the clicker, which keeps them in place on the arrow rest. At full draw the arrow should slip free of the clicker, which will make a ‘click’ noise as it snaps back against the riser, indicating that the archer can release. Clickers often require adjusting your arrow length and an observer to be set properly, so check with an instructor when implementing one.


Arrows may be the simplest, yet most important part of your shooting equipment. They don’t have to be expensive, but they must be closely matched to the archer and his or her personal equipment.  The length of the arrows must match the archer’s draw length and be appropriately spined (a measure of flexibility) to precisely match the draw weight of the bow.

The components of an arrow are:

  • The shaft
  • The nock (the part that holds the arrow to the string)
  • The fletching (the feathers/flights on the end of the arrow)
  • The inserts (these go in the front end of some shafts to screw/glue the tips into)
  • The tips (or points) (the pointy bits on the end that allow the arrow to stick into the target)

Do not start with carbon arrows if you are a beginner. While often beneficial for long-range outdoor shooting, they are expensive and shatter easily upon impact. and cannot be repaired like aluminum arrows can.

Personal Equipment

Finger Tabs

Finger tabs are leather, rubber, or plastic protectors for the fingers of your draw hand. They not only protect your fingers from contact with the bow string, but also provide a consistent low-friction surface for the best string release. Finger tabs generally come in standard sizes that can be trimmed or adjusted to fit your hand.

Compound bows do not use finger tabs; instead they use a piece of equipment called a release.

Arm Guards

Arm guards are leather or plastic protectors for your bow arm to prevent injury from your bowstring hitting the inside of your arm. They come in various sizes and are adjustable.

Finger Slings

Finger slings are leather or cord slings that you wear on your bow hand to avoid inadvertently dropping your bow.


A quiver is a small open-ended case worn on the hip or the back that will hold your arrows at the ready. It may also provide space for the storage of miscellaneous small tools and equipment.

Chest Protectors

Chest protectors are worn by both male and female archers on the bow shoulder to prevent the bowstring from catching on clothing. They are not necessary for shooting, but can help reduce inconsistencies in the movement of your bowstring.


Bow Cases

Bow cases protect your investment and hold your gear. Cases come in hard shells, soft shells, and backpack form, and can accommodate additional gear (such as arrows) or just hold your bow.

Bow Tools

Regular tools for maintaining your bow include a bow stringer, bow square, allen keys, and nock pliers.

Bow stringers are used to safely string bow limbs with the bowstring. They are required for all recurve bows.

Bow squares are a special kind of ruler used when bow tuning to test the tensions and nock position of your bowstring.

Allen keys and nock pliers can be used for tuning and adjusting your bow and bowstring.

String Wax

String wax or beeswax can be rubbed on bowstrings to help neaten the strands and prevent fraying.

Bow Stand

Bow stands are often metal and are used to hold your bow when you are not actively shooting.