Here are some helpful suggestions on archery gear, in terms of the kinds of bows, arrows, and other archery equipment you'll need as a member of Blaidd Field Archers. Note: These are suggestions and we have no affiliation with any of the suppliers on this page or warrant their products.
Unfortunately, there are no shops near us, so if you want to go to a shop be prepared to travel, but also be prepared for it to take all day. Because a good archery shop is an Aladins cave of archery equipment related loveliness and you'll want to spend time there.
There are a few good shops within a 2 hour travelling time, but there are three we would recommend.
Check what you want is in stock before you travel
All the shops have good websites, so check what you need is in stock before you travel, or better still give them a call.
Lots of equipment and a practice range in the shop to try out kit before you buy. Run by Mark, who is very knowledgeable and a nice guy to boot. He will make sure you leave with just the right gear. They are in Burnley. Highly recommended
They probably have the widest selection of kit in shops within reach of us. Again very knowledgeable, but keep in mind they are right in the middle of a very active area for archery so the shop can get very busy at weekends. They are near Leicester. Recommended.
These guys are near Nottingham but are worth a visit. Lovely people who have lots of kit despite the shop being relatively small. Not the easiest place to find, but call them when you get close and they can guide you in. Recommended.
Buying Archery Equipment Online
You can buy some very good used and new equipment on eBay, but you have to be careful as used archery equipment could be damaged or have been misused and as such could fail when you use it. If you're not sure, don't buy it.
AliExpress - Direct from China
In the past we'd have said avoid buying unknown archery equipment brands from China like the plague, but not anymore. Many of the named brands you see in archery shops are made in China and rebranded for the UK and other European markets, the brand Samick for one. In our experience much of the kit, you can buy on AliExpress is not only very good but also amazing value for money.
In general, we'd say avoid Amazon, there is some good stuff on there, but also some awful stuff. The advantage of Amazon is fast shipping so it might be worth finding something you like, perhaps on AliExpress, then find it on Amazon. You'll pay more but get it quicker.
Many specialist bow makers only sell their bows direct and as such you'll be buying off them. Most will have a website and some have actual shops where you can buy your archery equipment and many make custom bows of outstanding quality. Here are some we'd recommend you take a look at. Note that some of these bows are VERY expensive, as you will see on their websites.
- Border Bows in Scotland
- Bakewell bows in UK
- KG Archery in UK
- Baltic Bowyer in Latvia
- Bob Lee Bows USA
- Arcadian Woods Bows USA
- Striker Bows USA (note: some UK shops sell these bows)
NOTE: Baltic Bowyer makes amazing bows and they are very good value. One of our members has one (Marc), custom-built to his exact requirements and it was only around £400.
The most important thing - Your Bow
The kind of bow you buy in some way depends on the bow style you intend to shoot. Within NFAS there are several bow styles and particular kit needed to shoot that style. For the purposes of this guide, we are going to focus on the two most likely styles you might pick coming out of one of our beginners' courses. These are Traditional Bowhunter (TB or TBH) and Barebow (BB) as these are the two styles we tend to teach.
Recurve risers come in many sizes, typically from 15" to 27" and when paired with limbs that come in short, medium and long, produce bows that range in overall length from 58" to 72". For the best mix or performance and ease of use, longer bows are better.
For a man of average height, we'd suggest a 68" bow made from a 25" riser and medium limbs. Shorter people including average height women, we'd suggest a 66" bow, made from a 23" riser and medium limbs. You'll also need an arrow rest and possibly a pressure button to get the best performance from the bow.
The cost of riser and limbs can vary dramatically, with the very best, being very, very expensive. We are not going to share links to that level of gear, because as a beginner there is no need to spend a fortune.
Note: You will probably upgrade your ILF limbs at some point and probably sooner rather than later, so we suggest you buy good but budget limbs for your first set.
Risers under £100
Core Gonexo Recurve Riser
Samick Avante Recurve Riser
WNS Explore DX Recurve Riser
Kinetic Halo Recurve Riser
Core Archery “Astral” Riser
SF Archery Axiom Plus Light Riser
ILF Recurve limbs under £100
WNS Motive F5 Recurve Limbs
Shocq Olympus Recurve Limbs
Samick Ideal Foam Recurve Limbs
WNS Delta F3 Recurve Limbs
KAP Winstorm Carbon Recurve Limbs
Krossen Xenia Foam Recurve Limbs
Arrow rests and pressure buttons
A cheap starter arrow rest is the Hoyt Super Rest. This is a basic stick-on plastic rest that does the job. For something better then we suggest the Avalon Magnetic Rest. For a pressure button, we think any button between £10 and £20 will do the job, such as the Avalon Classic Button.
You can use any bow that isn't a compound, (including English longbows, although we wouldn't suggest you do) to shoot TBH. This includes Olympic Style takedown recurves as in BB, Wooden takedown recurves, one-piece wooden recurves, American flatbows, Horsebows (sometimes referred to as Asiatic).
What determines the style as TBH is that you must shoot off the self of the bow or your hand (not an arrow rest) and you must use carbon arrows fletched with feathers.
A large proportion of TBH shooters are using some kind of wooden traditional bow, be it one piece or takedown. They also tend to shoot shorter bows than in BB, normally between 58" and 64".
These bows are sometimes referred to as hunting bows as the shorter length makes them less cumbersome in woodland. Most of this type of bow will have either recurve or hybrid limbs. Hybrid limbs are a relatively new innovation and normally have a smoother draw cycle than recurves.
Brands worth considering.
Oakridge - They make nice and well-priced bows
White Feather - Similar to Oakridge, good value
Bearpaw - Excellent bows made in Germany
Ragim - Good value bows made in Italy
Kaiser - Slight more expensive, but good bows
Bucktrail - Another good value bow
Samick - Nice bows, originally Korean
Alternatives to traditional all wooden bows
You can also shoot the same bow you'd use for BB as long as there is no button or arrow rest. Many brands make shorter length ILF bows classed as hunting bows.
There is also a halfway between version where you have a wooden ILF riser with ILF limbs which can be made of manmade materials or wood. This is far more uncommon as there is less choice of wooden ILF risers, but it's worth checking out. Most manufacturers will make complete ILF bows or you can buy the riser and choose your own limbs. Typically these risers tend to be shorter ranging from 13" up to 21" but some also make 23" and 25" wooden risers.
Bows and riser worth checking out are Bearpaw Shadow, White Feather Lark, Oakridge Shade, Kaiser Chillon and Border Black Douglas.
Buying bows from China
This is a slightly more complicated scenario than buying arrows, but it will become more common and we have bought bows from AliExpress and found them to be good.
As with the arrows, the bows are of amazing value. One brand that is getting a lot of attention is Junxing. They make lots of different bows and the Pharos 2 has had very good reviews. Another brand we like the look of is T-Bow.
Below are some examples of bows worth looking at, and you can see how good value they are.
12 x Carbon Express Predator Arrows fletched with plastic vanes will cost you around £60
12 x Mybo Flyte Arrows fletched with plastic vanes will cost you around £50
12 x Easton Powerflight Arrows fletched with plastic vanes will cost you around £65
12 x Bearpaw Penthalon Traditional Black fletched with plastic vanes will cost you around £95
What the four examples above show, is that arrows vary in price if you buy them from a shop - they will be more expensive if you want them fletched with feathers, not plastic fletchings. The way to make them cheaper is to buy all of the arrow making parts and make up the arrows yourself. You can probably save around 20%-25% by doing this, but you will need some additional equipment, primarily a fletching jig. More on that later.
Arrows from China
Many of our archers are now buying their arrows direct from China on AliExpress. The main reason being the fact they are of good quality and great value. You can get 12 carbon arrows for around £45 on AliExpress. If you are prepared to make up the arrows yourself - by this we mean putting on the points, nocks, and fletching them, you can save even more, with a set of shafts, complete with everything you need except the fletchings costing around £25-£35. Plus the fletchings on AliExpress are cheaper than in the UK, with 50x3" feather fletchings costing around £5.
There are two brands of arrows on AliExpress we have tried and tested and are happy to recommend, these are Linkboy and ACCMOS. There are many sellers, selling these arrows, so just shop around for the best price and the seller with the best ratings. Some sellers will also cut the shafts to length for you are no extra cost, so worth looking for one that does, if buying complete arrows or making them up yourself. Typically they take around 3-4 weeks to arrive.
What arrows not to buy.
Don't buy aluminium or Fibreglass arrows. Fibreglass is cheap, nasty arrows don't fly straight and break. Aluminium arrows, especially Easton arrows do fly well but will get bent out of shape if deflect off a target or tree etc. Although they can be straightened, it time-consuming and not easy to do, plus the good aluminium arrows are the same price, if not more expensive than carbon ones.
There are two other types of arrows, Carbon Alloy mix and of course wooden arrows - more on wooden arrows below. Easton's top arrows are all Carbon Alloy mix and are very expensive. Easton X10 arrows (top of their range) will set you back around £35 EACH! They are amazing arrows but are really aimed at the target archery market and have an alloy core and carbon outer. They can also get bent out of shape but can't be straightened due to the carbon that will have cracked. Other Easton carbon mix arrows include the ACC and ACE. Unless you never miss, we'd suggest not using these.
Most wooden arrows are made from Pine or Cedar and when made well they are a thing of beauty and if straight they also fly well. But they break very easily if you miss the target. Trees, rocks even the hard ground can break or crack a wooden arrow.
There are some open shoots that are designated as 'Wooden Arrow' and some styles where you have to use wooden arrows - American Flatbow (AFB), Hunting Tackle (HT), and Longbow (LB). Unless you plan to shoot either of these three styles or want to enter wooden arrow shoots, you're unlikely to need a set.
Glove or finger tab?
This is a personal choice. On our beginners course we teach with a glove, mainly as people can't lose them when out on the course, but archerys are probably split 50/50 on which is the best and which there prefer. You may get more people shooting BB with a tab, but there is no hard and fast rule. There are lots of opinions on the subject online and feel free to see what other people say.
Top recurve archers, shooting at events such as the Olympics will use a tab not a glove and I think it is generally accepted that you get a cleaner release off the string with a tab, but our suggest is to try both and see which you like.
Archery Finger Tabs
First thing to decide when buying a tab is are you shooting three fingers under or split finger (also called the Mediterranean Lose). You need to know this as the tabs are different. The three finger under tab will also be called a Barebow tab, if you are looking for them online.
Three under tab
This tab is a very simple thing. It's either two or three layers of leather stictched together at on end with some kind of loop for your middle finger. They are right and left handed, so make sure you get the right one. They range in price and quality and the price is normally determined by what type of leather is used, with Cordovan tabs usually being the most expensive.
Brands to consider
NOTE: There much less choice of three under tabs than split finger as all target archers use split finger relase.
VLBB Three Under Tab - £15 - £35
We are showing two images of VLBB tabs as we think they are great examples of tabs made for traditional archers. They are not the cheapest but are very good quality. You buy them directly from the maker in Europe so postage isn't cheap. But it's the same if you get one or 5 tabs posted, so either buy more than one or group together to buy them.
NOTE: One major disadvantage of a tab is that it's easy to lose when out in the woods. So we'd suggest when you find a tab you like, buy a spare.
Split finger tab
If you shoot split-finger then you have a vast array of tabs to choose from but you have to make sure you get the right one. Many split-finger tabs are aimed at target archers and as such have what is referred to as 'a shelf' at the top of the tab. This is to aid the anchor when anchoring under the chin as target archers do, as they are using sights on their bows. On many of the tabs, the shelf section is adjustable and can be removed completely, which is how you need it for shooting without a sight. On cheap split-finger tabs the shelf is permanent. There are also split-finger tabs aimed at traditional archers shooting without a sight and have no shelf at all.
Most split-finger tabs have a 'finger spacer' this keeps the middle and index finger apart during the shot cycle make it less likely that an archer will pinch the arrow and pull it off the arrow rest or shelf of the bow. Many also have 'palm plates' which are there to help get your hand in the right position.
Brands to consider
WIN & Win
Some of the top tabs are £50 or more. We don't think you need to spend that kind of money and you can get a good tab for less than £20
VLBB Split Tab - £20 - £45
If you've learnt archery on one of our beginners courses, you will most likely have used a glove rather than a tab. Many traditional archers use a glove because it is more traditional to shoot with a glove. Most gloves tend to be made of leather and some have reinforced fingers to help with wear and comfort of the archer.
The glove itself only covers three fingers (the three you use for pulling the string. There are two main types, one that has an open palm and ones that don't. They all have a way to fasten the glove around the wrist of the archer. One of the main advantages of a glove is that you are not likely to lose it whilst out in the woods.
Tip: Make sure you get a glove that is the right size, your fingers need to be right at the end of the fingers of the glove.
Closed Palm Glove
There is nothing stopping you from using any leather glove rather than a specific shooting glove, but we'd recommend getting the real thing. With closed palm gloves, quite a few of our archers use the Bodnik Speed Glove, it's around £24.
First image is the Bodnik Speed Glove
Archery equipment to keep you shooting
This last section is on the other bits of kit you need to help keep you shooting, mostly related to arrow making and arrow repair. One thing that will almost certainly happen when shooting field archery is that you will lose and break arrows, so have the gear to be able to make more is a good idea. Also, as we ahve mentioned earlier, making up arrows yourself is cheaper than buying them ready made.
This is the most important piece of kit as it allows you to make up your own arrows and also refletch arrows that have lost or damaged fletchings. If shooting with feather fletchings they often get damaged and have to be replaced and plastic fletchings come off and can also get damaged.
Most fletching jigs are basically the same, with a couple of exceptions. They consist of a mechanism for holding the arrow and rotating it the required amount to perfectly position each fletching and a clamp that attaches to the mechanism by magnets and holds the individual fletchings as you glue them to the arrow. We are not going to explain how to fletch on this page as there is plently of good video on youtube showing you how to do it.
Bohning make lots of good archery equipment and they make a very popular classic jig, they also have two other jigs which use a different method. One is the Tower Jig which fletches the entire arrow in one go and the Blazer, which uses an alternative clamp method and is made to use with Bohnig Blazer Plastic vanes only up to 2".
Fletchings or Vanes as they are sometimes called come in three main types - Feathers, Plastic and Curly Vanes or Spin Wings. The majority of field archers will either use feathers or plastic, with many target archers using the curly vane. All types of fletchings are availabe in different sizes with the smallest tending to be plastic and the largest being feathers. They also come in two main shapes, shield and parabolic.
What type should you use
If shooting off the shelf of the bow or off your hand then you need to use feathers, if using an arrow rest, then you can use any type. Some bow styles also dictate the type you must use on your arrows. Feathers lose some of their effectiveness when they get wet, this isn't an issue with plactic.
What size should you use
This is not a straight forward choice and sometimes it's down to personal choice. A few things to consider. The bigger the fletching the more drag it will create and therefore will have an effect on arrow speed, but large fletchings also start working faster - by this we mean they start to spin the arrow quicker, which is what you want as this gets the arrow flying straigher faster. Arrows with large bright coloured fletchings are going to be easier to spot on the target when back at the peg and during flight, they are also easier to find if you miss. Sping wings, althought tending to be small also get arrows spining very quickly due to their design.
We would suggest that 2", 3" and 4" feathers are a good choice and if using plastic then we would suggest smaller with 2.5" being the maximum, but again it is personal choice as they all have their advantages. Shield or parabolic? There seems to be no difference, but some people say shield have more drag than parabolic.
Note: Right Wing - Left Wing
One thing to keep in mind with feathers is that they come in two types, right wing and left wing. It makes no difference which you use, but you can't mix them on an arrows. All three feathers on one arrow must be either right or left wing, if not they will not fly correctly. We suggest picking one and sticking with it. If you bought arrows ready fletched with feathers and are not sure which they are, then refer to the graphic on this page.
There are many, many different types of glue, some are slow setting and some are very fast and have the properties of super glue. The advantage of fast setting glue is it gets the job done faster, the disadantage is that is sets so quickly that if you position the fletching in the wrong place, it's already stuck before you have a chance to reposition it. If you dont want to use purpose made fletching glue then you can use any isocyanate based glue (super glue) to do the job.
The slow setting fletching glue also tends to be more flexible as some super glue gets very brittle. That said we have found that shop bought super glue does a great job, especially on feather fletchings.
Note: Spin wings are glued in places by fletching tape. This is very narrow double sided glue tape that comes on a roll or in ready cut strips. You can use fletching tape to stick normal fletchings too and is handy to keep in your quiver for running repairs. Another advantage of tape is it doesn't dry up. Many glues will dry up on the bottle or the nozzle becomes blocked and then it is useless.
Here are glues available in loads of places that do a great job
Points, Inserts and Nocks for carbon arrows
If using carbon arrows, then it can be handy to have some spears of all of the above, particlary nocks as they can tend to pop out when you miss a target and get lost. If making up your own arrows you will of course need all of the parts and this includes points, inserts and nocks. Depending on the type of nock, you may also need nock inserts.
It's important to get the right insert for your type of shaft, if you order them with the shafts they should be th correct size. The inserts are glued into the shafts by using hot melt glue that you can buy from archery stores. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do it. The points are then screwed into the inserts.
Tip: The points can come lose, but you don't want to glue them into the inserts, so we suggest using plumbers PTFT Tape. Put a few layers around the thread on the point then screw into place. Alternatively you can use Threadlock.
You might want to consider using arrow wraps on your arrows for a few reasons.
- Firstly they can give your arrows some personalisation as they came on all manner of designs include companies let you design your own.
- If using bright wraps, they make arrows easier to find when you miss.
- Some companies will let you personalise your wraps by adding your name and club (each of your arrows must have your name on them for NFAS shooting)
- When refletching arrows, you can just remove the wrap, so there is no fletching glue residue on the shaft and the carbon doesn't get damaged removing the old glue.