recurve bow to a compound

Guide: Archery

Disclaimer: I have been practicing archery since I was eight and became really involved with the sport / hobby since turning eighteen; despite my experience, I am by no means an actual expert but I do know a considerable amount and am capable of answering any and every question you all may have!

  • Types of Bows: recurve, long / flat / traditional, compound, crossbow, pistol crossbow, war, mongolian, takedown, priminitive, composite
  • Types of Archery: traditional, competitive, field, target, hunting, 3D, military
  • Types of Arrows: aluminum, carbon, fiberglass, wooden ( traditional ), bolts ( crossbow )
    • Types of Fletchings: straight, helical, flu-flu. Material: feather, plastic
    • Types of Points: target, bullet, blunt, field, judo, fish, broadhead, fixed blade, mechanical blade, small game, bludgeon ( stump ). Medieval: bodkin, war, crescent leaf, swallowtail, hunting. Some are push-ins and others are screw-ins, the material tips are made out of can also vary: plastic, aluminum, stone, flint, carbon, etc…
    • Types of Nocks: push/press-in, pin, overnock, convential. For crossbows, the nocks will be different as the arrow sits differently (such as: flat, capture, omni-nock, and half moon)
  • Types of Draws: mediterranean ( most common ), mongolian, pinch
  • Types of Quivers: hip, back, side, pocket, bow
  • Types of Gear: shooting gloves, shooting tabs, arm guard, chest guard, quivers, silencers, wrist sling, bow sling, finger sling
  • Types of Stances: square, open, closed

Anatomy of a Bow generally consists of their limbs, riser, bow string, grip / handle, ( arrow ) rest, and nocking point. Additional features ( mostly with compound and competitive archery ) also include: sight, stabilizer, long rod, side rod, limb bolt, clicker, shelf. Additionally, there are two sides to a bow ( a front and back ), the outer portion — or the part that faces away from you when you aim — is called the back and the inner portion is called the belly

Anatomy of a String: Sometimes, with some strings you will see three points of the string with different colours at the ends of the limbs and at the center, these are called servings. Top, bottom, and center.

Anatomy of an Arrow: Point ( tip / insert ), shaft, crest, fletching, nock


  • Anchor Point — A consistent part on the face where the draw hand comes back to.
  • Cant — This is a bow that is being tilted to one side or another, more commonly used by hunters.
  • Dry Fire — NEVER do this to your bows, this is VERY harmful to the bow and decreases longevity. A dry fire is when you pull the string back WITHOUT an arrow nocked then release.
  • Sky Draw — This is illegal and incredibly dangerous, don’t do this. This is the act of aiming your bow towards the sky and releasing. Do not pull a Katniss Everdeen. It’s not worth it. Only do this in places in a wide open and empty field or somewhere it is at least permitted.
  • Index Feather / Vane — There are commonly three fletchings to an arrow with two of three being one colour; the one that is the odd one out is called the index. This should be facing out / away from the bow’s arrow rest.
  • Nock — Commonly used and confused for notch ( similar to blood spatter vs blood splatter ). This is the slot at the end of an arrow; there is also an accompanying point on the string itself where the arrow sits on top of for a consistent level of shooting. Additionally, on some arrows, there is a nock nodule that typically lines up with the index feather ( this is used to easily nock an arrow into place without having to look down mid-aim or shooting, so typically hunting ).
  • Overdraw — The act of using a shorter bow compared to draw length, thus putting an overload of pressure on the limbs. It can also mean using a shorter arrow than meant to be used with draw length.
  • Poundage ( # ) — A bow’s weight at full draw. For instance, while the poundage of a bow says forty#, the bow isn’t actually going to weigh that much ( bows, in contrast, are actually really light ). 
    • Draw Weight — I see this used interchangeably with poundage but there really isn’t such a thing as a draw weight? Or, at least, it doesn’t have a specific function that I am aware of. 
  • Draw Length — This is the length of how far you can pull the string back to your anchor point; the length typically is about the half of your arm span from middle fingertip to middle fingertip. Measured in inches ( “ ).
  • Bow Length — The length of the bow unstrung from limb tip to limb tip.
  • Bow Arm / Hand — The hand that commonly grips the handle.
  • Dominant Eye / Hand — The hand that pulls on the string; and the eye that more accurately sees the target. Sometimes, the dominant eye and hand are not on the same side of the body but there are ways to get around this!
  • Spine Flexibility — When getting new arrows, it’s important to test the spine for any cracking sounds. If an arrow does that, you do not want to use it. Also checking for arrow hardness. 
  • Archer’s Paradox — The arrow flexing as it leaves the bow. Also, an arrow arches, it doesn’t go straight out like how a bullet might. 
  • Followthrough — Holding your posture / position after letting go of the string to when the arrow hits the target.

Other Information:

The correct way to draw / pull a bow is by using back muscles rather than your arms ( arms are used too but not as majorly as the back ), this helps lessens fatigue! And allows you to use the maximum poundage. In saying that, bows are not the same from person to person; for example, because I use a longbow ( 48″ ) and my arm span is shorter, even though my bow is 40#, I am actually drawing 35#. And unless you’re using a primitive bow or a bow that has a versatile grip, bows are specifically made to be used by one hand or the other ( so left or right ). And just like all bows aren’t the same from person to person, all arrows aren’t the same and don’t necessarily work with every bow, especially indoors versus outdoors, grain, shaft thickness / hardness, tip, weight, etc…

When aiming, it’s important to keep in mind: direction and force of wind, height of target in comparison to you ( is it higher or lower ), indoors vs outdoors, stable or moving target, terrain, distance, etc…

The best way to build up stamina and strength is to consistently do muscle strength exercises, practice with the bow often. I also recommend holding the string back for thirty seconds to a minute at least three times in a day.

There is A LOT of muscle memory involved! And like overtime if you don’t exercise or ride a bike, getting back into the sport can take a readjustment to get up to par. The elbow of your bow arm should be pointed out and not down at the ground ( this is to get your elbow out of the way so that the string doesn’t slap against your forearm upon release ), your back should be straight ideally, and your should have your weight evenly resting on your hips ( not shifted ).

Do NOT use wooden arrows with compound bows. It will more than likely explode in your face and cause bodily injury. Additionally try to use the right arrow with the right bow and bow poundage; it’s like using a gun, you wouldn’t overload it with ammunition it’s not meant to shoot, so don’t do that to your bows. Also, traditional and recurve bows tend to be more forgiving than compound bows because of the difference in anatomy; compound bows have wheels attached to the limbs and warping or twisting the string at all while pulling it back can cause the string to detach from the railing ( but in general, avoid twisting your hand, wrist or forearm as you draw back the string ).

If a bow creaks or makes any kind of sound while you draw it back, do not use that bow. Same with an arrow. It’s safer to avoid injury.

Do not fire a bow with anyone or anything in your peripheral or around the target. Be very aware of your surroundings.

War bows have the highest poundage, that I am aware of, that goes up to 180# and are made of a different wood. These are incredibly powerful and dangerous weapons, so I don’t recommend a war bow to shoot in your basic backyard unless you have a really great stopping tool / target. War bows also take the longest to train for and can’t just be used by anyone right off the bat compared to modern bows, because the heavier the poundage, the more back and arm muscle needed; so strength needed will be needed for this ( and this is why archers from medieval periods who used these bows were documented as to having thicker arm bones because they trained in their youth as to use such a bow ).

If you can, try to practice at archery ranges. Hunting with a bow requires a license; please check your city / state laws regarding archery and its restrictions ( some don’t allow backyard shooting ).

Lastly, bows ARE weapons. I know they are treated very much like toys but they are not! Even the toy bows that you see at medieval fairs and in stores, those are still dangerous. Actual bows should be taken seriously; do not have an arrow nock and at full draw while you haphazardly aim the bow in jest at your group of friends, claiming to be the next Legolas or Katniss. That is the quickest way of hurting someone, don’t do it. In saying that, television and all other mediums of entertainment are not wholly accurate depictions of archery; some of the moves they do are highly ridiculous and unrealistic ( Hawkeye, Arrow, THG, LOTR, etc… ). While there are good depictions out there and some decent moments, they should not be your basis of instruction. It’s of course okay to take inspiration from these characters but don’t treat what they do as fact and law.

~Friendly membly reminder that that if you use recurve bows and compound bows you are a fake archer and wrong. The only real archery done using 6'5 english longbow used during the Battle of Agincourt~