The Archer’s Guide to Choosing and Inspecting Archery Equipment

The development of gun powder and firearms changed history when they rendered the bow and arrow obsolete as a weapon of war. Today, the bow and arrow are primarily used for hunting or in the sport of archery. Bowmanship has exploded in popularity in recent years owing to the satisfaction that one gets from mastering this challenging hobby. Archery is enjoyed by both men and women of all ages. It is not difficult to learn, and it does not require investing in expensive equipment as most archery ranges today provide all the rental equipment anyone needs. Perhaps the most important aspect of the hobby is choosing the right equipment and getting the right training which stresses safety above all else.

Safety First, Always Inspect Every Arrow Prior to Firing

The art of propelling slender arrows silently through the air using nothing but a strung bow is a thrilling experience. Traditionally, the archer’s arrows were commonly made of wood. Because wooden arrows can break, archers must take care if they wish to avoid serious injury brought about by a fractured arrow striking and penetrating the bow hand of the shooter. The physical forces transferred to a wooden arrow from the bow string can be so intense as to set it vibrating and literally shaking it apart. This makes damaged arrows extremely dangerous to fire even if the damage is slight and invisible. Arrows are most likely to become damaged when they are struck by another incoming arrow while already in the target. For this reason,  it is wise not to assume that any arrow is safe for firing until it has been inspected. This is true for all arrows, even those made from the latest modern materials.

The proper way to inspect arrows to confirm that they are fit to fire is to employ the “flex test” — a simple method of assessing the ability of an arrow to stand up to the stresses of firing without breaking. To perform the test, one holds an arrow with two hands — one at either end while gently flexing the arrow away from the face. While flexing, the archer should listen for the tell-tale sounds of cracking or popping. A faulty arrow will sound something like a bent marshmallow-toasting stick getting ready to snap in two. After a little experience, anyone can become quite proficient at inspecting wooden arrows for faults. Rotating an arrow while repeatedly flexing and listening for cracks will confirm that the arrow is in usable condition. Arrows that fail this test should be broken in half and discarded regardless of what material they are made of.

Buy Bows and Arrows that are the Right Size

Selecting a bow that is too long or too short will make for an unpleasant and possibly painful early archery experience. Another problem that young and inexperienced archers fall prey to is selecting the wrong style bow, or purchasing “too much” bow (getting “overbowed”). In order to end up with the right equipment, the beginner needs to work with equipment salespeople that are familiar with the concepts of draw weight and calculated draw length. Some research on the Internet will go a long way toward curing any potential problems in this regard. Buying the correct length arrows is another critical element to enjoying a safe and satisfying archery experience. In fact, arrows of insufficient length are downright dangerous to fire.

Arrows that are the proper length will have these characteristics:

  • When the bow is fully drawn, the end of the shaft (not including the tip) will be flush with the front of the riser.
  • At least one inch of the shaft will sit in front of the arrow rest.

Properly Nock Every Arrow

Nocks are the notches on the ends of arrows opposite the tip. The nocks serve to hold the arrow in place while placed on the bow string. Some archery accidents occur when the arrow’s nock is not properly seated on the string. When an arrow is not nocked properly, it will slip and partially fall off the string when the bow is drawn. An unexpected dry fire during a shot might result in equipment failure or possibly bodily damage brought about by an unexpected flight path of an arrow. Modern archery equipment is made so that users will hear an audible ‘click’ when nocking arrows. It is important to realize that some newer nocks generate a double-click sound when the arrow is properly seated.

Archery is a sport enjoyed by people all over the world. Under adult supervision, children as young as six or seven years old can take it up. The keys for safely enjoying the hobby are to make sure that the shooter is outfitted with the right equipment and to always properly select and inspect all equipment before firing that arrow.