How To Choose: Bow

Archery is a difficult sport to pick up but one that can be immensely rewarding. One of the greatest feelings is knowing your shot landed exactly where it was intended. Getting started in archery however is quite difficult, you’ve got to pick out a bow that suits you and your strength. To this end, you must consider which type of bow is appropriate, the draw strength and draw weight.

Different Bow Types

A longbow is simple and light. It’s a basic wooden bow with one string and has been used since the Middle Ages.  

A recurve bow can be used for recreation and for competition, on indoor and outdoor targets. This style of bow is used in the Olympic Games. Its draw weight ranges from 15 to 20 pounds (7 to 9kg). This bow is made of a solid riser with flexible limbs attached to it. These limbs can be of wood for beginners, or aluminium or magnesium for competition. The recurve bow can be supplemented with a multitude of accessories like  an arrow rest, stabiliser, sight, etc…

A compound bow is a quick, powerful bow with a system of pulleys at the tips of its limbs. This pulley system gives your bow greater draw weight (the equivalent draw weight of a similar bow multiplied by 1.5). This bow is also somewhat more comfortable when fully drawn. The effort is reduced, giving you more time to aim.

Note: there are different bows for left- and right-handed archers!

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Draw length, height and weight

It is very important to choose a bow that suits you. Depending on your height, your strength and the distance that you shoot, you will need to choose a bow of varying height and draw weight. The draw weight of a bow is measured in pounds (one pound = 0.45kg), and the height, in inches. The height of your bow will depend on your draw length which is the maximum distance the string can be pulled back (see the table below).

To find out your draw length, test out a bow. Take the bow in your hands and then, without using an arrow, stand in the shooting position. The distance between the string (where you would place the nock of your arrow) and the clicker (just beside the arrow rest) is your draw length. Ease the string back into its original position, without releasing it, in order not to damage the bow.

Draw weight varies according to the bow’s height. The bigger your bow, the greater the draw weight. The draw weight is normally  inscribed on the lower limb. You can adjust the draw weight by an average of around 10 pounds on most recurve and compound bows. So your bow can be adapted as you grow and progress.

To find out the ideal height for your bow, consult the chart below, which matches most bows.

Bow height Maximum draw length Draw weight
1.37 m or 54″ 68 cm or 27″ 12 to 20 pounds
1.57 m or 62″ 71 cm or 28″ 12 to 24 pounds
1.67 m or 66″ 76 cm or 30″ 14 to 26 pounds
1.72 m or 68″ 81 cm or 32″ 16 to 30 pounds
1.77 m or 70″ 86 cm or 34″ 18 to 32 pounds


If you’ve decided to take an interest in archery and want your own gear, Decathlon has options for your consideration, broken down into our bows, arrows, targets and accessories categories.


2 thoughts on “How To Choose: Bow

  1. When you are choosing a recurve bow, you need to decide if you want a “Take-Down” or not. A bow is considered a Take-down when the two limbs of the recurve can be separated from the riser. There are three reasons why you’d want to choose a take-down recurve rather than a “one piece”:
    Take-down bows are easier to transport. Since you can remove the limbs from the riser, the bow is much easier to store and fit into a small hand bag. If this sounds like something that is important to you, then opt for a take-down construction.


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