Wendy poses by a target

Wendy posing by a target at Odin's Playground

Although I've shot a bow off and on for most of my life, I only started archery seriously last fall. Already I can tell that it's going to be a life-long passion.

When I first started I was borrowing a bow, then I bought a bow from a friend. Unfortunately that bow, a Martin X-700 recurve, turned out to be damaged, and I recently replaced it with a Bear TarTar circa1968 recurve. She is beautiful, and sound, although her lower limb is very slightly twisted. I'm in the process of working her back to condition.

The Bear archery company is very well known and has a lot of history. They've been in existence since 1938. In the couple of days since purchasing my bow, I've been doing a lot of research. With the help of this guide on EBay, I was able to determine the exact age of my bow.

I found the history of Bear Archery on this page, and a lot of amazing photographs of production from the era my bow was made here.

The same friend who sold me the damaged bow, helped me purchase an SCA war-legal recurve take-down. It is made by Victory, and 26#s. To qualify as war-legal, a bow must be under 30#s.

You don't need a lot of equipment to get started in archery, here's a list of basics to get you started:

List of Equipment

The first thing you need for archery is a bow. At its most basic level a bow is essentially a stick bent into an arc with a string across it. One then pulls the string back and releases it to project another, smaller stick forward.

This was my first bow, a Martin X-700 recurve I named, "Beau". This picture was taken after I revarnished it.

Bows are usually divided into three categories:

  • Compound
  • Traditional - Recurve
  • Traditional - Long Bow
A compound bow has its string fed back and forth through a system of pulleys at the tips of its limbs which multiply the mechanical advantage. Thus with a lot less strength, an archer can draw a higher poundage bow.
A Traditional - Recurve bow is so named, because the limbs "recurve" back on themselves, in a characteristic "S" shape. One of the most common types of bows, especially for beginners, the recurve "S" shape allows for greater power throughout the limbs in an over-all shorter bow length.
A Traditional - Long Bow goes back to the origins of archery, a long tapered stick with a barely discernable curve to it. In some ways this bow is this hardest to master, because it incorporates so few innovations.
A prospective archer wouldn't get very far with just a bow and no arrows. Now that one has selected a bent stick with a string across it, one needs arrows to project with it. Arrows come in a variety of materials and composition, but they usually involve a shaft (a stick), fletching (feathers at the back end), a knock (a plastic or metal bit to clip it to the bow string) and a point (a piece of metal on the front end that reinforces the stick, and creates a heavier tip.)
Arm Guard (bracer)
Protective equipment is always important in any sport, and Archery is no exception. The arm guard is strapped along the inside forearm on the bow arm. Its job is to protect the forearm from being slapped by the bow string after the string is released and the arrow has been propelled forward.
Glove (some people prefer a tab)
A glove or tab protects the finger tips of the drawing hand as the string rolls off them during release. Unprotected fingers can crack, bleed, or form uncomfortable calluses that can later affect release performance.

While the above forms the basics for a first-time shooter, I keep a few other things in my archery kit which enhances the overall experience.

A stringer allows an archer to string his or her bow smoothly and evenly, without risking twisting the bow limbs, or having the bow suddenly recoil on you while you bend it to seat the string in the limbs.
A quiver is a long pouch or a bag for carrying arrows.

Quivers usually come in three different styles:

  • back quiver
  • hip quiver
  • bow quiver
Back quivers are considered the most romantic quivers - they evoke images of Robin Hood stalking through a forest and reaching over his shoulder to draw an arrow. In reality they're somewhere between cumbersome and dangerous - how often do you really want to chance drawing a razor-sharp arrow point past your ear? They are largely used for bow hunting, whereas a hip quiver would get entangled in brush.
Hip quivers are the most commonly used quivers in both modern and period archery. As the name implies they are slung off a belt and dangle down beside an archer's hip. Which side the quiver is slung on, depends partly on personal preference, and partly on handedness of the archer.
Bow quivers are somewhat uncommon, but still in use, they involve a special rack attached to the bow itself that allows for arrows to be clipped to the bow. One advantage of this is faster loading time than drawing an arrow from the hip or over the shoulder.
ALD (Arrow Locator Device)
Having a flashlight in your kit is always a good idea, as is marking your arrows with some form of reflective or glow-in-the-dark tape. Even in broad daylight, stray arrows will inevitably gravitate towards the shadows, and being able to see them will save a lot of frustration.
Stretch Band
While not involved with shooting itself, a stretch band is vital for both practice and warm-up. It can be used to simulate draw weight while practicing off the range, and can be used to stretch out and warm-up cold or stiff muscles before shooting.
I always think having a notebook and a pen on hand is a good habit to get into, as you never know when you're going to get a good idea or tip, or want to make a note to practice something you're having trouble with.