The Definitive Beginners Guide To Archery

The Definitive Beginners Guide To Archery

Archery can seem a bit complicated if you’re just starting out. I mean, there are so many small details to get the hang of. Getting some basic equipment and trying it out isn’t too hard, but there are so many details to consider, it might be a bit intimidating. This post is the perfect place to start.

Here, I’ll detail everything you need to know to learn archery. I’m mainly going to focus on the essential things you should know before starting out. After reading this post, you’ll be able to start teaching yourself archery, or go to learn from a professional.

To start learning archery, you’ll need to choose what archery style you like, and get the essential gear – a bow, arrows and a target. Focus on perfecting your shooting form when starting out. You can learn archery yourself by reading guides and watching video tutorials, but going to archery lessons can cut your learning curve quite a bit.

But you do have to first learn some basics and have the essential gear. I’ll first detail what the different styles of archery are, what gear you need and the basics of archery form. I’ll then answer some frequently asked questions, and recommend some great videos.

I hope you’re excited to learn… Let’s go!

Choose an archery style

There are a few different styles of archery, which require different skills, scored differently and have different rules. The main 3 styles of archery are target archery, field archery, and 3D archery.

When getting into archery, you should choose what style you’re going to get into, so you can train the specific skill set you’re going to need.

The main pieces of equipment are similar for all archery styles. You can mostly shoot any type of bow, and use the gear you’re used to, for any style archery. Note that it’s a bit different if you’re joining a tournament since each of them has its own rules.

If you want to read a full guide on each style of archery, with full details of scoring and rules, read my post about archery tournaments. I also detail how archery competitions work, and basically everything you need to know before going to compete. Here, I’ll try to summarize the essential details.

Target Archery

The style you probably think about when someone mentions archery is the traditional target archery. In this style, archers stay static and shoot a target at a known distance. The targets are usually of the traditional circular shape as well.

It’s probably the most straight forward style, but it’s all about precision. So to be a great target archer you’ll need to practice your accuracy quite a bit.

You’ll also be pretty free with your gear because you don’t have a lot of restrictions. That’s why you might see target archers with large stabilizers sticking in front of their bows, which you don’t see as much for mobile style archers.

Most archers first practice target shooting before trying any other style, because they first need to build basic archery skills.

Field Archery

While target archers shoot at a known distance, and a fairly set environment, there are a few more modern styles of archery. One of them is field archery, which is mobile archers face challenges at unknown terrain.

The main things that make field archery more challenging are unknown distances, shooting uphill and downhill, and the various challenging scenarios. Archers at field archery shoots need to have additional skills to shooting the bow, like yardage judging.

Standard field archery shoots consist of multiple different rounds with different scoring systems and targets. Some of them require shooting at multiple targets, while others require shooting at a 2D animal target at changing shooting lines.

These different rounds help the archer learn a lot of different skills, which are hard to get otherwise. Field archery is really challenging, but it’s also a great way for beginners to get into more mobile style archery.

3D Archery

The last common archery style is 3D archery. These shoots consist of multiple challenges at unknown distances and terrain, just like field archery. But at 3D shoots, the targets will be shaped like life-sized animals, and they might even be placed behind trees and obstacles.

While field archery is a great mobile style, 3D archery takes it to the next level, creating life-like bowhunting scenarios. Most 3D archery shoots are also unmarked, meaning the distances to the targets are unknown.

The scoring systems are also different for 3D archery. Each target has a marked vital area, separated into different parts. Hitting the target grants the archer 5 points, but you really aim to hit the vital area, where you can score up to 12 points.

3D archery is challenging and requires a lot of skill to get involved in. It’s also really fun, because you get to experience more realistic shooting environments.

What gear do you need to start archery?

Now that you know what style archery you want to get involved in, consider what gear you need to get. Here, I’m going to focus on the essential things you need.

The essential gear for archery is a bow, arrows and a target. You can get some helpful accessories for your bow, like a sight, and some shooting aids like a release aid or finger tabs. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money right away, consider renting the gear initially.

Now obviously the gear you need depends on the style of archery you’re getting into. For example, target archers can shoot with larger bows, with huge stabilizers, to achieve maximal accuracy. 3D archers can’t use the same gear. But the pieces of equipment themselves don’t change much.

There’s a crazy amount of details you can consider when getting your gear. I suggest you read over everything now, but also come back when considering what equipment to purchase and read while making considerations. This will make things less overwhelming, and make sure you won’t forget anything.

Let’s discuss each essential piece of equipment, and detail what you need to consider when making your choice.


The first thing you need to consider is what type of bow you want to use. The main 3 types of bows archers use nowadays are recurve bows, compound bows, and longbows. Each has its own pros and cons. Obviously, there are a lot more, different types of bows, but here I’ll focus on the common ones.

  • Recurve bows are the most common type of bows used by beginners. They are named after their distinct limbs, which are curved forward. It’s intuitive and straight forward to use, for any skill level. It’s a traditional style bow, mixed with modern style elements. If you’re looking to connect with your roots, it a great option.
    If you’re interested in getting a recurve bow, read my page about the best recurve bows for the money.
  • Compound bows are modern type bows, with a complex design and sleek look. The unique feature of compound bows is the cams, which allow for a higher draw weight to be used. They perform much better than other bow types but tend to be more expensive and need more frequent tuning.
    I wrote about the best compound bows for the price in my recommended gear page, so if you’re interested, I have some great recommendations there.
  • Longbows are traditional bows, commonly used by archers looking to get into traditional archery. Unlike recurve bows, their limbs are curved back, and they’re typically taller and made out of wood. They’re what most people think about when you’re talking about a bow.
    If you’ve decided to go for a longbow, I have some great recommendations you can read about on my recommendation page.

If you want to read a detailed comparison between recurve and compound bows, where I detail everything you need to consider, check out my previous post where I explain everything.

Like I mentioned, most beginners choose to start with a recurve bow. I think longbows are good to start out with as well, but compound bows are less beginner-friendly. If you want to shoot a compound bow, my best suggestion will be to first master archery form with a starter recurve bow, and change to a compound bow when you’re more comfortable with your skills.

Try not to go overboard with accessories when just starting out. Go with the basics – a bow with a mounted sight (and a release aid, if you’re shooting a compound bow). You can get fancier when you actually get the feel of the bow. When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get lost and confused about what accessories you really need.

Truth is, most accessories will only have a minor effect on your shooting when you’re just starting out. You don’t really need them until you start getting more experienced. Stick with the basics.

Note that if you’re going for a recurve or a longbow, you’ll need to get a bow stringer to string and destring your bow. It’s definitely an essential tool, but it should be really cheap. Having an armguard is really important as well, so you don’t have the bowstring hurt your arm.


Now that you’ve chosen what bow to get, you need to get some arrows. There’s more to it than you might think – arrows have a lot of different features and measurements you might want to consider.

It might be a bit surprising, but the type of bow you’re using doesn’t matter much for what arrows to get. The only major effect is the higher poundage on compound bows, which affects the ideal spine strength for your arrows. Other than that, you can basically shoot any arrows you want.

Let’s discuss some things to consider when choosing your arrows:

  • Arrow length: it’s simply the total length of the arrow. I’ve detailed a few methods for finding your ideal arrow length in a previous post. Shortly, you want your arrow length to be 1″ to 2″ longer than your draw length. As a beginner, you might want to go for the higher end.
  • Spine strength: this is a simple measurement of how stiff the arrow is. A lower number indicated a stiffer arrow, which means it’ll flex less while flying through the air.
    There are tables designed to help you find the ideal spine strength for you. All you need to know is want type and what draw weight you’re shooting, and the length of the arrow. Look for the correct cell in the chart to find your ideal spine strength.
    You’ll be able to find one of these charts easily online. I especially like this chart:
Compound chart 2015 12 12
  • Arrow weight: this is the total weight of the arrow, including the spine and the tip. It’s often measured in grains. Arrows with different weights don’t fly in similar paths, so especially for beginners, stick with a single weight for all your arrows.
    Generally, lighter arrows fly faster than heavier ones, but they are also affected more by wind and penetrate targets less. As a beginner, you should go for heavier arrows, because they’ll be easier to be consistent with.
    A great rule of thumb for what arrow weight you should use is grain per pound (GPP). This is the number of grains of your arrow, divided by your draw weight poundage. Arrows are considered heavy if they’re 8 grains or more per pound on your bow, and light if they’re less than 6.5 GPP.
  • Material: try considering the material of your spine. Typical materials are wood, aluminum, and carbon. It’s mostly a matter of preference, but you might want to think about it before making a purchase.
    Wood arrows are best for traditional archers (longbow). They’re cheap, but usually don’t last as long. Aluminum arrows best for beginner recurve and compound archers, because they’re light and affordable. Carbon arrows are best for more experienced archers, who shoot heavier bows and can afford to spend a bit more.
  • Arrow Tip: Surprisingly, there are a lot of different tips you can use on your arrow. The most common ones are field points, which are used for target shooting, and broadheads which are used for hunting.
    For beginner archers looking to learn archery, I suggest getting field point arrows. You can also get bullet points, which are also good for target shooting, but getting good quality field points is your best bet.

If you keep these things in mind when choosing which arrows to get, you’ll have an easy time finding the perfect arrows for you.


The last piece of equipment you’re going to need to learn archery yourself is a target. They come in many shapes and forms, but generally, when starting out, any quality target will do.

Some archers choose to shoot in a local range, so they don’t have to purchase their own target. I think it’s a great option if you’re just starting out because you probably just need a quiet space and a lane to shoot in.

Still, the convenience of having your own target is hard to compete with. I’ve listed places you can practice shooting your bow in a previous post, in case you’re not sure where you’ll be able to set it up. If you still want to purchase your own target, I have some recommendations and things to consider.

I suggest you get a cheap bag target as a beginner, mainly to avoid making a large investment from the get-go. When you’re a bit more experienced and want to improve your skills, get another target. 3D targets are especially more expensive, so be mindful and maybe buy one later on, when you’ll get into 3D archery.

If you need a quality, affordable target, I made a few recommendations on my recommended gear page. I have some great options there, for any type of target. I do suggest you focus on the bag target section there. It’s also a detailed buyer’s guide, so if what I detail below doesn’t satisfy you, go on and read other there.

Anyways, here are some things to keep in mind while picking your target.

  • Target usage: The way you’re going to use your target and set up your range is a really important factor to consider. If you have a space in your backyard, you can follow my post and set up a backyard archery range. In that case, you might be able to get a heavy target, because you won’t be moving it as much as you would if you set your range up every time you want to shoot.
    Most beginner archers will use the target for practicing their form. You’re probably best off buying a traditional circular target, which is perfect for watching your own progress.
  • Face size: the size of the target is especially important for target shooters, and beginner archers in general. Shooting a small target will be really hard at first, so you should probably get a larger faced target.
    As a beginner, I’d suggest you get a target at least 48″ in diameter (120 cm). It’s a good size to start off with, and it’ll be comfortable for you to shoot.
  • Mobility: As I mentioned before, mobility can be an issue with targets. If you have a static range you’ve set up, it’s less of a hassle to move the targets, but you’ll still have to do it a few times a year (to avoid damage from rain and weather).
    Unless you’re going to set up a temporary range every time you shoot, I wouldn’t consider it that important.
  • Material: Even if you get a simple bag target, the material it’s made of it really important. A quality target can last for years, if you keep it safe. Good targets will also be much easier to use, so you won’t have to use a lot of force to retrieve your arrows.
    Because you probably won’t be shooting a high draw weight when starting out, the thickness of the target isn’t such an important factor. I do think you should aim to find a target with self-healing material, which usually last much longer. If you do want to plan ahead, try also getting a ticker target.

If you keep these things in mind, you’re likely going to get the perfect target for you.

Once you have all the gear you need to start learning archery, it’s time to think about the basics. Basically, how do you properly shoot a bow?

Learn Archery Form Basics

Whether you want to teach yourself archery or to take archery lessons, it’s essential that you at least understand the basics before you start. It’ll make things much easier for you, so you avoid the common form traps beginners make.

I’ll try to focus on the essential things, to avoid making things overwhelming for you.

Geena Davis, a famous Olympic archer and actress, perfectly explained the importance of working on your technique in her quote (link to source):

The main thing about archery is a battle with yourself. You can ruin it all. Once you have learned the technique, the point is to recreate the perfect technique over and over and over.

I really recommend that you go more in-depth and read my post about how to shoot a bow, where I detail the complete ideal shot process you should follow. It’s the most essential part of learning archery, so you should put some thought into it.

To properly shoot a bow, try to follow a simple shot process and focus on getting used to it, while strengthening your muscles. Here’s a good shot process you can use to have proper shooting form (that I’ve listed with more details in my shot process post)

  • Assume your stance: There are a few options to position your legs, but the square stance is probably the best bet for a beginner. Your legs should be perpendicular to each other and to the shooting line, at shoulder-width apart. The target will be in the direction of your weak foot. You should feel comfortable and able to generate a lot of power.
  • Set your grip: Your hand should be resting on the grip of the bow. When you’ll pull the bow, the force will drive through your entire arm. Try to avoid introducing torque to the bow.
  • Nock an arrow and draw the bow: Position the arrow in the nocking point of the bowstring, and use your fingers or the release aid to draw the string fully. If you’re finger shooting, you can use the split-finger draw, by using the 3 middle fingers on the bowstring, with your index finger above the arrow. Make sure to properly position your arrow, so you don’t accidentally dry fire your bow.
  • Anchor: At full draw, position yourself in an anchor point. You’re basically using a consistent spot to draw to the same position every time. A good anchor point, for example, is having your bowstring touching the edge of your nose. Align yourself the same way every time you shoot.
  • Aim to the target: Look through the sight on your bow, and float the pin around the center of the target. Put most of your focus on the target, and try not to time the shot. If you practice a lot, you’ll be able to become steadier, but it takes time.
  • Release: Try to have a clean release, without affecting the path of the arrow. If you’re using your finger, just relax all your drawing fingers at the same time. With a release aid, you can simply pull the trigger (using your back muscles).
  • Follow-through: It’s important that you avoid the urge to look your arrow on its path to the target. If you lower the bow too early, you might deflect the arrow from your path. Continue the natural motion of your body, but don’t lower the bow until you hear the arrow hitting the target.

If you have a good shot process you’re used to in place, most of the work is done. You do have to notice the positioning of your body and how you handle the gear. In my archery form post, I’ve detailed exactly how to position yourself and what to notice.

I’ve found a good video that shows some of these steps. It’s short and to the point:

A great way to learn archery is through watching videos, and breaking down what the archer does. Of course, some of the techniques advanced archers use are less beginner-friendly, but you can still learn a lot. Here’s a great example for a video you can watch to break down the technique:

Ok, so you’re off in a good direction to have a successful start. I still have some great recommendations for you, to help you start learning archery on the right foot.

Should You Take Archery Lessons?

If you have a lot of time and want to learn archery by yourself, it’s definitely possible. But perfecting your form and properly shooting the bow without having someone to check your posture is difficult.

My suggestion for new archers is to take a few lessons, just to get the basics down. Then, you can decide if you want to continue taking lessons or to practice and improve your score by yourself.

If you’re worried about the costs, I actually broke the cost of archery down in a previous post, including the costs of archery lessons. If you’re on a budget, a group introduction lesson should cost between 20 to 35 USD, so taking a few lessons when you start out isn’t a major investment (and it’s usually well worth it).

Especially if you don’t have time to practice a lot of when starting out, taking some archery lessons will be a good choice. You’ll be able to progress much faster, even if you don’t practice as much.

Still, make sure to spend some time perfecting your form outside the lessons, to get the most out of them. In the end, it’s all about muscle memory and getting strong and comfortable with the gear. The more you practice, with or without archery lessons, the better you’ll end up.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning archery can take a lot of time, mainly because it’s quite a complex sport that involves both strength and precision. When starting out, you should try to practice often to get used to the movements.

Even if you’re taking archery lessons, practicing in your free time can make a huge difference in your learning curve.

Don’t be hasty. Know in advance that improving your skills can take quite some time. Start by shooting close to the target, and as you progress, shoot in larger and larger distances.

With time, you’ll be able to challenge yourself, perfect your shooting form and shoot at larger distances with good precision. It’s all a matter of how often you practice.

Of course, try to make things fun. When you’re a bit more experienced, try challenging yourself and your friends to some fun archery games. I actually made a list of the best archery games you can try. So remember that at the beginning the sport might be a bit hard, but it’s also a lot of fun, especially when you’re a bit more experienced.


Learning archery is simple, but it’s not easy.

You should choose what archery style you’re going to get into, and what gear you want to use. When all that in place, you should practice and aim to perfect your shooting form.

When you’re a bit more confident with your archery posture, you can start practicing the skills you need for 3D and field archery, like distance judging, or keep working on your precision for target archery.

Your goal with learning archery should be getting comfortable with the shot process. When that’s in place, you can make small tweaks to keep improving, but the essential part will be behind you.

If you can, go to at least a few archery lessons, so you can start on the right foot. You can learn archery yourself, but especially on the initial part, having someone to look at your form is really valuable.

I’m positive that after reading this post, you’re off to a good start with archery. Good luck!

Archery Learning FAQ

Can I teach myself archery?

While it may take you longer to learn archery yourself, it’s definitely possible. Focus on properly positioning your body, handling your gear and aiming.
Many archers teach themselves how to shoot, but it’s hard to master archery yourself. If you can, I suggest you try to at least learn the basics from a professional.

How long does it take to learn archery?

It may take a few sessions to learn the basics of archery: how to properly hold the bow, draw, aim and shoot. Achieving good form and grouping can take a few months. Mastering archery can take a whole lifetime.

What is the best age to start learning archery?

While you can start learning archery even at 10 years old, the best age to start archery is 16 to 18 years old. You’ll have a lot of time to improve your skills as you’re getting more experienced. Of course, you can still start if you’re older.

What do I need to get started in archery?

The essential gear is a bow, arrows and a target.
Try not to go overboard a get a lot of gear – stick with the basics. Put most of your investment into the bow, with some basic accessories like a sight. You don’t need fancy accessories when starting out.
If you’re getting a recurve bow or a longbow, also get a bow stringer and an armguard. They’ll be a small investment that’ll be really handy.

Show 2 Comments


  1. Victoria Addington

    I’ve decided that I’ll use my vacation leave to learn a new sport, which is archery. It’s awesome to know from your article that when I start to learn the sport, I must know what archery style I like and then proceed to get the gears. Thanks for your note on considering what type of bow to use and arrow features before buying. With that, I’d like to purchase the essential gears at an archery equipment store, so I can start with my first session.

    • Or A.

      That’s great to hear, and I’m glad the post helped and pointed you in the right direction.
      Going for an archery store is a good idea if you want to get the feel of the gear. Ordering it online will save you the hassle. It’s generally a matter of preference.

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