Beginners Guide to Archery

How to get started in archery. It might all seem a bit daunting at first, but don't worry - you'll soon be hitting the target like a pro! Find out where you can try archery, what types of archery you can try and what kit you'll need.

How to get started in archery

It might all seem a bit daunting at first, but don’t worry - you’ll soon be hitting the target like a pro!

Where can I try archery for the first time?

There are Archery GB clubs all over the UK which run beginners’ courses, delivered by qualified coaches. Use our club finder navigation tool to find your local club and book your beginners’ course.

Find a club

Morecambe Bay Archers

You can also try archery at one of our Have a Go events during Start Archery Week, or at one of our approved centres which include holiday parks, tourist attractions and organisations like the National Trust and Scouts. 

All equipment is provided, and everyone is insured during the sessions. 

Dress for the weather and wear flat shoes. Don’t forget the sun block and water if it's sunny. Long hair should be tied up and glasses or sunglasses or a sunhat can be worn.

If you try archery at a have-a-go event or at a beginners’ course, you’ll be given information about joining your local club if you want to explore archery further.

Archery kit

As with many sports, you can make archery as technical as you like, however most people will start with some basic equipment. As you progress, you may find that tailoring your kit can help improve your technique and your shot.

What equipment do I need to take up archery?

All your equipment will be provided for your beginners’ course, but if you’d like to join a club afterwards and shoot regularly, all you really need are the basics: a bow, a string, some arrows, a bracer, finger tab, a quiver, a bow stand, a bow stringer and a target to shoot at.

Your club may have equipment for you to use before you get your own.

Royal Leamington Spa Archery Beginners Course

Parts of the Bow


The riser is the centre part of the bow, where you hold. This is the same on compound, recurve and barebow. They can be left-handed or right-handed to suit the individual.


The limbs on a recurve and barebow stick out of the top and bottom of the riser. On a compound there may be two limbs at the top and bottom that are in sync with each other.


The string attaches to the limbs on a recurve and barebow. It is pulled back and once let go, the arrow is shot. Compound bows can have multiple strings and cables that are pulled back with a mechanical aid.

Pressure button

Barebow and recurve archers use a pressure button on their bows to help with tuning the arrows. This helps with accuracy. Arrows bend as they are shot and a pressure button helps the arrows leave the bow cleanly when they are shot.


A clicker is used on a recurve bow to ensure the string is pulled back to the same place each time, before releasing the arrow. The arrow is placed underneath the clicker and once drawn back, the clicker will make a sound alerting the archer to shoot.

Arrow rest

An arrow rest is a simple device that fits to the riser of the bow to support an arrow while it is being shot. It is designed to hold the arrow in the correct position, and is flexible enough not to interfere with the arrow as it begins its flight. Arrow rests are available for left and right-handed bows.


A recurve bow will have a sight that is adjusted to help arrows hit the target. Compound bows also have a scope, this is to help with accuracy and to magnify the target.


Arrows can be wooden, aluminium, carbon, or a carbon/aluminium combination. Choosing the right arrow stiffness and length for you is vital. You must never use an arrow that is too short because, when you draw it, there is a risk it can fall off the arrow rest and damage the bow or, worse, damage you. Some archery clubs have rules on with arrows they will allow you to use, so check with your club first before buying new arrows. 

Shaft: This is the main body of the arrow, and can be solid wood, or an aluminium or carbon tube.

Nock: The nock is the groove at the end of an arrow that clips onto the bow string.

Fletchings: These plastic or feather attachments are secured to the back of the arrow shaft, and they help to provide stability during the arrow’s flight.

Pile: The pile is simply the point of the arrow. They are often made of a heavier metal than the shaft to help the arrow fly straight.

Redhill Archers

Other accessories

Bracer/arm guard

A bracer is used to keep loose clothing from getting in the way of the string, and to stop the string hitting the arm, which could cause bruising. It is fitted to the inside of the arm holding the bow, between the elbow joint and the wrist. The widest end of the bracer fits closest to the elbow.


A quiver is simply a device designed to hold an archer’s arrows. A side quiver is attached to a belt and worn around the waist, while a ground quiver is placed on or into the ground to hold arrows next to the archer. Some ground quivers can also hold bows when they’re not in use.

Bow stand

A simple support used to hold a bow off the ground when it’s not being shot.

Finger tab

A tab provides protection for the fingers which draw the string. For a close and comfortable fit, they are secured over the archer’s fingers, and some models can be adjusted to the size of your hand. Barebow archers have a different type of finger tab to recurve archers.

Release aid

A release aid is for compound archers. It is a mechanical device that aids with pulling back the string, as the poundage of the bow is too much for fingers to pull back.

Finger sling

This is a piece of string that goes around a finger and thumb that hold the bow to ensure it isn’t dropped whilst shooting.

Bow stringer

A bow stringer is used to string and unstring a bow. For your own safety it is always best to learn to do this under the guidance of an experienced archer or coach.


A target is comprised of three parts: a target face, usually made of reinforced paper; a boss, made from tightly packed rubber or straw which stops the arrows safely; and a stand, which holds the boss and target face in place.

Cleadon Archers

Types of Archery

Target archery

Target archery is the type of archery practised at the Olympics, and is the version most beginners learn first. Archers shoot a set number of arrows at targets set at specified distances on a flat surface. It can take place either indoors or outdoors.

Target Archery

Field & 3D Archery

A field archery course is set up over woodland and rough terrain. Archers shoot a specified number of arrows at different targets in sequence. Archers might have to shoot uphill or downhill, and the targets could be different sizes and at different distances so anyone taking part has to really think about what they are doing. Field archery is a great way of keeping fit and enjoying the outdoors.

Field & 3D Archery

Flight Archery

Flight archery is shooting an arrow over the longest possible distance. There is no target, but it does require a very large, flat area – something the size of an aerodrome.

Flight Archery

Clout Archery

Clout archery is an ancient form of archery that was used as military training in the Middle Ages. The target is the clout, which is a small flag on a vertical stick, stuck in the ground and placed up to 160 metres away.

Clout Archery GB

Types of bow

Recurve bow

Recurve archery is the most common of all bow styles. This is likely to be the bow you will start archery on. Recurve bows are used in the Olympic Games. A recurve bow has a limb at the top and the bottom that curve, giving the name.

Compound bow

A compound bow works on a system of cams and strings. Unlike a recurve, it does not dismantle. Compound bows have a better accuracy than any other bow style, due to being faster. Because the cams work with the strings and cables to take the weight on the draw, less physical strength is required to shoot the bow. They are smaller and easier to carry and can be held at full draw more easily for longer.


Barebow is like recurve but without accessories such as a sight or stabilisation. The riser is similar to a recurve bow, and can be a recurve riser, the limbs are the same. Fixed weights can be added to the bottom of the riser. It is considered a ‘purer’ and more challenging version of archery as the bow is not fitted with sighting accessories and weights.


Longbows, by their name, are longer than most bows. There are no stabilisers or accessories except a rubber band that is used for sighting. It is the most traditional version of the sport with a long history going back to when archery was used in warfare. It’s the version of archery you’ll see at historical re-enactments and at Medieval fairs.

Is there an age limit for archery?

Archery can be done by people of all ages, it’s not unusual to see people on the shooting line aged from 8 to 80! Most beginners’ courses suggest a minimum age of 8 but for younger children there is a ‘soft’ version of the sport with arrows fitted with suction cups instead of points.

Royal Leamington Spa Archery Beginners Course

To start your archery journey, find your local club

Find a club

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