Information the help you buy a used bow

Times are tough for a lot of us. Many people want to get into archery or bowhunting, but they don’t have several hundred dollars saved for a new set up. The smallest amount of money an average adult can get away with for the basics to get started shooting is just over $600. Here is a common list of what is needed to get started in archery and bowhunting:

  • Bow
  • Arrows
  • Arrow Rest
  • Bow Sight
  • Peep Sight
  • Stabilizer
  • Quiver
  • String Silencers
  • Release Aid
  • Practice Tips (Field Tips)

That’s just the basics. Some bows come with some of the above items in a package deal for one price, but a mechanical release and a set of arrows (which are rarely included in a bow package) can still add another $100 or more to the overall cost.

To complete your archery set up, you may want to buy:

  • Bow Case
  • Arrow Case
  • Arm Guard
  • Foam or Layered Target
  • Broadheads
  • Allen Wrench Set
  • Lighted Nocks
  • Accessory Bag or Box
  • Archery Club Membership

Many new archers soon learn how expensive archery and bow hunting can be. This does not even take into account all the latest gadgets out there that are on the market that you would like to try. To make things worse, once hunting season gets here, there is more gear you’ll need to buy:

  • Tree Stand
  • Binoculars
  • Ground Blind
  • Cover Scent
  • Hunting Knife
  • Camouflage Clothing
  • Hunting Licenses

And this is just the beginning! With the endless expenses, some of you may consider buying a used bow with some of the accessories already installed. Although used, it is still going to put a dent in your pocketbook. (What is a pocketbook and who carries one anyway?) Being a bow technician, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people bring in bows that they’ve purchased from eBay or a garage sale or from a neighbor that didn’t fit him.

Here are some considerations and things to be aware of when you choose to purchase pre-owned archery equipment and accessories. This information will help you avoid spending money on a bow you can’t use.

Archery is a great sport but to round out the total experience, shoot the best equipment you can afford.

Know your draw length

To determine your draw length, measure your wingspan and divide by 2.5. This will get your very close to your final draw length.  Adjustments can probably be made for your exact draw length by a qualified bow technician.

The used bow you intend to purchase should have a draw length range that can be adjusted to fit you by either replacing or adjusting the cam module, or on some bows, moving the bowstring to another post on the cam.  Be aware that some bows more than 10 years old have limited adjustment ability, meaning the string and/or cables only allow draw length changes of a half an inch longer or shorter than the specified draw length of the bow, or no adjustments at all.  The most common misconception of the novice is that any bow will fit any particular person.

Know the pulling weight of your bow and your ability to pull that weight

Bows usually come with limbs that can be adjusted in 10 lbs. increments.  That is if the bow has 60 lbs. limbs, you could turn down the pulling weight to 50 lbs.  Some bows come with wider draw weight ranges, from 30 to 60 lbs., or 45 to 60 lbs., depending on the model.

The average adult male can pull at least 50-60# of draw weight at first, and then settle in at somewhere around 60-70#.

The average adult female pulling weight for the first time depends on the woman (I’ve seen such a wide range), but most women in my experience, can pull 28-30# their first time pulling a bow back.  Of course, as you shoot more, you will be able to pull more weight, but you won’t have much success buying a bow that is too heavy to pull at first; you will tire easy, won’t be able to shoot enough arrows to practice efficiently, and possibly develop bad shooting form.  On the other hand, if you get a bow that is too light on the draw, you will max the bow out in a few months, which is fine, however if you plan on hunting, make sure you get something you can manage and work up to, that is able to be set at the minimum hunting draw weight law for your state.


Make sure the bow you intend to buy is in sound physical and mechanical condition by going through this checklist:

• Check the limbs to make sure there are no hairline cracks.

• Inspect the condition of the riser (the main part of the bow, where the grip is installed in the middle).

• Carefully examine the cams and idler wheel for nicks, bends in the metal, or unusual wear on the cam itself near the rail (the track where the string sits on the cam) to make sure that overall, the bow is in good condition. A cam(s) can be bent or nicked from a bow that has been dry-fired.

• Inspect the string, and if the owner of the use bow is present, ask how long this string has been installed on the bow and why he or she is selling the bow. Check the string for wear, frayed or broken strands or string wear near the cam. Bow strings can be replaced; if the manufacturer or archery shop does not carry the strings for your bow, you could have custom bow strings made, but unusual wear near the cams could mean a continual problem if the cams are defective or damaged. Determining how old the bow string is will let you decide if the bow is something you want to shoot prior to replacing the string.

• Check stabilizer threads, arrow rest mounting hole (Berger Hole) for thread wear and sight mounting holes to make sure none of those are stripped out.

• Sights, arrow rests and other accessories or parts can be replaced or upgraded if you really want to buy a used bow, but keep in mind the additional cost of replacing accessories.

Shop around

If you are purchasing on eBay or an internet site, research prices for the same model to make sure you don’t overpay.

After you purchase your used bow, bring it to an archery pro shop and have a qualified bow technician inspect the bow, make final adjustments based on your needs and make sure it is in tune. A good bow technician will double-check the center shot, square up the arrow rest, replace nocks or string loops if needed, and even help you get your first shots sighted in. A good bow technician will also give you advice on good form and maybe share some tips on shooting, such as being consistent, bow torque and follow-through.

Used bows can be a very good investment for a beginning archer, but it’s important to do your homework. Luckily, there is a wealth of information available online to help you with anything archery-related. The more research you do about what you are buying, the less likely you’ll be to purchase a bow you won’t be able to use.