Starter Bows for kids

One of my co-workers asked me for a recommendation for a Christmas bow for her son, so while on this line of thought, I thought I’d share my research and thoughts on the subject.

I would start by saying that the very, very  best thing you can do, is to go to a good archery shop and let them help  you.

You want a place where archery is their main gig. There are some shops where archery is a sideline, not the mainstay of their business, you may end up with a bow that is not appropriate for a child. Do a little research on the web or ask someone knowledgeable in your area for a referral to a good shop.

Shops that are used to working with kids will often have a JOAD program (Junior Olympic Archery Development)  and lessons, these are great places for kids and their growth as archers and people. Very often these shops will have bows that you can try out.

If you don’t have access to a shop and or want to know what to look for in a bow for a child, just keep on reading, I’ll highlight the important stuff.

The number one issue for not only children but any new archer is bow weight. I don’t mean the physical weight of the bow but how much weight or “pull” an archer has to hold at full draw.

Bows are usually rated for a certain poundage at a certain length of draw, this rating is usually written on the bow or limbs.

This issue is important for a couple of reasons:

  • A young archers body is developing, a heavy bow can injure a child’s young body.
  • Too heavy a bow will be difficult to hold at full draw, which will make it hard to focus on the things they need to learn because they are too busy just trying to control the bow, it can also lead to bad form issues and general unhappiness. Too heavy a bow is often the reason a child loses interest in archery, its no fun!

Bows are not like other things where you can buy them a little big for your child to grow into them. You want to get the right size and weight for their current age and development. You can always pass them down to a sibling or resell them later, some bows have enough adjustment latitude that they will last a pretty long time.

Length of bow – This part is more common sensical, you want to get a bow that fits your child’s stature. This is easier as lighter weight bows meant for children are often already shorter/longer to accommodate a young shooter’s size.

Compound or a classical style bow?

Compound bows are technological marvels, they use modern, mechanical components to leverage energy in their favor. They are faster and more accurate than their classical counterparts. They are also more expensive and complicated and depending on your setup have more components and accessories to buy than classical bows. You will very likely need professional help to set one up  or tune it.

There are compound bows on the market now that have a wide range of weight adjustment making it possible to purchase a bow that will last a young person a long time, making your upfront investment last.

Classic bows are the eternal teachers of this discipline. Particularly the recurve bow, which is the mainstay of modern archery education.

The plus of these bows is that they are fundamentally simple. They are easy to maintain and are relatively inexpensive and you don’t need a lot of accessories to use one. You can learn to tune one yourself or have a professional help you.

Let’s get into it and go over some of the more popular bows for kids on the market today:

Samick Polaris

The bow on the left is a Samick Polaris takedown recurve. Takedown means that the bow can be broken down into three pieces, the riser (wooden middle section) and the two limbs. This can be practical for transporting the bow.

There are other makers of bows that have near identical bows to the one on the  left and would all be appropriate for a great starter bow, the ones that come to mind are  the PSE Buckeye and the Mohegan Recurve by Greatree Archery, in fact my youngest son, Alistair, owns a 16 lb Mohegan recurve.

All these bows seem to range somewhere in the $90.00 to $120.00 range.

If you decide to go the classic bow road, you will also need a bow stringer, they run aprox.  $10.00. Most of these bows come with an arrow rest, which sticks on to the bow for your arrow to sit on, should it not have an arrow rest, simple rests can be had for a few dollars. You will of course need arrows, again talking to a good pro shop is the way to go.

Now, there are of course many other options for a kid’s starter bow from simple fiberglass bows to traditional longbows, and Olympic recurves,  some cheaper and some more money. I’m just pointing out a true and tried style of bow used widely in early archery education, that will serve a young person well.

A popular kids compound bow is the Mathews Genesis.

Mathews Genesis

They are easily found,  and are a great first bow if you decide to go the compound road. They also come in nine different colors to include pink and camo, to suit most any kid.

Compound bows usually have a feature called let off, this means that as you draw the string you get to a point where the bow weight shifts and you’re only holding a fraction of the weight, usually 20% to  30% of the original weight. Making it easier to hold at full draw for longer.

This bow doesn’t have that and for the weight range, doesn’t need it. Not having let off makes it more easily acceptable to a variety of draw lengths and also helps the bow grow with the child.

The weight on this bow can be adjusted from 10 to 20 lbs.

This bow runs about $165.00, you can also buy a kit which will come with arrows, quiver, arm guard and targets for aprox. $ 220.00.

There is also a mini version of the Genesis, with adjustable weight from 6 to 12 pounds and a Pro version with adjustable weight from 15 to 25 lbs. The pro will run you $185.00 for the stock model.

Very similar to the Genesis Pro in concept is PSE’s Discovery 2. It also comes in a variety of colors and has the same universal draw length as the Genesis. The weight range of the PSE Discovery 2 is 20 to 29 pounds, so it has a bit more ummph, should you want it. My 11 year old owns this bow.  Price for one of these is about $180.00.

PSE Discovery 2

For parents of kids that want a compound bow that will have all the features of an adult sized compound, to include the ability to “let off” or shift gears to a lower holding weight, and a greater range of weight adjustment, a few bows come to mind.

PSE Miniburner w/accesories

PSE Miniburner w/accessories

PSE’s Miniburner is a full fledged compound bow. The weight is adjustable from 15 to 40 pounds which means that this bow can really grow with the child. They retail in the $200.00 range.

Diamond’s Infinite Edge is also a full compound bow and is adjustable from 5 to 70 lbs, a huge range of weight. You could shoot this bow as a young person and retire with it if you’d like.  It comes as a package deal with sights, rest, peep, quiver, etc. The package price will run you $ 349.00.

Diamond's infinite edge with accesories

Diamond’s infinite edge with accessories

I’ve shown you all these compound bows as viable options for a beginner however my personal belief is to start simple.

Which in my mind means starting with a straightforward stick and string, like the recurve pictured at the beginning of this post.

There are practical reasons for this like cost. A simple recurve will be cheaper than a compound, also compounds come with more accessories, sights, complex arrow rests, and releases to name a few. All of which will add to the expense. Another plus of starting with a simple less expensive bow is if your child finds that archery isn’t their cup of tea, you’re not in very deep.

Although a compound bow can be shot with fingers on the string, the majority of compound archers use a release. A release is a device that either straps to your wrist or you hold in your hand that attaches to the string. The release has a trigger, when you are ready to let go of the string you activate the trigger and off your arrow goes.

I say let them do it the way Robin Hood did it, with fingers on the string. Let them feel and be a part of archery’s long history. Once they’ve gotten a grasp of it and have built a bit of a foundation to their shooting and understand the fundamentals of archery via a simple bow,  they will then be in a great position to decide if they would like to give a compound or any other type of bow a try.

Whatever you decide, archery is a great discipline to introduce  to your children, the learning of which can transcend the simple act of releasing arrows and help them in their growth.