Recently I’ve been pretty busy practising my Olympic recurve. But, I volunteered to take some time to look at school equipment, to get it back into reasonable condition, so they can see more usage. Suffice to say, it’s quite different for my normal use. When I say these are old-school bows, I do mean in both ways. This is old equipment, belonging to the school, and the bows come from the era before me. Some of you may recognise these models, and they are certainly not bad bows. However, they are outdated, compared to what is available in the market today. It’s actually very hard to find these bows for sale, these days. These were probably popular around 20 – 30 years ago. A lot of them are handed down, been kept around schools and camps. I know these bows have been kept in storage for around 15 years, and only been taken out and used very sporadically. These were popular for schools and camps, and the occasional curious individual because, they were so cheap. These are the old equivalent to the beginner kits, you can find online. They come in around 50$. A typical kit will include the bow, a bow string, a couple of arrows, along with a finger tab, arm guard, a target, and maybe a quiver. These are one piece, fibreglass, recurve bows. Although, similar models do straddle the line between being simply recurve or longbows. Most junior fibre glass bows today are less than 20#. Although, the bows I have here are 30# and 35#. This Indian bow in particular is sometimes being used by adult backyard shooters. So, I wouldn’t quite call it a kids bow. As you can probably tell, it is incredibly simple in design. Unstrung, it’s basically a stick. The limbs are solid fibreglass, and the grip is made from a plastic and rubber material. One of the reasons this kind of bow is popular for schools and camps is that it’s ambidextrous. There is no window cut out in riser, so the arrow goes on either side, on top of the grip. So it can be shot right, or left handed. The arrows are made from the same material, and are spined for 30#, the weight of this bow. I can’t say that they fly tremendously well, but they do the job. I find that they are too stiff, and arrow clearance is a big problem. Additionally, the finish and quality of the arrow is very poor. Don’t be surprised if the point comes off. Now, I personally consider the baseline for archery equipment to be the sort of equipment you find in a club. Clubs are more likely to use wooden take-down recurves, such as the PSE Razorback, or the FUSE Focus, or even the Mathews Genesis compound bow. You won’t really find this sort of bow at a club. It’s not that they are bad, but they are very limited in their function. They are really, only meant to be used by the occasional, casual shooter, which is why you find them in schools, sometimes. If you are looking at getting equipment for your school, your camp… this sort of thing is extremely cheap, it’s a good, budget buy, and it’s just passable. You won’t leave a great impression of archery on the person who uses it. Now, if you have equipment lying around, or you are about to use it, there are a few things to watch out for. One thing to keep in mind is draw weight. Now, for the laymen, the draw weight is how heavy the bow is when you pull it back, not how heavy the bow itself is, but the strength of the bow on the fingers, as you pull it back. If you don’t know anything about archery, the numbers won’t make any sense. One thing that you have to keep in mind is, when you pick the bow, the draw weight has to be reasonable for the people who are using it. If you are running archery at a camp, or a school, and you are looking at people who are 12 – 15 years old, then you don’t really want to give them a bow that’s too heavy. A good benchmark for a junior bow, is around 12# – 15#. While this may seem like a very light weight, and a lot of teenagers will use heavier bows, remember you are catering for the least capable. You are not giving bows out which are overpowered. These bows for example are 30# bows, and even the 25# bow is a little much for kids. Yeah, you might have the big, bulky, muscular kid who plays football, and it can pull a bow back and be like “Yeah, this is so easy”, but you get a lot of little Year 7 girls who can barely pull it back, part of the way, so it’s a really big issue, a lot of it is to do with confidence. If you are not taught to shoot properly, and you are given a bow that’s too strong for you, it’s not going to be as fun. Just remember too that, a lot of adults can’t pull back a 30# right away, so, be reasonable. Also, keep in mind the condition of the bow. Equipment tends to be left in poor storage, or there is wear and tear, and sometimes you might see some ad-hoc repairs without much of an idea as to what they are doing. Often, archery equipment is left in an unsafe, or unshootable state, and, it’s often due to the lack of expertise to maintain and repair them. The string normally takes the most damage, The serving can unravel and eventually come off completely, and the string itself can break. Because schools and camps usually lack archery expertise, they are unable to replace the string, and the bows are left unstrung, and unused. In an effort to encourage more use of the archery equipment, I replaced most of the strings with Dacron strings I made myself, with better serving material, and a bit of wax. The result is something that is better than what the bows originally came with. I’ve noticed that some junior bow kits come with this kind of string. It’s a very stiff material that doesn’t stretch. As a result, the bow feels much stiffer when drawing. The lack of serving material and nock points means that, the arrow won’t stay on, implying that you are meant to pinch the nock, which is a big NO NO in archery. If the arrow doesn’t stay on the string, I don’t consider it safe to shoot. Furthermore, it’s also quite painful on the fingers. Speaking of fingers, many places lack protective equipment. I’m talking about arm guards, and finger tabs. These are basic safety items, and they are often overlooked. I personally would not want a child, to shoot without these items. It is painful, it is not really dangerous, but it can hurt, and you don’t want children hurting themselves. It can be a hassle to have a set of finger tabs, and you have to hand them out to everybody, so I do understand why places don’t often give them out, but it is important to have some kind of protection. An alternative to finger tabs are rubber finger guards, such as the no glove, which are put onto the string and stay there. This is ideal for clubs and schools who go through many shooters, allowing participants to pick up the bow, and use it safely, without having to lose or damage finger tabs. If you find yourself in need of archery repairs, and don’t have access to an archery expert, the best option is to seek help from an archery store. Now, there are 2 things which can really go wrong with school equipment, either the bow itself is damaged, or the string is damaged. Now, if the bow is damaged, I’m talking about a cracked limb, or the thing snapped, that is gone, there is nothing you can really do about it, especially with older bows. But, if the string is damaged, you can replace it fairly easily. You can order a new string to be made at the archery store, and all they need to know is how long the string should be. By the way, most likely, if you are using this kind of bows, you want a Dacron string a lot of these strings that I showed before are some kind of natural fibre, but most stores only make Dacron as a minimum. You don’t want to get things like Fast Flight, or Trophy, or any fast strings, Dacron is fine. You want to state the length of the bow string. Now, most of these bows have the length of the bow indicated somewhere on the inside. It is either printed or written on, or on a sticker, in this case there’s a sticker here, and it says 60″ AMO. When you buy the string, you want to quote that figure, so, you ask, “I want a 60″ AMO Dacron string”. They will make one to exactly match this bow. The AMO is important because, it’s actually, the string itself is not actually 60″, it’s shorter, but if you say 60″ AMO, the shop will know to make the appropriate string. If you don’t have these stickers, what you need to do is, to measure the bow string, from tip to tip, and then use that figure. It’s measured in inches, not centimetres. If you are measuring the string itself, make sure to quote the figure WITHOUT AMO, so say it’s the actual string length, not say 55″ AMO. In fact, do try to get most of your material from archery stores. It maybe cheaper, and “easier” to get them from a school supplier, or from Amazon, or eBay, but, if you get them from an archery store, they’ll pick the right equipment for you, they’ll give you ongoing support, and they have the expertise to help you. So, it’s better than having perfectly good bows lying around, because a bit of string is broken. Finally, one thing that is often overlooked in setting up an archery activity for young people is, having the right training. More often than not, sites will just hand out bows like toys tell the supervisor to point the bows somewhere in that direction, or a big target, and let the kids pop balloons. While this is fun, in my opinion, the participants are getting a lot more out of the activity if they are thought how to properly hold and shoot a bow. It’s the same with any sport, I mean, once you’ve learned the skills, playing the sport becomes a whole lot more fun, and the same goes with archery. That means as teachers, or as camp coordinators, or whatever… you may want to undertake basic archery instructor training, and there are courses which will teach you how to use a bow, as well as, how to implement safety practice, and how to look after your equipment. Anyway, this is NUSensei, hope you found this helpful, and I’ll see you next time.