Parents, did you involve your kid when you picked out their bow? The answer is probably no if your family is just getting into archery. Don't be the family that buys the 'on sale' bow from a big box store, then takes the bow and their kid to a bow range to be told that their new bow won't work for them. Some of the things you might be told once you get to a range is that the bow's draw weight / length won't adjust to what you need, the overall weight of the bow is too heavy, it's the wrong handed bow or that it's just the wrong bow for what you want to do with it. I didn't get to pick out my first 'real' bow, but I lucked out and it was the perfect bow for me at that time. As time went on though, it no longer was the perfect bow for me. The main thing I wanted in a newer bow was faster arrow speed so I could shoot arrows at longer distances with more consistent accuracy. I didn't just want my parents to get me a bow that had a faster arrow speed though, I wanted to make sure it would be comfortable for me to shoot too.
Parents, would you buy a car without test driving it? Kids, would you buy a video game just because the photos on the case look cool? Then why would you buy a bow without testing it first? You shouldn't!!! If you don't want to waste money, then spend a little time doing research to save a lot money by buying the correct equipment. Because it doesn't matter how pretty your bow looks if it shoots like crap for you. You don't want to pick a bow based on its color, look or just because someone else shoots it. You want to pick out a bow that not only fits you, but shoots and holds comfortably. So the first thing I did when I was ready to upgrade my bow was go online and researched all the bows that fit my draw weight and draw length specifications, then I created a chart so that I could rank all the bows that I tested. I would rate the bows in a number of different ways that mattered to me, and at the end of the tests the bow with the best score was the bow I wanted, regardless of the brand or what colors it came in. Those measurements were Feet per Second, Brace Height, Axel to Axel, Weight of the Bow, Balance, Grip, Overall Feel, Vibration, Holding, Anchor Point, Riser Type and then Cost and Look if I needed a tie-breaker.
The main problem me and my dad ran into when we wanted to test bows was that not one store carried all of the different brands and models of bows. We had to go to many different stores and shops so that I could shoot, rate and then rank all the bows on my chart. Other problems we encountered was some crappy service, because when we wanted some employees to adjust a bow at a big box store so I could test it were acting like I was inconveniencing them. And some of them didn't even know how to adjust the bows to fit my draw weight/length so my dad had to do it for them. And when they talked to my dad instead of me, that made me mad because I was the one looking for a new bow to shoot. After me and my dad did all that running around to test all the bows we could find, the chart made the choice for what my new bow was going to be. To save yourself a lot of time and headaches testing bows you could go to a National level archery tournament that have bow vendors or look for an organization like Young Guns Archery that has a traveling mobile range that allows archers to shoot and evaluate many brands of bows at no cost.
After doing all this testing for a new bow you still need to research and test things like; rest, arrows, stabilizers, sight and release. Most beginner and entry level bows will come with a sight and rest on them, and with being a beginner you really don't need anything high end. But when you get up to competing at the state level and start shooting target bows you will have to pick out your own sight and rest since target bows come bare, that means nothing is on the bow besides strings. But that's a good thing since there are a lot to choose from and you are probably not going to like what would come on it, and that would be wasted money for something you wouldn't use.
In my opinion arrows are the most crucial component that you need to get correct, regardless if you are just starting out or are a professional. To pick out arrows you need to know your draw weight and draw length. You need to know this so you know the correct spine arrows to buy and how short to cut them, you also need to figure out your tip weight and size of fletching. There are multiple charts that will give you this information when you enter your draw weight and draw length, but it is only just a starting point and you will need to test the configuration and adjust it to you. Doing this will give you the best accuracy with your bow as long as you shoot consistently. I have seen people in the past get arrows because they look cool but they don't fly well or shoot well for them. When I first started shooting someone told us to cut arrows so that the tips stuck out two inches past the rest, but that was very wrong advice. Also, even if you are the same height as someone that doesn't mean you could shoot the same arrows because you could have different draw weights and draw lengths. But also if someone is a foot and a half taller than you, you could end up shooting the same arrow setups because of what the arrow chart says.
When you first start out you can just buy boxed arrows off the shelf that are already fletched; you just need to cut them down to size, put an insert and tip in. And most all places you buy boxed arrows from will do this for you. When you first start out in archery, boxed arrows are fine since you can barely hit the side of a barn. But when you get more experienced building custom arrows will be the best thing you could do. Things you will test and change depending on the type of shooting you will be doing is finding the best size diameter shaft, style and size of fletching, nock style, and point weight. As you get more into archery you won't just shoot one arrow for everything anymore, you will make specific arrows for indoor target, outdoor target and 3D archery.
The next most important thing is your release, there are many different types of releases. Most start off with a wrist strap release which is a good starter release and easy to shoot with little to no experience. Then there is a thumb button release, which you need to be a little more experienced to shoot. But once you get use to it is a very good release. Then lastly there is back tension release, which is for very experienced archers because it is very hard to shoot until you get use to it. No matter how good you are, when you change releases you will probably shoot worse until you get use to the new release. So don't be afraid to make changes, just give yourself time to practice with it. I've seen people make a release change that they needed to make, but went back to their old release because their coach or parents told them to since they didn't shoot the new release better right away. When I first started shooting back tension I punched myself in the face a couple times and had a couple misfires, but as I got use to it it didn't happen because I became experienced with the release.
Something you can add to your bow but is not necessary if you are a beginner, is stabilizers. You may be asking yourself why are theses not necessary when all the pros have them, well that's because they know how to use them. The point of stabilizers is to balance the bow and to add weight to the bow in different spots. They help in different ways while shooting and there are many different types of bars. If it's windy out you might want shorter and skinner ones so they don't get caught by the wind and also they will help your bow stay steady and not move around a bunch. There is no chart to find the right size bars for you, unlike for arrows. So it will be all trial an error since it does have a lot to do with what feels good to you. You can ask your friends to try their stabilizer setup, doing this will help get you closer to figuring out what feels good to you. Stabilizers are expensive, and you don't want to keep buying different lengths to figure out what you like. Once you figure out what size bar feels good, you will spend a lot of time figuring out your front and back weights, and then the angles you put the bars. As you advance in ability you will change your bar lengths and weights for different style tournament to help you stay steady and balance your bow.
When you pick out a sight you don't need to buy one that has a built in rangefinder because when you first start shooting you probably won't be good enough to even hit the side of a barn let alone a deer at 30 yards. Also this sight cannot be used in competitions, it is only for hunters and most think it's a waste of money anyway. So a three pin hunting style sight would be the best since it is simple and easy to adjust. When first learning how to shoot you won't be shooting far distances so you won't need a 5 or 7 pin sight yet. There are also one pin sights that are for target and have a lot of movement in them and for beginners, having a sight like that with that many moving parts on it wouldn't be very good. But as you get more experienced it is a very good sight since you can really micro adjust it to what you want. There are different types of one pin sights. When I made the change to one I had a cheap hunting one pin sight that had a big scope, and at an outdoor target event I had to aim above the paper to hit the X. With a more expensive one pin setup you have to buy the scope and the sight itself that holds the scope separately. Then you have to factor in the lenses to zoom in on the target to, they are very expensive but when you compete at the national level that is what you need to be on the same level as others.
With a rest it's OK to start off with a whisker biscuit since it is very cheap and has very little adjustment and there is little to go wrong with it. And it holds your arrow tight so you can concentrate on other things like your form and aiming. A drop away rest has a lot of moving parts and adjustments and if you are just starting out you don't need something with that amount of movement. But as you get more experienced and start shooting competitions you would want a drop away or a blade rest because they don't mess with the arrows flight like a whisker biscuit does. Where shooting a blade or drop away rest, the arrow glides over the rest, unlike the whisker biscuit that holds and guides the arrow. With a drop away rest the rest cradles the arrow at full draw, but when you release it falls away out of the arrows path. With a blade rest you have a blade that just stays where it's at and when you release the arrow just glides right over it. The more and longer the rest touches your arrow, the more time you give the rest time to make the arrow not go straight.
Parents, involve your kid when you pick out their bow. It needs to be the right bow for them not one that looks cool or the "on sale bow". If it's the right bow for them it will make them want to shoot more because they are not getting mad and want to quit because they don't have the right bow and are shooting bad with it. My very first bow I shot was a rental that was basically a stick and string. When my parents saw that I liked archery they bought a used beginner compound bow off a motocross friend, that bow fit me and was highly adjustable. Then after shooting that bow for a year is when we looked for a new bow for me. If you are just starting out you don't need to buy a target bow, high end bow or a brand new bow; but you don't want to buy garbage either. Also go to a real bow shop and talk to the bow techs and archers there, and hopefully they will be able to help you find the right bow for your ability and what you plan to do. Unlike if you go to most big box stores that just tell you what you or your kid needs and just wants your money and that goes with arrows too. The big box store won't be the one trying to tune the bow or working with you to help you learn to shoot so they really don't care what they sell you since it won't be their headache. Take your time and buy what makes sense for you or your kid. An expensive bow won't make you shoot good if you can't shoot; but a garbage bow or bow that doesn't fit you can make you want to quit.