So hopefully you got a chance to mull over your riser options (previous post). Choosing a riser is the bit I would recommend spending the most time on. If you can, give them a go before you make any final conclusions. If you ask a senior in session about their riser, they should (as long as you are nice to them) let you shoot with it.
Anyway, the next vital step to getting your bow set up is getting a pair of limbs. And this is not as easy as simply choosing what looks best.
What kind of limbs do I get?
It should go without saying that you'll need limbs that your riser fits. If in the likely situation that you are getting a riser that fits international fitting limbs (repeat: anything else is just dumb) then you need to get international fitting limbs. Simple as really!
What size should I get?
The first important thing to decide. What size limbs do you need? You'll see on shop websites, or even the club limbs, that there will be some numbers. One of these numbers is the length of the bow, given a 25 inch riser. The length of the bow in total will reflect your size (specifically, your draw length. This should be roughly proportional to your height though).
If you are shorter than 5ft7 inch (170cm), then you should be going for a 66 inch bow in total
If you are taller than 5ft7 but shorter than 6ft2 (187cm) then you should go for a 68 inch bow in total
If you are taller than 6ft2, then go for a 70 inch bow total
If you are ridiculously short or tall, or just unsure, come see a senior first!
What weight limbs should I get?
The weight of the pair will largely depend on what you think you can pull. We recommend that you don't try to be conservative, I'll explain why in a minute. Generally, we like it when the Ladies pull upwards of 30lbs and our Gents pull upwards of 36lbs.
If you try to pull the limbs of a senior bow, you might actually find it easier than expected. You might have been using a 26 or 28lb set on the novice bows, but now you feel like 34 or 36lbs isn't too far a stretch. This is because of the action of the limbs themselves. This is why I say not to be conservative. The limbs I will discuss later are much nicer in composition and build than the ones we use for novice bows.
I'm going to say that you should really ask a senior to try their limbs first to feel the weight. We have a wide range regularly in attendance. Ladies, please don't be alarmed by the larger numbers. If our senior Ladies can pull them, so can you with a bit of practice! For Gents who are looking to be macho - don't. I would say that 40lbs is going to be a reasonable maximum for your first set of limbs. As Richard (note, this is a guy who works out and is in good shape) found out with my 42lb set, it isn't as easy as we make it look! A guy of average (I mean average, no offence) build will just about cope with 38lbs to start with.
Ladies - as an absolute minimum I'd say 28lbs
Gents - as an absolute minimum I'd say 34lbs
Obviously if your limbs are too light, you will find it harder to get the distance outdoors!
What options do I have in terms of limb?
There are a few different kinds, and their cost is relative (generally) to their overall performance. The best limbs are the most consistant ones.
- Fibreglass. This is what your club limbs are. Don't even think about it. Their performance is extremely hit or miss (often the latter). Their build also makes them 'stack' like crazy (which means that a longer draw will experience a sudden weight increase). Draw is crunchy as well.
- Fibreglass/Wood Laminate. Same as above. They just look prettier. Don't be fooled!
- Carbon/Wood Laminate. Finally! A decent build! You'll find most of us seniors use these as they are the most affordable, but still good limbs. The don't stack wildely, have a smooth draw action, and more importantly - the are very consistant. If you can grab yourself a set of these you'll be sorted.
- Carbon Matrix/Carbon Foam. These are usually top quality limbs. These have all the benefits of Carbon/Wood laminates, but are generally more consistant. They also have the benefit of having a much faster action (which will count outdoors - faster arrows tend to get better scores). However, you have to pay for the priveledge, often doubling the price of the carbon/wood lams.
If you notice that the limbs you are looking at only goes up to 40lbs, or less, then the chances are the build quality is not good enough for higher weights. Seriously consider whether this is what you want. If you are looking for 38lbs, for example, would you like a set that is considered poor at 42lbs? This is usually a good indicator of the quality. The reason is that beginner limbs tend to be aimed specifically at those shooting very low poundages. Trust me, unless you can afford a few sets within a year - buying beginner limbs is not a good idea.
What limbs can I afford?
Well, again - this is an area you want to try and avoid slashing to save costs. Afterall, these are the elements that get your arrow to the target. But on the other hand, they typically only have a life of 5-6 years if you shoot frequently. So I'd say don't search in terms of price unless you can help it. Keep an open mind until you make your decision, and talk to a senior if you aren't sure.
Budget - less than £140
- Athletes (by Samick). I would recommend these if you can't afford more than £100. Whilst yes, they have a fibreglass laminate build, they probably are the best in terms of the 'beginner' series of limbs. You'll notice that in terms of their price on camparison with others. They probably will stack a little bit, and I can't guarantee their consistancy at higher poundages.
- Vision Carbon (by Samick). These are, infact, the cheapest carbon/wood (NOTE! they do have several layers of fibreglass as well) laminate limbs I can find by a reputable manufacturer. As a result of its build, I'd say it's worth the extra £30 over the Athletes. They are sure to be a whole lot more consistant.
- Excel (by Hoyt). I'd stick away from them. They aren't even defined in terms of bow length. Just, no. They also don't do higher poundages. I have a funny feeling these are intended to junior archers!
Budget - £140 -> £200
- Athlete Carbon (by Samick). These are carbon/wood laminates. These are a one up on the Vision Carbons - for yet another £30 price increment. These are pretty decent limbs - and I think anybody who gets a pair would do well with them. I think overall in terms of cost and quality these take the biscuit (since the Winacts by W&W seem to have disappeared over the last year).
- ZR330 (by Hoyt). I'm actually a little shocked at these. They retail at a similar price to decent carbon/wood laminates, but are infact fibreglass/wood laminates. Why would you pay as much for a poorer average performance? It speaks for itself. (This is another case of Hoyt failing at anything less than pro level).
Budget - £200+
There are a few worth mentioning, but to be honest the price seems to grow exponentially fairly quickly after the £300 marker, so I'll leave those out. Also, to a new archer - the difference in the shoot will hardly be noticable!
- Pro Accent (by Win&Win). These just stink of quality, but you pay for it. These are the cheapest carbon matrix limbs around. As someone who understands the carbon material (having handled and made a lot of it in previous jobs) I can tell you that the mix of different grains and carbon strand arangement is going to make them shoot very well and consistantly. You can find them for about £200. If you have the budget I'd say go for it. If not, don't worry about saving the pennies - the Athlete Carbons will do you just fine.
- Carbon 550 (by Hoyt). I'm going to be honest - I'm not impressed with Hoyts limbs. They retail at a carbon matrix price but are only carbon/wood laminates. Do I see a trend growing here? It's true that the quality is likely to be slightly better than the Athlete Carbons - but at this cost I'd say you were mad not to go for the Pro Accents. Tsk tsk, Hoyt.
- N-Apecs Carbon Nano (by Win&Win). This is a carbon foam limb. Again, it stinks of top-quality. It also smells like they cost a lot. I'd really say that for now this is getting a bit out of a first time buyers league. There are more Win&Win limbs - but the price skyrockets. So I'll leave it here.
Second Hand Limbs
I'm going to go ahead and say you shouldn't unless you can trust they have been looked after (aka not off of eBay). Risers are chunks of metal which are pretty hard to damage unless they are treated very badly. Limbs, on the other hand, are different. Limbs can damage just by impropper storage. If you don't know the history of the limbs, you shouldn't buy them. Period. Noting that they also have a relatively short useable life, it's just common sense.
I think that if you can, you should try and get the Athlete Carbons. If you have a bit of extra money to play with then you should try and get the Pro Accents. If you struggle to find the money, I'd recommend dropping to the Vision Carbons - but I stress that this is the lowest quality pair of limbs you are going to want. If you find limbs that you aren't sure about - come to one of the seniors for help. There was excitement last year at KAYA limbs making an approach on the UK archery market - but it seems to have never really taken off. For this reason, I'd say stick away from them - the chances are the quality has been found to be below-par.
As a student, you will probably find yourself in a position where getting what you want simply isn't an option because of the price. What I'd say is that you want to minimise cost reductions with regards to the riser and limbs. These are the bits it is worth spending on early! It is possible to start cutting corners from here onwards (arrows, stabilisers, and other bits). So far, a good but cost effective setup would be (note that assuming you buy a riser NEW, and not SECOND HAND - this number can be significantly reduced if you look for risers elsewhere!):
- SF Pro + Athlete Carbon Limbs = £340 <- best value for money and damn good quality
- SF Pro + Vision Carbon Limbs = £310
- Samick Vision + Athlete Carbon Limbs = £305
- Samick Vision + Vision Carbon Limbs = £275
- Lower still, but starting to noticeably sacrifice performance...