The Ten Pound Draw Weight Bow–One of the Most Effective Archery Teaching Tools

A Golden Gate JOAD light draw weight bow. This left handed bow is typical of the very light draw weight bows used at Golden Gate JOAD for teaching archery.

Golden Gate JOAD utilizes a number of teaching tools to make learning archery as simple and effective as possible. The full-size, ten pound draw weight bows we purchase from Quintessential are the kind of teaching tool I think all JOAD and Adult Achievement archery training programs should have in their inventory. The bows have Polaris compatible limbs which make 8-12 pound limb / riser combinations with 23″ and 25″ all-weather Rolan risers.

Being over-bowed is the number one problem in archery and in archery instruction. Historical archery manuals from the 1800’s warn of it, as did famed archer Howard Hill. No other single factor causes so many problems. Students with bows that are too hard to draw and hold are prone to all number of problems, from snap shooting, short-drawing, collapsed release, hollow backs, hunched shoulders to injury. Light draw weight bows make people’s lives better, both instructors and students. Instructors can mold students into shape without worrying that the student is struggling with the draw weight. And students can concentrate on learning form rather than on exercise.

A ten-pound draw weight bow is easy enough to pull that we don’t have to triage bow distribution during teaching sessions. At our beginning adult sessions, pretty much everyone is issued a ten pound bow. There are frequently a number of our new archers who are capable of drawing significantly heavier bows, but if they use one during the session they are often surprised to find they have trouble with that last inch or so of draw, or get fatigued before the 2 hour session is over. Whereas the students using the light draw weight bows are able to shoot more comfortably, using better form and do so for a longer time. For us there is no disadvantage to the light draw weight bow for training purposes.

The light draw weight bows not only help us mold archers into optimal form, they also help archers maintain that form throughout the session. And, to a certain degree, the bows teach good form on their own. Light bows magnify certain form errors such as bad releases, giving archers and coaches clear feedback. This makes them an important training tool for archers of all levels. Light bows are a key tool used at the Olympic Training center in Chula Vista, and at the Easton Foundation training center.

We typically start our beginning archers on stretch bands to teach basic form, and then transition them to ten pound bows, shooting at 122 cm Whitetail matts at around 7 yards. The bows can be shot effectively to 18 meters, and a bit beyond. 30 meters is possible, though that is pushing it a bit.

There are some considerations in using light draw weight bows in any teaching program, primarily that the targets must be soft enough to catch and hold low velocity arrows rather than dropping them or bouncing them back. We find that our Whitetail matts work very well unless they are shot out. Straw bales generally work well, too, though we sometimes supplement straw bales with a Hipps JOAD Ethafoam target and some cardboard in front. Bales made of compressed and tarred layers of carpet, found at some outdoor ranges, are less compatible.

For teaching recurve, we find that a full-size, light draw weight recurve bow, with its light mass and oblique string is the perfect fit for our program. I personally own some of the 14/16 ILF limbs for training purposes and like them a lot but I find that a dedicated light bow is more practical for teaching purposes and that metal risers are a bit heavy for beginners. I think any light draw weight bow will make a valuable, and a necessary, addition to any archery teaching program. Light draw weight bows are, IMO, a key sign of a good beginning archery instruction program. And they are the kind of tool most archers will never own even though they are very useful for learning archery, so they are just the kind of thing a training program should have–giving the program extra value to students.

The Quintisential / Rolan bows aren’t the only bows I like, but they are the ones we turn to most often because they work and work well for our program and our students. And I like shooting them myself. There is something that is just satisfying about taking out one of our ridiculously light student bows and shooting it for fun. My point on distance is 30 meters 🙂 There are other light-draw weight bows that are good for teaching archery, including 10 and 16 pound Samick Privilege ILF limbs, 10-20 pound adjustable Genesis zero let off compound bows and Ragim Wildcat recurves that are available in light draw weights.

The Quintessential / Rolan bows come separately or as packages with riser, limbs and accessories. At first I wasn’t sure about plastic as a riser material, but the Rolan risers have held up extremely well. We shoot in all kinds of weather so that is important to us. The “non-shootable” training bow is actually a shootable bow, it just needs an arrow rest. The “shootable” bow with wire rest, plunger and stabilizer rod is another option, but we currently just buy the limbs or the limbs with risers and supply our own rests since we don’t start our students off with sights or stabilizers.



  1. David Chan on August 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    One of the comments Gerard makes here is how being overbowed is a very common problem leading to poor form. Over bowed both in mass weight and draw weight can cause all kinds of things. As a coach, it takes a bit of self control to “hold someone back” as they want to shoot heavier weights because “they can”

    Too much mass weight causes fatigue while trying to hold up a bow. It often causes someone to hyperextend an elbow or arm causing string clearance issues. (anyone get slapped by that string?) For many too much mass weight without proper strengthening also causes lifting of the bow shoulder and not setting that shoulder. Both of these situations can cause pain in the shoulder, string clearance and if you are shooting with a clicker, a big struggle getting through the clicker.

    Too much draw weight often causes the archer to “lean back” to draw the bow which also raises the bow shoulder. Again string clearance, painful shoulders and possible injuries. Without proper strengthening and balanced muscle conditioning, we are just putting our students in a position of possible injury..

    Having the very lightweight bows at our disposal as teaching tools really allows us to teach proper form without the struggle, and hopefully with out the injuries.

  2. Katherine on August 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I have 30lb limbs at home but I decide to shoot the 18lb ones just not to injure myself.

    • Gerard on August 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      The lighter limbs are often a great choice, especially for archers who aren’t shooting more than once a week. Strength development in archery, and in all sports, requires practice several times a week.

      I’ve seen a number of classified ads on archery websites of heavy draw weight bows for sale by people who’ve sustained shoulder injuries. I’ve never seen a light draw weight bow being sold for that reason 🙂

  3. […] up, testing out one of the 10 pound recurve student bows. Golden Gate JOAD, instructor and webmaster Shabbir Imber Safdar steped up to the […]