Seen a bow for sale in a local Facebook group and the price seems too good to be true? Buying used archery equipment can be scary if you don’t know what to look for. However, it can also be a great way to get quality equipment at discount prices. That’s why we created this guide so you can decide if buying a used bow is worth it for your situation.
What Archery Equipment Can You Buy Used?
These days the Internet means you can get just about any piece of archery equipment used, from finger tabs to high-speed crossbows.That said, the more complex and expensive the item, the more used options you’ll have.
This primarily means the bows themselves. You can find used crossbows, compound bows, recurve bows and longbows.
Other archery equipment you can easily find used includes:
Arrows and bolts
Sights and scopes
Gloves and finger tabs
Stabilizers and silencers
Cocking devices and cranks
Carrying and storage cases
What Archery Equipment Should You Not Buy Used?
The primary pieces of archery equipment that you should avoid buying used are broadheads. Many broadheads, especially mechanical broadheads, are designed for single use.
Some mechanical broadheads can be reset, and most fixed-blade broadheads can be sharpened. Sometimes you can even replace the blades. Nevertheless, it’s hard to assure that they haven’t been damaged or bent in use, and the amount of money saved is rarely enough to be worth it.
Similarly, you should avoid buying used bowstrings by themselves. Bowstrings can be used thousands of times, but they are also relatively inexpensive. Since it’s hard to tell exactly how much life a bowstring has left in it, you’re likely to end up spending more per shot on a used bowstring.
For example, if you can get 2,000 shots out of a new $20 bowstring, that’s just one cent per shot. However, if someone is selling the same bowstring used for $10, but it only has 500 shots left in it, that’s two cents per shot, twice as much. In other words, it’s rarely worth it to buy a used bowstring.
The Pros of Buying Used Archery Equipment
You Save Money
The main reason people buy used archery equipment is because it’s less expensive. If two otherwise identical pieces of equipment cost the same, but one is used and the other new, everyone would choose the new one since its quality is more assured and it will likely last longer. Therefore, someone selling their used archery equipment must offer it at a discount to the new price.
The lower price is great for archers just starting out. It means a lower investment on beginner equipment that you’re likely to upgrade soon anyway.
A lower price is still nice for experienced archers, too, though. It may allow you to purchase equipment you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, and it frees up more of your budget for other equipment.
You Can Try Different Brands and Models
If you’re a big archery enthusiast, you likely enjoy trying out different types of bows and setups. Buying used gives you access to a wide range of items at lower prices, so it’s easier to try them all out. For instance, you may be able to add a used longbow, recurve bow, and compound bow all to your collection for the same price as a new compound bow.
You Can Get Involved in the Archery Community
Buying, testing, and selling used archery equipment is a great way to meet archers in your local community. As a new archer, looking at used equipment and asking for professional opinions taps you into the network of experienced enthusiasts in your area. Then, when you’re ready to upgrade, you can resell your own equipment to beginners and welcome them into the community as well.
You Reduce Waste
Buying used archery equipment gets the most out of it. If a fellow archer is upgrading, they otherwise have to throw that bow or other piece of equipment in the trash, or at best put it in the attic to collect dust. You can reduce this waste by purchasing the item.
You Can Find Models Out of Production
In some cases, you may only be able to buy a certain bow or other piece of equipment used. While there are some famous bows out there like the Bear models that have been produced for over 50 years, manufacturers usually phase out their models and replace them with newer versions.
Many archery enthusiasts want to try these older models, though. You may even collect them. In this case, you have no option but to buy them used.
The Cons of Buying Used Archery Equipment
The Quality Is Less Reliable
The primary downside of used equipment is that it’s harder to know what you’re getting. A used bow may be more or less identical to its new counterpart. Perhaps it’s only been shot a couple of times. On the other hand, it may be heavily worn or damaged with little life left in it.
You might be getting a great deal. You might be getting ripped off. It’s hard to know for sure, which is why you should follow the tips listed in the next section.
You Rarely Get a Warranty
To further complicate questions of quality, used bows and other items rarely come with warranties. With a new bow, you usually get some kind of guarantee that if there’s a defect, you can get the item replaced or your money refunded. With a used bow, you’re often out of luck.
However, there are exceptions to this. Many professional shops offer limited warranties on used and refurbished bows. Similarly, Amazon and resellers on their site sometimes provide warranties or at least the option to return the item in case of issues.
The Specs May Be Inconsistent
It’s much harder to buy used archery equipment based on specs. For one thing, the seller may simply have forgotten the bow’s specs. They may not list anything at all, or they may list a spec that’s inaccurate.
Furthermore, a used item may not actually have the same specs anymore that were originally advertised with the new model. For instance, a compound bow shooting 350 fps with a 70-pound draw weight may have been adjusted and worn to the point it no longer shoots that fast.
It Won’t Last as Long
Bows and really any piece of archery equipment have a certain lifespan. 2,000 shots, 10 years, three seasons, whatever it may be, the clock is always ticking down. Simply put, a used piece of equipment has already used up some of that lifespan.
Now, you can increase the lifespan by properly maintaining the equipment. You may even be able to refurbish a bow if you have the right skills. Nevertheless, part of its life is gone that you can never get back.
Tips for Buying a Used Bow
Decide What You Want
Although a collector might do well simply perusing the market, most archers should decide what they want to buy before seeking out a used bow. Otherwise, there are just too many options of varying quality, and it can be overwhelming.
Type of bow
You should at least decide if you want a crossbow, compound bow, recurve bow, or longbow. Crossbows and compound bows have high power and accuracy, even with little practice, so they lend themselves to bowhunting. Meanwhile, recurve bows and longbows are harder to master but have a traditional feel that’s great for bowhunting and target shooting.
Draw weight refers to the difficulty of pulling back the bowstring. For traditional bows, this number is absolute. A recurve bow with 50 pounds of draw weight takes the same effort to draw as it takes to lift 50 pounds off the floor.
Compound bows have something called “let-off,” which means it’s easier to draw than its draw weight would suggest. However, the same principle still applies: more draw weight, more power.
Generally, beginners want lower draw weights, not only because it makes the bow easier to draw but also because the speed is easier to manage and practice on. That said, if you plan on bowhunting, many states have minimum legal draw weights for certain game, so you should keep that in mind.
Draw length is one of the most important things you should consider before looking at a used bow. Basically, this is the distance you have to pull the bowstring to reach full draw.
This is a big deal because if a bow’s draw length is too big for you, you won’t be able to use its full power. If it’s too small, it will affect your accuracy.
You can estimate your draw length by taking your height and dividing it by 2.5. However, as a general rule, bigger bows have bigger draw length, so bigger archers need bigger bows.
Research the Model
Once you know what you want, you can start seeing what’s available on the used market that fits your requirements. Then, research what you find. Go online and search for reviews of given models and check for common defects and parts of the bow that break down faster than others as well as durability ratings. This way you know what to look for when you go see the bow.
Also be sure to note the price of the new model. This helps you gauge whether the used version is worth it. If it’s heavily used but the seller is only taking a few bucks off the price, don’t go for it.
Inspect It Thoroughly
If you’ve read reviews and think a given used bow might be a good fit, go see it. Rub your fingers over the entire bow including the riser and limbs to check for cracks that may not be visible to the naked eye. This is a big red flag since it could cause the bow to splinter later when you shoot it. Check the limbs for warping as well.
If it’s a compound bow or compound crossbow, you should also look at the cam system. Look for cracks, worn areas or bends.
Don’t forget the bowstring, either. While most bowstrings can be easily replaced, if someone is trying to sell you a bow with a heavily frayed string, you may be able to negotiate a price reduction.
Finally, give the entire bow and all its accessories a quick lookover. Make sure everything is sturdy and attached properly.
Test It Out
While not all sellers will be willing, you should try your best to test out any bow you’re looking at. Shoot it a few times. At the very least, this shows you that the bow works and isn’t about to crumble in your hands. You should also listen for any weird sounds and feel for strange vibrations that suggest the bow’s integrity has been compromised.
Plus, testing out the bow just gives you a better idea of whether it suits you. Feel the draw length and draw weight. Is it comfortable? Can you see yourself shooting the bow for a long time?
Ask a Professional
Many people recommend taking a used car to a professional mechanic to check it out. Why not do the same with a used bow? If the seller is willing, take the bow to your local archery shop or bowyer and see what they have to say about it. These professionals can often spot defects you can’t, and they can give a better assessment of the bow’s quality and value.
Ask About Its History
There isn’t a Carfax for used bows, unfortunately, but you can still do your best to get information on the item’s history. Some key questions you should ask the previous owner include:
Has it ever been dry fired?
Did you buy it new?
How often did you shoot it?
Did you take it in for regular maintenance?
Did you adjust it yourself?
Did you make any modifications?
What type of archery did you use it for?
Where was it stored?
You can also simply ask why they’ve chosen to sell it. Use your instincts and best judgment to gauge the trustworthiness of the seller and avoid getting tricked.
Where to Buy a Used Bow
Amazon is an excellent place to buy used archery equipment. Many times people return a bow because they decided they didn’t want it or didn’t like the look or size after seeing it. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with the bow, and they return it having never even used it. The Amazon Warehouse then resells these items at a discount, so you basically get a new bow at a lower price. Other sellers also sell used bows on the Amazon platform, and in both cases, it might be possible to get a guarantee or at least the option to return the bow for a full or partial refund.
eBay is a great place to look for used bows since it’s an auction site. You can decide on a budget and stick to it. You just need to be careful and buy from trusted sellers with good reviews. It’s also worth checking to see if a given seller offers any kind of guarantee.
Local Archery Shops
Your local archery shops likely sell used or refurbished bows. This is an ideal place to look because you can usually test them out on their range. Plus, you can attach a face and professional bowyer to the bow, so if you have any problems, you know who to contact.
Finally, ask around and check local listings in newspaper classifieds and on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other platforms. If buying from private individuals this way, it’s always best to physically look at the bow and test it out, if not take it in to a professional to look over. The quality can vary widely, and some sellers may not be honest about the bow’s history and state.
So, Is It Worth It to Buy Used Archery Equipment?
It’s usually worth it to buy used archery equipment, especially bows. This is particularly true for beginners and those on a budget who want to minimize costs. Just make sure you follow our tips to verify the bow’s quality and ensure that you’re still getting an effective piece of equipment for the money.