Paralympic Archer Mel Clarke is an Inspiration to Children Everywhere

“I tell my story to kids and talk about not giving up”

These are the words that Mel Clarke, two-time Paralympic medallist, left us with last year after sharing her extraordinary story of sporting excellence.

As a result of contracting osteomyelitis after a fall in 1993, 11-year-old Mel found herself unable to walk, and believed that her sporting life was at an end. However, as a teenager, she discovered archery, and soon became one of the UK’s best-performing archers. But when Mel was struck down by Lyme disease at the 2003 World Archery Championships in New York City, the prognosis was grim: in fact, she wasn’t expected to survive.

Mel awoke from a two-week-long coma, paralysed from the waist down, and blind in her right eye. She left hospital and resumed her training. Mel returned from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics with a bronze medal, and the year after, she won Silver at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. At the 2012 London Paralympics, Mel won Silver – pipped at the post by her friend and fellow British competitor, Danielle Brown.

“Everything’s possible when you want to do it”

Mel retired from competition archery in May this year – for the best possible reason.

In January 2019, Mel gave birth to Cali, who’s a dream come true for Mel and her husband Richard Hennahane (also a successful para-archer). In their minds, there was always the possibility that Mel might never be able to carry a child full term. But in January, Cali discredited that theory in the same style that her mother dismissed the general opinion that she’d have to give up competitive archery.

“I can go back to archery later,” says Mel. “But I want to spend time with Cali. I won’t get this time back.”

I ask Mel about the challenges of motherhood in a wheelchair.

“Getting up at night is physically difficult … and I had to find a buggy that I could handle. But everything’s possible when you want to do it.”

“Wow! This is really making an impact”

Although Mel is not competing at the moment, she’s continuing her role of mentor for the Youth Sport Trust – a charitable organisation whose mission is to promote the general wellbeing of children through the provision of sporting opportunity.

The six main aims of the Youth Sport Trust are:

  • To transform PE’s place in the curriculum, putting it at the centre of wellbeing and achievement in education.
  • To support schools, clubs, and families to remove the causes of negative experiences for young people.
  • To unlock sport’s potential at every stage of a child’s life, especially where they face inequality or disadvantage.
  • To equip young people, through sport, with the skills, confidence, and opportunities to lead change in their communities.
  • To champion the impact of physical activity, PE, and sport through research and insight.
  • To deliver their charitable objectives through good governance, a skilled workforce, and sustainable income.

As a mentor, Mel’s work varies from small-group activities to whole-school assemblies. She talks to students of all ages, from the little ones of four years old, to young people of 18.

Many of the children Mel works with have physical disabilities, like the 14-year-old boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, whose only independent way of communicating was to turn his head left and right. Mel describes how this gutsy boy trained to be a sports leader. Using communication technology, he led sessions and delivered a presentation to his peers and their parents.

“The able-bodied kids were so impressed. And his mother was so proud! This was something she really didn’t think he’d be able to do. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is really making an impact.’ That child’s self-esteem just rocketed.”

“If I can help one person to think positively … it’s all worthwhile”

Many of the children Mel works with have behaviour issues, or are simply disengaged. The characteristic trait of a disengaged student is a lack of interest. This block to learning can be tackled by helping a disengaged child to connect what they’re learning with real-life experiences, or to incorporate group work and hands-on learning.

Because of sport’s physical nature, a child with social anxiety can feel exposed and threatened in a PE class. Self-consciousness is agony to a person with social anxiety, and fear is a barrier to participation. With patience and empathy, Mel coached a boy with very low esteem to be a sports leader.

“At first, he’d hardly speak at all – to anyone. But during our sessions, his confidence grew, and at the end of his training, this lad delivered a speech to his teachers and class-mates. His mum said, ‘He’s a different person.’”

Of course, not every child will benefit from intervention of this kind. I ask Mel if this is disheartening.

“If I can help one person to think positively about what is possible, and encourage that person to work towards achieving their goal, then I’m happy. It’s all worthwhile.”

“I’m retiring with two titles, which is nice!”

Even Mel doesn’t know whether or not she’ll be returning to competition archery. But if this really is retirement, Mel has hung up her bow alongside the titles of British National Para Champion and British Wheelchair Sport Champion. With her usual cheerful optimism, Mel says, “I’m retiring with two titles, which is nice!”

Helen George, Paralympic Archery Coach, Talks to Pellpax

In talking to the lovely Helen George, honorary life member of Archery GB, you get the feeling that every twist and turn in her life has been a sort of happy accident. Very little seems to have been planned, and the unexpected has been not so much a case of a dramatic fall into a situation, but more of a smooth slide into it. The wonderful thing about Helen, though, is that as she slides into a new scene, she embraces it wholeheartedly.

The Young Helen

Helen, who was born and brought up in Scotland, took a huge step at 16 years old when she joined the Civil Service and moved to Reading, in the south of England. After about five years in the Tax Office, Helen changed jobs and worked for a short period as a milk recorder. In 1967, and now back in Scotland, Helen joined the Royal Air Force, in Air Traffic Control.

Stationed at RAF Prestwick, in South Ayrshire, Helen took up every sporting opportunity that presented itself. She had the honour of representing the RAF at the Royal Tournament, in a driving event. And she met a very special young man: Tony George.

In 1971, Helen and Tony left the RAF and married. Having been trained in electronics, Tony’s work was with computers. In those early days of information technology, the computer programmer’s life was often a peripatetic one, and for many years, the couple moved around the country to wherever Tony’s work led them; in 1992, they settled down in the north-east of England.

GB archery squad for the Czech Republic games

Getting into Archery

One of Tony’s interests was archery (“At that time, I thought it was boring.”), and in the true spirit of matrimonial compromise, Helen took up the sport to keep him company.

“I started doing archery in 1989, and I shot for Northampton County. But after a couple of years, old injuries – ones I’d sustained from other sports – started causing me problems, and it was becoming difficult to shoot competitively. As a competitor, I couldn’t cope with this. Following advice from David Clarke, who was GB Team Manager at the time, I took up coaching. With his help and encouragement, I went up through the coaching grades to reach Senior Coach level with Archery GB.”

During the 1990s, Helen and Tony George enjoyed several short breaks at Bush Farm, a picturesque B&B in the Shropshire countryside. The B&B owner, Ann Webb, was at that time manager of the GB Paralympic archery team and Honorary Chairman of the Para-Archery Committee. Through their acquaintance with Ann Webb, Helen and Tony became interested in helping with para-archery events.

“In 1998, we helped as general dogsbodies at the first ever FITA World Championships at Stoke Mandeville. By the way, FITA is now known as the World Archery Federation. This event piloted the new archery-specific classification system, which is still used today.”

Stoke Mandeville: Birthplace of the Para-Sport Movement

Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was, metaphorically speaking, father of the para-sport movement. He was a brilliant German neurologist and passionate advocate of physical exercise as a means of therapy for injured military personnel. It was Dr Guttmann, a Jewish refugee, who set up the National Spine Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire. This specialist unit, opened in February 1944, became the birthplace of revolutionary new therapeutic systems, which focused on the building of physical strength and self-respect.

On July 29th 1948, as the Olympic Games were officially kicked off in London, the very first Stoke Mandeville Games were being held at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Organised by Dr Guttman, this competition was a sporting arena for wheelchair athletes from all over the UK – a harbinger of great things to come. When Dutch ex-servicemen joined the competition in 1952, the event became known as the International Stoke Mandeville Games.

In 1960, Dr Guttman held the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games in Rome, alongside the Olympic Games, and from then on, the newly named Paralympic Games have taken place every four years. Since the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea, the Paralympics have been held in the same host city as the Olympic Games, and the two competitions have been united.

Those who were acquainted with Dr Guttmann have told Helen that he was a very determined and forceful man.

Coach and Ambassador for Disabled Archers

Ambassador for Disabled Archers
By the beginning of the 21st century, Helen and Tony George were well and truly immersed in the world of para-archery.

“In the early 2000s, we were involved in the establishment of visually impaired archery. As the technical delegate for archery, I travelled to Madrid and China in the campaign to bring VI archery into the fold of the International Blind Sport Association.”

As a high-level archery coach, Helen’s expertise was employed in para-development, a scheme that received sponsorship from the Worshipful Company of Fletchers.

“My role was to identify new talent, interview potential candidates for the Paralympic team, and manage training sessions.”

In 2007, Helen became Chair of Archery GB’s Disability Committee, and in 2009, she joined the para-squad coaching team.

In that same year, 2009, Helen teamed up with a colleague, Tim Hazell, and together they founded the Pass-It-On scheme – a training course for coaches, specifically for the coaching of people with disabilities.

“Part of the training meant that coaches had to get around in wheelchairs, which made them aware of doorways, height issues, aching arms, and so on. We’d insist that they spend long periods in wheelchairs, so that they could grasp the full implications of this type of restriction. Anyway, on one occasion, I said to a young able-bodied international archer, who’d been in a wheelchair all day, ‘Are you going to shoot now?’ She looked me in the eye and said, ‘On your bike.’”

With a background in engineering, Tim Hazell was – and still is – skilled in finding solutions to challenges. With a knack for thinking outside the box, he invented bespoke equipment and techniques for his students. Today, he runs his own company, Elephant in the Room, which provides expert training in disability awareness.

After nearly five years, Helen resigned from the squad in order to join the World Archery Para Committee. (Members of this committee must take an impartial role, and are therefore not permitted to be affiliated with a national team.) Working alongside Qualified International Classifiers – who, by the way, are forbidden to assess and provide classification for a compatriot – Helen was involved in rules and classification. She remained on the World Archery Para Committee until 2017.

“After the London Paralympics, in 2012, some of the classification rules changed, and several top archers were no longer eligible to compete in the Paralympic Games. Danni Brown, for instance, was no longer considered disabled enough. In Danni’s case, though, this was partly due to her own hard work; her strength and balance had greatly improved through training.”


The Present and the Future

British Wheelchair Archery AssociationHelen continues to work hard for the BWAA (British Wheelchair Archery Association), an organisation that promotes para-archery and supports individuals in every aspect of the sport.

Between October and April, the BWAA runs training weekends at Stoke Mandeville. This event is for every disabled archer, from beginners to world champions. Fully adapted accommodation is available at the venue, and top-class coaches are on hand to deliver training sessions and offer expert advice. If you attend a BWAA training weekend, you’ll be sure to run into Helen.

Earlier this year, Helen and Tony received the Archery GB Silver Plaquette Award 2018 for: supporting disabled archery at Stoke Mandeville; promoting VI archery; the Pass-It-On scheme; their contribution to the BWAA, LimbPower, and WheelPower. Helen still plays an active role in the WheelPower Multi Sports Events at Stoke Mandeville.

Helen is currently coaching the talented archer, Ken Hargreaves, who has recently made qualifying scores for the GB para-team. Ken has been using a wheelchair since suffering a spinal cord injury in 2003, and he is accompanied everywhere by his faithful assistance dog, Fred.

“Fred is wonderful,” Helen told me. “If Ken drops anything, Fred picks it up. At the Invictus Games in Toronto last year, Prince Harry gave him a special bandana!”

Over the last 20 years, Helen has contributed hugely to the para-sport movement. She is truly someone who has made a difference.

“The sport’s taken us all over the world, and we’ve made an awful lot of friends through it.”

Mel Clarke, Para-Archery Champion, Talks to Pellpax

It was an enormous pleasure – and great fun – to talk to Mel Clarke, record-breaking archery champion and two-time Paralympic medallist. By the age of 20, Mel had been struck down by two debilitating illnesses, but that didn’t prevent the budding child athlete from blossoming into the superb world-class contender that she has become.

Her story is quite remarkable.


Mel, born and brought up in Norfolk, was a lively, competitive little girl, who enjoyed a wide range of sports, including football, rugby, dancing, and athletics; at a very young age, she was running for her county. But after a serious fall during a dance exam, which led to hospitalisation and surgery, Mel had to come to terms with the fact that her legs would never work properly again.

She was just 11 years old.

As a result of the injury, Mel developed osteomyelitis (a bone infection) in her hip. Her mobility now depended on a wheelchair or crutches. She lost all interest in sport.

“I was pretty much told I couldn’t do sport, because I was in a wheelchair. I was allowed to play table tennis, but I found that boring.”
Mel Clarke Archery

Finding Archery

In her teens, Mel was a Girl Guide Young Leader, and was helping to run the local Guide sessions. Her life turned a corner at 15 years old, when she took part in the Guides’ have-a-go archery event.

“I liked the way I was treated the same as everyone else. If I missed the target, I had to go and retrieve my arrow; nobody did it for me. Being treated equally helped me to gain independence … and I really enjoyed the archery.”

Four years after first picking up a bow, Mel was competing at international level, winning a gold medal and setting six IPC (International Paralympic Committee) records at the Disabled European Archery Championships in Poland. The year after, 20-year-old Mel became the first European disabled archer to compete in an able-bodied event at international level.

It was 2003, and Mel was competing at the World Archery Championships.

Contracting Lyme Disease

When Mel collapsed at the 2003 World Archery Championships in New York City, USA, it appeared that she was suffering from the July heat. However, Mel’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and she was rushed to hospital, where she remained unconscious for two weeks, connected to a life-support machine.

The prognosis was grim; doctors did not expect Mel to survive.

Mel was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia, carried by ticks of the genus Ixodes. Mel was now paralysed from the waist down and had lost all vision in her right eye. Her hearing, too, was damaged.

It wasn’t long, however, before Mel was itching to get back to her archery. Doctors, family members, and friends all said that this was impossible and that they wouldn’t allow it. But Mel was a determined young woman, and eventually her persistence paid off.
Mel Clarke Paralympic Games
Being right handed, Mel had previously relied on her right eye for archery, and her blindness in this eye posed problems. Rather than train her whole body to left-handed shooting, Mel began to shoot with her head turned to the right, allowing her to use her left eye whilst drawing with her right arm. This awkward-looking stance has become second nature to Mel, and familiar to her fellow shooters and her fans.

Life goes on

Paralysed from the waist down and blind in one eye, Mel continued to attack life’s challenges with her own characteristic vigour. The additional disabilities that were a result of the Lyme Disease did not deter Mel from resuming her role of teaching assistant at Bignold Primary School, near Norwich. I spoke to some of Mel’s former colleagues.

“She had the ability to motivate and inspire – to build a nurturing rapport with individuals and groups,” Laura Bounden told me. “I’m sure the children were influenced by her determination to achieve her many goals, even when faced with really difficult situations.”

“The children never saw her disability as a barrier,” said Julie Formoy, “because she was able to overcome any barriers she came across.”

Janet Wright, former headteacher at Bignold, said of Mel, “She showed everyone – staff and children alike – that disability in any form does not, and should not, stop anyone from always trying to do their best.”

Mel was now confined to her wheelchair full time – no longer able to get around using crutches.

“Mel’s wheelchair provided added excitement to our days,” continued Mrs Wright. “As well as trying to avoid her as she raced the thing though corridors and negotiated crowded classrooms, she decorated it to celebrate various events at school and in her own life. Flags, Union Jack decals, and flashing lights were quite normal – and Christmas brought out all the glitter imaginable!”

Claire Gabillia summed up the feelings of the whole staff: “We are very proud to have met, worked with, and become friends with Mel.”

Mel worked at Bignold until 2007, when she left to begin full-time archery training in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. To this day, the staff and children of Bignold First School and Nursery continue to follow her career, and Mel is considered to be one of the greatest influences in the history of that little school.

Mel returned from the Beijing Paralympics with a bronze medal. The year after, she won Silver at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. At the 2012 London Paralympics, Mel won Silver, pipped at the post by her friend and fellow British competitor, Danielle Brown.

A combination of shooting, weight work, and wheeling, on top of an old injury, began to take its toll on Mel’s right wrist. During 2015, the pain and swelling in her wrist became so bad that Mel was no longer able to draw her bow. She therefore transferred this task to her elbow, using a bespoke release aid that she designed and built for herself.

“I used a tennis-elbow cup, climbing rope, carabiners … and a bit of initiative! I’m the only person in the world,” she added cheerfully, “who shoots using an elbow and the wrong eye!”

Mel Clarke Champion
This home-made release aid proved to be so efficient, that Mel built a similar mechanism for her team mate, Jo Frith. Jo, a world-class swimmer, who took up archery at the age of 51, has won numerous medals at international competitions, including a gold and a silver at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Jo is the reigning European para-archery champion.

Due to multiple health problems, including the wrist injury, Mel didn’t compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. With the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in sight, though, Mel’s training is back on track. She shoots 200 arrows a day, six days a week, and works out at the gym on a regular basis.

But Mel always makes time for visits to schools, in her role as athlete mentor. She says, “I tell my story to kids, and talk about not giving up.”

The future

Once again, Mel’s life is changing dramatically, because she is about to become a mother. Mel and her long-term partner, 37-year-old Richard Hennahane (an archer who reached the last 16 at the 2012 London Paralympics), are expecting their first child in December, and the couple are to be married next spring.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to people who know Mel well, and in every case, their words are full of love and admiration. One of her coaches told me, “She’s so unlucky. If anyone’s going to fall out of a wheelchair, it’s Mel!”

Frankly, I’m amazed at how Mel Clarke has flourished through such overwhelming adversity.

Mel says simply, “You learn to adapt to anything in life.”

Choosing Your Compound Bow

Compound bow
Some of you may have already read our Guide to Choosing Archery Equipment for Pros – even if you have we want to help you with your compound bows too. Despite the mechanical advantage that the cam system provides, a compound bow is still just a tool, and, ultimately, all the power of a shot comes from the archer. The energy in the speeding arrow is transferred from the bow, and the energy stored in the bow is transferred from the archer’s body. Even a ‘powerful’ bow won’t do the work by itself!

What is the Right Draw Weight?

Cam Close up

A compound bow reaches its peak draw weight before full draw. This is due to the letting-off mechanism, which releases much of the pressure at the final stage of the draw. So, the peak draw weight occurs before the bow is fully drawn.

A compound bow’s draw weight is usually adjustable within a range of 10 or 15lbs and is adjusted by tightening or loosening the bolts that join the limbs to the riser. A bow that’s advertised as having a 60lbs draw weight can be adjusted to a draw weight of anything between 50lbs (or possibly 45lbs) and 60lbs. If you’re new to archery, don’t try to shoot with too great a draw weight to begin with. Start on the low side; upper body strength will soon build up with practice.

This is a generalised guide to appropriate draw weight:

  • Children (6-9 years): 10-20 lbs
  • Children (9-12 years): 20-35 lbs
  • Teenagers and smaller women: 35-45 lbs
  • Women: 45-55 lbs
  • Men: 55-70 lbs

How to Measure Draw Length

Draw length is the distance between the grip (on the riser) and the centre of the string at full draw. Unlike a traditional bow, a compound bow must be drawn to its maximum capacity, and no further. This means that your compound bow must be the correct draw length for you.

To find out your draw length, use this simple formula:

arm span divided by 2.5

Measure your arm span, which is usually equal to your height, and divide by 2.5. If your arm span is 68”, your draw length will be 28” (68/2.5). If your arm span is 73”, your draw length will be 30” (73/2.5). If your arm span is 60”, your draw length will be 24” (60/2.5) … and so on.

The longer the draw length, the longer the power stroke, which equates to higher arrow velocity. In fact, 1” of draw weight is worth about 10 feet per second (FPS) of arrow speed. A bow’s speed is always tested at 30” draw length. So, if your bow’s speed is advertised as 300 FPS, and your draw length is 25”, you can expect to shoot arrows at a maximum velocity of 250 FPS.

Full draw length with arrow


What is the Brace Height?

A bow’s brace height is the distance between the deepest part of the riser to the string (at rest). A shorter brace height means a longer draw stroke, which means more stored energy.

The brace height is related to the overall draw length. If your draw length is 26”, and your bow has a brace height of 6”, the distance over which you’re actually pulling (and storing energy in the bow) is 20”. A fellow archer, who has a draw length of 28” and a bow of 8” brace height, will also be pulling over a distance of 20”.

Because the other chap’s arrow remains in contact with the bow for longer, his arrow will have more stability. If your bow has a brace height of 8”, your pulling distance will be 18”, and your arrows will be more stable … and they’ll be slightly slower.

Choose Wisely

Does speed really matter?

Yes, of course it does, to a point. But don’t let a desire for speed take priority over comfort, accuracy, and safety. Go with your correct draw length. A slight loss of speed is insignificant when compared to the consistent accuracy that can be achieved with a well-suited bow.

Take a look at our range of Compound Bows here from manufacturers such as Ek Archery and Barnett.

For more information about archery equipment, phone 01263 731 585 and speak to James, our in-house expert.

Alternatively, talk to James on Live Chat at

Fletching Your Arrows

What is Fletching?

Near to the rear of an arrow, there are three feathers or plastic vanes – two of one colour, and the other in a contrasting colour – collectively called the fletching. The purpose of the fletching is stability. When all is going to plan, and the arrow is flying in a perfectly straight line, the fletches will slice through the air without changing the course of the arrow. If, on the other hand, the arrow is wobbling, and its tail is not perfectly following its tip, it will be brought back into line and stabilised, due to friction between the fletching and the air.

arrows flight close up

For centuries, fletching was made of feathers – after all, they’re nature’s own design, and they obviously work. Despite enormous leaps forward in technological design, feathers are still contenders in a ‘Who’s best?’ contest. In fact, even the new kid on the block, the compound bow, is sometimes spotted shooting arrows with feather fletching.

Understanding the Structure of a Flight

The rigid structure of interlocking barbs and hooks in a primary flight feather is due to a protein called keratin, which allows the feather to retain its shape when wet. Although the right kind of feather will not be ruined by getting wet, it will, nevertheless, be heavier with the added weight of water. But if you’re set on using feather fletching, you can use a waterproofing powder, designed specifically for this purpose.

The rough, latticed surface of a natural feather is second to none when it comes to creating friction with air, and this is a big attribute when it comes to stabilisation. And despite amazing advancements in the science of synthetic materials, no plastic vane is anywhere near as lightweight as a feather.

If you want to learn more about the things to look for when buying archery items, check out our Buyers Guide to Archery for Newbies, or the Buyers Guide to Archery for Pros.

Feather versus Plastic

ek archery arrow flightHowever, the most popular choice of fletching for today’s archer is the inexpensive, durable, waterproof plastic vane. Available in a seemingly endless range of colour and size, these soft, flexible vanes can be easily applied in whichever formation you prefer. Even after a fair amount of rough treatment, they’ll pop back into shape; and if they become really warped, you can usually get them back into shape with a bit of heat treatment – a hair drier is the best thing to use.

If you choose plastic vane fletching, you must also make a decision about the angle (or turn) of the fletch on the arrow shaft. Will your priority be speed, or accuracy? Will your choice be restricted by the design of your bow?

A straight fletch is affixed to the shaft in a perfectly straight position, running parallel with the shaft itself. The vane slices through the air, causing minimal friction, and therefore no loss of speed. However, because straight fletching prevents the arrow from spinning, the arrow can become unstable and less able to right itself. This disadvantage becomes more significant the further you have to shoot.

The helical fletch is attached to the arrow’s shaft at an angle, and the fletch itself is also curved, creating maximum wind resistance, and therefore plenty of spin. This spin will help to stabilise your arrow in the same way that a pellet is stabilised by the rifling effect of an airgun. Stability, of course, leads to improved accuracy, but the large amount of friction that causes this fast spin will slow your arrow down.

archer and bows

Which Flies Better – Helical or Straight?

The helical formation is really the only option for feather fletching, as it’s just about impossible to force the naturally curved feather into a straight line. Helical fletching is also ideal for bows of low draw weight. With less speed, there is less stability, so the more spin you can get, the better.

But is there a middle road between the straight and the helical fletch? Yes, there is! It’s the offset fletch.

The offset fletch is straight, but it’s turned at an angle on the arrow shaft. This is an effective solution in cases where the arrow rest doesn’t provide enough clearance for helical fletching to pass through. Contact between the arrow rest and the fletching will compromise speed and stability.

In the case of helical or offset fletching, which way should the arrow spin? The answer is, in general, clockwise – to the right, as you look at the arrow from the nock. It’s all to do with the thread of the tip. When the arrow enters the target counter-clockwise, the tip will unscrew; when it goes in clockwise, it will tighten.

To ensure a clockwise spin, make sure that the upper end of the fletch (the end closest to the tip) is offset to the right as you look down on the arrow from the nock end.

Does Size Matter?

Now, what about size? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does.

When shooting over long distances – 100 meters or more – you’ll do well to use fletches of at least 4” long. The further your arrow travels, the more vulnerable it is to instability. Therefore, every bit of surface area in your fletching will count. Whether you choose to use straight, offset, or helical fletching will depend on other variables in your equipment and environment.

Check out our wide range of arrows and bolts, or you can have a read of How to Become a Competitive Archer on our blog

A Buyers Guide to Crossbows

There are many different crossbows on the market, so today we’re going to be looking at a few of the very best, and comparing them to see what is the right choice for you.

Recurve Crossbows

First off is recurve crossbows. These crossbows operate much like traditional bows that have been turned sideways and mounted on a stock. The power of the bow comes from the tension housed within the recurve limbs that are drawn back with the string, and which are then released when the trigger is pulled.

Recurve crossbows have been used for centuries, and the advantage of them is that because the design is so simple, they are very easy to maintain and are unlikely to go wrong. Let’s have a look at some examples.

EK Archery Jaguar I

The Jaguar from EK is the ideal starter crossbow. With a draw weight of 150lbs, the crossbow is easy to draw, but will still produce velocities well in excess of 200fps. This means the bolt will fly nice and straight and be accurate enough for target shooting at around 60 yards. The maximum range is obviously much greater – 100 yards plus – but at 60 you should be able to hit a bullseye pretty consistently.

The crossbow is made from a mixture of aluminium and polymer, which keeps the crossbow light, but doesn’t sacrifice any strength. This makes the bow not only easy to transport and carry, but also eliminates fatigue whilst aiming, allowing you to stay more accurate for longer. The only complaint I have about the stock is that the butt is entirely polymer, with no rubber butt pad. This may increase strength, but it makes the crossbow a little uncomfortable to get into the right position.

The bow is equipped with basic iron sights and also sports a rail for red dots, scopes or other optics. It would have been nice for another rail somewhere that could hold a torch, but for the price I really can’t complain. This crossbow is available at £58.99 which is frankly a bargain; it will shoot twice as far as any sub 12ft/lb airgun, and is accurate to a tee.

Honestly, this crossbow is fantastic for the price; it’s just hampered by a lack of options and a slightly uncomfortable design. If, however, you can look past these niggles, you’ll end up with a very effective, if a little basic, target crossbow.


Barnett Recruit 150lbs

At almost four times the price of the EK, the Barnet had better be good to justify itself. Luckily, the crossbow is extremely well made and the build quality is apparent as soon as you pick it up. The crossbow feels both light and strong and is exceptionally balanced, making you want to draw it up to your shoulder almost instinctively.

The crossbow has a draw weight of 150lbs and also 65ft/lbs of muzzle energy. This makes the bow both easy to draw and also powerful enough to provide good range. The crossbow has a fantastically responsive, moulded metal trigger that houses a predictable let off that helps prevent you from “pulling” your shot.

In addition to the crossbow, the Recruit comes with a lightweight bolt quiver, three bolts, lube wax and even a red dot sight. There are much better quality sights available, such as the models by Hawke or Meopta, but to have one included with the bow is a nice touch. The bolts included with the bow are also not of particularly high quality, and, to be honest, the accessories included would be something I’d replace if I was using this crossbow day in day out.

The bow is also equipped with an anti-dry-fire system to prevent the most common way of bow breakages, and this makes the bow feel very reliable. The crossbow is able to achieve around 2” groups at 50 yards, pretty impressive, and I’m sure with a little training you could maybe get this up to 70 plus.

The Recruit is a good bow and definitely a step up in quality from the Jaguar, I don’t think it’s four times better though, especially when it comes to accuracy and power, which are almost identical.

Compound Crossbows

Compound bows use twin cams at the end of each limb to a) increase the bow’s power and b) to prevent tension being stored in the string when the bow is drawn, which minimises the risk of dry fire and breakages. Compound bows tend to be more expensive than recurves and take more maintenance.

EK Archery Blade

The Blade, from EK Archery, is their entry level model in the compound bow market, and is ideal for those looking for maximum power from a minimum price. The Bow comes with all the accessories you need to get started: 4×32 crossbow scope, cocking rope, 3-bolt quiver, 3 x 20″ aluminium bolts, and string wax, consequently making this crossbow a perfect choice for beginners.

I would advise against younger shooters using this bow, however, as even with the cocking rope provided, the Blade takes a fair effort to cock. Not too hard to be impossible, but one of those ones where everyone says they find it really easy, but you can see their face going a bit red and a few beads of sweat forming after each shot. No one likes to admit defeat, I guess. Now in and of itself, this is not much of a problem, but in younger hands I could see this leading to a dry fire if the rope isn’t cocked fully.

The blade has an extendable, M4-style stock that makes it suitable for people of all shapes and sizes, and the level of comfort has been greatly improved over the Jaguar with a moulded shape that fits neatly into the shoulder. The crossbow also shoots incredibly well. I’m impressed with EK’s ability to produce great performance from such inexpensive bows. The Blade is responsive and manoeuvrable in the hands, and will deliver tight and effective groupings at ranges of up to 60 yards.

A great starter crossbow that includes everything needed for a beginner to get into their shooting hobby.

Barnett Edge

The Edge is a serious piece of kit. One of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to cock. With a draw weight of only 135lbs and the bow’s cam’s greatly reducing tension on the string, the Edge is quick and easy to load up. Even after 20 or so shots, the Edge was nowhere near as hard on my arms as the Blade, and this will keep your aim straighter for longer.

This doesn’t mean that the crossbow is lacking power, however, and the Edge will produce a whopping 110+ ft/lbs of muzzle energy. Yeah, quite a bit more than I expected, to be honest. This makes the Edge absolutely in a league of its own when it comes to range, and the added power also helps keep the bolt straight in flight, adding to the crossbow’s accuracy. I have heard reports of the riser being slightly off centre with some crossbows, which makes them difficult to sight in, but my model was absolutely fine. I seem to have pretty good luck when it comes to these things.

The crossbow comes equipped with a variety of safety features, such as an automatic safety and an anti-dry-fire mechanism, and the crossbow also has all the usual accessories. The scope, in particular, is fantastic; it’s 4×32 with excellent clarity and coated lenses to help maximise light transfer in low light. It is certainly a step up from the plain tubes included with less expensive models.

Speaking of expense, the Edge is the most expensive crossbow I’ve tested here – by some margin as well – and I’m not really sure what it does to justify its price tag. It’s nice to shoot, sure; it’s easy to cock; and it’s very accurate. But actually, so is the EK, which is a fraction of the price. The build quality is good, but not exceptional, and although I was impressed shooting the bow, I would think long and hard before buying one for that amount of money.

Pistol Bows

These are like regular bows that instead of needing to be shouldered can be fired from a pistol grip. These bows are typically less powerful, though still more powerful than an airgun, and also smaller than a regular crossbow. The majority of these will feature recurved limbs, although there are a few compound pistol crossbows sneaking onto the market.

EK Cobra

The EK Cobra is perhaps the most popular pistol bow we sell, and the reason for this is clear: the whole bow costs just £17.99, including bolts.

The pistol bow is incredibly easy to cock, and features an ingenious system that pulls back the string by pressing a button and moving the stock back, which pulls two metal hooks backwards, cocking the crossbow. This system is great, as it’s easy to use and eliminates the need for fiddling around with the bow’s small strings; and it also prevents dry fire. In fact, it’s such a good system, I can see it spreading to other pistol bows if EK haven’t patented it.

The Cobra has a draw weight of 80lb and shoots exceptionally well for its size. The bow is equipped with iron sights that are adjustable, but there’s no rail for external optics. The bow is also equipped with safety, which must be pushed forward to fire, and the trigger of the bow is machined metal for added durability.

All in all, this pistol bow is very well equipped, and I can’t get over how cheap it is. At under £18, this crossbow is cheaper than half a tank of petrol or a meal out with the missus, and will be infinitely more fun than either of these. Honestly, this pistol bow is great, and, for the price, is one of the most fun items we sell.

Hopefully this has given you a few options to consider. Personally, I like the Cobra as it is still pretty powerful for a pistol and it is just so cheap!


Crossbow Face Off : Barnett Raptor FX3 vs EK Archery Torpedo 185lbs


This month’s Face Off is a crossbow special. We take a look at these beasts from Barnett and EK Archery, to see which is best…

Barnett and EK Archery have been vying for position in the compound crossbow market for many years so today we are going to take two of their crossbows and compare and contrast to find out who is the ultimate winner.

First Impressions : 

The first thing you notice when picking up the Barnett is it is incredibly light. The specs say it weight around 6.4 lbs but in all honestly it feels a lot lighter than this because of its excellent balance and angled foregrip that enables a precise grip with the front hand leading to easier movement and aiming. Good balance like this is an aspect that is often overlooked with lower priced crossbows that often tend to favour raw power over actually accuracy. Largely in part due to the uninitiated thinking that the higher numbers on the box, the better their crossbow will be.

One thing that detracts from the Barnett however is the colouring. The shape of the crossbow looks great but I’m not to keen on the camouflage look even when its done well and here it seems so unnecessary. Paper targets don’t often notice predators so I don’t known who you are meant to be hiding from. And OK, I can concede that maybe the camo is to help our more trigger happy friends across the Atlantic ocean, but then why then is there giant orange lettering down the limbs? Ah well.

The EK Torpedo looks much more to my taste, black, straight lines and a more tactical appearance. I can even forgive the limbs which feature a carbon fibre effect despite being fibreglass (why?) because the overall appearance of the crossbow is good. However, the Torpedo feels heavier than the Barnett particularly at the front end and the grip at the front is not as nice leading to an unbalanced front end. This could potentially negatively affect accuracy as well as tiring your leading arm faster than average.

I’m inclined to give the win to the Barnett here as how your gun, or in this case bow, looks in comparison to how it shoots so it is the light weight of the Barnett that tips the balance in its favour. Just make it black next time please.

Winner : Barnett Raptor FX3


The EK Archery Torpedo

The Barnett is well equipped with cocking rope, quiver, bolts and a 4×32 scope with mounts. While this is all nice to have and allows you to get shooting straight out of the box,  if serious target shooting is what is required an upgrade to the scope, to a Hawke or Meopta maybe, and definitely an upgrade to the bolts, which are not very good quality at all, would be required.

The Barnett also features an adjustable buttpad which is a nice touch allowing to to fit snugly into the shoulder and is also equipped with an easy to use safety and an anti dry fire mechanism which prevents the crossbow from firing unless a bolt is loaded. A key mechanism as dry firing is the leading cause of crossbow malfunction. There are some reports on the internet of the original Raptor snapping strings due to the recoil from the limbs being too large. This particular problem seems to be have been fixed with the FX3 as the string used is much tougher and I have had no problems with strings during testing.

The EK comes equipped with the same items as the Barnett although the scope is somewhat nicer being a 4×32 IR or illuminated reticle that can be lit up to allow for easier targeting and better performances in bright sunlight or night. The stock of the EK is also extendable in a similar fashion to a M4 or AR15 which grants snug shouldering for shooters of all sizes. Also the quiver of the Torpedo will hold 6 bolts as opposed to just 3 held by the Raptor. The Torpedo is also fitted with an anti dryfire system which is always appreciated. Also my Torpedo came with a little tube of string wax which was a nice touch as preventing your string from drying is one of the key components of maintaining an effective tool.

Both crossbows are pretty well equipped in their own way so I’m going to call this a draw.

Winner : Draw


The Barnett has a draw weight of 150lbs meaning it is able to be drawn by hand. I would almost always recommend drawing the crossbow with a cocking aid however as it provides a more reliable and even draw. The Barnett will shoot 20 inch carbon bolts at around 330 FPS which makes the Barnett accurate to around 50 yards and will require some pretty thick padding to stop the bolts. Trust me, a foam target will not be enough. I have heard horror stories of bolts going though garden fences and also the car behind it so always ensure you know what is behind your target.

The Torpedo however is even more powerful with a draw weight of 185lbs and, using the same 20inc carbon bolts produced and average fps of 356. This gives the Torpedo an effective range 60+ yards with better accuracy than the Barnett. Seriously, this thing shoots exceptionally well. I was bowled over with the performance, 1 inch groups at 50 yards is something a thousand pounds worth of airgun can’t achieve so to see it in a crossbow that is under £400 is frankly amazing. And yes I know that FAC airguns will shoot this far but you have to go out and acquire a license for one of those. A crossbow is available over the counter, providing you are over the age of 18, just like a sub 12ft/lb gun so must be compared against those.

The trigger on the Torpedo is also fantastic. It is crisp and clean with a predictable let off and enhances the precision of the crossbow. Also the Torpedo is £50 cheaper than the Raptor so this is an easy win for the EK to be honest.

Winner : EK Archery Torpedo


Having not been much of a crossbow shooter before having to test them for Pellpax I am consistently impressed by their power and accuracy, and also amazed they remain unlicensed. The UK government is notorious for clamping down on anything they consider “dangerous” so I would imagine it is only a matter of time before these were clamped down on but, as things stand, proof that you are 18+ is all that is required.

The shot for shot performance you get from one of these is simply not available elsewhere without an FAC and the ease of which these crossbows are operated makes them a real viable choice for people looking to get into target shooting. In all honestly the only advantages a 12ft/lb airgun has over one these is the price of ammunition and the ability to be able to shoot vermin.

You can get the Barnett Raptor FX3 here for £649.99.  You can get the EK Archery Torpedo here for £398.99

A Guide to Crossbows

Our resident weapons enthusiast Steph Brooks gives us the lowdown on everything you need to know about crossbows. from different types such as compound and recurve, to bolts and other accessories, and more. Read on to find out…..


So you’ve been watching The Walking Dead, have you? Daryl Dixon’s nifty crossbow skills may be new to you, but they have a very long provenance, going back thousands of years. Crossbows have been weapons of choice since their invention in rural China around the 6th century BC. Sun Tzu’s influential book “The Art of War”, which is dated around 500 BC, mentions the crossbow specifically in several chapters.

The Crossbow did not see widespread use until the battle of Hastings (1066) where crossbows were used by the French to successfully invade Britain. These crossbows used a recurve design, essentially a hunting bow laid sidewards and mounted onto a stock. The advantages of this design were that because the crossbow could be drawn with both hands it could be much more powerful than a standard bow allowing them to punch through conventional armour.

Today, crossbows are used mainly for target shooting and archery competitions where their power and accuracy allows for longer effective ranges when competing. Crossbows are also used for hunting in several parts of the world, but not in the UK where bow hunting has been illegal since 1965. The most up to date version of this law, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 did nothing to change this and crossbow hunting looks to remain illegal for the foreseeable future.


Recurve or Compound Crossbow?


There are essentially two different designs of crossbow, the recurve crossbow design, detailed above, and compound crossbows which use a series of cams to allow for more power compared to recurve bows, with shorter and sturdier limbs. Compounds use their system of cams to allow for much easier cocking and don’t require the same level of physical fitness to draw as a recurve bow of similar draw weight.

Another advantage of compound bows is that the trigger box doesn’t hold the peak tension of the bow string reducing wear on the trigger sears over time. Compound crossbows also shoot the bolt much faster for the same draw weight leading to flatter trajectories. The compound crossbow also features slimmer and sturdier designs which maintain great balance between the hands while shooting.

When it comes to recurve bows, their more traditional design is simple and effective and has been an useful tool for many centuries. Compared to the compound bow there is much less that can go wrong and when something does go wrong a bow press is not required to re-string it. If you like the idea of doing all the maintenance work yourself then recurve crossbows are the way to go.

Recurve crossbows are also cheaper than their equivalent in compound and also tend to be lighter and easier to aim. The compound bow is much easier to re-string with no special tools such a bow press required. Recurve crossbows are also more silent to shoot although the difference is not that significant, and since hunting is illegal this is not much of a consideration.


Crossbow Bolts

Instead of using traditional arrows that are used in archery, crossbows use bolts, which differ from arrows as they do not feature stabilising vanes at the back and also tend to be shorter. In conversation the words bolt and arrow are interchangeable so be aware when purchasing, particularly online.


The main body or “shaft” of the bolt can be made from a variety different materials which used to be wood but are now usually made from carbon or aluminium. Wood and plastic have a habit of splintering when striking a hard surface where as aluminium and carbon are just as lightweight, but far more resilient. Wood and plastic bolts are only really suitable for casual shooting with pistol crossbows. Carbon bolts are stronger than their equivalent in aluminium but do tend to be more expensive.

There are also two types of knocks available, half moon, which feature a concave indentation at the end, or flat. Different crossbow manufacturers recommend different knocks but the majority seem to prefer the half moon. The reason for this is that the indentation helps the bolt sit better on the string, increasing accuracy.

When it comes to the other end of the crossbow, there are several points available with the majority being variations of the broadhead designed for hunting. Here in the UK, the only points available are field points which are just sharp enough to get stuck in a target without passing all the way through or destroying it. These field points generally weigh between 125 – 150 grain with each crossbow preferring a different weight. When selecting a different bolt make sure that the bolts you buy are either the same weight or heavier than your crossbows recommended weight. Shooting lighter bolts can be very dangerous as it can cause the crossbow to dry fire which can break the limbs and will also void your warranty.


Crossbow Accessories: Scopes, Sights & More

There are many accessories that can be attached to a crossbow with the majority of crossbows, particularly compound models featuring rails that allow for the fitting of scopes, laser sights and red dot optics. With some of these crossbows shooting further than conventional air weapons, a set of optics might be the right choice.

You can either go for a conventional rifle scope with ring mounts and seeing as crossbows are capable of shooting at great range a scope such as the Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 that offers a little more zoom than standard 3-9×40s. Another option is a red dot or reflex sight that projects a red, or green, laser dot onto a glass screen allowing for easy aiming that is perfect for mid powered crossbows. For shorter range crossbows, a laser sight might be of use. These sights project lasers onto the target allowing you to see precisely where you are aiming but are only useful at short to mid range and are better suited to night time shooting where the laser is more visible.

Another accessory that is essential for any serious crossbow owner is lubrication, since the string needs this on a fairly regular basis. How often the string needs lubing depends on a variety of things, such as how often you shoot and how high the draw string is on your crossbow. Make sure to apply the wax using your fingers right along the length for the string except for the part that is above the arrow rail as it will gum up the trigger box. The best waxes are made specifically for crossbows but beeswax also does a great job.



Crossbows can be very effective tools in the right hands and combine the fun of a bow and arrow with the customisability and precision of a rifle, leading to a hobby that many people enjoy all over the country, with several ranges and clubs springing up to cater to everyone from beginners to experienced shooters.

Check out our range of crossbows here. And check out our archery shop here

Olympics Rio 2016: Shooting & Archery Roundup

Image Courtesy of National Olympic Committee

The Summer Olympics took place in Rio last month, with 11,000 athletes representing 207 Olympic Committees. USA won the overall trophy haul, with 46 gold medals, and 121 medals in total. Meanwhile, it produced an exciting set of results in the shooting and archery events.

Olympics Shooting Results

Team GB’s Ed Ling and Steve Scott both brought home bronze medals. Steve attained a perfect score of 30 in the double trap to beat team mate Tim Kneale. Scott’s career has been inspired by veteran British shooter George Digweed, as he told ShootingUK. “George Digweed was my idol and when I was working there (West Kent Shooting School) at 16 or 17, he was shooting Double Trap. I never knew about the discipline, but he asked me if I wanted to have a go and I got the bug for it. I thought ‘I’ll give this a go properly’.”

Fehaid Al-deehani won gold in the event, competing as an ‘independent Olympic Athlete’, while Italy’s Marco Innocenti took silver. Ed Ling got third place in the Men’s Trap shooting event, with the top place going to Josip Glasnovic, who was followed by Italy’s Giovanni Pellielo.

Olympics Archery Results

In archery, 128 athletes competed across 4 events, using recurve bows under World Archery rules. Korea restablished its supremacy in the event, taking back its crown from the USA, the country that aced the 2012 London Olympics, in the team event. The trio of Kim Woo-jin, Ku Bon-chan and Lee Seung-yun beat the US 6-0 to win their fourth title in the past 5 Olympics. Korea took all 4 golds avilable at the event, with Ku Bonchan and Chang Hyejin taking two each in the men’s and women’s individual competitions. Team GB’s Patrick Huston went out in the second round.

A world record was set by world number 2 archer Kim Woojin in the 72 arrow ranking round. You can see it here:


Stay tuned to our blog for more archery and shooting features, news and reviews coming your way.

Paralympics Rio 2016: Shooting & Archery Roundup

864px-ipc_logo_2004-svgThe Paralympics Took place in Rio earlier this month (Sept 2016), with competitors from around the world all contributing to the success of the games.

Team GB performing particularly well in the archery events. Jess Stretton won gold, defeating fellow Brit Jo Frith in the individual archery by 137-124. The 16 year old spoke to the BBC. “I had to try to tell myself to keep calm because I did feel under pressure and sometimes I can freak out because of that,” she said.

“I had to trick myself into thinking it was just another shooting session which was quite difficult – but I managed it.”

Frith’s appearance in the event was made all the more impressive by her health prior to the event. As she told World Archery:

“I’ve got a neurological problem. I couldn’t move and I was in more pain than usual. It was really chronic pain. The doctors here did everything they could and in the end it was getting pretty serious so they sent me off to the hospital for about two days,” Jenkins told the website.

“And then we came this morning to see whether I could pull my bow back and to see Whether I could shoot. It looked okay and not too painful. And so I just went for it really.”

Victoria Jenkins won bronze in the event, completing an impressive three medal haul for Team GB in the event.

Paralympics Shooting

Meanwhile, Iran’s female sporting shooter Sareh Javanmardi won a second gold in the P4 mixed 50-meter pistol SH1 in Rio, scoring 189.5 points to finish champion in the event. China’s Yang Chao, finished second with 186.5 to win silver, while Oleksii Denysiuk of Ukraine finished in third place to win bronze.

Indeed, women were strongly represented throughout the shooting events. Out of the six mixed shooting events, four gold medals went to the ladies, including Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova in R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) and Slovenia’s Veselka Pevec in R4.