How Safe is an Old Bow to Use?

I have my father’s old bow. It is a Browning Challenge model and has been stored unstrung for the past 30-35 years, and appears to be in good shape externally. Is there any danger that it has deteriorated over the years, such as the fibreglass becoming brittle or the glues deteriorating, and might be unsafe to use?

You could test it out to see if it is brittle by flexing it 20 times… first time only flex it a little, like a 5 year old would, and then each time increase … so that by 20th time its a full flex like you would to shoot an arrow.

Why ? because if you are flexing it just a little bit more than it can take, it will surely just fail gently whereas is if you just went and pulled it back to full strength, without first doing any safety tests, its possible that it could fail all at once and shoot a splinter of itself into your brain.

One concern would be whether just stringing it might be enough to cause it to fail, much less drawing it. (Not to mention that I don’t have a usable bowstring - I tossed the one that was stashed with it.)

I’m not sure if this is true. The problem is that when a bow snaps, the energy stored in the bow has to go someplace, and that someplace is generally splintering the bow and propelling said splinters into your fleshy parts.

I highly doubt a bow would fail in such a manner that any energy would be left stored in the bow. In that case, all the energy in a fully drawn bow would be released, regardless of whether the bow failed on its 20th flex or its first.

Nothing helpful, but just wanted to say, “Very Cool!”.

I’ve got my dad’s M1. Fired it a couple of time and just like having it around.

Good for you!

I have 3 Bear bows that are older than that that still work just fine.

Would it not having been used during this time have any effect?

A few archers discuss what happens when a bow breaks at full draw. Doesn’t sound fatal. But it will hurt.


That’s not old for a well made bow like a Browning Challenge. It depends on how it was stored. In a case? Not stored in direct sunlight. No extreme heat/cold? Were the limbs properly supported and not permitted to twist?

Take it to a reputable archery shop and have them check it out for you. They’ll have the proper bowstring, can recommend the proper length and spine arrows, and can tell you if the bow is safe to pull or shoot.

I have about 10 old bear bows from the 60’s, I shoot them all the time. Take the advice above and take to an archery shop and have them string it up and draw it, check for twists etc. It should be fine.

If you’re still concerned, and want to string and draw it yourself to test, you can loosely wrap an old blanket around the bow. If it does break, the blanket will most likely contain and control the bits and be a lot safer for you.

I took an archery course in college (20 years ago, heavens!), and the bow I used was a 30-pound draw fiberglass bow. Most of the way through the semester, the bow failed while I was at full draw. No warning or anything. I was sighting down the arrow shaft, and then I had teleported five feet away and drawn all my limbs but one leg up around my torso for protection. The bow was in two pieces on the ground, the arrow beside it.

It had broken just next to the grip, snapped cleanly in two. The string hadn’t been harmed at all, and in fact, I ended up using it on the replacement bow. I wasn’t hurt, just scared silly. It felt like the thing exploded right next to my face. It startled one of my classmates, the one next in line, standing with her back towards me.

The bow had to have been at least ten or twenty years old, and it had probably been tossed in a storage closet for much of that time. I didn’t attempt the most sports-oriented university out there, and that was actually the last time the class was offered.

Ever since early childhood I was told that the primary effect of this would be that the baby would fall.

I have broken many many bows at full draw, I build all wood bows and they break a lot more often than glass bow. I did have a riser fail on a glass bow once and give me a fat lip with a small cut. Mostly I have been hit in the stomach and chest area and only suffered minor bruises. The great majority made no contact with me. I could see where it could put an eye out even though I am not aware of this ever happening.

You have received some very good suggestions.
I just gave my 1st. Re-Curve bow that I bought from a Co-worker 40 years ago to that guy’s oldest son. The box still had his Fathers name and address on it.
We shot it a few dozen times and I hadn’t used it in 25 or more years.
One thing I was told to do prior to shooting it after a long storage was to run a large cotton ball (like what comes out of a pill bottle) around looking for cracks and then again when its strung and again after a few shots looking for bad spots.

Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I’ll be talking to someone at one of the local clubs to see who is the best to deal with for this.