10 common mistakes that ruin accuracy, and how to fix them.

We all experience it at some point. The frustration and disappointment of not being able to hit the center of the target. Perhaps you were shooting terrific and then all of a sudden it’s seems to completely fall apart. Or maybe you are just starting your archery journey and are having difficulty getting better. Don’t worry, chances are you are making at least one of these 10 very common mistakes.  Read on to find out what they are and how to fix them.

Arrgh…I can’t seem to hit anything…what’s going on???

Mistake #1 Over Bowed

Over bowed means the draw weight of the bow is too heavy for you to be able to shoot with stability and consistency which are crucial to accuracy.  If you are over bowed you will feel shaky, unable to hold your aim steady, and fatigue easily. Competition archery is a sport of precision and endurance NOT power. If your goal is to repeatedly hit bulls-eyes you need to be in full command of your bow and it’s draw weight. To find a decent draw weight try this simple 10 second test.  Draw you bow back to anchor and hold it there for 10 seconds.

  • If you feel any shaking, fatigue or especially muscle failure, you may be over bowed.  Try a bow that is 5lbs lighter until you find a draw weight you can hold steady for 10 seconds. This is a more appropriate draw weight for you at this time.
  • If you do not feel any shaking or fatigue, you are at an appropriate draw weight or you can try increasing your draw weight. Try a bow up to 5lbs heavier in draw weight and repeat the 10 second test. When you find a draw weight you can not hold steady for 10 seconds, you went too far.

If you are a bowhunter this test may be problematic.  In hunting, power is important. You may need a heavier draw weight for hunting than you would for target shooting. Try reducing the time from 10 seconds to 3-5 seconds. If you are unable to hold steady for at least 3 seconds with the lowest draw weight necessary to hunt, I strongly urge you to reconsider bow hunting at this time. You may not be able to make the shot with enough confidence, stability, and accuracy to ethically hunt. You do not have to give it up, just work on strength training until you are ready. The US National team uses specific physical training (SPT) drills to increase strength, stamina, and power. Click here to learn how to use the SPTs for your training.

I have a lot more information about selecting an appropriate draw weight in my article “The controversial draw weight agenda

Mistake #2 Neglecting Eye Dominance

Your eye dominance is the tendency to prefer visual input from one eye over the other. To avoid major aiming difficulties it is important to determine your eye dominance so you can make appropriate corrections if they are necessary. Click here for a short video on how to determine your eye dominance and if you should be shooting right or left handed.

When shooting, the arrow is placed on the side of your face. It is imperative for only the eye directly above the arrow to aim. For a right handed archer, it is your right eye.  If you shoot right handed but you are left eye dominant, you are cross dominant. There are two corrections for cross dominance.

  1. Close or cover your dominant eye, so that the eye above the arrow can aim
  2. Learn to shoot with the opposite hand so your dominant eye is above the arrow

If you do not have a clearly dominant eye, shoot the direction you are most comfortable and take appropriate measures make sure only the eye above the arrow is aiming.

Mistake #3 Unreliable Aiming Technique

Ironically, I believe you will have better results if you operate from the mind set that a good shot is 99% form (body positioning) and only 1% aim. If you do not have a decent amount of consistency in your form, the effectiveness of any aiming technique will be drastically reduced. However without a reliable aiming technique, exceptional results can never be achieved.

To illustrate this point, take a look at the following visual representation of common results arising from good form and bad form.

targets

Having good form will allow you to be more accurate. The better your form is, the easier it will be to group your arrows together. While good form is imperative, aim should not be overlooked. Having good aim will allow you to be more precise. The better your aim is, the easier it will be to hit the center of the target. Notice in the diagram above, even without having good form, the results are better if you have good aim.

Learning and using a reliable aiming technique will only help you. As your form gets better, so will your results.

There are multiple aiming techniques. I recommend you start with a technique called Gap shooting. Gap shooting uses reference points to help you hit the bullseye. For an in-depth tutorial on how to gap shoot, I recommend downloading my free “gap shooting guide

Mistake #4 Over Spined

The spine of the arrow is how flexible the shaft of the arrow is. An arrow must flex just the right amount to shoot straight. If it does not flex enough it is too stiff or over spined and if it flexes too much is is too weak or under spined. The most common problem especially for recurve archers with carbon arrows is over spine.

For a right handed archer, an over spined arrow will impact to the left even when you aim at the center. To fix this problem you need an arrow with a weaker spine. The spine of the arrow is labeled on the shaft of the arrow. Generally, the larger the number the weaker the spine. In the example below the spine of the arrow is labeled “600”

carbonone

This is actually a 0.600″ (six hundred thousandths of an inch) deflection. Be aware, the number labeled is not necessarily the spine deflection. Check the manufactures spine chart to determine the actual spine of the arrow. For example an aluminum arrow commonly labeled as “2013”, is close to a 600 spine.

There are numerous factors that effect how much the spine will actually bend when the arrow is shot. To get the arrow to flex just right, I recommend starting by finding a reasonable spine and tuning from there. To find a reasonable starting spine you can use spine charts. To appropriately use the chart, you will need to know the length of your arrow and your actual draw weight.  To find the arrow length, measure from the valley of the nock to the end of the shaft (excluding the point).

arrow-length

To find your actual draw weight you can use a bow scale or calculate your actual draw weight using the equation from my article “How your draw length affects your draw weight“. With these two measurements you can use spine charts like Easton Archery’s official spine chart to find an appropriate spine for you.

Below is a very quick reference you can use to see if your arrows are close to an appropriate spine rating: (quick reference is based on a 30” arrow with 100gr point)

  • 15 lbs…..1200 spine
  • 20 lbs…..1000 spine
  • 30 lbs…..700 spine
  • 40 lbs…..600 spine
  • 50 lbs…..500 spine
  • 60 lbs…..400 spine
  • 70 lbs…..300 spine
  • 80 lbs…..200 spine

Be careful, if your arrow is too weak for your draw weight you may be at risk of injury from your arrow breaking.  If you are concerned that your arrows are too weak, please feel free to contact me or take your equipment to your local archery pro shop.

Mistake #5 Inappropriate Nock Locator Height

nocklocator

The nock locator or nocking point is a tiny brass clamp or an additional bit of string tied on the center serving to locate the placement of the nock onto the string. There can be one or two nock locators.

The height of the nock locator is very important. I recommend archers shooting 3 under should start with the lowest part of the nock locator attached to the string at 1/2″ above the height of the arrow rest. Archers shooting split finger should start with the lowest part of the nock locator attached to the string 3/8″ above the height of the arrow rest. If you are shooting a compound bow with a “d loop”, the d loop should be roughly at the same height as the arrow rest bolt hole.

squareplacementUse a bow square to make sure your placement is exact. Clip the bow square on the string then slide it down until the arm gently touches the arrow rest.  Using the measurements on the bow square, attach your nock locator at the correct height.

Mistake #6 Using Vanes Instead Of Feathers

I see this quite often.  If you are using a traditional bow and shooting off the shelf, chances are you should be using real feathers on your arrows not the plastic vanes. It takes a very specific type of arrow rest to successfully use arrows with vanes.

feathersvsvanes

The plastic vanes are rigid and if they make contact with the bow, arrow rest, or shelf when the arrow is shot it can cause the arrow to “kick” resulting in very poor arrow flight and inconsistent results on the target. Feathers have the ability to compress and will fold out of the way if there is slight contact.

Mistake #7 Shooting Too Fast

I know how fun it is to channel your inner Katniss Everdeen or Legolas and shoot as fast as possible. But the fact is, a slow, steady, and thoughtful shot will make you more accurate. Slowing down will allow your brain more time to analyze the shot and make corrections which will help you to get better in a shorter period of time. A good shot can easily take up to 15 seconds to complete an entire shot sequence. Slow down, try to relax, think about your process.

Mistake #8 Variable Anchor Position

Up to this point, the previous mistakes have all been related to issues other than form. If you are still experiencing difficulties, it may be an issue with your form. In my opinion, an important skill to check first is your anchor.

Why is the anchor so important? The direction of the path of your arrow is entirely determined by the alignment of the nock and the point. Each can be adjusted independently.  Moving the bow will adjust the position of the point. Moving the string will adjust the position of the nock. If both bow position and string position are changing from shot to shot, so will the arrow alignment. This makes it next to impossible to have consistent results on the target.  Because of this, you must eliminate as best as you can any variability in the positioning of the string. This is what an anchor does. Your anchor is a specific spot on your face where your hand comes to rest at full draw.  Your anchor needs to be consistent and repeatable. There are different anchors for different styles of shooting but they all have reference points for precision.

If you do not already have a specific anchor and you shoot a recurve, I recommended resting your hand on your cheek and touching the back corner of your mouth with the tip of your index finger for your anchor. To increase consistency, some experienced archers will even select a tooth to touch because your mouth is pliable but your skeleton is rigid.

anchor02

Notice how the string is on the side of my nose.  This can be intimidating for many beginning archers. However, I assure you the string will not tear your face off.

If you do not have a consistent anchor on your face or your hand floats in the air, “floating anchor” you will have very poor results on the target.

For compound archers the anchor is different. Depending on the type of release you use, it involves a part of your hand contacting the back of your jaw or neck, and generally touching the string to the center of the tip of your nose.

Mistake #9 Pinching The Arrow

I does not matter if you shoot “3 under” or “split finger”, if you pinch or apply pressure to the arrow while it is on the string you will likely have poor results.  In extreme cases you can actually pull the arrow off the rest while you are shooting. Which can be extremely dangerous!

Not touching the arrow is counter intuitive, many beginning archers believe they need to hold the arrow on the string. This is not true. Modern arrow nocks are designed to have a friction fit on the string so they do not fall off.

If you shoot 3 under do not apply upward pressure into the arrow.  Gently touch the arrow for consistency in positioning your hook, but do not apply any pressure to the arrow.

If you shoot split finger, separate you fingers so they are not pinching the arrow. Olympic style archers use a tab with a finger spacer.

saker

The spacer forces your fingers apart so you do not accidentally pinch the arrow between your index and middle finger.

Mistake #10 The Grip

hammergrip

This one is tricky. The worst grip you can have on your bow is a tight and tense fist grip, with your fingers wrapping around like you are holding the handle of a hammer.

When all the muscles in your hand are tense they push and pull in opposing directions causing the bow to shake or torque in your hand. Ironically the best grip on a bow is no grip at all

There are three parts to a good grip. The first part of a good grip is completely relaxing your fingers and your hand. There should be no tension or squeezing.

A common question I get asked is “If I am not squeezing and grabbing the bow won’t it fall out of my hand when I shoot?” The answer to this questions is “yes”. Which is exactly what it should do with a good grip. That is why archers use a finger or wrist sling. The sling is an additional piece of string that wraps around the front of your bow and attaches to your fingers or your wrist.  When you shoot, the bow is caught by the sling so it does not fall to the ground.  If you do not use a sling it is still possible to train yourself to grip the bow properly without squeezing, but it often takes a lot of training to maintain that loose grip once the arrow is shot.

thenar-eminence

The second part of a good grip is engaging the pressure point. The pressure point is a specific point of focus on your hand which you use to press the bow away from you. The recommended pressure point is in the center of the muscular mound at the base of your thumb (thenar eminence). To engage the pressure point, flex backwards like you are telling someone to “stop” with your hand and press the pressure point into the back of the grip.

Source: World Archery

The third part of a good grip is the angle of your knuckles and wrist.  Your knuckles should be rotated out so they form an approximate 45 degree angle to the ground. Notice in the photo, to achieve the 45 degree angle, the archer’s last three fingers are off to the side of the bow and not even contacting the grip at all.

These are the top 10 mistakes I often see archers making.  What are some common mistakes you have seen, and what do you think is the best solution? Please feel free to comment below. If you have any questions you can always contact me.

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The controversial draw weight agenda

Finding your optimal draw weight is an important topic.  I believe there are many things to take into consideration.

For a compound bow, selecting an appropriate draw weight is simply finding one that you can draw safely. To draw a compound bow safely, you should be able to hold the bow directly out in front of you, then draw the bow straight to your anchor in a controlled movement so that the arrow remains pointed directly at the target the entire time. If you are struggling and moving excessively while trying to draw the bow and the arrow is wandering uncontrollably all over the place, your draw weight is most likely too heavy. You are risking the safety of yourself and anyone around you. Select a compound bow with a draw weight you can handle safely so that the arrow does not move off target, even for a moment, when drawing the bow.

For a recurve archer the issue is more sophisticated.

Fundamentally I believe the draw weight you use should be based on two questions: What do you want to use your bow for? And, what technique are you using?

What do you want to use your bow for?

There are many uses for a bow. The most common are target shooting, hunting, or recreation. I urge you to consider using the minimum draw weight necessary to successfully shoot the bow for its use. Arbitrarily increasing draw weight not only increases your risk of injury, it can also decrease your accuracy.

Lets look at the most common uses and some of the requirements necessary to shoot them successfully.

Recreational archery
Fun is the top priority for a recreational archer. Recreational archers shoot for the pure enjoyment of shooing an arrow at a target. If the bow is too difficult to pull back, you will not enjoy shooting it. Conversely if it is too easy, it may not be as satisfying. I would say, a good recreational draw weight is one that allows you to experience the thrill of shooting an arrow with a decent amount of speed and power, but not so much that it forces you to use a lot of strength just to pull the string back.

Target archery
Score is the top priority in target archery. For a target archer, the bow becomes a tool of precision like a scalpel for a surgeon. To be accurate and precise, you need to be in full control of the bow, not the other way around. The first thing to consider is how stable you are with the draw weight.  Your accuracy comes from your stability. If you lose stability your accuracy will suffer and your scores will drop. The second thing to consider is trajectory. A high, arcing trajectory has a much larger margin of error and is more difficult to be accurate with than a low, straight trajectory. Finally, the bow must have at least enough power to get the arrow to the target at the distance you are shooting. If not, you will have to shoot a shorter distance or increase draw weight

For a target archer, the question of optimal draw weight becomes a balance between stability and arrow trajectory. Lower draw weights are more stable but yield a higher, arcing trajectory.  Higher draw weights are less stable but yield a lower, straighter trajectory. Personally I would say stability is more important and should take priority. After all, a slow arcing hit is better than a fast straight miss! It is also important to factor in the sheer volume of arrows target archers shoot daily. I would say, a good draw weight for target archery is one that has enough power to get the arrow to the target with out causing any loss of stability or control for the archer even when shooting a high volume of arrows.

Bow hunting
Getting a kill is the top priority for a hunter. A hunter’s bow is powerful tool for procuring meat. For a hunter the draw weight must be powerful enough to thoroughly penetrate the animal for the kill.  Some animals require more power to kill than others. To start, it is important to find out the minimum draw weight that will meet this and any state law requirements. Once you know the minimum draw weight you will need to hunt, the question of selecting draw weight becomes an issue of stability. The higher your stability the better your chances are of success. Since most hunters are not shooting at great distances or with the frequency of a target archer, a good draw weight for a bow hunter is one that allows you to have a reasonable amount of stability with at least the minimum amount of draw weight required to kill the animal you are hunting.

Another issue to mention is ethical hunting.  As a person who empathizes, ethical hunting is very important to me. For me, ethically hunting first and foremost means you are only hunting to get food.  To hunt ethically means you are willing to put in the effort it takes to prepare so when the time comes, the animal will suffer as little as possible. I believe you are ready to ethically hunt when you have the ability and confidence to know, in optimal conditions, you can get the kill with your very first shot!

What technique are you using?

In archery, there are countless techniques you can use to draw a bow. Each technique will have it’s own potential efficiency. Often, especially in archery, the most bio-mechanically efficient techniques do not often feel natural. They take time to learn, apply, and strengthen. The technique’s potential is only reached when it is done correctly. Techniques with higher efficiency use less strength and energy to accomplish the same amount of work which lowers your risk of injury and allows you to shoot with more stability and precision.

Efficiency in relation to injury
The efficiency of the technique will determine how much draw weight you can use safely without injuring yourself. There are two common types of archery injuries, repetitive strain injuries (rsi) and isolated strain injuries (isi). A repetitive strain injury results from doing a straining action multiple times.  An isolated strain injury results from doing a straining action just once.

The idea of too much draw weight is difficult to define. There is a limit to the repetitions and frequency an excessive amount of draw weight can be used before the archer is at risk of injury. If you are using too much draw weight by just a small amount, the risk of injury is very low until you cross into the realm of over-use, then the risk of injury is much higher. If you are using too much draw weight by an enormous amount, the risk of immediate injury is very high. It is much more difficult to determine what draw weights can lead to repetitive strain injuries with over-use.

You can quickly increase your draw weight tolerance and further reduce the risk of injury by using more efficient techniques. Another method to increase your draw weight tolerance and reduce the risk of injury is with specific physical training (spt) exercises. The benefits of specific physical training are great, but just like lifting weights, they take time and dedication.

Efficiency in relation to stability
The efficiency of the technique and your strength, will determine how much draw weight you can hold with stability. Your stability is what allows you to shoot with accuracy. There are different levels of stability. The level of stability you should have is based on what you use the bow for and your our own personal standards. Target archery requires an extremely high level of stability and accuracy. Hunting requires a decent level of stability, accuracy and a high level of power. Recreational archery does not really have any strenuous requirements. The technique you use will also determine what muscles you use or don’t use to shoot. Bio-mechanically speaking there are more and less stable techniques.  A more stable technique will use stronger, larger, and therefore more stable muscle groups. Additionally more stable techniques use efficient alignment and more bone structure to resist the draw weight of the bow.

So what is your optimal draw weight?

There is not an easy answer here. Everyone’s body, strength, endurance, mobility, etc is different.  Not one answer is necessarily right for everyone. What I suggest you do is consider all the information I have presented…. look at what you will be using the bow for, what sort of technique you have, and your injury risk management.

There is a diagnostic test I like to use to help archers decide on a draw weight. I do not suggest you base your decision solely on this test. It should be used in conjunction with the other information from this article. The test is quite simple, get a bow with a draw weight you are considering using, then:
Draw the bow to your anchor and hold it there as steady as you can until you begin to shake, fatigue, or collapse.
The amount of time you were able to successfully hold your bow without shaking, getting fatigued, or collapsing will help to inform you about your optimal draw weight.

If you can hold the bow steady for…

  • 10 seconds or more you have a very high level of stability and a very low risk of injury
  • If 7-9 seconds you have a high level of stability and a very low risk of injury
  • If 4-6 seconds you have a moderate level of stability and a low risk of injury
  • If 2-3 seconds you have a low level of stability and a mild risk of injury
  • If 1 second or less you have a very low level of stability and a moderate risk of injury

Again, keep in mind everybody is different, my analysis is only speculation based on my personal experience.  I am sure it is possible to have very low level of stability with a very low risk of injury.  It is also possible to have a very high level of stability with a very high risk of injury.  To know for sure, I recommend working with a physical trainer or physiologist.

For target archery, stability is the most important, so I personally recommend you use a draw weight that allows you to have a high to very high level of stability.

For bow hunting, power and stability are both important, so I personally recommend you use a draw weight that allows you to have enough power to get the kill and at least a low to moderate level of stability.

For recreational archery having fun and not getting injured are the most important, so I personally recommend you use a draw weight that has a very low to low risk of injury.

One final thought on switching from a compound to a recurve, being able to safely shoot a 70# compound bow, does not also mean you can safely shoot 70# recurve. Even if you end up using the same muscles to draw the recurve that you used with the compound, the let off of the compound only requires you to fully engage those muscles for a fraction of a second. with a recurve, those muscles are engaged the entire time, some times up to 10-15 seconds. If you are coming from a compound and new to recurve archery, I would say there is a very high risk of injury if you start with the same draw weight as your compound bow.

I hope this information helps you to decide on a safe draw weight that will allow you to have great success and enjoy the sport of archery for years to come.

This can cure your target panic!

It can happen suddenly and at any time. Often the reason is unknown. The insidious   affliction known as target panic.  If you get a case of target panic it will ruin your shot and can cause real psychological problems. But fear not, there are cures. To understand how to cure target panic, it is important to understand what it is and how it affects your shooting.

I would define target panic as a sudden and overwhelming urgency to release the shot as soon as your aim aligns with the target.

There are variable degrees of target panic. If it is bad enough it can trigger a completely involuntary motor reaction like a twitch, collapse, or release.

Punching the trigger for a compound archer is not necessarily target panic. Punching the trigger can be just improper shot execution. However, involuntarily punching the trigger when your aim aligns with the target is definitely target panic.

Target panic is outcome based, i.e. your mind is entirely consumed with the thought of your arrow hitting your target. To cure target panic I believe you must learn to make the shot process based. This will divert the focus from the target to an internalized step by step shooting sequence.

With target panic, releasing the string is automatically activated by aim. These two must be separated and unlinked. This can be done with expansion.

Expansion is the step that follows aim in the shooting sequence. For most archers, expansion is a small increase of back tension by moving your rear scapula in towards your spine while simultaneously reaching your front arm towards the target. The release should happen while you are expanding.  For a compound archer using a wrist release or a thumb barrel release, place your finger gently on the trigger and leave it there. Use the expansion, not your finger, to increase the pressure on the trigger until it goes off. Expansion not only prevents target panic it also prevents archers from collapsing.

In order to cure target panic, there needs to be a conscious decision to stop focusing on aim and start focusing on expansion before you release. The following steps are designed to help prevent acquiring target panic or cure it if you already have it.  Try using these steps as a drill and incorporate them into your practice…

  1. Practice just the expansion. For a recurve shooters, try using a 3′ stretch band. For a compound shooters, try a 6′ loop of para cord and your release. Again, expansion is a small increase of back tension by moving your rear scapula in towards your spine while simultaneously reaching or stretching your front arm towards the target. Make sure you are not raising your front shoulder. Your anchor does not move or change. Remember, the expansion is a VERY SMALL movement. On a recurve, your arrow will move back only a fraction of an inch ideally less that 1/4″. Using the stretch band or cord instead of your bow is important. It allows your brain to isolate and connect to specific muscles. If you are uncertain on how to expand properly, I recommend contacting a coach that can help.
  2. Learn a sequential shot process using steps. Each step should be an isolated and compartmentalized action. The following is a simplified shot sequence I recommend you use:
    1. Nock – nock your arrow
    2. Hook  – put your hook or set your release on the string
    3. Grip – set your grip on the handle
    4. Setup – raise your bow to target
    5. Draw – draw the bow
    6. Anchor – settle your hand on your anchor
    7. Aim – align your aim to target
    8. Expand – focus on the correct movements to expand
    9. Release and Follow through – release the shot and follow through naturally
  3. Practice the entire shot sequence with a stretch band or cord. Add an internal verbal command to stop the aiming step and start the expansion step. Once the aiming step is completed try saying to yourself “now expand” then switch your focus to your back and front arm, and begin expanding. As you are reaching the end of your expansion, release. By doing this, you are making a conscious decision to stop focusing on aim and apply your focus on expanding. Since you are not using a bow and there is no target at this time, just pick a random reference in front of you to point at for aim. Repeat this step until you feel comfortable and confident using the shot sequence with a stretch band or cord.
  4. Now apply some restraint. Practice the same process with a stretch band or cord but once you get to the end of expanding let down instead of releasing. If you are using a mechanical release with a trigger, keep your finger behind the trigger the entire time! Do not bring your finger around to the front of the trigger at all! If using a back tension release, set it so it does not release. Repeat this step until you feel comfortable and confident.
  5. Now do both. Using the stretch band or cord, complete the entire shooting sequence once by letting down, then once by actually releasing. Do this 1:1 ratio of letting down to releasing until you feel comfortable and confident.
  6. Now grab your bow, some arrows and set up in front of a blank target. Repeat steps 3-5 using your bow instead of a stretch band or cord. Do not use a target face yet. You will just be “blank bale shooting”.
  7. Repeat only step 5 with your bow but this time use a large solid target like a paper plate to shoot at. Something that is easy to hit for you.  Do not fixate on aim. It is not important at this time. The target is just there to help you break the panic feeling. Point your bow toward the target and let your aim come to rest anywhere on the target. Let go of consciously trying to aim and focus on executing the shot with expansion. Repeat this step until you feel comfortable and confident.
  8. Finally try shooting at a standard target face.

If you are unable to successfully complete a step, go back to the previous step, practice it for a while then try again. I believe the key to curing target panic is learning to shoot with a process based sequence, focusing on each step of the sequence instead of the target. Pay special attention to changing your focus from aim to the expansion. The aim will become sub-conscience as you expand.

I hope this helps your archery.  If you have any experience with curing target panic and would like to share your thoughts please comment below. Thanks.

How to find your draw length, and how it affects your draw weight.

Basically your draw length is how far you pull the string back.  The Archery Trade Association (ATA), formally the Archery Manufactures and Merchants Organization (AMO), is responsible for publishing archery related standards. The ATA defines draw length as “the distance, at archer’s full draw, from nocking point on string to the pivot point of the grip, plus 1 3/4 inches“.

The are a couple of important safety issues related to your draw length.
The first is arrow length. If you do not know your draw length and you try to shoot an arrow that is too short you may end up drawing the arrow beyond the rest or the shelf which can be very dangerous. It is important to make sure your arrow length is longer that your draw length. The length of the arrow also determines the dynamic spine of the arrow, ideally you want the arrow to be just the right length so that it will tune correctly and shoot straight.
The second is overdrawing the bow.  If you shoot a recurve bow that is too short for your draw length, you may end up bending the limbs beyond their tolerance and they can break. Every bow has a specific draw length that it will perform most efficiently at. Ideally you want to find a bow length that will perform best with you draw length.

Beyond these safety issues, your draw length is also important to know when determining your actual draw weight, and setting up a compound bow for the first time

How to find your draw length

With a recurve, the best way to find your draw length is to use a measuring arrow. Place a piece of masking tape on your bow just above the arrow rest/shelf. Draw a vertical line on the tape that is directly above the pivot point of the grip. Nock the measuring arrow on your bow, and draw back to your anchor.  Have a helper read the measurement at the vertical line.  Do this a couple times to make sure the measurement is consistent and accurate. Finally add 1 3/4″ to the measurement and you now have your ATA draw length.

To determine your draw length without a bow, you can use the following calculated draw length:

With your arms stretched straight out to your sides, measure from the tip of one middle finger to the tip of the other middle finger.  This is your wingspan. For many people, wingspan is generally the same length as height. To get your draw length, divide your wingspan by 2.5

Wingspan / 2.5 = Draw Length

This calculation is not exact, your draw length my vary slightly from the number you get, but it will get you a figure that can help you approximate appropriate bow length, safe arrow length, and compound bow draw length.

Using your draw length to determine your actual draw weight

The draw weight listed on the limbs of your bow is the ATA draw weight. For standardization purposes, the ATA draw weight is weighed and marked at a 28” draw length. If you do not have a 28″ draw length, your actual draw weight will differ from what is marked on the bow.

The best way to find your actual draw weight is with a bow scale. Again, place a piece of masking tape on your bow just above the arrow rest/shelf. Draw a vertical line any where on the tape. Nock an arrow and draw back to your anchor. Have a helper mark the arrow at the vertical line, then let down slowly. Now, attach the bow scale to the string and draw the bow using the same arrow until the mark on the arrow lines up with the vertical line on the tape then let down slowly.  Check the bow scale for your actual draw weight.

To determine draw weight of a “conventional” recurve bow with out a bow scale, you can use the ATA draw weight calculation formula:
Divide the bow’s ATA draw weight by 20 (ATA recommends a factor of 20), then multiply by the number of inches your draw length differs from 28”. Finally subtract or add this amount to the bow’s listed draw weight if your draw length is shorter or longer respectively.
Examples:
Bow Weight = 42 lbs, Draw length = 25.5” (2.5” shorter than 28)
42 lbs ÷ 20 = 2.1 lbs
2.1 lbs x 2.5” = 5.25 lbs
42 lbs – 5.25 lbs (subtract because draw length is shorter than 28″) = 36.75 lbs
The actual draw weight at 25 1/2″ is 36.75 lbs
Bow Weight = 38 lbs, Draw Length = 30” (2” longer than 28)
38 lbs ÷ 20 = 1.9 lbs
1.9 lbs x 2 = 3.8 lbs.
38 lbs + 3.8 lbs (add because draw length is longer than 28″) = 41.8 lbs
The actual draw weight at 30″ is 41.8 lbs

The archer’s paradox may not be what you think it is.

Paradox     noun     par·a·dox \ ˈper-ə-ˌdäks , ˈpa-rə- \

1 :a tenet contrary to received opinion

2 :a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true

A popular belief is that the flexing of an arrow in flight is the archer’s paradox. This belief is so commonplace it seems almost paradoxical when I say this is not true.

To clear things up, the flexing of the arrow is the explanation of the archer’s paradox, not the paradox itself!

Simplified, the archer’s paradox is this:

An arrow must point in a direction off to the side of the target to actually hit the center of the target.

archers-paradoxLet’s have a closer look at this statement. On the left side of the diagram, you can see the alignment of the arrow before the shot. Since the arrow rests on the side of the bow, the arrow will point to the side of the target. Which logically one would assume would be the path the arrow would take when shot. However, on the right side of the diagram you can seen the path the arrow actually ends up taking. It does not follow the original alignment.

Now comes the fun part…why. The answer has to do with the the flexing of the arrow when shot.  The physics behind this is very interesting. If you care to find out please read on.

To fly straight to the center of the target, it is not the shaft of the arrow that needs to line up with the center, it is the nodes. Releasing the string with fingers creates a horizontal bend in the arrow. As the arrow flies it oscillates and continues to bend from side to side. There is a point towards the front of the arrow and a point towards the back of the arrow that remain stationary as the arrow oscillates around them. These points are the nodes. It is in the direction that the nodes line up not the shaft that determines the true flight path of the arrow.

nodes

Before the string is released the arrow is uncompressed and straight. At full draw, the shaft and static nodes are aligned outside the center. When the string is released the arrow is compressed and bends inward.  This sets the dynamic alignment of the nodes which is the path the arrow will stay on. The arrow oscillates bending inward and outward, but the nodes do not deviate from the path.

nodes-in-action

Arrows come in variable flexibility (spine) and bows come in variable strength (draw weight).  The combination of the draw weight and spine determine how much the arrow will compress and flex. If the arrow is not compressed enough the nodes will line up in a direction a little off to the side of the center. Conversely if the arrow is compressed too much the nodes will line up in a direction a little off to the opposite side of the center. It is very important for an archer to find the right balance of spine and draw weight so that the nodes line up directly in the center.

spine-paradox

To find the right balance between draw weight and arrow spine is a process called arrow tuning.  I will go over arrow tuning in my post “How to tune a recurve bow”.

The archer’s paradox can be explained in different ways. How would you define the archer’s paradox? Feel free to comment below.

Bow and arrow sizing, how to find a good fit.

Size, draw weight, style, and arrow selection are all crucial elements when determining what bow to buy.  There are quite a few different styles of archery.  The most common are recreational, target, and hunting.  There are also numerous kinds of bows. Some of the most common are longbow, recurve, and compound.

Selecting a bow and the appropriate arrows can be difficult and confusing because of all the choices.  Mostly I get asked about recurve and compound bows, so I wrote this article specifically for these two types. I hope this information will help you to find a bow that works well for you.

Selecting a recurve bow

Length
Finding a bow size that will work best for you is determined by your draw length (how far back the archer pulls the string). If you do not know your draw length, check out my article “how to find your draw length, and how it affects your draw weight“. For the most appropriate bow length, I recommend contacting the manufacturer, as not all bows are made the same. They should be able to tell you the optimal bow and size for your draw length. If you are unable to contact the manufacturer the following information should help you to decide.

When selecting a bow, it is very important to understand that many manufactures only mention what draw length the bow is capable of handling and not what draw length the bow will be most efficient at. The efficiency of the bow is measured by how fast it can shoot an arrow per pound of draw weight. The efficiency is determined by the geometry of the bow and the curvature of the limbs. You can use any bow with any draw length (provided it is not more that what the bow is capable of) but if you select a bow with a length that performs optimally at your specific draw length you will get the most efficient use of the bow’s geometry.

Here is a general table listing the most efficient recurve target bow size for your draw length: (many modern recreational bows follow the same geometry of a target bow and can also be determined by the chart below):

Draw Length………………..Recommended Bow Length
up to 16 inches……..…….48 inches
17-20 inches……………….54 inches
21-22 inches……………….58 inches
23-24 inches……………….62 inches
25-26 inches……………….66 inches
27-28 inches……………….68 inches
29-30 inches……………….70 inches
31+ inches.……………….…72 inches

Draw Weight
Selecting the correct draw weight is VERY IMPORTANT. Archery is a sport of precision and endurance NOT power. If your goal is to hit the center of the target, you need to be in full command of your bow. To find an appropriate draw weight please see my article “The controversial draw weight agenda

Selecting a compound bow

Length
The size of a compound bow is the measured from one axle to the other. Longer bows with larger brace heights are considered more forgiving but shoot slower than shorter bows with smaller brace heights. For a recreational compound archer this length is not extremely important. However, it is important to get a bow that can be set to your draw length. If you need to find your draw length, you can refer to my article how to find your draw length, and how it affects your draw weight. Once you know your draw length, check the specifications of the compound bow and make sure it can be adjusted to your draw length.

Draw Weight
Selecting an appropriate draw weight is different for a compound bow because of “let off”.  The let off is the unique ability of a compound bow to decrease draw weight when you reach your anchor. That means the force of the string pulling on you when you are at anchor will be only fractions of the force required to initially pull the string back to anchor. To select an appropriate compound draw weight, please see my article “The controversial draw weight agenda

Selecting arrows

There are four critical components for arrow selection. They are material, fletching, length, and spine.

In my opinion, Carbon or aluminum arrows are the best material for arrows.  Wood arrows are inconsistent and basically impossible to replicate precisely so I do not recommend wood arrows. Avoid fiberglass arrows entirely.

If you are using a compound bow I suggest using vanes (plastic feathers) for your fletching. If you are using a recreational recurve bow and you are shooting off the shelf, I highly recommend using real feathers for your fletching. If you are using an ILF recurve bow and/or an elevated arrow rest, you should also be able to use vanes successfully.

For arrow length, I would start by adding at least 1″ to your draw length. This is a basic length that should be long enough to be safe. If you do not know your draw length you can learn how to find it I’m my article “How to find your draw length…

To find an appropriate arrow spine (the flexibility of the arrow shaft), you can use the following spine chart as a quick reference. I highly suggest consulting the arrow manufacturers spine chart for more detailed info.

Note: actual draw weight is measured at your draw length, it is not necessarily the listed draw weight on the limbs. If you would like to find your actual draw weight check out my article “How draw length affects your draw weight

The following quick reference is roughly based on a 30″ arrow with a 100gr point.

Draw Weight…………….Arrow Spine
15 lbs………………………….1200 spine
20 lbs………………………….1000 spine
30 lbs………………………….700 spine
40 lbs………………………….600 spine
50 lbs………………………….500 spine
60 lbs………………………….400 spine
70 lbs………………………….300 spine
80 lbs………………………….200 spine

The reference chart above is only meant as a quick check to see if your spine is somewhere close to appropriate. For a much more accurate spine chart, I suggest using Easton Archery’s official spine chart.

Warning: if your arrow is too weak for your draw weight you may be at risk of injury from your arrow breaking.  If you are concerned that your arrows are too weak, please feel free to contact me or take your equipment to your local archery pro shop.

 

How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you.

So you have a recurve bow and you are finished installing all the parts that came with it. But now what? Here are all the details you might not find in the manual to get your bow shooting to it’s full potential. ILF risers are more adjustable. If you do not have an ILF riser some of the following info may not apply to your bow.

You will need to begin by assembling and stringing your bow.  You should already have your arrow rest installed. Following these steps in order will get the best results.

Set the brace height

braceheight copy

The brace height is the distance between the string and the valley of the grip. The brace height determines the specific point at which the arrow separates from the string during the shot.  There is a “sweet spot” where you will get the most velocity out of the arrow.  The manufacturer provides a recommended brace height range for each bow.

To set or adjust the brace height you will need to add or remove twists from your string.  First measure the current brace height.  If it is not within the recommended specs, unstring the bow and add twists to increase brace height, or remove twists to decrease brace height.  If you need to adjust the brace by more than 3/4″ to get it into the recommend range, I highly recommend getting a new string of a length that is more appropriate for your bow.

With the brace in the middle of the recommended range shoot a few arrows. Feel for vibrations and listen to the sound it makes. Next try the bow with different brace heights in increments of 1/8″ to 1/4″ in both directions. The brace height that feels and sounds the best is the ideal brace height for you. If you have a chronograph take speed measurements and go with the brace that yields the fastest result.

Centering the limbs

laterallimbalignment

Your limbs should be aligned directly down the center line of your riser.  To check the lateral alignment (left / right) I highly recommend using Beiter limb line gauges. If you do not have beiter gauges, you can place a piece of masking tape on the limb, measure and draw a vertical line down the exact enter. String you bow and check the alignment of the string in relation to the center on the top and bottom limbs. If the string does not line up in the center of the limb, your limbs are misaligned laterally. Most ILF risers have lateral limb adjustments. Depending on the bow there will be adjustment screws or adjustment shims/washers. Make small changes to one limb at a time and recheck alignment. If the alignment got worse you went the wrong way. Readjust in the opposite direction. Make small adjustments until the string is directly centered on both limbs.

Limb Twist

limbtwist

Even with the limbs aligned laterally, you may still have some limb twist. To check the limb twist hold the bow pointing down and sight down the string from limb tip to limb tip. Adjust the bow so that visually the string is aligned down the middle of the limbs. Look at the left/right alignment of the tip closest to you in relation to the back of the limb (the side of the limb that you do not see when you are shooting). If the tip leans to one side, the limb is twisted. All limbs have some amount of twist. It can be microscopic where you will not be able to see it or it may be so obvious you can’t miss it.

Some manufactures recommend you remove twist by adjusting the lateral limb alignment, but that will off set the centering of the limbs, so I do not necessarily recommend doing that. You will have to decide how much twist you are willing to tolerate but if the twist is really bad I would contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Newer Hoyt bows like the Factor have adjustment studs on the dowels to counter the limb twist.

Tiller

Tiller is the specific arc of the limb as it bends.  If you have an ILF bow, it will shoot more efficiently if you tailor the tiller to your finger placement on the string. If you shoot split finger hook, start with 1/8″ – 3/8″ positive tiller.  That means you want the top limb tiller measurement to be 1/8″ – 3/8″ greater than the bottom tiller measurement. If you shoot three under hook, start with even tiller measurements.

tiller

On an ILF bow, screwing the limb bolts in or out will adjust the tiller. Caution: there is a maximum number of turns you can safely unscrew a limb bolt. Check your manual for the maximum number of allowable turns.

Before adjusting tiller set the limb bolts to their median setting. First, loosen the limb bolt lock screws. Second, screw the limb bolts all the way in. Third, back both the limb bolts out evenly to half the maximum allowable turns. Fourth, tighten the limb bolt lock screws.

To find the tiller, measure perpendicularly from the string to where the limb first overlaps the riser on the top and bottom limb.

To adjust tiller, you will have to tighten or loosen one or both limb bolts. By tightening the limb bolt you will decrease the tiller measurement. By loosening the limb bolt you will increase the tiller measurement. Tightening only one bolt will slightly increase the draw weight while loosening only one will slightly decrease draw weight. Adjust the limb bolts as desired until you have the correct tiller for your style of hook.

Draw weight

ILf bows also have adjustable draw weight.  Generally you will have about 10% of adjustment. The draw weight listed on the limb should be the median draw weight for that pair of limbs. Once tiller is set take a draw weight measurement.  To increase draw weight, tighten both limb bolts evenly. If you do not adjust the top and bottom exactly the same amount, you will change the tiller. To decrease draw weight, loosen both limb bolts evenly. Remember, do not back out the limb bolts beyond the maximum allowance.

Nock locator installation

First of all, I highly recommend using two tie on nock locators.  The brass crimp on nock locators are too heavy and will cause excessive string vibration and poor efficiency.  One nock locator can work, but if the arrow nock fit is too loose the arrow can slip on the string while being shot.  A second nock locator is a good safety precaution. I use a small piece of serving for my nock locators.  It is important that you use a larger diameter serving than the one used for the center serving on the string.  If the material used for the nock locator is too thin it will wedge between and separate the strands of the center serving.

The height of where you tie on the nock locator is crucial for tuning. I also mentioned this in my previous post “10 common mistakes that ruin accuracy, and how to fix them“. If you are shooting split finger, start the top locator at 3/8″ above the rest height. If you are shooting three under, start the top locator at 1/2” above the arrow rest. The final placement will be determined when you group tune.

tie01A good tie on nock locator will stay in place but is also adjustable. They are not very difficult to tie.  Start with at least 12″ of serving, I prefer to wax to the strand to keep it from untying. I tie a series of overhand knots. tie03Tie the first knot at the height you want then tie five more knots moving towards the limb tip. Alternate tying one knot on the top of the string then the next below the string. Once you get six total, cut the excess off leaving 1/8″ tails.  With a lighter melt the tails into the knot. Be extremely careful not to burn the string.  Hokd the string perpendicular to the ground. Use only the base of the flame and always hold the flame above the string. Do this for the top and bottom locator. Leave enough space between the locators so when the string is pulled back the arrow will not be pinched between the two locators.

Cushion Plunger

If you have an ILF bow with a cut past center riser you should be using a cushion plunger. Start by installing the medium tension spring in the plunger and set the plunger tension to it’s middle position. for now set the depth of the lock collar so that the plunger sticks out past the arrow rest just a little.  You will be adjusting the depth during the arrow alignment.

Arrow alignment

sightandarrowalignmentLooking at the bow from behind, visually line up the string down the middle of the limbs and look at the arrow shaft position in relation to the string. On a right handed bow, move the cushion plunger until the arrow point is lined up just left of the string and the entire arrow alignment is slightly left.

Rest alignment

Adjust the arrow rest arm so the end of the arm lines up somewhere between the center and outside edge of the arrow shaft. If you do not use a clicker, you may want to have more of the rest arm sticking out past the arrow shaft.

Next, adjust the rest arm up or down until the cushion plunger is centered on the shaft of the arrow.

Sight alignment

Start by aligning the sight pin directly over the center of the arrow shaft.  The pin housing will generally fall just on the outside of the string.

Group tuning

The goal of group tuning is to set the appropriate height of your nock locator(s) and select an appropriate spine for your arrows. Group tuning requires that the archer is capable of a good release and shooting acceptable groups. Group tuning involves shooting a group of fletched arrows and a group of unfletched arrows (bare shaft) and comparing the results.  You should aim at the center of the target, but do not concern yourself with actually hitting the center of the target at this time.  Only compare where the bare shaft group hits in relation to the fletched group. I suggest using three fletched and three bare shaft arrows. While I do not recommend it, it is possible to group tune with one fletched and one bare shaft arrow but you must be extremely confident in your shot execution. Use only your good shots for comparison. Completely ignore any poor shots.

Group tune at 10-20 yards from your target. Begin by shooting your fletched arrows followed by your bare shafts. Compare your results with the following diagrams for a right handed archer:

group-tuning-resultsIf you need to make height adjustments to the nock locator(s) and you used tie on nock locators, you should be able to spin the locator to move it up or down. It will follow the spiral of the center serving.

If you are having more than one problem e.x. you bare shaft group is above and left of the fletched group, you will need to use solutions from both diagrams to fix the issue.  Start with fixing ony up/down issues then work on any left/right issues.

If there are multiple solutions, you can select one or use a combination of two or more to fix the problem. The worse the problem is the more drastic your solution will have to be. Remember you are trying to find an appropriate spine for your arrows. There is always a chance you will have to buy new arrows with a different spine to achieve proper tuning.

Walk back tuning

Walk back tuning will fine tune your arrow alignment . The goal is to set the correct horizontal angle of the arrow and make corrections to the arrow spine. If you have the option, begin with the medium resistance spring installed in the plunger and set the tension in the middle.

walkbacktuning-small.jpgStart at 20 yards from your target. With your sight set to that distance, shoot a group of arrows at the top center “12 o’clock” position of the target face. Without moving the sight, walk back to 30 yards and shoot another group of arrows at the exact same top center “12 o’clock” position of the target face.  Again, without moving the sight, walk back to 40 yards and repeat. Finally do the same at 50 yards. The distances can be adjusted according to your range. Basically set the sight pin and do not move it while you shoot at increasing distances aiming for the exact same spot each time.

If your arrow groups slope down to the left, your arrow alignment is too far to the left. If you have a plunger, move your plunger in to the right 1/2 to 1 turn, and repeat the process. Continue to move the plunger and walk back tune until your arrow groups are all lined up vertically.

If you are right handed and the arrow groups line up vertically but they are all off to the left of the center line, adjust the plunger spring tension to a weaker setting.  Conversely, if they are to the right, adjust to a stiffer setting. Continue to adjust until the groups are on the center line of the target.  You may need to change the plunger spring or even arrow spine if you can’t get the alignment with plunger adjustments. If you previously group tuned your arrows you can forgo the plunger and arrow spine adjustments and simply move your sight to get the arrow groups on the center line of the target.

frenchtuning-small.jpgIf you do not have a range where you can shoot long distances, and/or it is unfeasible for you to walk back from your target while you are tuning, there is a variation of walk back tuning you can use. In this variation you will be shooting at two different targets, one very close, ideally 3 yards or so, and the other further away, 20 yards or more depending on your range. For this method, aim at the center of the target for all your shots.

Start by setting your sight to the further distance (yes, the further distance) then shoot a group of arrows at the close target. Next, without changing your sight, shoot another group of arrows at the further target.

In relation to the vertical center line of the target, Compare the arrows on the close target to the arrows on the further target. If your arrow groups do not line up vertically, move the plunger, in very small increments, the same direction that you would want to push the arrows on the further target so that they line up with the arrows on the closer target. If both arrow groups line up vertically but they or not on the vertical center line of the target, adjust the plunger spring or arrow spine accordingly or if you previously group tuned your arrows, simply adjust the sight.

One thing I really like about this method is that you can tune from one position like a shooting line at a public range. The more distance there is between the two targets the more accurate reading you will get but you should still be able to get a good tune even if all you have is 20 yards.

Congratulations, at this point your bow is well tuned and you are ready to work on getting that high score. Good luck and have fun.

If you have any tuning tips or tricks that I did not mention here, I would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below with your tuning tip.