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. I talk more about this in my article “The form pyramid”. 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 different combinations of form and aim.


Having good form will allow you to be more precise. 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 accurate. 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”


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).


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 29” arrow with 100gr point)

  • 15 lbs…..1400 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


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 arrow 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.

Use 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.


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. For more information on the shooting process I teach all my students, check out my article “Learn to shoot with the form pyramid“.

Mistake #8 – Variable Anchor Position

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 recommend a barebow anchor. Rest your hand on your cheek and touch the back corner of your mouth with the tip of your index. To increase consistency, some experienced archers will even select a tooth to touch because your mouth is pliable but your skeleton is rigid.


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.

The anchor will be different for different styles of archery. For compound archers, the anchor depends on the type of release you use. It will involve 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 push or 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.

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


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

Mistake #10 – “Gripping” the bow


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.


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 your wrist 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. When you achieve this angle in your knuckles it often feels like your plam is facing 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.

Slugs and how to build the best hunting arrow

Working as a bow technician and technical expert at Lancaster Archery Supply’s pro shop and showroom, I found that the majority of the customers were bow hunters. Every day I was being asked for advise on bowhunting related subjects. Most questions were pretty mundane and easy to answer but there was one reoccurring question that peaked my interest… “how do I build the best hunting arrow”? As a competitive Olympic recurve and compound target archer, this question at first was foreign to me. As I am the type of person who is unsatisfied until I have a mastery of the subject, I was determined to find information that would allow me to provide an appropriate and compelling answer. During my research I found a lot of material supporting FOC and Kinetic Energy. But it wasn’t until I found an article on momentum authored by a bowhunter named Tony Martins that I really felt like I found what I was looking for. 

When writing a blog article, I try to sift through and extract specific bits of knowledge I have gained over the years through my my own experiences and from various sources. I select only pertinent and important info that I then coalesce and condense into an article that I feel is helpful and informative. It is not often I come across a piece of material that is thorough yet concise and summarizes, without irrelevant banter, a complete collection of information presented into a piece that lacks little to nothing. Stumbling upon Tony Martins’ article I was extremely impressed and happy to find an article that was expertly written and provided a complete summary of all the information I was looking for. So with only a bit of editing and reworking on my part, I would like to present Tony’s article to you. It is truly the best and most comprehensive presentation of information I have come across in relation to what is actually important when deciding on how to build the best hunting arrow. 

KILLER ARROWS – Kinetic Energy & Momentum

Written by: Tony Martins

Edited by: Ian Garner

Original article: https://blog.gritroutdoors.com/killer-arrows-kinetic-energy-momentum/

If you’re a hunter, chances are good that you know something about kinetic energy. It’s generally understood that the greater the kinetic energy, the greater the killing power of the bullet or arrow. Momentum is another important factor in the lethality equation, particularly if you’re a bowhunter. 

Unfortunately, momentum (a.k.a. “persistence force”) is often overlooked, and unless you’re also a physicist, more difficult for most hunters to relate to lethality. Understanding how kinetic energy and momentum affect downrange performance will help to make your bow and the arrows it launches more deadly on the game that you hunt.

Let’s start with a basic review of kinetic energy and momentum as they relate to archery equipment. 

Kinetic energy is a function of the speed and mass of a moving object. An arrow at rest in a quiver has no energy. Work must be performed to give it energy, this work is performed by the archer. When the bowstring is pulled and the bow limbs flex, energy is created by the archer’s work. At full draw, this “potential” energy is stored in the bow. When the string is released most of this stored energy is transferred to the arrow, some is converted into noise, vibration, and friction in the moving components of the bow. The greater the efficiency of the bow, the greater the percentage of energy transferred to the arrow propelling it forward with kinetic energy (KE). 

The basic formula for calculating KE is 1/2 the mass of the moving object multiplied by the square of its velocity [KE = 1/2 (mass) x (velocity x velocity)]. 

The expression of KE as related to archery, multiplies the weight of the arrow in grains by the square of the arrow speed in feet-per-second, and then divides the product by the constant 450,800. The result is expressed in foot-pounds of energy (the energy required to exert 1 pound of force for a distance of 1 foot):

With KE, an increase in velocity will have a much greater effect on the outcome than an similar increase in mass. 

While KE is a measurement of the energy of a moving object, momentum is a measurement of the persistence of the moving object. 

Persistence “P”, is the force that drives the arrow into an animal. Another way to understand this concept is to imagine the amount of resistance (from things like hide, tissue, body fluids, and bone) required to stop the arrow as it tries to pass through the animal. 

The basic formula for calculating momentum is  the objects mass multiplied by the objects velocity [P = (mass) x (velocity)].

The expression of momentum as related to archery, is calculated by multiplying the weight of the arrow in grains by the arrow speed in feet-per-second, and then dividing by the constant 225,400. The result is expressed in slug feet-per-second of persistence force:

With P, an increase in mass (weight) will have a much greater effect on the outcome than it would with KE.

So what is a “slug?” A slug is defined as the mass that is accelerated by 1 ft/s2 when a net force of one pound (lbf) is exerted on it. One slug is a mass equal to 32.1740 lb (14.59390 kg) based on standard gravity. Basically, momentum is a measurement of the concentrated force of an object that is moving in a specific direction at a specific point in time. For bowhunters: It’s the force that enables the arrow to push through the animal’s hide, tissue, bone, etc.

Although technical experts in the archery and firearms industries typically revere the virtues of KE, P is just as, if not more important than KE in lethality assessments for comparatively slow moving hunting projectiles like arrows.

The idea of “Speed kills” is an overused and often misused cliché, particularly when it comes to bowhunting. Although light-weight/high-speed arrows offer some definite advantages over heavier/slower arrows, additional killing power is not among them. A light-weight arrow will be slowed by air resistance at a greater rate than a heavier arrow with the same aerodynamic profile, thus, the heavier arrow, while slower, will in ratio retain a greater percentage of its original KE and its momentum downrange, and arrive with greater killing power as well. Not convinced? Prove it to yourself with this simple experiment: Throw a light weight Wiffle Ball as hard as you can against the door of a brand new car…It will hardly leave a mark. Next, repeat this exercise with a regulation baseball. While you may not be able to throw the base ball with the same amount of speed right out of your hand, you can easily imagine the substantially greater amount of damage that will result from the impact of the heavier/slower baseball!

Central to this line of reasoning are the differences in how bullets and arrows kill. Bullets fired at high velocity from “high-powered” rifles kill by transferring their stored kinetic energy causing direct tissue damage (destruction of the tissue), and indirect tissue damage from the “shock” of that energy transfer. Blood loss and/or shock trauma cause fatality. (Note: You can see the shock that results from firing bullets into ballistic gelatin vividly demonstrated in a host of YouTube videos) 

In comparison, arrows tipped with broadheads launched at comparatively low velocities from bows lack the high speed KE required to kill from shock or direct tissue damage, and must rely solely on their ability to kill by cutting a wound channel deep enough to allow for fatal blood loss.

So, based on the above, we can conclude that heavier/slower arrows are better for hunting than lighter/faster arrows, right? Not necessarily. What you hunt and how you hunt are also major considerations for determining what arrow is best. If you hunt turkeys behind decoys from a groundblind or whitetails exclusively from a treestand, and limit your shots to 20 yards, almost any arrow/broadhead combo that you can shoot accurately will get the job done. If you take longer shots, hunt on foot where awkward shooting positions may be required, and/or hunt flighty game that’s likely to move before the arrow arrives however, you probably prefer faster and thus, lighter arrows.

Fast arrows would seem to provide bowhunters with a couple of practical advantages over slower arrows. The faster an arrow flies, the quicker it arrives on target, leaving less time for the effects of air resistance and gravity. From the time an arrow leaves the string air resistance (friction) acts to slow it down, and gravity pulls it toward the ground. Thus, a fast arrow will have a flatter trajectory than a slower arrow. This not only facilitates accuracy, but it’s also more forgiving when distance is misjudged. Bowhunters also speak in terms of “… one pin out to 40 yards.” The practical meaning is that a really fast arrow will likely hit the kill zone of a deer-sized animal up to 40 yards away, even if the distance is poorly judged. This can prove to be an advantage in many bowhunting situations. Conversely with a 700 grain, 220 fps arrow, placing the 35 yard pin on the heart of a deer 40 yards away would likely result in a clean miss under the animal! This does not mean that heavy arrows are not accurate – it simply means that there is more wiggle room for error with a lighter arrow, due to its flatter trajectory.

However, when a bow launches an arrow, some of the potential energy that was stored in the bow is converted to sound. This sound travels 3-5 times faster than the arrow. The lighter the arrow the greater the sound, and the greater the sound the more likely the target animal will hear the bow and have a chance to move before the arrow arrives. In the typical reaction, the animal will crouch down as its muscles tense for subsequent explosion into movement. Also called “jumping the string,” this gives the appearance that the animal has “ducked” under the arrow. So while light and fast have their advantages, additional noise/vibration caused by light/fast arrows is not good when hunting wary, skittish animals.


It takes some time and effort (and expense!) to find the perfect hunting arrow for your bow setup. Some bowhunters are convinced that “speed is king” and “kinetic energy kills” so they choose the lightest/fastest arrow that their bow will shoot safely. The International Bowhunting Organization (IBO) has established a 5 grains-per-pound of draw weight safety standard. Thus, a 60-pound bow should shoot arrows that are no lighter than 300-grains (5 grains-per-pound x 60 lbs.). The IBO minimum arrow mass standard is enforced at 3D shoots, as archers typically want the fastest, flattest shooting arrows for target competition, where excess noise and penetration are non-issues. However, bowhunters are better served by a quiet shooting rig that sacrifices a little KE as a trade-off for greater momentum (and penetration).

A number of KE standards and recommendations are available for bowhunters but unfortunately, no such standards have been established for momentum. The most often cited KE reference for killing game with arrows comes from Easton Archery:

15-25 ft-lbsSmall Game (rabbbit, groundhog, etc.)
25-41 ft-lbsMedium Game (deer, antelope, etc.)
42-65 ft-lbsLarge Game (elk, black bear, wild boar, etc.)
65-80 ft-lbsToughest Game (cape buffalo, grizzly, moose, etc.)

Now, let’s assume draw weights of 40-, 50-, 65- and 80-pounds for the four Easton categories (top to bottom). Using the IBO minimum of 5-grains-per-pound, we can assign minimum arrow weights to the Easton categories (draw weight x 5gpp): 200-grains, 250-grains, 325-grains and 400-grains respectively. Using these arrow weights and the KE ranges from the Easton table, we can use the following formula to calculate the resultant arrow velocities:

([grains X fps ^2] / [450,800] = KE ft-lbs)

40-pounds200-grains minimum15 ft-lbs = 184 fps25 ft-lbs = 237 fps
50-pounds250-grains minimum25 ft-lbs = 212 fps41 ft-lbs = 275 fps
65-pounds325-grains minimum42 ft-lbs = 242 fps65 ft-lbs = 300 fps
80-pounds400-grains minimum65 ft-lbs = 271 fps80 ft-lbs = 300 fps

And, with arrow weights and velocities established, we can now use the following momentum formula to calculate the momentum force range that corresponds to each section in the Easton Archery table:

([grains X fps] / [225,400] = P slug fps) 

0.163-0.210 slug fps15-25 ft-lbsSmall Game
0.207-0.305 slug fps25-41 ft-lbsMedium Game
0.349-0.433 slug fps42-65 ft-lbsLarge Game
0.481-0.532 slug fps65-80 ft-lbsToughest Game

And there you have it! With some well established parameters and simple mathematics we have developed a table that relates minimum arrow momentum to game size. (Credit: Tony Martins)

So, how can this information be used to create the perfect hunting arrow? Let’s say we are going to hunt elk with a bow drawing 65 pounds, and have been using 325-grain arrows flying at 300 feet-per-second. From the equations above above, we see that this setup generates around 65 ft-lbs of KE and momentum of 0.433 slugs. Experimenting with inserts to increase arrow weight and using a chronograph to measure resulting arrow speeds, yields the following results:

325-grains300 feet-per-second64.9 ft-lbs0.433 slug fps
425-grains271 feet-per-second69.2 ft-lbs+6.6%0.511 slug fps+18%
475-grains257 feet-per-second69.6 ft-lbs+0.6%0.542 slug fps+6%
525-grains244 feet-per-second69.3 ft-lbs0.4%0.568 slug fps+4.8%

Increasing arrow weight from 325-grains to 425-grains decreases velocity by about 10% BUT increases both KE by 6.6% and momentum by 18%! 

Another increase in arrow weight to a total of 475 grains, again decreases velocity by 5% but still increases KE by .6% and momentum by an additional 6%. 

With another increase in weight to a 525 grain arrow, again we see a 5% decrease in overall velocity, BUT for the first time we now see a loss in KE due to the velocity loss! Since momentum is improved by a little less than 5%, this arrow yields a total loss in both KE and the slug percentage gain from the previous arrow weight! At this point, the additional arrow weight adds little in the way of additional killing power (slugs), and since we experience a loss in KE foot pounds, with and additional arrow drop in flight from significant velocity reduction (making accurate arrow placement more difficult), the 525-grain arrow now falls outside the practical limit for an ideal set up. I would call this the point of diminishing returns

With this information we can clearly conclude the best result was actually in the previous step with the arrow that weighed 475 grains!

Basically to sum it all up, as long as you are now convinced that more momentum (P in slugs) is better when hunting with a bow and arrow, and you don’t mind slightly compromising arrow trajectory, all you have to do to achieve the most lethal hunting arrow is… Begin with an arrow weighing the minimum recommend IBO weight (5gpp) and start adding weight to your arrow until you experience a loss in KE, then take it one step back.

It’s really that simple. With understanding and applying the dynamics of both kinetic energy and momentum you can be a more lethal bowhunter!

Best of luck. 

NTS… in a nutshell

The National Training System “NTS” in its entirety is not a simple system. With all its intricacies, it can be easy to misunderstand. Learning NTS from Coach Kisik Lee was eye opening. It was important for me to hear it from the source as so much of what I thought I knew previously about NTS was actually inaccurate.

The following is, in a nut shell, my understanding of NTS as it was taught to me by Coach Lee and how I described it back to him during my practical exam for my coaching certification.

For those of you who are interested in learning NTS, I hope this helps to dispel any myths or questions you may have had about the system.

Part of what I love about being a coach is helping people find answers. If the information below does not have the answers you are looking for, or if you have further questions, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to respond.

And now, on to NTS…

NTS uses sport science combining a biomechanically stable and efficient shooting technique with an 11 step shooting sequence. You can think of these two aspects as software and hardware, where the software are the steps of the shot and the hardware is the technique you use to execute the steps. 

Having software is crucial. The software allows you to increase consistency especially in regards to you rhythm and timing and your form. The software allows you to command and control your shot, and maintain mental toughness under pressure (the ability to aggressively return to your process when needed). Without software, it is easier to fall victim to target panic. 

The following are the details of the software and hardware of NTS…


NTS uses an open stance for stability and to prevent a “hollow back”. To set the open stance…

1.     Straddle the shooting line with feet shoulder width apart.

2.     Ball of back foot on the target line, back foot rotated 15 degrees open to the target.

3.     Front foot big toe 2” behind target line and rotated 30 degrees open to the target.

4.     60% of weight on balls of feet, 40% of weight on heals, gripping the ground with you feet.


Nock the arrow the same way each time making sure it is on the rest and under the clicker.


Set hook before grip and visually check your hook.

To make the hook…

1.     Curl the fingers so they point back towards you.

2.     Back of hand flat (press your knuckles in).

3.     Wrist slightly out with a natural curve.

4.     Thumb and pinky back to form a “c” shape.

Place hook on string, hooking upward and gently squeezing the spacer between your fingers.

The string should be placed…

1.     Just in front of first joint of index.

2.     Just behind first joint of middle.

3.     On pad of ring.

The finger pressure at set should feel approximately 50/30/20 top down. This will change during the shot to 40/50/10 to keep the string vertical.

To set your grip, set your pivot point (webbing between thumb and index) into the valley of the grip then press your pressure point (which is in the center of your thumb mound, at the base of the thumb, inside the lifeline) behind the center of the bow grip.

Knuckles should be 45 degrees to the riser’s arrow shelf with your fingers curled in to your palm, index finger on front of riser pointing down.

Thumb straight, thumb print pointing forward, gently squeezing the bow between your thumb and index finger to help engage the bow arm muscles (the lats and triceps on the bow arm side).



1.     Knees locked.

2.     Hips open to the target and stay there for the rest of the shot (no hip rotation).

3.     Hips tucked under and chest down to prevent hollow back.

4.     Shoulders down and level.

5.     Head to target.

Bow arm straight with bow arm muscles engaged, elbow rotated almost vertical.

Draw elbow inside arrow line, string hand away from the body.

Slight coil (rotation of upper body around the spine) to tighten the core and begin to brace the bow building about 40% back tension.

Before moving on take a zen breath (4 seconds in / 4 seconds out), think about what you want to do, and mentally commit to the shot.


In set up we establish the barrel of the gun and most of your draw scapula movement.

Barrel of the gun is when your back shoulder, front shoulder, front elbow and front wrist are all in a straight line together.

To set up, keep bow arm muscles engaged and raise the bow, draw arm should follow bow arm. 

Open the bow by coiling your upper body to establish the barrel of the gun. Draw scapula makes a major movement towards spine building 60% of back tension.

Draw elbow should stay inline or behind the arrow line and level with draw wrist.

Draw hand should end up approx 2” below the chin, just behind the front shoulder, and slightly away from the body.

At set up, the stabilizer and arrow point to the left of the target (for a right handed archer).

No aiming at this point.


Drawing is done angularly using LAN2. 

LAN2 is a focal point centered between your draw elbow and shoulder on the back of the upper arm.

When drawing, move LAN2 in an angular motion (movement around the central pivot point aka the spine). The draw elbow moves around and slightly up along the draw force line from the pressure point. 

Back tension should increase to about 80% with minor scapula movement.

The draw hand will move in a straight diagonal line into the chest and finish about 1” below the jaw. The pinky and thumb touch the base of the neck and the string lightly touches the face.

Bow pivots in the hand and the stabilizer rotates toward the target.

Bow hand should be above the center of the target.

No aiming, and no change in the length of the barrel of the gun.


To anchor, again move LAN2 angularly, this will increase your back tension to approx 90% and escalate your draw elbow and hook into your anchor position.

The 2nd and 3rd joint of the index finger of the hook should be pressed into the jaw, back of thumb and tip of pinky should be firmly pressed into the neck. The string will be on the corner of the chin and lightly touching the nose. 

Again, no aiming at this time.


To transfer use your anchor as a fulcrum for leverage and move LAN2 Parallel to the shooting line. This will increase your back tension to 95+% and begin holding.

Holding the most important step in NTS. Holding is both mental and physical.

In mental holding you are calming your mind. Once your mind in calm, you make the conscious choice to move to expansion where your subconscious takes over.

Holding can be described using an analogy of a water bottle with water in it, where the bottle represents your physical movements and the water inside represents your mental state. Holding the bottle sideways is the start of your shot. As you move through your sequence the bottle rotates towards vertical. When the bottle gets vertical you are at your hold position. But at the moment you reach hold (vertical bottle) the water inside is still moving.  We need to stop and wait till the water is calm them we can choose to move on and finish the shot.

You can test for mental holding using a heat rate monitor.  If you are holding correctly your heart rate will go down.

In physical holding you are using your bone structure and alignment to resist the forces of the bow. The strength of the hold position is what allows you to reduce intensity and calm your mind. This is the most biomechanically stable and efficient way to shoot. 

The feeling of holding can be described as being braced inside the bow. Some say it almost feels effortless. 

You can feel “holding” with the “squeeze drill”. Additionally, you can test for holding using a shot trainer.

At hold the clicker should be about 2mm away from being activated.


Expansion is an invisible internal movement that should take 3 seconds or less.

Focus on the feeling of finishing the shot while the sub conscious takes over.

During expansion you should be holding your breath.  This will increase your blood pressure and expand your chest.

Keep your back tension and bow arm muscles engaged.

As a result, the barrel of the gun and the bow will shift forward toward the target ever so slightly activating the clicker.

Aiming begins after expansion starts. To aim keep eye focus on the target and line up the string blur on the right side of the sight aperture (for a right handed archer).

The timing of expansion is important. The sub conscious and the rise in blood pressure can only be sustained for about 3 seconds. Any longer and we lose the ability to expand properly.

There should be no movement of the anchor during expansion.


To release, the fingers sub-consciously relax allowing the sting to push the fingers out of the way. 

The draw elbow and bow arm move around and down following the path of the archer’s disc (a tilted plane encircling the archer). 

The string hand should finish just behind the neck in the original hook shape.

The bow hand “sit” motion and the string hand follow through need to be synchronized to maintain the balance of the shot. This means your back tension is at it’s greatest at the end of the follow through.

Tension (back and bow arm tension) and direction (Following the path of the archers disc) must be maintained to the end of the follow through with no change to the length of the barrel of the gun.


Before loading the next arrow take a couple zen breaths, calm yourself, evaluate the previous shot, stay positive, and prepare for the next shot.

To make the shot sequence more streamline you can shorten the software into 8 essential steps to focus on while shooting:

1.     Set – Stance, hook, grip, posture

2.     Set Up – Barrel of the gun, major scapula movement

3.     Load – LAN2 angular movement

4.     Anchor – Angular escalation

5.     Transfer – LAN2 parallel movement

6.     And (the “and” represents hold) – Calm mind and body

7.     Expand – 3 seconds, LAN2 continues parallel

8.     Follow Through – Maintain tension and direction


The Key points to the breath cycle are…

Our lungs are never completely full or completely empty, they hover between 50-70%.

Breathe diaphragmatically.

Hold breath during expansion so blood pressure can increase expanding the chest.

At set take a breath in as you raise the bow, then breathe out and finish set up. Then breathe in when drawing and breathe out to get to holding. Then hold your breath until the shot is complete.

And there it is! Again if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to help.

Archery is as simple as 1,2,3.

In my experience, I believe excelling in archery boils down to three things. Simply put, they are:

  1. Learn an efficient shooting technique
  2. Eliminate the variability in that technique
  3. Practice

Sounds easy enough right?

Maybe, but let’s have a closer look at each of these.

Learn an efficient shooting technique

Efficiency refers to achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. Using biomechanically stronger body positioning and specific muscle targeting allows an archer to be more efficient.  With more efficiency you will be more stable and able to handle more draw weight. Archery is a sport of accuracy and precision.  The more stable you are the better your accuracy and precision will be.  Additionally, being able to handle more draw weight is an advantage.  With more draw weight, the arrow will have a flatter trajectory to the target.  The flatter the trajectory, the smaller the margin of error.

Eliminate the variability in that technique

With the exception of equipment, if you remove environmental forces acting on the arrow, ultimately it is the variability in the archer’s form that results in arrow variability on the target.  Remove all environmental, equipment, and form variability and every arrow you shoot will “Robin Hood” the previous arrow. As humans, completely removing all variability is, as far as I know, impossible.  Instead, the goal for each shot, is to eliminate as much variability as humanly possible.


The more you practice, the more you will continue to reduce your form variability. There are also surprises, random situational issues, and unfamiliar variables you will encounter as you shoot. The more you practice and experience these issues the better you will be at negotiating, and overcoming them.

Now that you know what the goals are, the question is how to achieve them. 

There are many “tried and true” efficient shooting techniques.  One popular technique in the U.S. is the National Training System (NTS). A high-level certified archery coach will be trained in teaching these techniques.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to find and work with a knowledgeable coach. Train with them as much as possible to learn and master a reliable efficient shooting technique.

To reduce variability, archers can use video, drills, and training tools. I believe it is extremely important to practice with direction and purpose.  Without direction, just shooting high volumes of arrows only builds strength and endurance, which are also important, however it is important to remember practice DOES NOT make perfect, practice makes PERMANENT! You must practice with a focus on the specific elements in your form that you want to imprint, otherwise you will form “bad habits” that you will have to un-train.

Doing all this is NOT EASY. You must practice as much as you can and be prepared because it takes time… lots of time.  It also takes patience, dedication, focus, and discipline. My advice is to accept these truths and expect the road to be a long one. Learn to enjoy the journey as you experience it otherwise you may find yourself trapped in disappointment and frustration.

During one of my training sessions my coach noticed I was having an exceptionally difficult and frustrating time.  He stopped me and said to me “Listen, for this next shot I don’t want you to think about anything. Don’t think about your form, don’t think about the target, don’t think about score… Just shoot this arrow and enjoy the act of shooting a bow and an arrow!”  So that is what I did and I tell you, I can’t explain just how helpful it was to stop and actually enjoy the act of shooting a bow and an arrow. This brought some joy back and helped center me.  I was again having fun.  After all why would you do archery if it wasn’t any fun!?!?. 

There will be hardships and times you want to quit, just remember why you began archery in the first place… and keep going!

Here are a few words of inspiration to help push you forward…

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

Avoiding failure avoids success

Do not quit when you fail, instead fail until you succeed.

An Olympic recurve tuning method like none other

Over the last 20 years of my archery career, there as been one area that has held particular interest for me…tuning.

The physics of how to get an arrow to shoot “straight” are fascinating. There are numerous actions and reactions that all happen in a very short period of time once you release the string.  If all the variables do not work together appropriately we get less than ideal arrow flight, and consequently inconsistent results.

I have used many methods of tuning in the past with good results but until recently, my understanding of the physics was…incomplete.

This year, I had the privilege of working with two of the most knowledgeable arrow tuning experts I have ever met.  With their help I was finally able to get scientific answers to all the questions no one before was able to answer!

My moment of clarity came to me when I realized tuning equates to “timing”. When an arrow is shot, the front, middle, and back end of the arrow go through a cycle of movements. If everything is timed correctly the arrow will have good clearance, good direction, and good flight. If the timing of any part of the arrow is off, the arrow will have poor clearance, poor direction, and poor flight.

Using your fingers to release the bow string results in the string following a path that oscillates left and right as it moves forward and returns to the brace height position.


Photo credit: meta-synthesis.com

These oscillations cause the arrow to flex horizontally in a cycle as it is shot. Many people erroneously call this the “Archers paradox”.


Photo credit: Bahamas Archery

At the front and the back of the arrow there are nodes. A node is a point on the arrow that stays stationary while the rest of the arrow bends and oscillates in flight.

nodesDuring the first phase of the arrow’s initial “bending” cycle, the front of the arrow is pressed into the plunger. After a couple inches of travel the arrow disconnects and loses contact with the plunger.  If, at the moment of disconnect, the front node is too far behind the plunger, the front of the arrow will “jump” away from the riser. Conversely if the front node is too far in front of the plunger at the moment of disconnect, it can cause the front of the arrow to “jump” in towards the riser. Arrow length and plunger tension are two major considerations that have a large impact on the position of the node at the time the shaft disconnects from the plunger.

During the last phase of the arrows initial cycle, the nock will disconnect from the string.  If the timing of the disconnect is off because it cycled too fast by oscillating too quickly (high frequency), or because it cycled too slow by oscillating too gradually (low frequency), it will again cause the nock to jump in towards or away from the riser. Brace height and arrow weight are two major considerations that have a large impact on the timing of the disconnect of the nock.

Before any successful tuning can be done, your equipment needs to be to be set up properly. If your equipment is not set up properly it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the results you want.

Pre tune Set up, in order:

1. Brace height. Set brace height to the middle of the manufacturers recommended brace height range.

2. Tiller. Set the tiller to accommodate your style of hook and finger pressure. If you are not sure, I recommend 1/4” positive tiller (1/4” greater on the top than the bottom) for split finger shooters, and even tiller for three under shooters.

3. Limb alignment. Click here for my custom method of limb alignment.

4. Arrow set up.  There are three crucial components to good arrow set up.  Arrow length, arrow spine, and arrow weight.

To allow ample room for adjustment, you will need at least 3” of shaft length in front of the cushion plunger at full draw. For an appropriate starting arrow shaft length you can just add 3” to your actual draw length or 1.25” to your AMO draw length. If you are unsure what your actual or AMO draw length is you can check out my article on finding your draw length.

To find an appropriate starting spine, use the total length of the arrow you just calculated and the draw weight on your fingers to look up the manufacturer’s recommended spine in their spine chart. It is usually more convenient (especially for your budget) to fix an arrow that acts “weak” than an arrow that acts “stiff” so I suggest starting with an arrow that is one or two groups weaker than the chart recommends. I have found most of the charts tend to recommend an arrow spine that is too stiff anyway.

In regards to arrow weight, you will have to come back and check this after further tuning is completed. It is uncommon for the arrow to weigh too little but I would recommend you do a quick check of the completed arrow (after it has been cut down and components installed) post tuning. An arrow that is too light can cause the arrow to move too fast which can result in the back end of the arrow contacting the riser, plunger, or rest.  The arrow weight measurement we use is “grains per pound” (gpp). To find your gpp, measure the overall mass weight of your arrow (including all components) then divide that by the draw weight on your fingers at full draw. If your arrow weighs less than 8 gpp, I suggest using a heavier arrow. This will help to insure the arrow is traveling at a speed that will allow it to complete its initial oscillation cycle and have adequate clearance.

5. Arrow alignment “center shot”. In this step adjust the rest arm and plunger depth so the center of the arrow shaft runs directly down the center plane of the bow and visually aligned with the center of the string. YES,  you read that correctly… for this method you will NOT be setting the arrow “to the left” of the string (for right handed shooters) like you may have been told to do previously. Then set the rest arm height so the plunger contacts the center of the side of the arrow shaft.

6. Plunger tension. Set the plunger tension to the middle setting i.e. medium spring set to medium tension.

7. Sight alignment. Finally, set the center of your sight aperture directly above the center line of your arrow shaft. You will be leaving the sight at this position for the rest of the tuning procedure.

At this point your set up is ready to tune.

The tuning process:

Step 1 – Optimize Dynamic Spine

The first step in tuning is to optimize the dynamic spine. There is only a split second of time from the moment you release the string until the arrow clears the bow.  It is only during this split second of time that we have the ability to change the reaction of the arrow and adjust the tune. First we need to check to make sure the dynamic spine (the amount the shaft flexes when shot) is optimized.

To check the dynamic spine you will need to shoot a bareshaft through paper or  into a target at no more than 2-3 meters away. Shooting at a greater distance will allow air friction to take over and correct or even over-correct any errors we are trying to reveal.

To build an appropriate bareshaft, use a grain scale to find the total arrow weight by measuring a bareshaft along with the fletching and all the arrow components. Now remove the fletching (if they were attached to the shaft) and wrap an amount of tape equal to the weight of the fletching around the bareshaft where the fletching would go. Basically, wrap tape around the shaft until the weight of the arrow equals the total arrow weight measured previously with the fletching. The weight of the fletching changes the dynamic spine, so you want to mimic the weight of the fletching with the tape on the bareshaft.

Next, set up to shoot your bareshaft through paper or into a new solid (not layered) foam target at 2-3 meters away. If you use anything other than paper or a new solid foam target, the positioning of the arrow may unintentionally be altered by the target itself, giving you a false reading. Remember, shooting at a distance greater than 2-3 meters, can also cause false readings!

At shoulder height, shoot your bareshaft through the paper or into the target and inspect the paper tear and/or the nock position of the arrow.

If a vertical discrepancy is discovered, fix that first. If the nock of the arrow is higher than the point of the arrow you have “nock high” flight. To fix this issue, lower your nocking point on the string. If the nock of the arrow is lower than the point of the arrow you have “nock low” flight. To fix this issue, raise your nocking point on the string. Adjust your nocking point until you have level nock flight.

Now determine if there is a horizontal discrepancy. If the nock is to the left of the point (for a right handed archer) your arrow is acting too “weak”. If the nock is to the right, your arrow is acting too “stiff”.

If the arrow is acting weak, you can shorten the arrow length or decrease the point weight to correct the issue.

If the arrow is acting stiff, increase the point weight. Additionally you could use a longer arrow or an arrow with a weaker spine.

Once you are able to achieve decent flight with very little horizontal or vertical displacement at 2-3 meters (ideally there would be no displacement, meaning the arrow is exiting the bow perfectly straight and level) you have optimized your dynamic spine!

Step 2 – Optimize Plunger Tension

This is the most fascinating part to me. Changing plunger tension is actually a timing adjustment! Adjusting the plunger tension changes where the front node is in relation to the plunger when arrow disconnects from the plunger.

Increasing the plunger tension lessens the amount of time the arrow is in contact with the plunger “advancing” the timing of the disconnect. Decreasing the plunger tension increases the amount of time the arrow is in contact with the plunger “retarding” the timing of the disconnect.

As I mentioned before the position of the front node in relation to the plunger determines if the front of the arrow will want to jump left or right. Ideally we want to find the optimal position where the arrow doesn’t want to jump in either direction.

To find the optimum setting, you will need to do a version of a “walk back tune”. Basically you want to shoot at the same spot on a target without changing your sight at multiple distances.  This will create a pattern of impact holes on the target. When all the holes line up in a perfectly vertical and plumb sequence without leaning at an angle, you have optimized the plunger tension setting. If the holes line up leaning at an angle you will need to adjust your plunger tension setting.

I suggest using the back of a vertical 3 spot FITA target face. Draw a vertical line down the center of the paper and draw a dot to aim at on the line somewhere close to the middle (it doesn’t have to be positioned perfectly in the middle).


Set the target face on a target 2 yards away. Using only a bareshaft, aim for the dot and take a shot. I recommend taking three good shots and averaging the impact zone. Disregard poor shots or shots executed with a poor release. Next move the target to 5 yards and repeat. Then do the same at 10 yards.

To analyze the results, draw a line connecting the average impact zones from all distances starting at the 2 yard group pattern and finishing at the 10 yard group pattern.

If the line angles up and to the left (right handed shooter) your plunger tension is too stiff. Reduce the tension and repeat the process starting again at 2 yards.

If the line angles up and to the right (right handed shooter) your plunger tension is too weak. Increase the tension and repeat the process.


Once the impact holes line up plumb, straight, and vertical, you have achieved an optimal plunger setting. If the holes are plumb, straight, and vertical but they are all off to the side of the line you drew, you need to adjust your string blur position. If the holes are to the left of the line, move your string blur to a position further left. If the holes are to the right of the line, move your string blur to a position further right. If you move your sight instead of your string blur to fix the problem, you are most likely compensating for a less than ideal head position.

Step 3 – Optimize Brace Height

Your brace height controls the timing of the nock departure from the string. I think brace height tuning is one of the most underrated variables. The timing of the nock departure from the string can be just as important as the timing of the front node position! If the nock departure is too early or late the back end of the arrow can again “jump” in a way that makes consistent and repeatable arrow flight very difficult.

To optimize the brace height, first check your brace height and make sure it is in the middle of the manufacturers recommend brace height range. Write the current brace height on a fresh target face.


Pin the target face on a target at 18 meters (or 20 yards) away. Using fletched arrows, shoot a group of 12 arrows at the target.

If you make a huge mistake while shooting an arrow, disregard that arrow and shoot another one in it’s place. Make sure to mark the hole from the bad arrow so it can be disregarded.

An arrow shot from a recurve bow will oscillate horizontally. Because of this, brace height tuning will only help the horizontal discrepancy of your group. Any vertical arrow discrepancies are from causes other than issues with the brace height.

To decider the results, find the two holes that are furthest away from each other “left to right”. Measure horizontally from outside to outside edge of the two holes and write that measurement down. This is your 12 arrow horizontal group size. To keep track of which holes I used for the measurement, I put a small number 12 next to each hole. Now discard the single worst hole (the hole furthest away from the center of the target horizontally) and measure the distance between the remaining furthest two holes (you will always be using one of the holes from the previous measurement). Because you disregarded the worst hole from before, you now have an 11 arrow horizontal group size. Write that measurement down and then write the number 11 next to each of these holes to keep track. Again disregard the worst single hole from the 11 arrow group and find your 10 arrow horizontal group size and write that measurement down with the number 10 next to each of these holes as well. You should now have a horizontal measurement for a 12, 11, and 10 arrow group size for that one particular brace height.


Add all three measurements together and divide by three to get your average horizontal group size.

Now decrease the brace height by a 1/4”. With a fresh target face write the new shortened brace height down on the target and repeat the steps from above getting the average from a 12, 11, and 10 arrow horizontal group size using the 1/4” shorter brace height.

Finally increase the brace height by 1/4” from the original brace height and repeat the process again. This means you have to return the brace to the starting height and then increase it by an additional 1/4”

If you started with an 8 1/2” brace height, in the end you would end up with average group size measurements for 8 1/2”, 8 1/4”, and 8 3/4”  brace heights.


You can record the results in a matrix chart like I did here:


Of the three brace heights you just tested, the brace height with the smallest average group size is the best choice. If the middle brace height also happens to be the best choice you have found your optimal brace height. If however, your best choice of the three was one of the smaller or larger brace heights then you are only headed in the right direction but more testing is required. Continue to make 1/4” brace height changes and chart the results in the direction that produced a tighter average group size. Continue to do this until you find a brace height that produces a worse average group size. The optimal brace height will be the one just before it got worse. If you max out and reach one end of the manufacturer’s recommended brace height range, you can stop there, or continue at your own risk. Make sure to check and adjust (if necessary) your brace height to the optimal measurement each time you string your bow.

At this point you have successfully optimized your spine, plunger tension, and brace height. You can be confident knowing your equipment is now working with you instead of against you.

An optimized tune will help you to achieve very good results. Personally, I am satisfied with an optimized tune, but depending on how serious you are about your equipment, you can continue to refine the results with a fine tune.

To fine tune your equipment repeat the entire process starting at step 1 with the following changes…

1. Adjust point weight, and/or arrow shaft, and/or nock point until your bareshaft is flying perfectly straight and can create a perfect “bullet hole” through paper at 4-6 meters.

2. Lengthen your “walk back” tune distances to 5, 10, and 20 yards and adjust your plunger tension accordingly

3. Instead of 1/4” changes, adjust brace height in 1/8” increments to find the perfect brace height.

I hope this information helps you to take your equipment tuning to the next level and achieve exceptional results.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Happy shooting!

Recurve Limb Alignment, A Better Method?

Aligning a recurve bow has been an area of concern for me for many years.  I have not yet found a conventional or standard method that does not have inherent problems.  I would argue the best conventional method is using a stabilizer to help align the string.  You can read about this in my article “How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you“. Theoretically as long as ALL the stabilizer hardware (including the bow stabilizer bushing) is absolutely straight and centered in the riser, you will not have any problems. However we live in an imperfect world and I can only assume somewhere down the line some portion of the stabilizer or hardware will be flawed, offset, or otherwise unreliable, which can cause inaccurate alignment issues. This is what led me to search for a better and more reliable method.

Thinking about the physics of the riser, bow planes, and issues with human error, I believe I have finally come up with a method of alignment that seems to solve the difficult issues I have previously encountered. Enjoy…

For this method you will need the following equipment:
-Hamskea easy third axis level
-Beiter Limb Line Gauge “Beiter Blocks”
-Plumb bob, I use an arrow with a heavy point and loose nock fit. The loose nock fit is absolutely necessary. If the nock fit is tight on the string, and the string twists, it will change the position/angle of the arrow shaft, completely nullifying the effectiveness of the arrow as a “plumb bob”

Set Up
Begin by stringing your bow. It will be easier if you do not have any equipment installed on your bow i.e. arrow rest, plunger, sight, stabilizers.  It will just be the riser, limbs, and string. Set the brace height and tiller.  If you are not sure how to set the brace height or tiller, you can refer to my article “How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you“.

Next install the Hamskea level between the sight plate mounting screw holes.  Use the flat edge of the level on the outside of the riser and the level tightening screw on the inside of the sight window. It is imperative that you use this spot on the bow because the riser should have been designed to have the sight mounted on a part of the bow that is parallel with the forward vertical plane of the bow. As far as I know, no other part of the riser is inline and parallel with the forward vertical plane of the riser.

Next install your Beiter blocks at the base of each limb no more than 1″ away from the riser.

Now balance your bow so it is face down.  I suspend the bow between the backs of two identical chairs. Position the bow so the Hamskea level reads PERFECTLY LEVEL according to the bubble.  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Making sure the bubble in the Hamskea level is centered between the lines ensures that you are aligning the limbs correctly with center vertical plane of the riser. Be sure to constantly check and recheck that the bow remains level during the alignment process. Keep in mind the “level” is monitoring that the bow is pointing straight down and not at an angle, you do not have to have the limb tips level with each other i.e. one limb can be higher than the other while balancing between the two chairs.

Snap the “plumb bob” arrow on to the string and move the arrow along the string until it is also in line with the riser plunger/rest hole.

Position yourself so you are looking down the length of the bow from one end. Cover one eye and move your body/head so you can visually align the string down the center of the plumb bob arrow.

Keeping the string visually aligned with the plumb bob, quickly peek down at the beiter block.  DO NOT MOVE YOUR BODY OR HEAD, just move you eye to look down at the beiter block. Peaking quickly back and forth between the beiter block and plumb bob can help to make sure the string stays aligned with the plumb bob during this step. If the string does not simultaneously line up down the exact center of the plumb bow arrow shaft AND the center of the beiter block you will have to adjust the horizontal alignment of the limb.
Move the limb tip the same direction you want to move the string. For example, if the string is off to the right on the beiter block, correct by moving the limb tip to the left to move the string left. Consult your riser owner’s manual for instructions on how to adjust the limb alignment hardware on the riser. Move the limb and recheck until the string simultaneously lines up down the center of the plumb bob arrow and the center of the beiter block. Remember to double check that the Hamskea level remains level. It is easy to accidentally move the bow during limb adjustment, so just make sure it is in fact leveled before inspecting your changes.
Now do the same to the limb on the opposite side of the riser.  Please note, adjusting the second limb can change the alignment of the first limb so be sure to double check everything before calling it good.


That’s it! Your limbs and string should now be aligned correctly. Remember to re-tighten any locking hardware if necessary. When string alignment is done correctly, the string will be aligned down the center of the limbs (at the base of the limb), down the center of the tiller bolt holes, and down the center of riser while in line with the center forward vertical plane of the bow.  Finally, before moving on to finish the set up, I also recommend checking to see if there is any limb twist. As long as the limbs are within an acceptable range you can move on. If there is too much twist, I recommend getting a new pair of limbs. If you are unsure how to check for limb twist, you can find the method I use in my article How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you..

Demystifying Stabilizers

Stabilizers were a mystery to me for a long time. I knew they were supposed to “stabilize” the bow and keep it “steady” but I didn’t know exactly how or why.

The basic theory is, an increase in the bow’s mass weight resists movement and more importantly, an increase in the bow’s mass weight at a distance resists rotational movement and raises the bow’s moment of inertia (MOI). Moment Of Inertia (MOI) is the measure of an object’s resistance to rotation. A high MOI is very resistant to rotational torque.

Stabilizers are multi functional. They allow you to add mass weight to the bow, balance the bow, and most importantly add weight at a distance raising the bow’s moment of inertia. The lighter, longer, and stiffer the stabilizer is the more effective it will be at raising the bow’s MOI.

The rigidity of the rod is very important. A limber rod decreases MOI by allowing the bow to move through the flexible range of the rod before the mass of your stabilizer weights can have their greatest effect on rotation.

Another common issue is separating the weights from the rod with a rubber vibration dampener. If the rubber is too soft it can allow movement of the system before the arrow leaves the bow, this reduces the effectiveness of the weights. If you are going to have a rubber vibration dampener, my suggestion is to move it to the end of the weights instead of positioning it between the weights and the rod.

While the shorter “back bars” or “v bars” also increase the bow’s MOI, they are primarily used to counter balance the weight of the front bar, sight, and natural forces of your grip. Changing the angle of v bars allows the archer to customize where the weight is positioned to better balance the bow.

The length, position, and weight of the stabilizers control the position of the bow’s center of gravity point. You can change how the bow reacts and performs by adjusting the position of the center of gravity. Below are two diagrams showing how to find a bow’s center of gravity. I recommend adjusting the rods and weights to position the center of gravity within 4” below the grip pivot point, and within 4” of the front of the riser.



Diagram Credit:

The amount of weight and the length of the rods is a personal preference. Generally the longer the rod and the more weight the better, UNLESS the increase in weight forces you to change form or posture in any way to compensate.

In regards to balance, mathematically speaking, twice the weight at half the distance will be evenly balanced. For example a 30” front rod with 4oz of weight will be evenly balanced by 15” back bars with 8oz of weight. Keep in mind however a recurve bow usually reacts better with the center of balance in front of the riser, so you may want have a slightly forward heavy setup. I use the same weight ratio but with shorter v bars to achieve this.

If you are using stabilizers for the first time, I recommend starting with 2oz of weight on the front bar and a total of 4 oz on the v bars (2 oz on each v bar). Only add weight if you can do so without compromising your form or posture. As your strength builds, you will be able to add more weight.

Try out a specific setup for long enough to get comfortable and proficient with it before you make changes. Since you are not used to it, it will feel “weird” at first. That is okay. Give it time and get used to it. Making changes too soon will not give you enough time to get the feedback you need to make appropriate changes.

I hope this information has been helpful and informative. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Additional reference and credit:

Arrow tuning 101, Barebow edition

For experienced archers, I can not stress enough the importance of tuning  your arrows. Without arrows tuned to your equipment, you can not achieve precise and consistent results no matter how good your form is! In this article I will be going over successful methods of arrow tuning for a recurve barebow.

Before we get started, I would like to mention, as unfortunate as it may seem, it is absolutely necessary that you are able to consistently execute a good clean release and follow through before you attempt arrow tuning. If you are unable to consistently execute a good release and follow through your results will not be accurate. In fact, they may end up being completely opposite of what you should be getting. Arrow tuning to a false reading from a poor release and/or follow through will lead to incorrect changes and completely defeat the purpose. I apologize for the severity of this statement but in the spirit of trying to help you avoid unnecessary frustration it is important to understand and accept this awful truth.

If you are unsure how or unable to execute a good clean release and follow through it is imperative that you work with a coach that can properly instruct you on how to learn and use them.

Additionally, before tuning your arrows you must also have your bow set up and tuned.  If your bow is not set up, you can refer to my article “How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you

Finally,  before tuning your arrows, you must also use an appropriately spined arrow (based on the arrow length and the draw weight on your fingers). If you are unsure about this, you can refer to my article “Bow and arrow sizing, how to find a good fit”

Now with these prerequisites in place lets get started!

Arrow Tuning Method 1 – Rigid Plunger Tuning

  1. Set rigid plunger – Begin by replacing the spring in your plunger with a piece of a wooden match or a wire so that there is no give to the plunger piston. This creates a rigid plunger.
  2. barebowcentershotSet center shot arrow alignment – Move the horizontal position of the plunger so the arrow alignment is set to a perfect center shot. When viewed from the shooters perspective, align your view so the the string is directly down the center line of the riser. From this perspective adjust the horizontal position of the plunger until the string splits the middle of the arrow shaft.
  3. Bare shaft paper test – Shoot a bare shaft (no fletching) through a paper tuner at 5-6 meters. Inspect the tear for any vertical or horizontal discrepancies.  If there is a  horizontal tear 3″ or wider you need an arrow with a different spine. If there is a horizontal tear less than 3″ wide, you may be able to tune that arrow. If there are any vertical discrepancies, fix them first. A nock high tear – (the arrow enters the paper with the nock higher than the point) Your nocking point is too high, lower your nocking point until there is no vertical discrepancy. A nock low tear – Your nocking point is too low, raise your nocking point until there is no vertical discrepancy. A nock left tear – (the arrow enters the paper with the nock to the left of the point) Your spine is too weak (right handed shooter), decrease draw weight or decrease point weight, or decrease shaft length until the tear is 1″ or less. A nock right tear – Your spine is too stiff (right handed shooter), increase draw weight or increase point weight until the tear is 1″ or less.
  4. Adjust string blur with fletched arrows – Keep a rigid plunger and move back to 18 meters.  Switch over to using fletched arrows. Shoot groups of fletched arrows at a 40 cm target face. At full draw you should be able to see the “blur” of the string. Tilt your head one way and the other and you can see you will be able to move the position of the string blur in relation to the bow riser.  Initially try aligning the string to the right edge of the riser cut out window. If the arrows are constantly hitting right of the center, move the string blur alignment further right (right handed archer). Or the opposite in the case of left of center groups.  Continue adjusting string blur position until you have found an alignment where all the arrows are grouping in the center of the target. This is the string blur position you want to use from this point on.
  5. Set medium plunger tension and adjust arrow alignment – Replace the spring in the plunger, use the medium spring set to it’s medium tension. Re-adjust the arrow alignment to just left of the string as per the instructions in my article “How to set up and tune your recurve bow, all the secrets they don’t tell you“.
  6. Fine tune plunger tension – Again, from 18 meters, shoot groups of fletched arrows at a 40 cm target. Using the string blur alignment that worked with the rigid plunger, Adjust plunger tension until arrows are grouping in the center of the target again. Decrease plunger spring tension to move the group to the right and increase plunger spring tension to move the group to the left.

Arrow Tuning Method 2 – Group Tuning

Group tuning also requires that the archer is capable of a good release and shooting acceptable groups. Group tuning involves shooting a group of fletched arrows together with a group of unfletched arrows (bare shaft) and comparing the results. While group tuning, you should aim at the center of the target using the same string blur alignment, but do not concern yourself with actually hitting the center of the target at this time. Your only concern here is the comparison between where the bare shaft group is located in relation to where the fletched group is located. I suggest using three fletched and three bare shaft arrows. Consider only well executed shots for comparison. Completely ignore any poorly executed shots. To group tune, follow the steps below…

  1. Shoot groups of bareshaft and fletched shafts together – Group tune at 18 meters 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:traditional-group-tuning-results
    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 any up/down issues first, then work on any left/right issues.If there are multiple solutions, you can select one or use a combination of two or more solutions to fix the problem. The worse the problem is the more drastic your solution will have to be.
    Remember the corrections you are making are adjusting the dynamic spine of your arrows. There is a limited range to what your current spine is capable of. If you can not get the arrows to group within 6 inches of each other at 18 meters, there is a good chance you will have to use an arrow with a different spine to achieve proper tuning.
  2. Final string blur Alignment – Once you are able to group your bare and fletched shafts together successfully, look at where the group is hitting in relation to the center of the target.  If your group is left of the center, move your string blur alignment further to the left on the riser (right handed archer).  Do the opposite for right of center groups. Continue to make small corrections until the group is in the center of the target. Note: it is also possible to move your arrow center shot position accordingly by adjusting the plunger depth collar. BUT too drastic of a move can cause other issues so if you choose to adjust  the collar, make only very small adjustments.

At this point, your arrows are generally tuned to your bow. To achieve even better results you may want to continue on to fine tuning your arrows.

Below are two methods to fine tune. Personally I use the walk back method, but if you take the time to do both walk back tuning and the short distance fine tuning, you should have exceptional results.

Fine Tuning Method 1 – Walk Back Tuning


Start 5 meters away from a 40cm target, aim the 12 O’clock position of the top edge of the entire target. Shoot a group of three arrows.

Now move back to 10 meters.  Aim at the exact same 12 O’clock position of the top edge of the target and shoot another group of three arrows.  Your arrows will be lower on the target.

Move back to 20 meters and again shoot a group of three arrows aiming at the same position. Again your arrows will be lower on the target.  Continue to move back 10 meters at a time until you groups are at the bottom of the target.

If your groups line up in a straight vertical line, your arrows are fine tuned an you do not need to make any dynamic spine corrections. If your arrow groups slope down the the left, your dynamic spine is too stiff (right handed archer), decrease your plunger tension and try again, repeat until your groups line up vertically, then adjust your string blur if necessary. If your arrow groups slope down the the right, your dynamic spine is too weak (right handed archer), increase your plunger tension and try again, repeat until your groups line up vertically, then adjust your string blur if necessary.

Fine Tune Method 2 – Short Distance Tuning

You can achieve a very good equipment tune at short distances. Use a 40cm or 60cm target face and place it “front side in”, yes this means you will be shooting at the back side of the target face. Basically a blank white square of paper. For the best results use a level or a plumb bob to get the edge of the target to be as close to level or plumb as you can.

Nock Locator Adjustment
Stand at a distance of 10-15 yards from the target. Using fletched arrows only, start by shooting at least 6 arrows horizontally along the top edge of the target face.

If there is a wide discrepancy in the vertical distance between your arrows i.e. inconsistently hitting above and below the line, you should make small adjustment to your nocking point position.  First make note of the initial position, then make a small, no more than 1/16″, upward adjustment to the nocking point position. Again shoot 6 arrows horizontally along the top edge of the target face.

If the discrepancy gets better i.e. the arrow pattern gets closer together, the nocking point position change you made was in the appropriate direction. Continue to make small changes in the same direction until you are satisfied with the arrow pattern.

If the discrepancy gets worse i.e. the arrow pattern spreads further apart, the nocking point position change you made was in the wrong direction. Reset the nocking point to it’s original position and then make a small adjustment in the other direction.


Dynamic Spine Adjustment
Again stand at a distance of 10-15 yards from the target. Using fletched arrows only, shoot at least 6 arrows vertically along the left side edge of the target face.

If there is a wide discrepancy in the horizontal distance between your arrows i.e. inconsistently hitting left and right of the line, you should make small adjustments to the dynamic spine of your arrow by adjusting the cushion plunger. First make note of the initial position, then make a very small change to increase the tension in your plunger. Again shoot 6 arrows vertically along the left side edge of the target face.

If the discrepancy gets better i.e. the arrow pattern gets closer together, the tension adjustment you made was in the appropriate direction. Continue to make small changes in the same direction until you are satisfied with the arrow pattern.

If the discrepancy gets worse i.e. the arrow pattern spreads further apart, the tension adjustment you made was in the wrong direction. Reset the plunger to it’s original position and then make a small adjustment in the other direction.




If you are experiencing inexplicable inconsistencies, I highly recommend conducting an insufficient clearance test. One way to do this is to use a dry “powder” foot spray like tinactin. Be sure to buy the “powder” and not the “liquid”.

Apply the powder to the last quarter of the arrow shaft and the fletching. Do not disturb the powder sprayed on the arrow while preparing to shoot. The arrow should be shot into a firm target so that it will not penetrate to the fletching.

Alternatively you can apply the powder spray to the riser instead of the arrow.  Completely coat the riser shelf, sight window, and rest. Use a clean arrow to shoot off the coated bow.

After shooting the arrow examine the areas where the dry powder spray was applied and look for areas where it has been is scraped off. If there is evidence of contact, the nature of any interference can be determined and corrected.

Congratulations, at this point your arrows should be tuned and you are ready to work on getting that high score. One final thing I would like to mention. You will find that if you try to group tune again after fine tuning, your bare shafts and your fletched shafts will no longer group together in the exact same spot.  This is normal and should actually be expected.  In reality a bare shaft and a fletched shaft do not have the exact same dynamic characteristics in flight and therefore should not actually impact in exactly the same spot. 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.

How a bow sight can help traditional archers with form!

In any style of target archery where the goal is to repeatedly hit the center of the target, you must be accurate and precise. It is important to understand, the difference between accuracy and precision.

In archery, precision refers to how tight you are grouping your arrows. The closer your arrows are together the higher your precision.

Accuracy refers to the arrows impact in proximity to the center of the target. The closer to the center, the higher your accuracy.

Here is the important part… your form is directly responsible for your precision and your aim is directly responsible for your accuracy.  You must have good form AND good aim to repeatedly hit the center of the target. So the question arises, is it my form or my aim causing me to miss? It is extremely important to know the actual cause if you do not want to make inappropriate adjustments.

In traditional archery, there are many different aiming techniques. We have gap shooting, instinctual, split vision, string walking, face walking, and more. All of these techniques rely in part on factors that are difficult to keep consistent. So how do you know for sure if you are having difficulty with your form or your aim? The answer is to use a bow sight. Using a bow sight will allow you to eliminate all inconsistent aiming variables. This is because the bow sight is affixed to your bow and provides an invariable aiming reference.

It is as simple as that.  Temporarily put a bow sight on your bow and you will know how consistent your form is. If you can not group well while using a sight then you need to work on your form and precision. If you are able to group well while using a sight, you should work on your accuracy and aiming technique without the sight.

I hope this helps you to diagnose any issues you are having and allows you to have more success in your archery career.

A quick method to combat target panic with a compound bow.

If you have target panic you are experiencing a form of shot anticipation. You need to rewire your brain.

One of the problems that leads to target panic is that you are in control of the timing of the release and telling yourself when to shoot. For now we need to switch part of that control over to someone else, so for this process you will need to have a helper.

With your helper, try these three steps to combat your target panic using a compound bow and a mechanical release: (note: if you are using a hinge or a resistance release switch to a finger trigger or thumb button release or a release that has a “no fire” safety position where the release can not be fired while drawing, anchoring, and aiming)

Step 1: Place your finger behind the release trigger/thumb button and draw your bow. For this step, make sure your finger is behind the trigger/thumb button and leave it there the entire time. Move your pin to the very center of the target (this will be the hard part, force yourself to do it) keep your pin in the center of the target with your finger behind the trigger/thumb button while your helper slowly counts to three. Once your helper gets to the count of three, let down. That’s right, let down after the count of three. Do not shoot, just let down. Repeat this step as many times as it takes until you until you can repeat it calmly, comfortably, and controlled.

Step 2:  Again, place your finger behind the release trigger/thumb button and draw your bow. Move your pin to the very center of the target. Keep your pin in the center of the target with your finger behind the trigger/thumb button while your helper slowly counts to three. Once your helper gets to the count of three, move your finger to rest on the front of the trigger/thumb button but DO NOT activate/shoot the release!!! . Keep you finger resting lightly on the trigger/thumb button and your pin in the very center of the target while your helper slowly counts to three again. Once your helper gets to the count of three for the second time, move you finger back behind the trigger/thumb button and let down. Yup, let down again. This is a very important step. Repeat this step as many times as it takes until you can do it calmly, comfortably, and controlled.

Step 3: Again, place your finger behind the release trigger/thumb button and draw your bow. Move your pin to the very center of the target. Keep your pin in the center of the target with your finger behind the trigger/thumb button while your helper slowly counts to three. Once your helper gets to the count of three, move your finger to the front of the trigger/thumb button but do not activate/shoot the release. Keep you finger resting lightly on the trigger/thumb button and your pin in the very center of the target while your helper slowly counts to three again. Once your helper gets to the count of three for the second time they will then tell you “execute the shot” OR “let down”. The decision is up to your helper but make sure it is randomized. If your helper decides to tell you “let down”, move your finger behind the trigger/thumb button and let down. If your helper decides to tell you “execute the shot” go ahead and slowly activate the release. Notice I said “activate the release” and not “shoot” this is important because your internal focus must be entirely on the physical action this is required to slowly get the release to activate instead of focusing on your aim or finishing the shot.  Repeat this step until you can do it calmly, comfortably, and controlled.

Once you have mastered the third step you should feel in control of your shot execution. If you are feeling in control, try executing the third step on your own without a helper. You can count to three inside your head if you like. Be sure to mix up executing a shot and letting down. If at any time you are unable to control the decision of when to shoot on your own, go back to having a helper.

The goal is to be able to be in full control of each and every shot without feeling antsy. You can calmly and comfortably make the decision to shoot or not to shoot at any time after the pin is aligned in the very center of the target.

I hope this helps you to cure your target panic. Best of luck and happy shooting!

How to deal with shot anticipation for finger shooters

In this article I will be discussing how to effectively deal with shot anticipation by using an external signal.

To execute a shot, your brain sends a signal to your fingers to release.  If your brain itself decides when this signal is sent, it will have plenty of time to anticipate the moment of release and allow your body to brace for that action with a flinch of some sort. Flinching before the shot is executed is what causes problems. While it is nearly impossible to prevent this flinch, it is possible to manage or postpone the flinch effectively resolving the problem.

If you shoot with your fingers you can learn to appropriately control the flinching by using an unpredictable external signal.

There are multiple unpredictable external signalers you can use, they can be either audible or tactile.  A clicker is a good example of an audible signaler. A clicker is a devise that will make a “click” sound when the bow is drawn to a specific length.

If used properly, it is difficult to predict exactly when the devise will activate. Using a clicker impairs preemptive anticipation of the release which means you can postpone the flinch long enough that it happens too late to affect the shot.

It is important to understand, you must use the device properly for it to work.  It does not just work on its own.  Learning to use external signalers properly can take time and practice, especially if you already have issues with shot anticipation.

Using the device properly means you must wire your brain to execute a shot by concentrating on something other than what the devise signals you to do. For example in the case of a clicker, if you only focus on releasing the moment you hear the click, there is a good chance you will unintentionally condition yourself to the wrong action and the clicker will end up controlling you. As a result, the shot anticipation will persist and you will now have two issues to resolve.

Instead of focusing on when to release, focus on the action that is required to make the device activate. For example, if you activate your clicker by expanding, focus on the act of expanding. In other words, focus on the movement/action(s) required to perform your expansion.  In doing this, the clicker will inevitably click at some unanticipated moment during your expansion.

This can be accomplished easier with a verbal que or mantra that you say to yourself (inside your head) as you are focusing on performing that action. If you are using expansion to get the clicker to go off, you can tell yourself “expand, expand, expand…” focus only on this and make your body do it in a slow and controlled manner. The device WILL activate and when it does, release. By focusing on the expansion and not the click, the resultant flinch can be effectively postponed. This is how to successfully deal with shot anticipation.

Joel Turner of Shot IQ authored a short book called “Controlled Process Shooting”. In his book, Joel discusses the science behind shot anticipation and offers not opinion but scientific answers to many issues shooters face today. I highly recommended reading his book and finding a good coach to work with.

I hope this article has brought you some understanding and set you off in the right direction for properly dealing with issues arising from shot anticipation. Good luck and happy shooting.