Category Archives: Hardware Considerations

Customizing A BowGrip

There are only a couple of different bowgrips, as they come from the factory.  If you wish to shoot to the best of your ability, or to coach someone into their best, using the NTS, then improving the bow grip is an integral part of your efforts.

In order to achieve a knuckle angle on the bow hand that approximates 45 degrees the grip must be changed to a “higher” grip.  Higher in this case means that the hand becomes more flat/horizontal instead of vertical.  When you grip a baseball bat, THAT is a vertical/low grip.

The lowest bowgrip, for example, is that found on certain compound bows where there are only the slightest mounds of plastic or wood attached to the sides of the riser.  A higher grip allows the recurve archer to bring the pressure point and the bow’s pivot point closer together, and also lessens the angular movement of the bowhand upon release – less side-to-side motion and more “to-the-target” motion.  As the bow moves forward towards the bowsling, the archer’s hand MUST move in reciprocation to the string arm follow-through motion, the index finger describing a “sit” motion down.

Anyway, I learned from Don Rabska in around 2004, how to use plumbers epoxy putty -

about $6 per tube and enough to enhance 3 or 4 bowgrips.

about $6 per tube and enough to enhance 3 or 4 bowgrips.

a compound material that can be found in small tubes in the hardware store’s plumbing section.  It’s much thicker than bondo, and when blended the two parts undergo a chemical reaction and become rock-hard in just minutes.  Perfect for building up a bow grip or otherwise customizing it for your own preferences.

My original writeup for the TSAA website can be seen here.

Epoxy Putty movie short

Youtube link to video clip

I also came across a very neat website, that sells innovative, inventive products, including one called Sugru, invented by Jane in the UK.  It comes in small sealed foil packets of colored rubberized silicone putty.  If you want to make a color it does not come in, you can combine several colors such as yellow and blue to make green.  It cures in about 24 hours, and at that point it feels soft and rubbery.  JUST right for the flesh-to-bowgrip interface!   You can get fancy with the finish – get some screen mesh, for example, and press it into the surface and peel it away, to leave a high-traction surface. You can press anything into it and remove it, to leave a bas-relief impression – a coin, a seashell, sea urchin shell, a leaf, coarse sandpaper, feather fletching, etc… If you allow it to simply cure after shaping it, the surface will be pretty smooth, so texturing the surface is a good idea, such as apply a mesh imprint.

Put a little Sugru on it… – a short movie

Youtube link to video clip of Sugaru

Know The Bow. Teach The Bow. Tune The Bow.

If you want to really get to know a new bow well, or perhaps just learn more about the influence a given part of the modern recurve/Olympic bow has on the system then you might consider following the example of the military.

Most will know that the typical soldier is taught to completely dismantle and then properly reassemble a weapon, so often that they will dream about it and even do it blindfolded.  NOT suggesting anything quite so drastic for you or your archer, but as a coach you should do what I am about to suggest.  Once you have done it you may see the value in having your students do this, particularly those that are showing promise of becoming dedicated to the sport.  As I well know, the coach does not get to be there at the most important matches and it is coach’s duty to prepare the archer for those moments.  Knowing the bow and ALL of the components and how/why/when to change them effectively is crucial to reaching the top step.

Start with:  riser, limbs, served bowstring, arrow rest properly attached relative to the thickness of the arrow shafts, arrow shafts with nocks/points(no fletching), clicker if you will use one, and plunger.

Set the plunger to have no give, using Rick Stonebraker’s matchstick method, or else if it is a Beiter you can probably just tighten the spring down till it doesn’t move.  We want raw influence, no “buffering” by the spring that might lessen visual evidence.  Set the depth of the plunger to the skinny/shallow side, where it is just barely touching the side of the arrow shaft.  Set the brace height to a middle-of-the-mfr-spec, and set the tiller to zero.  Put the nocking point(s) to zero with a bow square.  These settings are going to wrong to some degree (we want that!), and you are going to set them right by shooting bare shafts (only) close enough to the bale to not miss it, but far enough away to allow the arrows to be in the air as long as possible.  You will want to pay attention to the symptoms, that is the way the arrows fly.  Minnowing up and down, porpoising left and right, wobbling because of excessive weakness, flailing because of a grossly high angle of attack from a really wrong nocking point, skewing due to the hugely wrong centershot, are the clues you want to see, and ultimately eliminate on your way to perfection.

Also you want to note the angle of the arrow in the target.  It will be off perpendicular, but with tuning you can make it less of an angle, and if you play your cards right, they will look just like fletching arrows!  With X10 arrows, the barreling causes enough aerodynamic influences that even at 70 meters an elite archer will find his way to the gold routinely, regardless of whether there are vanes on the shafts.

Let’s start with the premise, that a perfect tune for the archer’s technique will result in the energy from the bow pushing through the center mass of the arrow completely, yes, well, “perfectly”.  When it does that, it is a joy to witness, a knowledge of perfection for a brief moment.  The feeling every archer strives for, “YEAH, I did that…”.  When a bare shaft arrow porpoises, when it fish-tails, flails about, energy is being lost because it was injected off-center.  So tuning is bringing the elements to balance, to harmony, to reduce the energy wasted outside of the center axis of the arrow.   “Tuned”, the arrow behaves like a dart, and its flight is a beautiful thing of purity to behold.

SO!  With the plunger “off” and the tension on the spring 100% so it doesn’t give, the center shot off, the arrow will minnow left/right.  With the nocking point wrong, the arrow shaft will porpoise, up and down.  Fix the nocking point first because it is simplest.  For this exercise, use a tied-on floss nock, with sufficient tension so it can be rotated/screwed up and down the serving but stay set between shots.   Shoot, adjust, shoot, till the arrow no longer porpoises up and down, or at least, does so as little as possible.

Next, change the center shot gradually by moving the plunger deeper into the riser and pushing the arrow further from the riser.  As with the nocking point, you are learning the impact on the flight of the arrow this device has.  And as the minnowing decreases you know you are getting closer to the better center shot setting.  As it re-increases you know you have probably passed that point.

Through all of this you must decide each shot whether your release messed with the arrow too much and caused an energy diversion, or whether your release was as good as the tune at that point.  Do you see truth or artifact?  When you minimize minnowing, you might re-visit the nocking point position.

I was taught by the greatest coach I have ever met that tuning is like kneading dough.  Adjusting the nocking point in the right direction is like pushing a ball of dough down, which makes it (the arrow pattern) squeeze wider.  So you adjust the plunger, squeezing the ball taller, more vertical (the arrow pattern).  Working in the right direction you gradually end up with a round ball of dough (the arrow pattern) that is smaller than when you began.    The size of the ball at the end depends also on the spine of the shaft – a just-right spine’s doughball will be smaller than that of an arrow with too weak of a spine.  You ask about the too-stiff spine?  It will be smaller still but only when the release is perfectly consistent.  A too-stiff arrow will likely be unforgiving of an inconsistent release. And once you have fletchings on the arrow, a too-weak spine will be more at risk for hitting the bow particularly with inconsistent releases.  A slower release – stiff fingers – magnifies the flexing of the arrow, all other things being equal, resembling a weaker shaft – “dynamic” flexing.

Once honed to the best bare-shaft arrow behavior, the perfect plunger depth/center shot, the ideal nocking point (for that brace height/tiller), it’s time to start weakening the totally stiff plunger to find the best arrow flight again.

React to the arrow flight, the angle in the target, and the pattern of impact points on the target face.  Remember that you will need to make smaller adjustments – for example, you may find that moving the nocking point by a single serving thread diameter yields a profoundly better tweak to the group!

Remember that fletchings serve to average out the imperfections – in the arrow shaft.  The point weight/forward-of-center. The tune.  The release.  The wind.  By causing the arrow to rotate through 360 degrees continually, the vanes reduce the flaws.  They were critical when arrows were wood and vanes were feathers.  As long as the device loosing the arrow is human fingers, there will be imperfections that vanes can mitigate.

SO that begs the question, in a perfectly tuned compound bow shooting with no winds, why are vanes useful?  Well, a compound bow needs tuning as well.  I suspect that due to the built-in accuracy associated with a bowstring in tracks with a string-guide, with a magnified sight with a level, and yes, with a defined wall and a mechanical release, most compounders never learn to micro-tune and are unknowingly relying on the vanes to mitigate subtle flaws in the tune.

Doing the things I suggest will result in a much better awareness/knowledge of the bow, the arrow, and the relationship the archer has to both.  It may even result in better scores.

What Should I Buy First?

It is hard to know what archery gear to buy first!

A 25″ length riser is the standard size, and most archers use that and modify the length of the bow to accommodate their draw length by choosing either a short, medium, or long set of limbs.

It helps to know a fundamental aspect:  Bows are rated in resistance to drawing (aka, the “draw weight”) in pounds at a specific distance of draw, stated simply as “30 pounds at 27 inches”.
If you pick up a medium length bow (68″ total length of riser and limbs combined) that is rated at 30 pounds@27 inches, and if you draw it back to 28 inches, expect the draw weight on your fingers to rise to perhaps 32 pounds or so.  If you draw to only 26 inches, expect the draw weight to be less, say 28 pounds (or so).  The weight will always vary from limb to limb, as limbs are by nature NOT physically identical even when made by the same craftsman with exactly the same technique.  Just a fact of life.

The increase in weight beyond the labeled amount when drawing more than 27 inches is called “stacking” and varies widely between brands and levels of quality of limbs.  Cheap limbs tend to stack more, as do shorter limbs relative to longer limbs for a given draw length.  That is, a 68 inch bow consisting of a 27″ riser and short limbs will usually have more stack (and more limb tip lateral stability AND more vibration) than a 68 inch bow with a 23 inch riser and long limbs.
The reason why “stack” becomes clearer if you examine the modern recurve limb.  If you consider the cross section of the limb as you move from the base at the limb pocket out towards the string notch area/tip, you will see that the limb gets smaller (lighter per unit of cross-sectioned distance) the further out to the tip you look.

As you draw a bow back, the limbs bend under the energy you invest in them.  But the bending is not uniform, meaning the tip area (the “recurve”) bends differently than the limb nearer to the limb pocket.  The parts of the limb also move in different directions!  The tips move towards the center of the bow much more than the thicker base parts of the limb, which mainly moves towards the archer’s string hand.  It has a lot to do with leverage and angles.

Why such a long explanation?  It makes an incredible difference to the success of the archer, the choice of how to make the bow long enough.
1. Archer A shoots 5 days a week and has lots of time for cross-training, bulks up muscles and is very fit.  Archer A  LIKES the stacking effect as a way to get feedback the closer to click the arrow gets.  Archer A also thinks it is easier to make a good release with higher poundage, so to get that stacking feeling, a 25 or 27 inch riser with SHORT limbs is A’s choice.
2. Archer B is the same draw length as “A” but cannot maintain the same level of fitness and training effort.  Limb stacking for “B” makes it very hard to maintain excellent form through the click.  “B” needs to cast the arrow the same distance, but perhaps wants more control and feeling and less raw power, so less stacking is a good thing.  “B” therefore chooses a 23 or 25 inch riser with medium or even long limbs.  The limbs will be springier, not stressed as much, and the shot will have less short-frequency vibration (the “thunks” or “clanks”) and more long-frequency good vibration (the “strums”).  There will be less stacking, so the archer will get through click easier with the same amount of effort expended over each inch of drawing done  relatively speaking.  I view “B” as being closer to the sweet spot.
3. Archer C fears stacking and goes with a 27″ riser and long limbs, and ends up with a bow that is very easy (compared to “A”s and “B”s bows) to draw back to anchor and through click, as it never stacks.  But the bow is so long that the recurve part of the limbs never gets the same amount of deformation(stress) that happens in A & B.  The bow simply cannot cast the arrows as far as A & B’s bows would in the hands of archer “C”.
So depending on a lot of variables, there is “too short”, “just right with short/long”, “just right with long/short”, and “too long”.  YIKES.
Now you ask in frustration, “well how do I know what I need?”   Don’t panic and don’t assume you can’t get it right. As a beginning or even intermediate archer, you can get in the right ballpark and not even realize it could be better, because it will still feel great, such quality are the current products on the market compared to the bows of yesteryear!
A few general rules of thumb:
If you can afford it, buy the most expensive thing of each category and you will at least look good (until you shoot your arrows).
Otherwise, (and all of this is just one opinion – get several and decide for yourself…
For your first gear purchase, get the best riser you can afford, and get the cheapest limbs you can get by with in the general weight range you think you can handle.
After the riser and limbs, get the best sight you can afford.  A Sure-Loc can last you your lifetime.
Likewise, get a Beiter Plunger rather than a cheap one for the durability and especially the reliability.
These parts also are completely independent of your strength in drawing the bow and your skill level.
These are “one-time” purchases, as is the riser in all likelihood.  The two things that vary a LOT will be your limbs and your arrows so you want them last.
You should review the stabilizer market, and purchase something “not the cheapest” and “not the most expensive”.  Stabilizers need to perform some basic functions of mass/weight distribution and a LITTLE vibration absorption, and inertial resistance, and it is not rocket science so don’t pay for rockets, until you have the best everything else.
Adolescents who will grow will obviously need different length arrows.  Those archers who increase in strength through training and exercise and technique enhancement will also need different length as well as differently spined arrows (spine is the rigidity of the arrow and has huge impact on arrow grouping on the target and clearance).
BTW – never sell your old limbs – you may need to fall back to them if injured or if you make substantial form/technique changes.
I favor a shorter riser and longer limbs to achieve any given bow length yet there is a lot of flexibility in any chosen pairing of riser to limbs.  Eventually, you do want to buy the best limbs you can afford as well, because the more advanced limbs DO make an impact on you each and every time you loose an arrow.
Arrows come last because the riser and the limbs make the arrows behave a certain and different way.

Your technique, your fundamental method, makes your arrows behave a certain way.  During the initial learning phase, you are changing (hopefully!) so much that making an arrow investment is just not smart.  I consider Easton X10s an investment, and for many even ACEs are an investment.  Navigators and ACCs are a great balance of price and performance, many archers will never need to shoot anything more refined than Navigators or ACEs…Though X10s are the most shot-arrows at every Olympic since their introduction, and I recall a statistic that every medal in singles competition since they were first introduced has been taken with X10 arrows.  If you can afford X10s then certainly enjoy.  But first secure the best riser, limbs, sight, and plunger. THEN and only then splurge on X10s.

Lessor considerations:
Don’t use spinwings until you can (mostly) stay on the bale at your competitive distances.  Instead, start out with a durable vane such as the Easton or Arizona vanes, until you are shooting competitively. And before you switch fully, go half-and-half with a new kind of vane and compare your groups to make sure you are moving towards better.
Big arrows: Shooting indoors is pretty much what archers do when it is too cold to shoot outdoors, and for such short distances many archers feel they need a bigger arrow-diameter-to-target-size ratio to straighten out the arrow in a shorter time/distance, and they perceive an advantage to “line-cutting” score getting so they go with a FAT arrow.  Fat doesn’t matter so much indoors because there is rarely a cross-wind to blow the shafts sideways off of center target.  If you do choose to get a fat aluminum arrow for indoors, realize that you will have to re-tune/re-setup your entire bow and tune each season.
Unless you are headed to the world indoor championships, the Face-to-Face in Europe, or some such fancy hooraw shoot (that means the Vegas Shoot) where you absolutely must have every extra point AND you are not shooting at an elite level already, fatboys might be worth the hassle (and experience) of retuning frequently.  You might notice that most elite archers stay with their serious (outdoors) arrow, which requires only slight tuning adjustments for shooting at 18 meters instead of 70 meters.

Tuning?  Tuning is the adjustments to the bow’s physical parameters to match the way your fingers leave the string and your hand holds the bow and your arrows flex.  Pure and simple. No, not simple.  COMPLEX.  but that’s tuning in a nutshell – adapting hardware to the software(that’s you, archer) so that the pattern of arrows falling on the bale are as closely grouped as possible.  Tuning is a lot of fun, and is an ongoing challenge for the improving archer.  Some say tuning is never done.  Others tune once and then don’t make a change in their setup no matter what, till they can’t stand their performance any more and decide to “change up” everything.  Whatever.

I’ll end this with: “rarely will an archer shoot UP to his bow’s potential. The weakest link in the arrow delivery system is typically the grey matter.  But the effect of pride and excitement in one’s gear cannot be discounted – there IS a placebo effect.  Shiny gear helps you to believe in the force…and the force can be powerful indeed.
Ok, one more thought: give a man (or woman) a fish and he’ll eat for a day.  Teach her to fish, and she’ll feed herself forever.  Buy a bow and you can shoot an arrow.  Learn how to shoot that bow and you’ll hit what you aim at.  Another way of saying, investing money with a good coach is better than simply throwing money at your bow and flinging arrows in a sad hope of getting good at it.