Arrow Shaft Lengths: Some Ins and Outs

I have just been corresponding with a student regarding arrow shaft lengths. He was ordering Easton arrows and using currently available data charts from Easton. What he found, though, was that he was ordering his arrows “uncut” but the arrows he had made were ½˝ longer than the numbers indicated. After going back and forth about the topic of “arrow lengths” we didn’t resolve the difference.

Here are some different aspects of arrow length:
Shaft Length In Easton’s catalog if you find this listed it is the length of the shaft alone.
Arrow Length Most people measure from the bottom of the nock groove (where the string touches) to the end of the shaft. This is also called a “cut length.”
Total Arrow Length For front of center (FOC) calculations and some computer sight mark programs, the arrow is measured from the bottom of the nock groove to the tip of the arrow’s point. Some even include the full length of the nock.
The kicker is that these measurements go under quite a few different names. Argh.

Since I know that Easton has changed the lengths of some of their shafts without notice, I grabbed an arrow off of the shelf, an Easton 2013 Platinum Plus arrow and measured just the shaft. It measured 32.5˝. I picked up the current Lancaster Archery Supply catalog and it had a chart that listed that shaft at 32˝. So, I looked back at a LAS catalog from several years ago (about when that arrow was purchased) and it listed the shaft at 32.5˝. Bingo. A change had been made. And unlike software that tells you (or at least lists) all of the differences from the previous version when an upgrade is installed, this doesn’t happen in archery.

Even when you know what is going on, it doesn’t mean you know what is going on. And you need to keep in mind that distributors buy thousands of shafts at a time, and some may not have good inventory control (which has rules like sell the older stock first, just like at the greengrocers!) and they may even have some “new” and “old” stock mixed in their bins.

Serious competitive archers have arrow saws and cut their own arrow shafts, then assemble them. The final length is the result of a tuning process, not something one looks up in a chart. If you don’t have the tools to cut arrow shafts, melt point cement, own a jig (or five) for fletching, etc. you are at a disadvantage as a competitor and as a coach. These are things that friends had when I got started but it was clear I needed my own tools (I am doing some fletching for a friend right now). And the above situation is one of the reasons.

Welcome to the wonderful world of archery equipment!

* * *

PS I am working on, amongst myriad other things, a series of pamphlets that cover these equipment issues. My goal is to provide these as e-pamphlets that you can carry around with you on your smart phone to consult as you need to. Until then I still recommend the wonderful book Simple Maintenance for Archery by Rowe and Anderson.

PPS If you haven’t noticed it Easton has made some rather large changes in its recurve target spine chart. If you are buying Easton arrows, you should use nothing older than the 2016 chart.

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A Fletching Conundrum

For those of you using plastic vanes or feathers and doing your own fletching you need a fletching cement. For twenty years or so, my “go-to” cement was Fletch-tite from the Bohning company. But about two years ago, the performance of that wonderful stuff dropped from “wonderful” to unusable. Fletches fell off as if they were held on with spit. At first I thought is was just a bad batch but I bought fresh tubes and checked in with other archers and coaches and … same thing. There are even reviews on sites like 3riversarchery.com and other websites to the same effect. It is sad, because having a trusted component of a routine like fletching is important.

I suspect this may be the result of chemicals used in the original formula of that wondrous fletching cement becoming no longer available for common use and a reformulation using substitutes was made. And my track record on such guesses is woeful, so I probably should just stop guessing.fletch-tite-glue

The question is “What to use instead?” The first thing I found was a fletching cement from the Allen Company, but after one tube it became “no longer available.” I am not a fan of cyanoacrylate glues (the so-called “super glues”) but I may be forced to use them. Then I got a hint (can’t remember from where) about Loctite Go2 glue and that works okay. Since Go2 wasn’t made specifically as a fletching cement, I am also trying Loctite Vinyl, Fabric & Plastic Flexible Adhesive because it also has attributes that should make for an acceptable fletching cement. I suspect that many of these products are quite similar, being distinguished by only small differences, but the goal is to find an available, affordable fletching cement that isn’t one of the “super glue” types.

I may end up trying the old standby from the wood arrows and feathers days: Duco Cement.

What do you use?

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The Confusing World of Archery Equipment

I got an email from a student who is looking to upgrade his bow sight on his Olympic Recurve bow:

Hi, Steve,
I was talking with someone from the club and he said that there are better sights from SF than the Shibuya Dual-Click. What do you think about that?
The price is more or less the same.
Best regards,
<name>

* * *
Specific

I would doubt that. The Shibuya sights have been around for a long time and been tested all the way up to the world championship level. Also SF was bought by Win&Win which is not known for their bow sights (and neither was SF). I think they might be suggesting that the top of the SF line sight may be equivalent to the bottom of the Shibuya better sight line and that may be true. If that is the case, then you have to ask yourself “How ambitious am I?” If you intend to keep striving upward, then you are better off with the Shibuya sight, because their design is common to their whole line and learning all of the “ins and outs” of using them makes moving up to a better sight in the same line easier.

I looked up the most expensive SF sight I could find and it was US $140, not up to the elite level price range (US$300-350) but comparable to the entry level Shibuya and clearly a clone of the Sure-loc bow sight which is based upon a different design. Moving up from the SF sight inside the same design (so all of your “learning how to fiddle with my sight” knowledge is not wasted) would entail moving up to a Sure-loc sight which is also an excellent sight.

An Aside If you don’t think this kind of knowledge is important, I once switched from one release aid to another from the same manufacturer. But the hook/jaw that attaches to the D-loop on the bow string moved the opposite direction (L to R rather than R to L). Six weeks after making the switch I was still fumbling the simple act of attaching the release aid to the string! If you get used to turning a click-set knob on a sight counterclockwise to move your aperture downward and that changes to the reverse direction, expect many lost points as you make incorrect sight adjustments over and over (or doing them takes away too much attention from the rest of your shooting). Many of the little things get programmed in to make them automatic and changing those takes time and effort.

* * *
General

When looking to “move up” in archery equipment, such recommendations (such as SF over Shibuya) occur often. You get advice from a fellow archer who says A is better and B (or B is better than A). I want to know “How would this guy know?” So, ask them if they have owned both A & B. Most often they have not, they are just happy with their purchase of, say, A. (People who are happy with a purchase often overstate how good a thing is, and one way of doing this is to compare something as being “as good as <the best>.”) If they haven’t owned both pieces of gear, then their opinion is, shall we say, “uninformed.” If they have owned both A & B, ask were they recent models? (“I had one of those 20 years ago and it was not so good.” So what does that have to do with today’s models?) If they have owned recent models of both, ask them how they tested A against B. (They will never have tested them, just used them and had a preference for one over another.) People will always “talk up” what is “new” or “improved.” simply because it is currently a topic of discussion. There is no harm in listening to the chatter. Often most of it dies down or fades away.

One of my other students commented that he thought another piece of archery gear must be superior because so many Olympians were shooting with them. Uh, that is not a conclusion that will hold up. You can conclude that that piece of kit is adequate but at the elite level, archers are “sponsored,” which means they receive cash and/or gear to shoot the equipment they are given. If someone gave you a $1500 bow or $2000 worth of arrows, you would use them, right? If the equipment is trash, it will hurt the reputation of the company so these sponsorship deals are made by companies that are well-established. No aspiring championship-level archer wants to bet his/her success on unproven equipment. You also need to realize that the larger companies can dominate such sponsorships by simply having a bigger budget to do them.

Also consider that a big company might bring out a new product, say a bow sight, and they aren’t trying to take over the market or make the best bow sight possible, they are just trying to carve out a bit of market share. It weakens their competitors and, as long as they don’t lose a lot of money, strengthens them. People will buy stuff based upon manufacturer’s reputation but they don’t necessarily know (care?) what the basis of that reputation is. Win&Win made their excellent reputation making recurve bows (mostly limbs), but what does that have to do with making bow sights? If Easton Archery, the world’s largest manufacturer of arrows, were to bring out a bow, should their excellent reputation as an arrow maker have anything to do with how well they make bows? Probably not.

Also, if you look at products like the SF sight, very often you can see that they just cloned another sight and didn’t really innovate, just made it look slightly different (they don’t want to get sued for making knockoffs). SF has made its reputation making intermediate-to-advanced level equipment. Shibuya sights are advanced-to-elite level, so this doesn’t make sense that SF would be challenging Shibuya, maybe they are just trying to carve out a bit of a market that allows them to garner sales from people who like their intermediate level stuff (which is very, very good) and want to step up.

And if you don’t think that this sort of thing happens, consider the ILF recurve limb pocket system. This system was designed and made popular and patented by Hoyt Archery. Hoyt has a large product base, so companies making limbs wanted them to fit onto Hoyt risers so they copied the Hoyt limb attachment design. Then there were so many limbs that attached that way that riser manufacturers started including those limb pockets in their risers. Somewhere along the line those copycat manufacturers sort of forgot to pay royalties to Hoyt for the design and the “International Limb Fitting” was born. Hoyt didn’t call it that, it just became impossible to defend their patent because so many were violating it.

So, if you open your eyes and look around you can learn a lot but you have to take what you see and hear with a grain of salt, especially when fellow archers say “A is as good as B” or “C is better than A.” Ask them “How do you know that?”

 

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Por Favor Numero Dos

QandA logoI need your help.

I am toying with the idea of creating A Blog for Archery Parents. There are few sources of information tailored to help them support their children in the sport. About the only example of something specific is my book A Parent’s Guide to Archery.

To help me decide whether to do this I would like your take on this idea, specifically if you would respond to these three questions:APGTA Cover (color)

#1 Do you think this would be helpful to archery parents?

#2 Assuming the quality of that blog was comparable to the quality of this blog, would you recommend it to the parents of the youths you coach?

#3 Any other insight you might be able to supply.

If I do this I would like to do a good job. I started this blog because there seemed to be so little support available to archery coaches. The same motivation is fueling the idea of a similar blog directed at archery parents. Quality information and a place they could ask questions without necessarily anyone else knowing. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, know what I mean.”) Parents need advice and the sources of that advice are few in number and often supplied only orally, so if part of it is gotten wrong, expensive mistakes can be made.

So, what do you think?

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Attaching Sights to Your Bow

I just had an email conversation with a student who was giving me a progress report. Part of the discussion involved having a new bow and a newly affixed bow sight. I thought you might like to get this information, too.

* * *

When attaching a sight block I do the following. Attach the sight block screws barely snug. Then I pull down on the sight bar so that the sight bar is in its lowest possible position (with the bow being vertical) and then I snug up the top screw, remove the bottom screw, add Loctite and screw it into place snuggly. Then I do the same with the top screw. If the block does somehow come loose, the sight is already in its lowest position, so it cannot fall any farther and minimal movement should occur. The hole is you will notice the sight coming loose before you lose points. Others cut a piece of plastic out to match the back of the mounting block and use that as a sort of “lock washer.” Both of these work quite nicely.

* * *

Then he mentioned replacing the screws that attach the mounting block to the riser and I chipped in with:

When buying screws, the length of the shaft is critically important (unless the mounting holes are drilled and tapped all of the way through the riser, but this is rare). If you get screws that are too long, when you crank on them you will push out a bubble of aluminium on the other side of the riser! Also, you want to make sure that the base of the screw fits into the mounting block exactly. Typically these mounting block screw holes are countersunk making a kind of cone that accepts the cone-shaped bottom of the screw heads chosen to be screwed in there. Sometimes the countersink is cylindrical because they use cap screws (with barrel-shaped screw heads). I prefer the cone-shaped countersinks as they are self-centering.

Even if the screws supplied require a screw driver rather than a member of the set of Allen wrenches we all have with us, the screws are to be fixed so not to come out so who cares what kinds of heads are on them? These are not screws you need to make frequent adjustments with.

* * *

The student also mentioned that he used electrician’s tape to prevent the mounting block from marring the finish of his new riser (very understandable) to which I responded:

Do not use electrician’s tape as it turns to plastic goo over time while under pressure. Use a piece of flexible plastic from the packaging accompanying so many products (not the brittle stuff, the tough stuff you need a kitchen knife to cut through). Trace out the mounting block on a flat sheet of the plastic and then cut out the outline using a sturdy pair of sharp scissors. Use a hole punch to remove the plastic from where the screw holes are. Tom Dorigatti wrote an entire article on making such screw lockers in Archery Focus, check it out.

* * *

PS For those of you who are interested, I do remote coaching (via email, video, stills, etc.). If you are in need and cannot find a local coach and this might appeal to you, you can contact me at ruis.steve@gmail.com.

 

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V-Bar Questions

QandA logoI just got an email from a Recurve student in Portugal I have been working with. Here are his questions:

Ho Steve,
I’ve been wondering, what is the difference between a top rod and a riser dampener? They look the same. Is it just the weight?
What if I buy an extender, small rods and v-bar, what should I get? What sizes and angle?

Best regards, …

* * *

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)

This V-bar is flat (zero angle to long rod). Photo by Andy Macdonald.

A “top rod” is any stabilizer rod screwed into the hole made for them near the top of the riser. I am not familiar with the term “riser dampener” but the Koreans claim that a four inch rod with a Doinker at the end, screwed into the same hole helps dampen string vibration very, very well. (Residual string vibration that finds its way into archer’s bodies leads to fatigue and joint soreness.)

I can’t answer the second question definitively but here is what I recommend. A 4˝ extender seems to work for most (its job is to just move the center of gravity forward a bit). I would buy a V-bar that had adjustable side rod angles (see link below for an example, not a recommendation … seems these have gotten very expensive; I would look for a less expensive one—I got all of mine second hand (via eBay)), and most use 9-10˝ side rods. How much weight to put at the tips is a matter of taste. I suggest you start with “none” (use plastic end caps to protect the threads). As to the length, the whole meghilla should allow you to stand the bow on its long rod tip and have your elbow very slightly bent when your hand is on the bow as it normally is. If this is not the case for your current long rod, hold your bow (back down) at your side (string horizontal) and have someone measure from the stabilizer boss straight down to the floor/ground. That length, minus 4˝ for an extender and 1˝ for a V-bar, gives you the long rod length you start with. From there it is trial and test. Long rods have been used at 0 degrees up to 90 degrees, even to the point of them being mounted on gimbals allowing them to hang straight down no matter the angle the bow was held, so try anything that appeals to you. Same goes for the weights used at the tips of the rods. You should look for what affect any equipment change has on group size (smaller is better).

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/mybo-3sixty-adjustable-v-bar.html

If you would just like to start from a “one size fits all” (kind of) here are two “kits” from SF Archery that I can recommend. One is shorter, and one is longer.

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/sf-archery-velocity-stabilizer-set-28-10.html

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/sf-archery-velocity-stabilizer-set-30-10.html

I have yet to find a piece of SF kit I could not recommend to an intermediate archer: good stuff, reasonable prices.

 

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I Need Help Finding a Coach

QandA logoThis question came in to the blog:
“Need a coach. Looking for a coach in or near NE Indiana (Ft. Wayne-ish). I’m finding limited results; some Level 3’s and more Level 2’s. What is the best way to vet out a good coach for indoor and outdoor Olympic recurve? I don’t want some body that hunts with a compound bow, just passed a test, and knows little to nothing of proper form and release of a recurve bow. Please help steer me in the right direction.”

* * *

This is a common question which highlights a common problem and I wish I had a handy solution for you.

Since you are aware there are some L2 and L3 coaches in your vicinity I assume you have consulted USA Archery’s Coach Finder function on their web site. Since the recent explosion of interest in target archery, there are many, many more coaches available which is a good thing, but the questions are still: how do you find a good one and how do you find one that has the skills and knowledge to help you, specifically as an Olympic Recurve archer?

Now this is a recurve coach who knows what he is doing, national champion and L3 coach Gabe Querol.

Now this is a recurve coach who knows what he is doing, national champion and L3 coach Gabe Querol.

Obviously you do not want a compound coach, but do realize that the demand for compound coaches is far, far less than for recurve coaches. (Trad coaches are in even less demand.) I came up through the compound ranks and because I took coaching seriously, I spent a great deal of time to learn both Olympic Recurve and Barebow Recurve. Because I have never competed in Olympic recurve, though, I tend to encourage my more advanced students to try other coaches and do, in fact, hook them up with other coaches. It is flattering that after seeing high level coaches, some of these students return to me for coaching but that may be because I am “local” and hence more available to them.

This is part of the problem, the very, very good coaches are quite spread out, so you need to establish your need. Are you an advanced archer or aspiring elite archer? If so, you are going to have to travel some to find the people who can help you. If you are an aspiring advanced archer, i.e. not their yet, you are much more likely to find help locally.

Another option is remote coaching. Recently I have been coaching archers as far away as Portugal, Germany, and Iran. This is done by the archers sending in video clips, often taken at my direction, and me sending comments back. Follow-up discussions are via email or phone. One of my regular students is three states away for the summer and we have been working together this way through the summer. (And for the curious, yes, I do charge for such lessons … but not always.)

How to Find a Good Coach
Step 1 Find a coach.
Step 2 Determine if he/she is a good one.
Both of these steps are somewhat difficult. If, in your case, you think an L3 coach might be helpful and they are local, you have completed Step 1. (The original design of the L2 training program was to create coaches for youth groups, and not to train them for individual coaching. That training has undergone a recent overhaul, but I suspect it is still much the same, so if you are looking for an individual coach (to work with you one-on-one), the L3 training is the first one to address that need.)

The second step is harder. Even highly credentialed and experienced coaches may not be right for you (or you for them!). So, some “sounding out” is needed and you can do much of this via email, text, or over the phone. Do ask your prospective coach about their experience in archery, both as a coach and as a competitor. It is not a common practice but you could ask for references. (I would like to see this become commonplace. Because it is not, us coaches don’t keep references handy and prospective students aren’t offered them.)

Ask if they have had successful students. It is important to consider what you determine as success. If you are on the hunt for championships, you should look for a coach who has coached many champions, no? If you are looking for equipment help, maybe having champions as students is not so important. I currently have a student who aspires to be an Olympian. I have never even attended an Olympic Games, let alone coached an Olympian, so after a while I hooked this student up with a colleague who has coached on the field at an Olympics archery competition. (There is no substitute for experience.) There are not a lot of these coaches available, so I suggest you will not be able to be very “choosy.”

The key aspect of an archer-coach relationship is whether you communicate well. This can only be found out by working together, so if you find a coach acceptable on paper, you need to arrange for a lesson to “give it a try.”

Some coach’s and archer’s personalities clash. Some can’t hear one another. Some fit together “like hand in glove.” To find out about this, listen careful to how this prospective coach says things. Do they make sense to you or do they tend to confuse you? Is there a fit between your needs and your coaches skills? Maybe your largest needs are in equipment or in the mental game, and so is the coach knowledgeable about those topics? Have they had any specific training or just the general training that comes in those rather short coach training classes? Ask lots of questions and see if you get clear responses. As a coach, I am also interviewing you. I want to know as much as you want to know whether we can work together.

Make sure you talk about availability and fees. Does this coach insist upon frequent lessons or occasional? Which do you want? Are his/her fees reasonable? Can you afford them?

A key factor is that the two of you agree upon some common metrics. If you are a compound archer chasing perfect scores on the NFAA five-spot indoor target, you have an obvious metric: the score in that round (and X-counts and …). If you are an Olympic Recurve archer, the metrics are less obvious. (Simon Needham and I are currently writing a series of articles regarding what it takes to get to various scoring milestones in the 72-arrow Ranking Round (500, 550, 600, 650, etc.) so you may have goals that allow that metric to be used.) If you have no idea where you are going, how will you know whether you are making progress?

One of the questions I ask all new students is “Why do you want to be coached?” The younger students often shrug and say something like “to get better.” I follow with “What does that look like to you?” In order for me to help I need to know two things: where do you want to go and where are you now. (It is a little like asking for travel directions.) I can evaluate where you are at now in our first lesson, but I also need to know where you want to go to serve you well. You need to know the same things. So, a good sign is if your prospective coach asks telling questions, questions that a “good coach” wants to know (in your opinion, of course).

It would be helpful if lists of prospective coaches also included statements of their specialties, experience, qualifications, etc. but unfortunately we are just getting started in learning how to be good coaches, so those aren’t available yet.

Let me know if this helps.

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Trying a Sight Questions

QandA logoI was emailed a couple of questions today:
I am a 67 year old male who started shooting in the 50’s when I was about 8 years old.
I have reached the point where I would like to learn how to shoot using a sight. The reasons are 1) personal challenge and 2) improving my scores. I have no intensions of shooting beyond 20 yds. and plan on using a paid instructor to help me get things set up and to get me pointed in the right direction. I have two items I would like your opinion/guidance on before embarking on this endeavor:
“1. Is it possible to learn to use a sight with cross-dominance by keeping both eyes open or would you recommend using only one eye? (I would have no problem using an eye patch or black taping the lens on a pair of glasses. When I shoot trap, I close my left eye and average 21 out of 25 targets.)
“2. Since I don’t plan on shooting over 20 yds., can I keep my anchor at the corner of my mouth or would you recommend learning the under-the-chin anchor?”

* * *

Ah, I wish all questions were this easy! ;o)

Regarding Q1 Using a sight can make it easier to avoid cross-dominant issues! They can still crop up but think about it this way: when you shoot barebow, the view through each eye is very close together (especially if you shot with a cant). When you shoot with a sight, the views are substantially different. Your aiming eye sees the bowstring, while your off-eye does not. This is even more distinguishable when shooting with a compound bow as a peep sight is allowed to be used in conjunction with the bow sight. This results in your aiming eye seeing the target through a small hole in an opaque lozenge inserted into the string. It is hard to miss!

Having said all of that, I have had “cross-dominant” issues while shooting a compound bow! (I shoot right-handed and am left-eyed.) One occasion was I was shooting in a league after a long, somewhat arduous, work day and got distracted and Bam! I shot an arrow three feet to the left of the aiming dot I was hitting quite regularly.

So, one does have to pay attention … constantly … but the sight actually helps make sure you are using the correct eye to aim with by including “string alignment” as a task. String alignment is a step in aiming in which the fuzzy image of the bowstring in your aiming eye is aligned with some part of the bow or sight.

Many traditional barebow archers have not bothered with string alignment but you can see how adopting this practice could help make sure you were using your proper aiming eye in that your off eye cannot see the string!

And … you can try eye patches, tape on glasses lenses, closing the off eye, etc. If you find something that is comfortable and works for you, use it. I tried all of these things and shoot slightly closing my off eye. The other methods created too much fuss when trying to see a scorecard. But everyone is different, so do try anything you think might work … for you.

Regarding Q2 I do.

Many people disregard the “high anchor” as a “baby step” we all go through until we learn the “grown up techniques.” (For recurve archers, the “grown up technique” is the “low” or “under chin” anchor.) This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The square stance and “corner of the mouth” high anchor have many advantages and not just for beginners. The high anchor is advantageous for shooting short distances, the kinds beginning … and indoor … archers face. You will see Olympic Recurve archers using a low anchor indoors because why should they learn another anchor just for indoors? But if you only intend to shoot shorter distances, and you have already learned a high anchor, why would you learn another anchor, one that is more suitable for longer distances?

So, it is fine to keep using your high anchor, as long as it is “tight.” Some have anchors so loose as to be “floating.” A floating anchor position is one hovering around your face somewhere but not located firmly by being pressed onto your face. The goal is to be able to sight along the inner edge of the bowstring and see something between your aperture and the inner edge of the riser. If you cannot, one reason may be that your anchor is “loose” or “soft.” A “tight anchor” is one firmly positioned on your face so that that position can be repeated and allows for the string picture I just described.

Let me know if this helps.

PS If you want a procedure to follow to get from aiming off of the point to aiming using a sight, let me know. Having a coach to help you set up your sight should be helpful as there is some fiddling to do to make sure it is correctly set up.

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Wanting to Try a Compound?

QandA logoI had a Recurve student write to ask:
I’ve been thinking about compound bows, is it a big difference shooting one and another?
If I wanted to buy a compound bow what would you suggest? (Not that I’m going to buy one, I just want to check prices and everything else)
.”

* * *

Oh … boy, oh boy, oh boy! There are big differences between compound bows although they all operate on the same principle. The basic design of a compound bow (there are many variations) builds in a mechanical advantage by not attaching the bowstring directly to the limbs. The bowstring is attached only to the “eccentrics” at each limb tip which can be as simple as a pulley with an off-center axle to fantastically complex freeform shapes, but which all have the same role. The eccentrics are connected to the limb at the other end of the bow through the means of a cable. When the bowstring is drawn, the eccentrics rotate and act as levers to bend the limb opposite via its cable. Once the rotation gets past a certain point, the force of the pull on the cable is thrown onto the limb and the only force required to keep the bow drawn is the force need to keep the eccentrics rotated, which is a small fraction (one fifth to one third typically) of the “peak weight” of the bow. Because of this “letting off” of some of the draw force, compound bows are made with substantially harder to bend limbs than recurve bows, allowing them to store more energy that other bows of the same draw force.

Pros and Cons of Compound Bows
• 
First of all they are quite a bit heavier than recurve bows. This makes them more stable when shot (improving consistency) but makes them harder to lift up shot after shot (especially for youths).

• Because of the letoff, the stress on the archer at full draw is much less and more time is available to aim.

• Because of the design of the bow, the bow has its own draw length! The string, when pulled, goes back only so far and stops. That “stop position” is adjustable and must be carefully adjusted to fit the archer’s draw length (which will be different from his recurve draw length, even if still using fingers on strings). Some bows have only slight DL adjustments (circa 1/2˝) and require new parts (draw length modules) to make larger changes. Most bows have several inches of DL adjustment, and some of the new ultra-adjustable bows have many, many inches of DL adjustments (and draw weight adjustments, too).

• Virtually all modern bows are designed to be shot with mechanical release aids, which have a technique all to their own to learn (it took me three years to master release technique).

• Most modern compound bows have been designed to be shot in bowhunting environments which means they are short … very, very short. The lengths of compound bows are measured from “axle-to-axle” (aka ATA). When compounds were first invented, the ATAs were 48-54˝. All of my compound bows that I shoot with my fingers on the string are in the 46˝ to 48˝ ATA range. Most modern compound bows are less than 35˝ ATA, which means the string is at a very sharp angle if you try to draw the bow with a tab and fingers. This sharp angle causes “finger pinch” which is very uncomfortable (not so much at full draw, but definitely at the “peak weight” of the bow you must go through to get to the more comfortable “holding weight”).

• Kid’s compound bows are often “zero letoff” meaning they don’t have their own draw length, they just keep going like a recurve bow (although typically the draw weight does not go up in the latter part of the draw). These bows do not have to be constantly adjusted to the ever increasing draw lengths of fast growing kids.

Recommendations
• 
By all means, try a zero letoff bow (e.g. a Mathews Genesis), their very low draw weight makes the finger pinch of these short bows endurable.

• If you want to try a “real” compound bow (aka one with letoff), ask somebody who is your height, as they will have a draw length roughly your own. You want a very (Very!) light drawing bow to try first and they are rare. If the someone you ask has a typical bow they will have a peak weight of 55# to 70# and you can hurt your shoulder just trying to draw such a beast. So ask someone what their draw length is and what their peak weight is. You are looking for something 45# or less. So, the prime candidate for you to ask is a tall woman. Most people are willing to let you give their bow a try, but if they say “no” they are not being rude, so do not take offense.

• This is very, very important (especially with modern bows). Once the bow reaches “peak weight” … let’s say #45 of force, it will rapidly become much less than that, say 15# at full draw. This is such a shock to people expecting for the draw to increase and increase as it does on recurves and longbows, that they are shocked and let go of the string, dry-firing the bow. This can damage the bow if you do it and will be really, really embarrassing, so on your first draw (always with an arrow), draw and let down, do not even give your fingers permission to open.

• If you are looking to buy a compound bow, I suggest investigating the ultra-adjustable bows first. You can turn the draw weight down to a very low value for learning and then up later. You need to make sure that the bow’s range of draw lengths includes yours! A bow I am currently reviewing is the Kinetic Rave bow which is built in Europe (where this student is located) and there are quite a few others. Beware! Not all draw weights are available at each draw length. I am aware of only one manufacturer who is claiming they are for their bow (the Parker bow company) but they haven’t returned any of my emails, so I can’t vouch for that. You can download the Owner’s manual for almost any bow now from the Internet and it is well worth the research to do so.

A Final Note
The best case scenario is to have a large archery shop nearby with a knowledgeable staff. If you tell them what your interests are, they can measure you up and show you some of your options, which you can also usually test shoot. Of course, they are not doing this for their health, they are trying to sell you something. So, don’t go and find the bow you want on the Internet for $10 cheaper and stiff your local vendor. The pre-sale service and post-sale service you are getting are usually invaluable. You do not get those through Internet purchases. And, if you don’t spend some of your custom at your local shop, there won’t be one soon (this is the predicament of this questioner—no shop, no range, no club nearby).

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FYI

I found this great article about the role coaches play in the success of star athletes. Since they wanted US$500 to re-post it here, I am just adding a link.

FYI, for non-English speakers “FYI” is shorthand for “For Your Information”

Coaching Can Make or Break an Olympic Athlete

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