Previously I we discussed how to help your students buy archery equipment. Now let’s look at getting their “new” gear set up. We recommend that you consider these situations as prime “teaching moments” in that archers need to learn at least a little about their own equipment so they can maintain it and deal with equipment malfunctions while shooting. Any client who doesn’t want to know and just wants you to “do it for them” is asking you for a service you can charge for. It might be wise to schedule a private lesson for students needing such services as they can be time consuming and trying to do this “on the fly” while running a class is probably not a good idea.
Unless you are a very knowledgeable about archery gear, we generally don’t recommend you do much work on your student’s bows. Limiting yourself to the basics is a good idea. If you have a good archery shop behind you, you are in luck and can refer your students to them. You may even be able to work out a deal to get your student’s a small discount on services when you refer them. Talk to the shop’s owner.
New or Used?
Buying used gear is a way to get much better equipment for the money spent. But one can inherit a bunch of problems doing so. At a minimum, the buyer needs to be ready to make small repairs and replace worn out parts. We start with helping your students set up new gear first then switch over to setting up “new to them” gear aka used stuff.
Setting Up New Recurve Bows
After the new bow is unpacked it is important to make sure all of the parts work together. If the limbs attach with limb bolts (turn, turn, turn. . . . ) rather than clip on, you need to make sure those bolts turn in and out easily. Have your student carefully turn the bolts all the way in and then all of the way out. The danger here is cross threading, which is getting one side of a bolt one thread lower than it should be; this will mess up the threads on both bolt and riser and require an expensive repair. If the student reports that the bolts don’t turn easily, try them yourself. If you meet very firm resistance—stop!—and back that bolt back out. If you know how to use a tap wrench, you might be able to clear those threads. (If not, send them to a shop, even an auto or machine shop can do this.) If you have the appropriate tap and a tap wrench gently run the tap in and out of the threads in the riser. If the threads on the bolt are damaged, try running a die up and down them (there is no standard but often the threads are 5/16NF18). “Chasing” the threads this way very often fixes the problem.
Another danger spot is in the limb tip notches. Mass produced bows/limbs often have small burrs or other sharp defects hiding in those notches or on the edges of those notches that can cut right through a bowstring in only a few dozen shots. These can be cleaned up with a fine round file (of about the same diameter as the notch) or a curled piece of sandpaper (good additions to your coaching bag).
Setting Up a New Bow String Have your student put 8-10 twists in it when he/she first strings the bow. (If this is their first recurve bow, you will probably have to teach them how to string their bow.) The general practice is to slide the top loop over the top limb tip and rotate the bottom loop, counting the number of twists (complete rotations of the string). Many people feel that the twists should go in the same directions that your fingers curl around the string. It is a good idea for your student to learn that writing down all of these numbers in a little notebook is a really good idea. (Some coaches buy a bunch of small inexpensive spiral bound notebooks (I got my supply on eBay.) and present one to each student getting a new bow as an incentive to adopt this good practice.)
When the bow is first braced, the brace height needs to be checked. If your student doesn’t own a bow square yet, this can be done with a ruler. Take the opportunity to teach your student that checking the brace height each time he/she braces the bow is a good check on the health of his/her bowstring. “If the string stretches, or worse, a strand breaks inside, the brace height will drop and you will notice.” The brace height should be compared with what the manufacturer of the bow recommends. If the brace height isn’t in range, you will need to help them adjust it.
If the brace height is too high, the string is too short. If the string is Dacron, it will stretch some. You can encourage the stretching by sitting the strung bow in your lap (string up) and pressing down on both limbs near the limb tips. It will also stretch when shot. If the string is made of a more modern string material, it will stretch very little. If the brace height is much too high, the string needs to be replaced. (This unfortunately occurs much too often.)
If the brace height is too low, the string can be shortened by adding twists. Add 8-10 more twists and rebrace the bow and remeasure the brace height. Repeat as necessary. If the number of twists gets excessive (the string will look bumpy when the bow is braced) that is an indication the string is much too long. If the brace height is much too low, the string needs to be replaced with a shorter one. (This unfortunately occurs much too often also.)
Setting Up a New Arrow Rest We recommend “press and stick” or “screw-in” plastic arrow rests for beginning to intermediate archers because adding a fancier arrow rest is unlikely to show a performance boost until their technique improves, plus they are way more expensive and are finicky to get adjusted. Be sure the rest is level with the arrow shelf. If the rest slopes down, arrows will fall off of the rest while shooting, which is frustrating. If it slopes up, the “finger” on the arrow rest will deflect vanes causing poor groups. If the “screw-in” type is being used, one of its weaknesses is its tendency to rotate so that it slants up or down. This cannot be “fixed” by using a lot of force on the locking nut, as it is only a plastic piece after all. You need to teach your student to check the position of the arrow rest frequently and reposition in and to “gently” tighten the locking nut as needed. The centershot position is not critical at this time but it can be moved in or out in one turn increments (or by using thicker or thinner foam adhesive pads typically supplied with the “stick on” varieties of rest).
Setting Up the Nocking Point Locator A good starting point for a recurve bow nock locator is 0.5˝ above square for the nocking point locator (this is another reason to recommend that your student acquire a bow square). You will probably need to help affix the nocking point locator. This is why it is a good idea to carry nocking point pliers in your coaching bag (and a few brass nocking point locators, too). Just a single nocking point is okay at this point, but if your student is stringwalking, you definitely need two.
Setting Up New Compound Bows
Compound bows are generally ready to shoot right out of the box, but . . . they still need to be inspected. The manufacturer may not have installed the arrow rest, for example, and almost none install a nocking point locator. Compound bows almost always come with a little book with instructions as to how to set up the bow (more commonly this is becoming a link to a PDF file on their website). If they did not, generally all you have to do is attach the arrow rest and place a nocking point locator (follow the instructions above, with the nocking point locator being in the same place if the compound bow is being shot with a tab—if a release is being used, it is more complicated).
Adjusting the Draw Weight One of the nice things about compound bows is that their draw weights are adjustable over a wide range. Have your student test draw their bow to make sure he/she can draw it smoothly and easily. This is a critical adjustment as being “overbowed” kills any chance of achieving good form and execution. If the draw weight needs lowering, this is done by rotating the limb bolts so they move outward (this is counterclockwise looking in at the bolt). Since there is no guarantee that the limb bolts were in a symmetrical position in the first place, most people screw them all of the way down (counting turns as they go!) and then backing each bolt out the same number of turns (more turns to make the draw weight lower, fewer turns to raise it). This is a good practice to emulate
Setting Up New Arrows
If your student bought new arrows, they are probably ready to shoot, but they need to be inspected anyway. Nocks are made of plastic and they can crack. Vanes are made of plastic which can tear. (Feathers are still suitable and are easily damaged). Something that frustrates new archers is they get brand new arrows that were set up for a different style of arrow rest, one which has the index vanes point down or up, for example, instead of outward. If the nocks are of the “press-in variety” and you have a nock wrench in your coaching bag, use this opportunity to teach your student how to line up the nocks with the index vanes. If they are “glue on” nocks, the nocks will probably need to be replaced by whoever sold them so have your student take the arrows back. He/she can shoot program arrows until the situation is corrected.
As an aside, please note that such arrows (with incorrectly attached nocks) can probably be shot “as is” at the current level of your students’ expertise. When arrows are shot with “fingers on the string,” the rear end of the arrow passes the arrow rest somewhat away from the bow. But one of AER’s coaching principles is too teach our students so that they will know what to do in the future and this would be a problem when their technique improves (and the arrows slide by the rest closer, more likely to hit something as they glide by).
Setting Up Used Recurve Bows
Before the bow was bought, we assume it was draw tested it to make sure it is okay; if this has not been done, go look at “Helping Them Buy Their Archery Gear” to see how it is done and do this test—this is a very important safety issue! All of the things done to set up a new bow need to be done for setting up a used bow, plus more. When the bow is inspected, badly worn or missing parts need to be identified. Bows can be missing grips, bowstrings, nocking point locators, even limb bolts. Missing parts must be replaced. If the bowstring looks at all worn, it is probably wise to start with a new string because one can’t know what the old string has be subjected to. If a replacement grip can’t be found, the grip area can be wrapped with a tennis grip wrap, available at almost any sporting goods store which makes the bow comfortable to be “shot off of the riser” (you do not want one that is tacky or “nonslip,” have them get one that is the most slick).
Setting Up Used Compound Bows
Before the bow was bought, we assume it was draw tested it to make sure it is okay; if this has not been done, go look at “Helping Them Buy Their Archery Gear” to see how it is done and do this test—this is a very important safety issue! All of the things done to set up a new bow need to be done for setting up a used bow, plus more. When the bow is inspected, badly worn or missing parts need to be identified. Bows can be missing grips, bowstrings, nocking point locators, even limb bolts. Missing parts must be replaced. If the bowstring and/or cable(s) look at all worn, it is probably wise to start with new ones because you don’t know what the old ones have been subjected to. This you will probably need an archery shop to do as a bow press is usually required (plus the new strings and cables).
Attaching a New Arrow Rest If the bow came with a rest and it is a simple press-on or screw-in rest, you are probably good to go. If it looks quite worn, it needs to be replaced (see the instructions above). If it came with a fancy arrow rest, it is probably wise to remove it and set it aside for the time when your student can benefit from such a rest. (Also people who shoot “fingers” use different rests from people who shoot with “release aids.”) You also need to check for proper nocking point locator position and reposition it if necessary.
Adjusting the Draw Weight If the draw weight needs adjusting, use the procedure (above) for a new bow.
Setting Up Used Arrows
If your student acquired used arrows, you will probably need to help them with their inspection. They need to be checked for broken nocks, torn vanes, and loose or loosened arrow points. Also, stand the bunch on their points to make sure they are all the same length! (Yes, this check is necessary!) If any are defective, they need to be taken to a shop for repair. If the lengths of several arrows differ a bit, they can be shot “as is” or taken to a shop to have the longer ones shortened to be the same length as the short ones. Obviously having arrows that are “too short” is not an option; this option is only for the case in which small differences in arrow lengths is noticed.
If the arrows are aluminum, they also need to be checked for bends. If your student has a very flat table top at home, they can lay the shaft (only the shaft) on the table and try to roll it along and edge of the table. If the arrow has a significant bend, it won’t roll, it will slide! If it has a very small bend it will roll noisily. If it is basically straight, it will roll smoothly and more quietly than the bent ones. For the ones they aren’t sure about, they may bring them to you to check. Use any of the techniques you have been taught to do this for them. (The Rolls-Royce of such checks is having an “arrow spinner.”)
You need to be leery of students asking you to straighten their arrows, if you possess the skill. Beginning to intermediate archers can bend a lot of arrows. If you have an arrow straightener, you may want to use a class session to teach them the skill, or straighten arrows during one class of a series/session only. Be aware that archery shops usually charge a small fee for arrow straightening.
If the arrows are carbon or carbon-aluminum, they need to checked not so much for bends, but for cracks and splits. Have your student first check them by eye and then bend each arrow just slightly and roll it back and forth in your fingers. If an arrow is cracked it will make, well, “cracking noises.” If it isn’t cracked, it will not make any noise. Cracked arrows, even suspicious arrows, should not be shot. Such arrows can spectacularly come apart into many very sharp strands when they fail. Broken carbon arrows must be disposed of where curious children won’t find the pieces and be temped to play with them!