Arrow Rest Basics

A question came in regarding the differences between recurve and compound arrow rests.

I have a different approach regarding arrow rests than some other coaches, which I will explain after some background.

When an arrow is loosed, it flexes. This is because the force acting on the arrow through its nock is not lined up exactly with the axis of the arrow’s shaft. In a finger releases, the string is sliding off of the string fingers toward the archer. This causes the arrow to flex, first into the bow and then back and forth as it flies to the target. The arrow’s fletches damp out most of this flex within the first 20 yards of flight. The flexing of a shot arrow is mostly horizontal when shot with fingers, hence the use of cushion plungers to absorb much of those horizontal forces while the arrow is still on the string. Since the arrow is bowed in toward the bow, as it slides forward on the rest, it pushes up against the arrow rest, which necessarily (action-reaction) pushes back. On modern recurve bows, a cushion plunger as used to absorb some of that force and to control the amount of “push back.” A stiff arrow rest (usually a stiff wire) is used to maintain the elevation of the shaft as it slides forward, very little flex is allowed for in the vertical plane of the bow.

Compound arrows, shot with fingers, behave in the same fashion.

Compound arrows shot using a release aid flex much less and mostly in a vertical plane, making the use of a plunger ineffective and a stiff arrow rest less than effective. Rests designed for compound bows have most of their

The blade of this launcher rest (left) acts just like a diving board at a swimming pool.

The blade of this launcher rest (left) acts just like a diving board at a swimming pool.

flex in a vertical plane. The most popular rests used by compound-release archers are called “launcher rests” which are like diving boards. They allow flex, resisting it gently, in the vertical plane but have little effect in horizontal planes because there is so little flex involved. Common launcher blades are made of spring steel with little notches at the end to keep the arrow from sliding off.


My Approach
I put a simple, screw-in plastic arrow rest on my student’s bows when they buy their first bow, compound or recurve. I do the same for my own bows. (My last new bow was a Hoyt GMX and I fitted it with one of those $2.95 plastic, screw-in rest. With the threads, I can set the centershot fairly closely and the rest has flex built into it. Very simple. (When the bow was shooting well because I had a good basic tune, then I installed a plunger and rest.) With students who are building releatable form, I only recommend a plunger and steel wire rest when they will benefit from it (almost always quite late). Otherwise, a complicated arrow rest is just an added expense that produces no benefit, plus they make the bow heavier and require a lot of adjustment. The same is true for my compound students. I tell them that the first perfect NFAA Field Round was shot by a professional compound-release archer using a springy rest (Terry Ragsdale), a rest that is much like the cheap plastic rest I recommend now. A launcher rest comes much later when there will be a perceived benefit from its use.Springy Rest Montage

Basically my point is why use something that is much more expensive, more complicated, harder to adjust when there is very little chance of that piece of gear allowing an improvement in performance (basically by supplying better feedback to the archer)?

Plastic Arrow Rest

1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches

One response to “Arrow Rest Basics

  1. Thanks for the information.
    Best Arrow Rest


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