Monthly Archives: March 2016

Measuring Up

I have commented more than just a few times about the importance of having arrows matched to you and your bow. I was working with a newish recurve student regarding how to do just this an I realized that many archers do not have the required equipment. Here are some “workarounds” you can use to get the information you need to order the correct arrows.

What You Need
Every manufacturer provides a “spine chart” which allows you to select which of their arrow shafts you need for arrows to fly well out of your bow. These charts require your draw length and draw weight to make the selection. I will start with how to get these numbers for recurve bows and long bows.

Measuring Your Draw Length
There are such things as “draw length arrows” which are arrows with printed scales on them. You simply draw back into good form and somebody else reads the scale at the rest/plunger button and you add 1.75˝ and voila. If you don’t have such a device you can use an ordinary arrow. Draw to good full draw position and have your helper by a mark on your arrow right at the arrow rest hole/plunger button. Repeat this a number of times (3-5). All of the marks should be within a quarter inch of one another.. Measure from the bottom of the nock’s groove to the center of the array of marks and add 1.75˝ and voila.

It is important that you be warmed up before doing this and have shot in good order. It also helps if your “helper” can see if you are in good alignment at full draw because you will get a false reading if you are not.

There are many “formulas” that determine draw length from other body measurements. I have collected about a dozen of these. None of them are as reliable or as good as the technique I describe above.

Measuring Your Draw Weight
I have a hand-held electronic bow scale that just requires me to attach it to the bow string and pull an arrow the proper distance and it records the maximum value within 0.1#. Of course, you probably don’t have a $150 bow scale in your pocket, so a bathroom scale will work. An alternative is if you have a large spring scale, you can mount it up high on something sturdy and then hook the string on the scale and pull down (the correct length—you can use an arrow with a mark on it for this) and then read the scale). There are commercial scales sold for just this purpose, although any spring scale is inherently somewhat inaccurate, it is close enough for our purposes.

Easton Spine Chart PageYou can estimate your draw weight by taking the nominal draw weight value of your limbs (24#@28˝, 38#@28˝, etc.), correct this value for any adjustments at the limb pockets (ILF limb pockets allow about 10% of the draw weight to be adjusted off by backing out the limb attachment bolts (typically 4-5 turns max.). Then you need to adjust this value for difference between your draw length and the nominal one (@28˝). To do this you add 2# for each inch over 28˝ or subtract 2# for each inch under 28˝ (use 3# per inch if your limbs are 40# or heavier).

If you want an actual measurement of your draw weight rather than an estimate, you need a stiff stick, at least 3 feet/1 meter long, with a notch in one end. From the bottom of the notch measure down the stick and place a mark at X˝, X being your draw length measurement but without the 1.75˝ extra. The stick is then stood on its end on a bathroom scale and the bow placed upon it with the string (where the arrows attach) in the groove and the riser hanging down. You then press down on the riser until the arrow rest hole/pressure button is even with mark on the stick and read the scale. Of course, this is no more accurate than your bathroom scale, but it is something.

Special Considerations for Compound Bows
Compound bows are different. The draw length of a compound bow is a setting on that bow which may or may not be correct for an archer. It is correct if you can get into correct full draw position with a straight bow arm and your draw elbow lined up with the arrow on the bow. When this is so you can use the techniques described above. If it is not, you need to adjust your bow until it is.

The spine charts for compound bows do not list the draw weight in hand, they list the “peak weight” which is the highest draw force encountered throughout the entire draw. (The draw force reduces to a small fraction of the peak weight at full draw, which is called the holding weight.) If you use the bathroom scale technique described above you have to carefully watch the scale reading as it rises, reaches a peak, and then drops off. You want the highest reading to use in the arrow selection. This is why “digital” scales are not as useful for this task as “analog” scales. The numbers on the digital scale often change so fast as to be a blur and you cannot move the bow back and forth past the peak to clarify anything, otherwise you will get a false reading. You must “pull” the bow down in one continuous stroke will doing this.

My $150 gewgaw registers both the peak and holding weights with one pull of a compound bow. It is a shame those devices are no longer available.

I hope this helps those of you who do not have the tech services of a full archery pro shop nearby.

PS Wood arrows can be quite different but both draw weight and draw length are considerations.




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If I Just Had Better . . .

As regular readers of my diatribes know, the literature for archery coaches is quite sparse and so I often find myself slogging through materials designed for golf instructors and coaches for inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, etc.

Recently I was reading an article entitled The Biggest Myths in Golf  by Adam Young, the author of The Practice Manual, and as I am wont to do, I translated as much as I could into archery to see if it held up. One segment of this article is this:
The main messages I want everyone to get is that
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of swing style which will produce function
• Lots of things held dear as technical ‘musts’ are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different to technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a golfer than their swing style. Trying to get good at golf by only improving your swing style is myopic, at best.
I understand that many of you will have strongly held beliefs challenged after this article.
Good. Maybe it will open your eyes to why you are not as good as you should be.

As you can see golfers obsess over their swings and their equipment, like archers who obsess over their form and their equipment. And by so doing, both golfers and archers miss out on a great deal.

Now, Translating the Above into “Archery”
The main messages I want everyone to get is that:
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of form and execution which will produce function (aka results)
• Lots of things held dear as technical “musts” are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different from technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a archer than their technique. Trying to get good at archery by only improving your technique is myopic, at best.

What do you think?








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Fingers Pressing on the Arrow?

QandA logoSo many questions about arrows; are you all Spring cleaning?

“When I emailed you about my erratic bare shaft test results you mentioned that a possible source of the inconsistent results might be fingers pressing on the nocks. Interesting. That could explain how on a couple of ends where I was able to get a bare shaft above the fletched group, and one below. Almost the same amount above / below.

So, that brings me to the topic of tab finger spacers. I know we’ve spoken about the variety of sized ones out there: non-existent to golf ball-sized. Is the role of the finger spacer to truly keep your fingers apart enough that you don’t touch the arrow? I think I remember reading in The Heretic Archer that there is some finger contact with the arrow … light contact, so as to have that feeling as another point of reference.

“Finger pressure on the arrow does seem like a real possibility for some of the shots I saw on Friday. I do know at times I kind of cant the draw hand over. The top of my hand leans to the left (from archer’s point of view). That may or may not have something to do with different pressure on the arrow. I will focus a little more next time on how my hand is and whether I can feel my fingers pressing the arrow at all.

* * *cavalier elite_tab

There are discussions ongoing about touching and not touching (see The Competitive Archer and its excellent section on finger tabs) and I don’t see a definitive position yet. Clearly though, if there is touching, it has to be consistent. I suspect that if there is touching lighter has to be better than heavier in that a 10% variation is something small is a smaller source of overall variation than a 10% variation in something big.

The finger spacer is there, IMHO, to help your hand and fingers to relax. If the finger spacer is “right-sized” then gentle pressure on both sides of it (and I mean gentle!) should help keep the tab in the same position on the string fingers (a desirable condition). If the tab is so constructed to fit around the arrow nock in just one way, then the combination of these two results in a consistent string grip, no?

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Fletches, Fletches, … and Fletches

QandA logoWhile we have been on the topic of arrows, I had another question emailed in ( on this very topic.

“I have another boring question, what is the difference between shield vanes, parabolic, Spin Wings. Not physically of course. 🙂
Best regards,
<name withheld>”

* * *

The shapes of vanes make very little difference, except aesthetically (which I do not discount, I enjoy shooting a lovely bow more than shooting an ugly one). The factors that affect vane’s performance are: surface area, roughness of that surface, and angle the vane makes with the shaft. In addition, the possibly largest factor is mass. Of fletches having the same size and shape, plastic vanes are the heaviest, then feathers, then Mylar vanes (Spin Wings, etc.). Mylar vanes also operate differently from the others but their main advantage is having so little mass.

Wooden arrows . . . you may need a lot of them as they do break easily.

Since vanes function by exerting drag on the back part of the arrow (the front half was made deliberately heavier with the addition of the arrow point, so it has more inertia, aka resistance to changes in its motion). So the drag created by the vanes is actually slowing the arrow down, but the front has a higher resistance to that change in speed, so the vanes serve to bring the rear of the arrow into the flight path of the front by basically tugging backward on the shaft.

Larger fletches of any kind will always produce “more correction” and slower arrow speeds. You will note that people shooting indoors use much large vanes (favoring steerage over speed) while those shooting outdoors use the smallest possible vanes (favoring speed over steerage). Faster arrows are affected less by wind and gravity, for example, for the simple reason that the arrows are exposed to the forces involved for less time.

And, obviously, the shape matters if you are having a fletching “clearance problem,” that is the fletches (or usually a fletch), is clipping the rest or the riser on its way out. Some people opt for low profile vanes rather than high profile ones for this reason, but this is not the only way to address this issue.

The behavior of vanes in flight is complicated. If you have seen any high speed video, you will see that feathers tend to “lay down” reducing their surface area dramatically, and all fletches flutter in flight, changing their angle of attack, as it were.


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Arrow Sense and Nonsense

QandA logoI got this question from a fairly new archer in Portugal:

When I was watching some archery videos I noticed that some archers in indoor tournaments use X7 aluminum arrows with at least 4˝ feathers and others use Easton X10 arrows; that’s just a matter of preference, right? But usually aluminium arrows are better for 18 meters and carbon/aluminium arrows are the best for longer distances, isn’t that so?

* * *

It is wonderful that we now have a video storehouse for archers to browse through. (Thank you, YouTube!) And, at the same time, I have to warn you about what you see. Just because people do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do, it just means (usually) somebody was successful doing it.

Please realize that there is a lot of copying amongst archers. Less successful archers copy the behaviors of more successful archers. I consider this to being due in part to our evolution (Monkey see, monkey do.). There is a story that at the Las Vegas Indoor tournament a quite successful archer was dealing with a bow hand injury and so wore a glove on his bow hand. The next year, quite a number of archers showed up with gloved bow hands! (There is no advantage to using a glove other than keeping your hand warm (Vegas is hot indoors) but there are potential disadvantages from doing so.)

The use of “fat” arrows indoors was caused by the more demanding competitions of compound archers. Since arrows that barely touch the line of a higher scoring ring get that score, then having large diameter (aka “fatter”) arrows should help. Arrows that might have missed touching that higher scoring ring. Whether this applies to other than compound archers remains to be proven, but many a Olympic Recurve archer trades in his/her X10s for 2012 aluminums (a popular shaft of about the right spine) when shooting indoors.

I was “taught” that (by watching what others did and then copying) but, being an experimental scientist, on a couple of occasions I used a set of “thin” aluminum-carbon arrows to shoot an indoor NFAA 300 Round (60 arrows at 20 yards, 5-4-3-2-1 scoring). I then took a small piece of large diameter shafting and placed it over any hole that looked very close to touching the next ring and I found out that “fat shafts” are worth about a maximum of 1-2 points per round. If you are in a position to be needing those 1-2 points to win, then maybe it is a good idea.dead center arrow

The whole idea of using 4-5˝ feathers on indoor arrows is another “monkey see” phenomenon. The argument goes that indoors, with the distance being so short, “steerage” is more important than arrow speed. (Feathers/vanes cause the arrows to fly straighter by actually slowing them down through aerodynamic drag.) So, they took the idea from bow hunters to use large feathers as they were reputed to supply more steerage. Unfortunately this is another example of trickle down misinformation. Hunters used 4-5˝ feathers when the only thing available was feathers. Since they had arrows with heavier points (with the blades necessary for bow hunting) they felt the large vanes helped them “steer” the arrows better. Well, 4-5˝ feathers do steer arrows better than 2˝ feathers, but feathers also have a neat trick. When the arrow is first shot, feathers “lay down” and give less drag by creating much less surface area (feathers are made of individual pieces called barbs that “hook” together which is why you can separate them in so many places, these barbs slide against one another resulting in a very small feather during arrow launch). Arrows with feathers are therefore faster than arrows with equal sized plastic vanes because of this “lay down” phenomenon. In other words, feathers offer less steerage than vanes do over the first 220-40 meters or so. So archers desiring more steerage should use 4-5˝ vanes, not feathers.

So, I found myself shooting large diameter aluminum arrows with 4˝ feathers indoors because … because all of the other kids were doing it. Do you know what I was shooting when I shot my one and only 300/300 round (with 42X)? I was shooting small diameter aluminum-carbon shafts with 2˝ Flex-Fletch vanes.

The collective wisdom of archery is a mishmash of ideas from different eras and different styles passed around uncritically. I recommend that you always try to think things through and ask a lot of questions (even if they seem to be “dumb” questions). If something doesn’t make sense, there are probably good reasons why.



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Recent Thoughts on Release Aid Technique

In an email from a student he observed that “(In the most recent World Cup Compound Finals) Russian Woman Albina Loginova had problems during the team finals and switched to a different release in the middle of it. Russia lost and she also lost the Gold single final as well.

This brought any number of thoughts to my mind. For one, release aids do not have a 100% reliability ratings. I had a release aid stop working during a competition. After repeated attempts to get the thing to go off (it was my last arrow and I just wanted to be done), I had to borrow a release from another archer to finish the tournament.

In another instance I found out that water in a release can jamb the works up (I heard this happened recently from another archer.), and in another case, my release rope broke during a shot and I had to switch to my backup (fortunately and amazingly the arrow scored well when the rope broke). All serious release aid archers carry a back-up release with them while shooting.

I also want to emphasize that there is nothing you can say regarding release technique that is an absolute, maybe other than you do not want the release aid to be moving around during the loose of the string. What kind of release an archer favors is somewhat dependent upon their personal psychology, and that can change. While someone may be shooting along brilliantly using a hand-held release with a thumb trigger, they may struggle and could very well benefit from switching to a triggerless release, and vice-versa. There are all kinds of techniques. Which can be used is a matter of personal psychology. Some are fine with triggers, others not so much. One professional field/3-D archery carried a pouch of six releases with him. Each one was set at a different speed, one was set to not go off at all. This he did for quite a few years to be able to shoot without anticipating the release going off (a major aspect of target panic).Carter Insatiable Release Aid

While I am on this topic, let me re-state that there is no such thing as a “back tension release” even though this term is widely bandied about in compound-release circles. Think about it; there is no way a release aid can know what muscles are being used to operate it. A hinge release only trips and looses the string when the hook is held in place (by the D-loop or release rope) being attached to the bowstring and the body of the release aid rotates far enough (this is an adjustable setting). The release cannot tell whether it is being rotated by the archer establishing good full-draw-position and rotating their draw shoulder, thus swinging their elbow into line with the plane of the arrow (a highly recommended technique) or whether the archer is manipulating the release by rotating it in their hand using their fingers (a commonly used technique, even by elite archers). One technique involves the use of back tension in the process of shooting, the other does not. So, if you are interested in a release aid because you think it will help you utilize your back muscles, well, you are just wrong. If someone is trying to sell you such a release and using that argument, reach down and hold on to your wallet, turn 180° and walk away.

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Why are Target Archers Served So Poorly?

In 2012 the Archery Trade Association (ATA) sponsored a landmark survey of archery participation in the U.S. People in all 50 states, thousands of them, were surveyed via telephone as to archery and their participation in the sport. Last year they repeated the survey, somewhat expanded, and discovered a quite large increase in participation, which is probably no surprise to archery coaches. The new survey estimates the total number of adult archers in the U.S. at 21.6 million adults (plus uncounted scads of youths!).

The ATA for quite some time has been little more than a bowhunting marketing organization, so it is not surprising to see the report pull out a bullet point that “A little more than half of all (adult) archery participants in the U.S. (55%) bow hunt.” (p8) They got that result by summing the segments labeled “Bowhunting but not target archery” and “Target archery and bow hunting.” They did not, however, pull out a bullet point that could have said “More than three quarters of all adult archery participants in the U.S. (81%) participate in target archery.” I got that by summing the “Target archery and bow hunting” segment and the “Target archery but not bowhunting” segment. Possibly saying that there are more adult archers participating in target archery than bowhunting doesn’t fit their usual narrative. When you add in the fact that it is highly likely that the millions of youths participating in archery are way more likely to be target archers than anything else, the size of the “target archery market” is substantially bigger than the size of the “bowhunting market” when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)

The size of the ‘target archery market’ is substantially bigger than the size of the ‘bowhunting market’ when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)”

Way more than a few archery manufacturers sneer at target archery as the unprofitable weak sister of bow hunting. This is regrettable because when you look at look at the prices for target gear and compare them with hunting gear, the target gear tends to be more expensive, which means if you are selling to a dedicated target archer, vs. a dedicate bow hunter, you are looking at greater sales, not less. My estimation is that target archers spend more on archery equipment than do bowhunters. Bowhunters spend a lot more on their “bowhunting” but much of that is on ATVs, tree stands, travel, lodging, deer tags, licenses, camping gear, camo clothing, tracking cameras, etc. etc. things that manufacturers of bows and arrows do not make.

So, why the negative attitude toward target archers? If you look at sales of target equipment, they pale in comparison to the hunting gear. Why is this? There are more target archers than bow hunters. They are willing to spend more on archery equipment. So, why are sales so poor?

Could it be that target archers can’t find things to buy? Even in archery “pro shops” it is often the case that target equipment is either not to be found or very, very limited in scope. Those same shops also do not seem to have target archery specialists to help with buying decisions.

So, now that the Archery Trade Association has shown … twice … that the number of target archers is very, very much larger than anyone thought, where are the programs and outlets to market goods to target archers? Why aren’t the bow and arrow manufacturers pressuring the ATA to expand marketing to this previously unnoticed huge market? Is it because a manufacturer of broadheads, used only by hunters, have as much clout as an arrow manufacturer? Why are target archers not served better than they are? Why?


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Porpoising and Fishtailing Follow-up … and The ACG

QandA logoThe issue regarding bad arrow flight in the last post was not completed addressed, so the discussion continued:

Thanks so much and I loved your blog post. Glad we could help with the question. I looked at my bow and noticed that I did have a lot of scuff marks on my bow. I do have a bow square and I checked mine and some of the students and noticed that especially mine was less than 3/8” right now. I cut my indicator off and retied it as you suggested and I noticed I was getting more direct flight and more 10’s. Now, I will have to test more over the weekend because my serving string started to unwrap and so I need to get all that fixed. So, I will retie the nock indicator again and clean off those scuff marks as suggested.

I am also searching for answers as to why at 10 meters our students can hit consistently in the 9-10 rings but when they move back to 15 meters its like they are shooting from a mile away. The arrows just scatter everywhere. I really think right now it is in their heads.

* * *

To which I responded:

NASP uses Genesis bows and arrows exclusively.

NASP uses Genesis bows and arrows exclusively.

In your case, your nocking point position is tunable. The first level of tuning is usually through the bare shaft test. You want the bare shafts to hit just below and just to the left of fletched shaft groups. (The “below” part is adjusted with your nocking point location. (This presumes you are right-handed and using a bow sight. If you are shooting bare bow, there is less of an effect.

One of the ways to ease the transition from shooting at 10- to 15-meters is to up the target size (from 40cm to 60cm or 60cm to 80cm would be proportionate). Then when comfortable at 15m you can drop the target size and see what happens. Normal this scenario comes (IMHO) from the drop in performance caused by the extra distance resulting in “trying” which is not desirable, especially since the “trying” becomes: try this, try that, try … maybe this, etc. The need is for them to preserve their form when changes occur.

* * *

As usual, one thing leads to another . . .

In our competitions we are not allowed to use sights and we must use fingertip release. We have tried shooting bare shafts but I might not understand the concept. We shot three fletched arrows last night and two bare shafts and the bare shafts were all over the place. They would fly straight until about 2 meters from the target and then usually fly upwards and go in the target at the top at an angle.

The idea I assume is that if you have proper form you will be able to shoot bare shafts almost as well as fletched arrows?

* * *

And then I said . . .

Correct, but if the arrows are hitting so high, the nocking point must be very low (or there is some collision of the arrows with the bow (called a “clearance problem”).

Adept archers shoot bare shafts out to 70m and beyond. The fletches are only needed to correct for slightly mis-launched arrows.

When you shoot off the point (you are aiming off the point, no?) the position of the arrow is fairly constant (line of sight has arrow point and point-of-aim in it and your anchor fixes the back end of the arrow in space, under your aiming eye), so any change in nocking point location merely changes the position of the bow vis-à-vis the arrow. This compensates for a great deal of other things being somewhat “off” which doesn’t happen when a sight is used. (I know that NASP doesn’t allow sights, but you referred to “your bow” and you are not so limited.)

You can tune your arrow flight, that is make changes until the arrows fly well, but it is probably the case that the spine mismatch (arrow v. draw weight/length) is probably so severe you can’t get any kind of decent arrow flight with bare shafts.

Try raising your nocking point and trying again.

This is where “ordinary” archery and NASP run acropper of one another. The fixed bow and arrow combination cannot possibly work well for all and really is somewhat of a wonderment that it works for any. There is a major transition that all archers go through early in their archery practice and that is acquiring their own equipment. When this is done properly, the archer is “fitted” with the right-sized bow and arrows and then the equipment is tested and adjusted to be “just right.” I have attached a guide (just the text, actually) about “bow and arrow fitting” for you if you are interested.

* * *

Since the Archery Coaches Guild is now up and running … and is now FREE(!) … many of you may want to go over there ( and sign up and Join the Conversation! We need people to post questions, favorite coaching tips, etc.

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