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,

* * *

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.

* * *

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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Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

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