Getting Into the Swing of Archery

[Note I have been on vacation for the past several weeks, which is why there has been little posted here. Steve]

Recently I got an email from a student working to set up his first pair of V-bars, long rod, etc. Here’s his email:

I was trying to find the correct balance between the small rods and my stabilizer. In the end I had 20 grams on the right side and 70 on the left side. Does it seems normal to you? Isn’t it too much weight?


(Note This student is right-handed. If you are left-handed you need to reverse all left-right references. Also you need to know that a stabilizer system is used to improve: (a) steadiness and (b) balance, and very secondarily (c) excess vibration reduction.)

Since the sight is attached on the right side of your riser and the arrow rest/plunger, too, I would expect more weight to be needed on the left than the right side of your short rods to achieve balance. This assumes (and it may not be a good assumption) that the riser is balanced around its central plane (because of the “sight window” they tend to be “right heavy” if anything). (Obviously you don’t want to add so much weight that you struggle to hold the bow up!)

Here is a test. Have a friend stand in front of you as you draw (no arrow!) with your eyes closed. When you are at anchor, have her check to see if your bow is straight up and down. Do this a couple of times to see if it is repeatable. If it is, you are good to go. You want to be able to feel that your bow is straight up and down and gravity is your best reference for this (actually there are others).

Your bow doesn’t have to be straight up and down at full draw, it just has to be consistently located, but what is your reference for, say, 7 degrees off of plumb? Any angle other than 0 degrees off of plumb is hard to repeat.

If you can hold your bow vertically, and the string is in the same vertical plane as the center of the riser, the long rod, etc. and the sight bar (the vertical bit at the end of the extension bar of your sight) is parallel with that plane, you have the best setup. If the sight bar is at an angle to that plane, then as you move the aperture up and down, you are also moving it left and right! Not a recipe for success!

Image the plane of the screen you are viewing this on splits these risers perfectly in half. That is the central plane of the riser. Your limbs need to be centered on this plane, as is the sight aperture and your bowstring.

Imagine the plane of the screen you are viewing this on splits these risers perfectly in half. That is the central plane of the riser. Your limbs need to be centered on this plane, as does the sight aperture and your bowstring.

There have been people who built a “cant” (e.g. 7 degrees slant) into their full draw position. They wedged their sight to match this angle (so that its sight bar was vertical when the bow was held at that slight angle) because they felt that the canted bow was the most natural position for them. Few people do this. The point is the bow doesn’t have to be straight up and down, it just makes everything easier. My preference is to have everything perfectly plumb by having stabilizers, back weights, etc. to create a center of gravity lower than your hand and usually slightly forward of it to make your bow roll after the shot which allows us to feel that straight up and down position easier. To experience this, if you were to hold a hammer with the head up, the hammer is tippy, unstable, but if you hold it with the head down (just two fingers on the handle are needed) it is very stable … due to gravity). Having your bow set up this way (bottom heavier than the top), allows you to have the bow set its own position (vertically).

The idea behind setting your bow up to be front heavy as well allows for some post shot feedback. If you shoot a recurve bow when it is bare and if you have a relaxed bow hand, the top limb rocks back toward the archer after the shot. This is because the pivot point of the grip is the center of the bow vertically and you are holding the bow mostly on the bottom half, making it top heavy (you are also holding it where most of the mass of the riser and limbs is toward you which is why the top limb rotates down and back. In this case the center of gravity is behind and above the pivot point.

When a long rod stabilizer is fitted to a bow, recurve or compound, it causes the bow to rotate forward instead of backward (a small amount of weight placed far away has more leverage than a larger amount placed closer). So, after a shot occurs the bow rolls forward in your bow hand. If your hand is relaxed (key point) the bow is reacting to the forces acting on it at the moment of the string loose (gravity, the limbs changing positions, etc.). This “rollover” should occur the exact same way after each shot and thus is a gauge of whether you are being consistent. If the bow rolls differently after each shot you are being inconsistent. So, when a shot is made, beginners are looking at the target to see where their arrow hits. More advanced archers are paying attention to their bow’s reaction to the shot to see if it is consistent with the last and other previous shots. The arrow is launched; it will hit where it will hit. That’s what binoculars and spotting scopes are for. If you do not pay attention to your bow reaction, that information is lost into the past; no binoculars are powerful enough to see it.

As a coach, one of the things I do is watch the long rod of an archer (compound or recurve). From the moment of the string release, I expect to see the tip punch out a slight amount (~1 inch, 2-3 cm) due to recoil and then the stabilizer rotate straight down. If the archer is keeping their his/her arm up (not always the case), only his/her wrist bends as the bow goes through its “bow.” (The shot is not over until the bow takes a “bow.”)

When the bow is setup to be neutral (I believe Butch Johnson of the US shot this way), the bow doesn’t roll, it just keeps its position. But a slight shift of the bow, up or down, left or right, isn’t easy to see or feel under these circumstances. The sweeping arc of a rotating long rod is easier to see and feel as it acts as an amplifier of those small variations. This is feedback that is very valuable which is why I recommend you never to anything like a “bow hand release” which simply adds forces that have nothing to do with the shot into the mix.

Setting up stabilizer systems is all about feel. My preference is to set everything up for a vertical hold and then if I don’t like the feel so much, I adjust the grip to give me the feel I want. (At one point I bought a stationary belt sander primarily to make such adjustments.)


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