Bow Reaction: Should I Pay Attention to It or Not?

I have been working my way through Jake Kaminski’s YouTube video series on Recurve Bow Tuning to see if I can recommend it to you. (I urge you always to view any videos all of the way through before recommending them.) While I am only about half way through the series at this point, I think this is, so far, quite a valuable recourse.

I am currently on Video #5 which addresses stabilizers and I was learning a lot and I got to the 23:00 mark and Jake basically said this: “I don’t care what the bow does after the shot, the arrow is long gone . . .” So, how the bow reacts after the shot is of no interest to him. This is something that elite archers espouse but one needs to be very careful as to who you recommend this to.

Jake was commenting that the Koreans like to have a repeating forward roll of the bow after their shots and he was arguing against that as a requirement. But there are very sound reasons for that kind of followthrough and paying attention to it as it happens. I will argue these below.

The Forward Roll of the Followthrough
Jake was addressing the weight distribution associated with longrod and V-bar stabilizer systems when this came up. The Koreans weight their bows so that the center of gravity is below and in front of the spot where the bow contacts the bow hand. This results in the bow taking a “bow” after the shot.

This is not necessary but it is desirable. This forward roll is a bias built into the bow, a bias that channels the movement of the bow in a particular direction, which has the effect of restricting movements in any other direction. Imagine if you wanted to stand up a long stick so that you could reach it later and so you didn’t want it to fall over. If you stood it up against a wall, flat against the wall (something that probably wouldn’t occur to you), the stick most likely would fall over immediately. This is because the wall blocks the stick from falling in any direction toward the wall . . . but not away from it. So what do we do? We lean the stick onto the way and it stays there. This lean is a built in bias for the stick to fall toward the wall, with the wall opposing it creating a sort of balance. If you want the stick to stand up in an even more stable way, you would lean it into a corner between two walls, creating a situation in which the stick has even fewer direction it can fall and two walls blocking three quarters of those directions. The lean into the corner is a bias that prevents the stick from falling any direction but toward the corner, in this case.

So, biasing a recurve bow to roll forward, prevents it from rolling to the left or to the right or backward, etc. You are restricting the bow’s degrees of freedom . . . and thereby making the followthrough more regular and restricting the forces that will cause arrows to vary in the launch positions.

Observing the Followthrough
I think the vast majority of Olympic Recurve archers should care about what their bow does after the arrow is away. I instruct my students that “the shot is not over until the bow takes a bow.” The reasoning for this is that if the archer has done everything consistently, he/she will get a consistent rollover followthrough. The followthrough is therefore a consistency meter. It will tell you if you are being consistent. The bow is a mere physical object being acted upon by physical forces and if they are the same shot after shot, the followthrough will be the same shot after shot.

Plus the longrod stabilizer acts like an amplifier. If the bow turns a little bit, the tip of the longrod turns a lot. Small movements at the bow show up as bigger movements in the longrod tip, bow limb tips, etc.

And you can learn to read errors through what happens during the followthrough. If you torque the bow differently, or you heel the bow, or shoot off of your thumb, the bow reaction will be different. And each of those mistakes has a distinctive followthrough pattern which you can recognize and then take action to correct the cause.

But elite archers can often dispense with the followthrough monitoring because they are so attuned to their shots that if they made a mistake, they know it and don’t need to observe what the followthrough tells them because they already know it.

Elite compound archers are notorious for cutting off their followthroughs. Their bows tend to be heavier than recurves, so leaving them out at arm’s length for tens of thousands of shots per year puts a lot of wear and tear on bow shoulders (shoulders being one of the weaker joints in our bodies), so when these elites shoot, they pull the bow back toward their bodies instead of watching it go through a roll over followthrough, thus reducing the strain on the bow shoulder.

So, this practice is fine . . . if you are an elite archer, but I do not recommend it for less-than-elite archers. There is too much to be gained from the bias built into the stabilizer system and the monitoring of the followthrough. This is how you tell you are shooting well, so that you can accumulate the experience of shooting well enough to be able to do what Jake does.

PS The reason I am telling you all of this is my browser was not letting me make comments on the YouTube site (maybe because we are all at home from the pandemic, swamping their service) so I couldn’t comment there, and well I had to get this off of my chest.



Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Bow Reaction: Should I Pay Attention to It or Not?

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    This is most interesting and I will have to watch the videos. As a former “recurve/finger shooter”, I can well relate to what is said above.
    Steve Brings out a point that can be expanded a little bit, but it applies mostly to compound/release shooters. I have a lot of experience with a particular brand of bow that isn’t built in the USA. I”ve shot this brand since 1994, with some hiatus in between, but always have had at least one in my possession.
    This relates to the craze of “compounders” of a bow being “dead in the hand”. Personally, I think that it might be OK for the one shot situations in 3-D or for hunting, BUT, “dead in the hand” means to me that there is no feedback from the bow after you loose the shot. Which means that without feedback you are clueless as to whether or not you did something to affect how the BOW Reacted to YOUR input on the shot!
    I bring this up because when the company I mention above was designing one of their later models (including the current one), they worked a lot with regard to getting some information about the design of the bow with regard to “dead in the hand”. What they discovered was that sure, they could make the bow “dead in the hand” quite easily. On the other hand, once they did that, at 50, 70, and 90 meters, they could loose a shot and even when the shot “felt good” they had no feedback except the impact point. The dead in the hand made almost all the shots feel the same…but the impact points were all over the board and they didn’t have any clue as to why one shot would be a “10” and another shot would be a “6”!!! Both shots felt the same upon launch, but the results were totally a guessing game. Back to the drawing board. They ended up with a design that was not “dead in the hand”, but also did not have any violent reaction or recoil either. BUT, the feedback from the bow gave great indications to the shooter what the “error” was when the shot didn’t turn out quite so pretty.
    TARGET shooters, beware that “dead in the hand” may well not be the greatest thing in a target bow since sliced bread. Unless you like playing a guessing game as to what you are doing right or are doing wrong but your impact points are all over the target.
    As I said above, for ONE shot and score, or harvest the game, dead in the hand might work great, but for multiple shots in varying distances and varying conditions, and varying pressure situations, “dead in the hand” may be your death warrant as far as being at the top of the leader board goes. You may end up chasing your tail forever trying to figure out what really was a bad shot hits the “10” but a shot that felt really great nets you a “6”, because the bow reaction felt the same on both shots.
    What you want is a bow that you will know from how it reacts after the arrow is loosed whether or not you had it right, or had it wrong, and exactly what that error probably was. The consistent bowing of the bow for a recurved bow shooter, and a consistent type of bow reaction (but NOT dead in the hand) for a compounder based upon which balance works the best for their style and set up. One last note: Compounders will have a different bow “reaction” with regard to shooting the 26 diameter arrows for indoors, or the tiny arrows for long distance outdoor shooting, too. These reactions are important to know the difference, too.


    • Right on! Dead in the hand is fine for bow hunters who may be shooting in very cold weather or with gloves on, etc. Buy getting no feedback from the bow doesn’t help target archers at all. I know a very accomplished Recurve archer who can tune his bow by the sound his bowstring makes when the bow is shot.

      The purpose of vibration dampening is not to quiet the bow or to assist in the shot as it doesn’t begin to dampen vibration until the arrow is long gone; it is to prevent that vibration, post shot vibration, traveling up your bow arm over hundreds of shots and wreaking havoc there. There is some sound dampening but not enough to prevent a deer from “jumping the string” or other manifestation of game being spooked by noises.


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