Why I May Never Bare Shaft Tune Again

The above title came from a post listed on Archerytalk Archery & Bowhunting News. The author went on to list nearly a dozen bows that he has had success and non-success tuning using the Bare Shaft method. All of the bows listed were compound bows with short axle-to-axle lengths.

Ah …

Bare shaft tuning was invented for recurve bows shot with fingers and loses much of its usefulness when applied to compound bows shot with release aids. (I assume the gentleman’s bows were shot with release aids because of the short ATA lengths, which makes them painful to shoot with fingers on the string.)

There is much you can learn from a bare shaft test, but when applied to a compound bow shot with  release aid, the list of benefits drops to about two, at most. It can help you determine if your nocking point height is correct and it can help you determine if your arrow rest position (aka centershot) is correct. For compound bows shot this way the arrow is very nearly square with the bowstring and parallel to the inside of the sight window cutout, so you can eyeball these into place and there is little more a bare shaft test can tell you.

I have commented before that archery’s “collective wisdom” contains a great deal of advice appropriate for one style of archery that really does not apply to another. This is one of those cases.

I suspect that most of his bare shaft tests were irrelevant, in that they gave results (they had to) but those results were not indicative of much of anything.

Compound bows shot with release aids are quite insensitive to arrow spine matches. Recurve archers must place an arrow spine match near the top of their tuning list, while compound archers can get away with a wide range of arrow spines. This is due to the force being applied to the nock of the arrow being directed very nearly straight down the shaft with little wobble, certainly not as much as a finger release creates.

Bare shaft tests will light up like a Christmas tree is you are shooting a recurve bow with fingers and your arrow is either under- or over-spined. Not so for compound bows.

In a couple of bow tests he expressed surprise that the bare shafts hit slightly low and left of the fletched group. For a right-handed recurve archer, many consider this test ideal. It indicates a slightly stiff shaft, which is considered more forgiving that a slightly weak shaft, with a slightly high nocking point position which gives the arrow slightly more clearance as the arrow slides past, aka above and to the side away from, the arrow rest. For compound bows, especially those using a “launcher rest” (kind of like a diving board, it has spring back only in the upward direction) some of those rests work better with  slight greater downward pressure on the rest blade, which is created by a slightly higher nocking point position which results in . . . drum roll, please . . . a slightly low bare shaft test result.

So, there was not much I could tell from his list of bows and his “success” or “nonsuccess” narratives, because there are way too many variables that would need to be checked to evaluate such claims.

What is sure is—when tuning, you do need to know what a test tells you . . . and what it does not.

Bare shaft testing works well for recurve and longbow archers and, believe it or not, “fingers” compound archers (I used to be one). But for Compound Release archers, not so much.

Addendum We are still figuring out the consequences of the recent movement toward short axle-to-axle compound bows. When I began, bows were 46-48 inches ATA. In the past a number had been considerably higher (up to 54 inches, I believe). Over time, bows became shorter and shorter, which is an advantage for bowhunters shooting from cramped positions, such as a deer stand, but for target archers not so much. (The biggest stabilizing force of a compound is . . . the riser. Making it shorter actually makes it harder to hold steady. This is possibly one reason why many designers went to flat limb or even “past parallel” limbs which require longer risers (I think, anyway).)

To make a short ATA compound bow, that can be shot by tall archers (I be one) you have to provide the bowstring to reach all that way back and the way they did it is to provide very large eccentrics. These pay out large amounts of bowstring that was previous wrapped around those large eccentrics, allowing people with 31-32 inches of draw to use those bows. But that replaces a simple limb movement with a complex play out and take up of a string around a cam. How this affects the way we tune is not yet clear to me. So, people are doing what they have always done and seeing what works.

The bottom line, is if a tuning procedure doesn’t seem to work for you, try another; there are dozens of the danged things. But be sure you know what the test will tell you, and it is most helpful if you know why (so you can figure out strange results).


Filed under For All Coaches

3 responses to “Why I May Never Bare Shaft Tune Again

  1. It seems to me that one reason why there are few “Fingers” compound shooters, especially older archers, is the dearth of bows over 38″ ATA. Even the top of the line target compounds are at or close to 40″ long (and quite expensive).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a shame as so many kids start out shooting a Genesis compound … fingers! Of course with a max peak weight of 20 or 25 pounds this is acceptable. But so many people went over to release shooting that the bow manufacturers figured they were losing any customers by designing bows that had to be shot with a release.

      In our curricula we start everybody shooting “fingers.” Trying to teach release aid shooting along with everything else is overload.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, children often are started with the inexpensive and easily adjusted Genesis for fingers as the draw weight is low. I do agree with you about starting beginners with fingers (I did not ever teach with anything other than a recurve).


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