Sights or Stabilizers First?

I got into an interesting conversation with one of my authors, Arthur Halligey, from Great Britain. The discussion was on the teaching order for bow sights and stabilizers. Arthur and quite a number of other coaches over there do “sights first” while I recommend “stabilizers first.” What do you recommend?

My argument for stabilizers first is that my teaching modality is to do what is easiest first, also to break things down into steps so that the learning load is smaller. Of course, many children of archers are handed fully kitted out compound bows as their first bows, so that can be done. Presumably, also, the parents are there all of the time to help with the learning process. Children taking archery classes are shooting more often than not not under the watchful eye of a coach/instructor.

Our curriculum for archery classes (the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum—available in Coach’s Guide and Archer’s Guide forms with the Coach’s Guide containing the entire Archer’s Guide and a lot more) has Recurve, Compound, and Traditional Tracks. The Recurve and Compound Tracks include sights and stabilizers.

But not all archers shoot with sights and stabilizers. To give our students the full experience, we introduce the equipment in stages, so that they can experience most, if not all, of the shooting styles those divisions offer. All students start with Barebow and learn point-of-aim (POA) aiming as basics. Then stabilizers can be added (if desired). Compound archers can choose or try both short and long stabilizers (and thus experience both the Compound Barebow and Compound Bowhunter styles).

After stabilizers are used, we introduce bow sights. (We have a written protocol as to how to make the transition from aiming off of the point to aiming with a bow sight. This is easy, takes very little time, and shows how both systems are roughly equal in value.)

Other gear is introduced after that, for example, for Recurve archers, cushion plungers and arrow rests, clickers, etc. (Prior to that we recommend screw-in plastic arrow rests so centershot adjustments can be made but things kept simple.)

So, stabilizers come first because: they are cheaper (a cheap stabilizer works better than a cheap bow sight), they help archers notice their stability at full draw, they improve their grouping, etc.

Bow sights are iffy. The inexpensive one’s aren’t worth the money, the more expensive ones are quite a bit more expensive. Getting a loaner bow sight is harder than getting a loaner longrod, also.

I tend to think that British coaches are focused upon getting their students into full Recurve Unlimited kit as there wasn’t much a compound presence in the U.K. There were trad archers and Olympic Recurve and that was about it. Couple this with beginning archers asking most frequently “How do I aim?” and sights first makes sense.

I am not sure there are significant reasons for “stabilizer first” or “sights first,” making “machts nichts” the operative teaching principle here.

What do you think?


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3 responses to “Sights or Stabilizers First?

  1. David Beeton

    Hi Steve, regarding the question of “sights or stabs first”, I have to admit to coming down on the side of sights first, and even, sometimes, “button” first
    There are a couple of reasons for this, namely that most bow kits that we loan to our novices are supplied with a button kit as well as a set of sights. If the novice wants to stay with barebow, they can still fit the button as part of the allowable add-ons, aiding with the bow set-up and basic tuning.
    If they feel the pull towards freestyle archery, we can also fit the sights. The emphasis then is on adjusting the group centre and bringing down the group size as far as possible. Once that is stabilised, (pardon the pun), fitting a long rod is suggested to the archer, and we go back to look at the bow tune, limb weight, and arrow tuning.
    The one thing we try to avoid bringing into the equation is the use of a clicker! It is too easy to try and rely on the clicker instead of concentrating on establishing a stable anchor. I know that I have colleagues who try to use all of the add-ons asap, but I think it is too easy to hide errors behind the “junk”, for the want of a better word.


  2. John Kristoff

    Stabilizers first to promote and develop good biomechanical form. Place a sight on a beginner’s bow and too often they want to “aim” first with grossly contorted form: head tilted, bow shoulder raised, draw arm elbow dropped, collapsed release hand wrist.


    • I agree. Sights draw way too much attention, so we separate learning to aim (off of the point) from learning to sight (aiming with a sight). Our protocol for making switch makes this very obvious to the archer.


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