Tag Archives: Bow Sights

Apertures: Pin or No Pin?

I got a question from Carole, who asked: “What are your thoughts on using a sight with a pin in the center (recurve sight) compared to one without a pin, just a tunnel? I have read that the human brain is excellent at centering a circle and wondered if it would be more ‘natural’ to allow the brain to center the sight on the gold and therefore more relaxed on the eye?  I have used both and (think) I prefer without the pin, but am interested in your opinion.”

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Okay, here’s my opinion. I think the jury is still out on this one, so I would call it a matter of personal preference at this point. By all means, do try both types, noting how each affects your sighting (mentally as well as physically).

The same question comes up on the compound side in the form of having a central pin (usually fiber optic) or just an applied ring on one’s scope lens. (There are commercial sets of decals for application to the scope surface with various thickness and colors of loops.)

The orange ring is to make the scope housing more visible (it is centered in the peep hole to collimate the aim). My preference is for a thicker loop a bit larger than the decal shown here and bright green in color (see text).

My thinking at this point (remember this is premature as we have almost no real information on this topic, just opinions) is it depends on the kind of person you are. Using me as an example: I am a bit easily distracted, a bit shaky, and a bit nervous. I find the loops preferable for the following reasons: a small pin looks more jittery than a larger loop, which leads me to press to try to be more steady, which makes my steadiness worse, not better. One must relax into a clam state of steadiness, not “try.”

I use a bright green, thick, fairly large loop decal on my compound scopes. Green is not a color that shows up on target faces much so a good deal of contrast is there. The thicker loop makes it easier to see, the larger loop avoids a problem with small loops, namely that as target sizes change with distance, if you have a small loop, you can be floating around in the middle not knowing where you are. Take a Metric of American 900 Round. At 30 yards/meters, a small loop may only show you gold on the 122 cm multi-color target. So, where in the gold are you? Do you look for the dividing line between the 10-and 9-rings? Do you move around, looking for the edge? Similarly, if the entire gold, or center spot whatever the color, barely fits inside the loop, there is a tendency to try to fit it exactly which leads to over focusing on aiming too precise to sustain.

A large loop allows several rings or a smaller central spot to float in the middle of the loop using the brain’s automatic centering function to your benefit. (This function is hardwired into our brains. It is used for distance estimation and other functions and it is normal for most all people.)

Here’s a scope with a fiber optic dot in the middle.

On the recurve size, I prefer a larger loop than the commercially available ones that seem a bit small to me. (They are easy enough to make and I also paint the front edge bright green.)

So, when you try these options, in the back of your mind (that’s a metaphor, not literal suggestion) keep track of whether your aperture helps you to feel calm. In my case, the thick green ring helps me locate the loop in my visual field easily, in all lighting conditions, shows little perceived motion when aiming which provides a perception of steadiness, which then leads to relaxing a somewhat jumpy archer. If you, on the other hand, are rock steady, mentally calm person, you may find a pin easiest to line up with your point of aim.

The famous Beiter Sight Tunnel offers a square housing (to supply visual cues as to whether the recurve bow is being held vertically, and a plethora of “pins” inside the housing … or you can just use no insert for a circular opening.

It doesn’t hurt to try a number of variations to see what works best for you. Pin, no pin. Small loop, big loop. Different colors of loops. This doesn’t all have to happen at once (unless you are hyper-competitive), but over time, these are things to “give a try” at.

PS This is also wrapped up in another discussion: should you be looking at the bow sights aperture or the target. Both will not be in focus at the same time. That question is for another time.

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Central Plane ? of the Bow?

QandA logoI always assume I am being perfectly clear, but I get help from readers who write to me and tell me when I am not. This is something for which I am grateful as it helps me do a better job of explaining things. Here is a recent request for a clarification that I thought I should share.

On page 64 of The Principles of Coaching Archery, Vol. 1, you say that the sight aperture [should be] in the central plane of the bow (along with the bow string). I’m not sure what you mean by ‘sight aperture,’ and not sure about ‘central plane.’
“I’m assuming you don’t mean that the pin (or whatever) that is part of the sight should be obscured by the bow string. I shoot a bare longbow for practice, but I hunt with a compound bow that has a sight, and it wouldn’t do me much good if the pin were hidden by the bow string.

Here’s my response:

* * *

I usually ask whether you want the long answer or the short one, but …

If your bow is set up right (any of them), the bow string should share a plane with the riser. The riser, were it to be split in two slicing down its middle from top to bottom (from the archer’s viewpoint), that is what the “central plane” is. (If you have a metal riser, the screw holes on the back are in that plane so you can use them to visually check whether the bowstring is “in plane” in that it should line up with both screw holes. On recurve bows, before the advent of “adjustable limb pockets,” the string could be no other place. If you bought a bow and the string wasn’t aligned on the center of the riser, you sent it back. (If later, you acquired a twisted limb, then there is more than one problem involved.) Now that we can “adjust limbs in their pockets” I have seen bows with bow limbs tilted in the same direction, creating a situation that the bowstring was quite far from centrally located. These bows don’t shoot worth a darn if left that way.)

See how the bowstring ;ines up with the central plane of the riser, how the archer holds the bow vertically? All of these are needed criteria for repetitive accurate shooting.

See how the bowstring lines up with the central plane of the riser, how the archer holds the bow vertically? All of these are needed criteria for repetitive accurate shooting.

Ideally when the string is pulled back and let go it moves toward the riser in or near to that plane. The arrow needs to be set up so that it sits in or very near to that plane so that the string pushes it along the axis of the arrow. If the string pushes on the back of the arrow and the arrow is sideways to that plane the arrow will spin like a helicopter blade! So, a basic bow setup requires the string and arrow to sit in this same plane. The arrow should, if it is spined right, then fly in this same plane toward the target, which means the sight’s aperture (pin, ring, scope with dot, scope with a ring, whatever) must also be in that plane (dead center, please).

When I first work with an archer, one of the first things I check is whether his/her aperture is “in plane.” If it is not, they do not have a good tune. The equivalent, if you are shooting Barebow and using a point of aim aiming technique, is that your POAs need to be in a vertical plane with the target center (a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock line through the X-ring is part of this plane which, interestingly, is the exact same plane we were just talking about). If your POA is to the left of that line to hit the center, then your arrows are too weak (assuming a RHed archer). If the POA is to the right of that line, your arrows are too stiff.

All of this is determined by bow design and by the fact that when an arrow flies the only force remaining on it is gravity, so the arrow moves up and down only (absent wind) after it is launched. If that arrow doesn’t start in the central plane as described, it will not end up in it and will not hit the center of the target.

If the bowstring were off-center on the bow, it would tend to twist the bow in your hand and also end up pushing your arrows in a direction other than down the length of your arrow shafts and so your arrows would be hippety-hopping all day long (fishtailing primarily).

I am in the process of pushing a “principles-based archery coaching” approach in which coaches can learn a few of these basic design/physical principles which then allow them to figure out what is going wrong with bow setups, no matter the situation. Ain’t there yet, but working on it.

As to hiding the sight aperture (pin, ring, scope with dot, scope with a ring, whatever) compound bows allow the use of a peep sight which allows you to look through the string and for other bows, it is important that the pupil of your aiming eye (the hole that lets the light in) is lined up along side the bowstring, tangent to that string, meaning as close to the “plane” as possible without having the string block your vision.

And, of course, when you shoot Barebow, there is no sight aperture to place correctly or incorrectly.

An Added Note Now that you have some idea of this central plane of a bow, can you now see why a bow sight’s sight bar (the vertical part when being used) has to be parallel to the central plane? If it is not, then when you move the aperture up and down to adjust for shots of different distances, you will also be moving the aperture left and right relative to that plane. This will create left and/or right misses depending on the angle of the sight bar (the amount of the miss will vary with the distance).

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Is This a Good Bow?

I received a request from a correspondent along the lines of “what do you think of this compound bow”? Getting quality information about an expensive purchase is a real issue for archers and I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. In the message the following was included:

The incredible versatility appeals to me, both as a means to work my way into this type of shooting, and the wide market of resale if it is not for me. Every review I have seen is very positive, but it’s always nice to hear a word from an individual.”

To which was added “Also the price as you can find them fully loaded for around $350 on eBay.”

* * *

I have not shot that particular model but I have worked with a student who is shooting it.

Some Specifics
First let me point out that recognizing your limitations is very important. If, for example, you are not a confident “bow mechanic” buying second hand gear is a real risky proposition. You could run up shop repairs in excess of what you paid for the bow if you can’t do many things for yourself. I have, for example, bought compound bows and then changed eccentrics to create a different draw length, made new bowstring and cables and been very happy with the results. I had the eccentrics and all of the bowstring materials, tools, and experience to do all that, plus a bow press to break the bow down to make the changes. I also had the expertise to know that I could find the specifications for cables and string on the Internet. If you had this done at a good shop, you could be look at upwards of US$200 for the parts and labor.bowtech-infinite-edge-pro

Additionally, the phrase “you can find them fully loaded for….” indicates that you are attracted to a bow that comes with arrow rest, bow sight, stabilizer, quiver, release aid, etc. as a way to get equipment that at least is matched to the bow. A word of caution here: the ancillaries provided in a bow package are generally of lesser quality and also may not be appropriate to your style of shooting. Plus, these compound bow “packages” are almost always directed at bow hunters in the U.S.—they will have a short stabilizer, a pin sight, a quiver that bolts to the bow, and a wrist strap release aid. I have never seen such a package come with a long rod stabilizer, for example, and if your preferred style involves a long rod, you will have bought a short stabilizer for no good reason (your package does come with a short stabilizer, no?). If you are looking at a Compound Unlimited/Freestyle compound setup to shoot targets with, you will be replacing the arrow rest, the sight, the quiver, the stabilizer, and the release aid, making their purchase dubious “bargains.” Add to that for target shooting, “bow quivers” are generally not recommended because as you shoot arrows, it changes mass and the balance of the bow. If you are using the bow to shoot targets, leave it off.

Having said that, it is the case that some of these accessories will do for a time as you are learning the pros and cons of the accessories you will purchase to replace the ones that came with your “package.”

Regarding Opinions
There are many, many fine bows on the market and an opinion can be helpful if … and it is a big “if” …  if your application for that bow is the same as the opinion givers, and he/she is about your size, strength, and shooting ability, etc. By “your application” I mean what you intend to use the bow for. For example, if hunting from a tree stand, a short axle-to-axle (ATA) bow design is a real asset as it results in the bow almost never bumping into something when you are trying to line up a shot. (For comparison, imagine being in a tree stand with a 70˝ recurve bow with long rod and V-bars!) But if the bow is to used for target shooting, its short ATA is a detriment (the riser is the biggest stabilizing factor in the entire setup, a short riser has its mass concentrated in a smaller zone, making it harder to hold still).

So, when you are looking for opinions or talking to someone about their bow, look for or ask them how it works for your application. If you are out hunting you can ask people if they shoot target with the same bow, etc.

The key thing is not so much the brand or model of bow but to have the bow fit you. I focus first on the grip section. When I draw the bow, does it feel solid, stable, and secure in my hand? A bow that Claudia loved felt to me like it was going to slip out of my hand at any moment. So, it was a good choice for her, but not for me. Does the bow’s draw weight and draw length include settings that fit you? If not, you are only buying trouble.

So, have you gone to a shop and tried this bow? If not, you may be buying a “pig in a poke” that is something that may look and sound good but not really work well for you. We always advocate that you “try before you buy.” Note I realize that this is generally not possible <sigh>, but I can’t stop giving what I think is my best advice.

The Bottom Line
Newish compound bow archers are in a real bind. Most start with a Genesis Compound or other zero let-off bow. To get a real advantage from a compound bow, however, one needs one with let-off. So, what to buy next? If you go full-tilt-boogy for a “real” bow with “real” accessories you can be looking at a price tag in the $1000-$2500 range and that is definitely not a god idea, especially of you are on a budget. Until you have more knowledge, keping your purchases at the low end of the price spectrum prevents making expensive mistakes.

You are doing what I usually recommend and that is to get a relatively inexpensive ultra-adjustable bow. This kind of bow can be set to a lower draw weight while you are learning the process and cranked up considerable as you progress. (Careful! These bows usually restrict the available draw weights by draw length. If your draw length is long, for example, don’t expect the lighter draw weights to be available to you.)

These bows can be adjusted with simple tools, typically just Allen wrenches, and do not need specialized equipment or knowledge or additional parts to do so.

Getting the package provides you with at least all of the parts (but usually without a nocking point locator) you need to start shooting, even if they aren’t the style or quality you will end up with. As long as you don’t spend more than you can afford, you are probably going to be okay with one of these bows.

Tell me what’s up.

Steve

 

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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,
<name>

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Specific

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.

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General

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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Attaching Sights to Your Bow

I just had an email conversation with a student who was giving me a progress report. Part of the discussion involved having a new bow and a newly affixed bow sight. I thought you might like to get this information, too.

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When attaching a sight block I do the following. Attach the sight block screws barely snug. Then I pull down on the sight bar so that the sight bar is in its lowest possible position (with the bow being vertical) and then I snug up the top screw, remove the bottom screw, add Loctite and screw it into place snuggly. Then I do the same with the top screw. If the block does somehow come loose, the sight is already in its lowest position, so it cannot fall any farther and minimal movement should occur. The hole is you will notice the sight coming loose before you lose points. Others cut a piece of plastic out to match the back of the mounting block and use that as a sort of “lock washer.” Both of these work quite nicely.

* * *

Then he mentioned replacing the screws that attach the mounting block to the riser and I chipped in with:

When buying screws, the length of the shaft is critically important (unless the mounting holes are drilled and tapped all of the way through the riser, but this is rare). If you get screws that are too long, when you crank on them you will push out a bubble of aluminium on the other side of the riser! Also, you want to make sure that the base of the screw fits into the mounting block exactly. Typically these mounting block screw holes are countersunk making a kind of cone that accepts the cone-shaped bottom of the screw heads chosen to be screwed in there. Sometimes the countersink is cylindrical because they use cap screws (with barrel-shaped screw heads). I prefer the cone-shaped countersinks as they are self-centering.

Even if the screws supplied require a screw driver rather than a member of the set of Allen wrenches we all have with us, the screws are to be fixed so not to come out so who cares what kinds of heads are on them? These are not screws you need to make frequent adjustments with.

* * *

The student also mentioned that he used electrician’s tape to prevent the mounting block from marring the finish of his new riser (very understandable) to which I responded:

Do not use electrician’s tape as it turns to plastic goo over time while under pressure. Use a piece of flexible plastic from the packaging accompanying so many products (not the brittle stuff, the tough stuff you need a kitchen knife to cut through). Trace out the mounting block on a flat sheet of the plastic and then cut out the outline using a sturdy pair of sharp scissors. Use a hole punch to remove the plastic from where the screw holes are. Tom Dorigatti wrote an entire article on making such screw lockers in Archery Focus, check it out.

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PS For those of you who are interested, I do remote coaching (via email, video, stills, etc.). If you are in need and cannot find a local coach and this might appeal to you, you can contact me at ruis.steve@gmail.com.

 

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Trying a Sight Questions

QandA logoI was emailed a couple of questions today:
I am a 67 year old male who started shooting in the 50’s when I was about 8 years old.
I have reached the point where I would like to learn how to shoot using a sight. The reasons are 1) personal challenge and 2) improving my scores. I have no intensions of shooting beyond 20 yds. and plan on using a paid instructor to help me get things set up and to get me pointed in the right direction. I have two items I would like your opinion/guidance on before embarking on this endeavor:
“1. Is it possible to learn to use a sight with cross-dominance by keeping both eyes open or would you recommend using only one eye? (I would have no problem using an eye patch or black taping the lens on a pair of glasses. When I shoot trap, I close my left eye and average 21 out of 25 targets.)
“2. Since I don’t plan on shooting over 20 yds., can I keep my anchor at the corner of my mouth or would you recommend learning the under-the-chin anchor?”

* * *

Ah, I wish all questions were this easy! ;o)

Regarding Q1 Using a sight can make it easier to avoid cross-dominant issues! They can still crop up but think about it this way: when you shoot barebow, the view through each eye is very close together (especially if you shot with a cant). When you shoot with a sight, the views are substantially different. Your aiming eye sees the bowstring, while your off-eye does not. This is even more distinguishable when shooting with a compound bow as a peep sight is allowed to be used in conjunction with the bow sight. This results in your aiming eye seeing the target through a small hole in an opaque lozenge inserted into the string. It is hard to miss!

Having said all of that, I have had “cross-dominant” issues while shooting a compound bow! (I shoot right-handed and am left-eyed.) One occasion was I was shooting in a league after a long, somewhat arduous, work day and got distracted and Bam! I shot an arrow three feet to the left of the aiming dot I was hitting quite regularly.

So, one does have to pay attention … constantly … but the sight actually helps make sure you are using the correct eye to aim with by including “string alignment” as a task. String alignment is a step in aiming in which the fuzzy image of the bowstring in your aiming eye is aligned with some part of the bow or sight.

Many traditional barebow archers have not bothered with string alignment but you can see how adopting this practice could help make sure you were using your proper aiming eye in that your off eye cannot see the string!

And … you can try eye patches, tape on glasses lenses, closing the off eye, etc. If you find something that is comfortable and works for you, use it. I tried all of these things and shoot slightly closing my off eye. The other methods created too much fuss when trying to see a scorecard. But everyone is different, so do try anything you think might work … for you.

Regarding Q2 I do.

Many people disregard the “high anchor” as a “baby step” we all go through until we learn the “grown up techniques.” (For recurve archers, the “grown up technique” is the “low” or “under chin” anchor.) This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The square stance and “corner of the mouth” high anchor have many advantages and not just for beginners. The high anchor is advantageous for shooting short distances, the kinds beginning … and indoor … archers face. You will see Olympic Recurve archers using a low anchor indoors because why should they learn another anchor just for indoors? But if you only intend to shoot shorter distances, and you have already learned a high anchor, why would you learn another anchor, one that is more suitable for longer distances?

So, it is fine to keep using your high anchor, as long as it is “tight.” Some have anchors so loose as to be “floating.” A floating anchor position is one hovering around your face somewhere but not located firmly by being pressed onto your face. The goal is to be able to sight along the inner edge of the bowstring and see something between your aperture and the inner edge of the riser. If you cannot, one reason may be that your anchor is “loose” or “soft.” A “tight anchor” is one firmly positioned on your face so that that position can be repeated and allows for the string picture I just described.

Let me know if this helps.

PS If you want a procedure to follow to get from aiming off of the point to aiming using a sight, let me know. Having a coach to help you set up your sight should be helpful as there is some fiddling to do to make sure it is correctly set up.

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Dots Nice?

Compound-scope shooters have quite a few options for apertures: none, crosshairs, fiber optics, stick-on dots, stick-on rings, etc. Which should you use? I have tried all of the above and in various combinations. I always ended up with a stick-on ring in some form. I was never what you might call “steady,” partly because I started archery seriously after my 40th birthday, so I missed those steady days of youth plus I am tall, so my bow and my aiming eye are separated by a longer distance, and I am just not a steady person.

scope with ring

I prefer a thicker ring than this one.

Rings have some large advantages used as apertures. Here are some of them.

Perceived Movement A 1 mm diameter aiming dot moving back and forth 0.5 mm will look jittery in that it is moving half of its entire diameter. A 10 mm ring moving back and forth 0.5 mm will look relatively still in that it is moving only 5% of its diameter. (It is all relative we are told.) Which of these promotes a calm mind, do you think?

Some archers counter this by using a larger dot. These can create the situation, though, that the dot covers up the smallest aiming circle which leads to a tendency to move it out of the way to take a peek behind it to make sure the right thing is there.

Self Centering Your brain has a subroutine hardwired into it. Presented with two circles, you are capable of arranging them to be concentric (having the same center) quite accurately. (This is how we can tell we are looking down a channel. The other end of a pipe, say, forms a circle that is smaller than the nearer end. We are looking straight down the pipe when the two circles are concentric. Obviously this capability evolved before there were pipes but there are reasons enough to establish this capability.) So, ring apertures have the advantage that your brain prefers them to be lined up with the rings of a target faces and so will put it in that position subconsciously (most microcorrections of position are subconscious).

Overaiming Small dots can often be substantially smaller than the target’s center dot (think of a 900 Round at the shortest distance). This leads to uncertainty as to whether the dot is in the exact center of the center ring and this increases focus on getting the dot into the exact center which disrupts rhythm.

The common approach is to get the aperture positioned correctly after anchor position has been achieved and a second or two later, when the residual motions from the large scale effort of drawing the bow have settled down (we become as steady as we are going to be), the release trips. Any encouragement to stay at full draw longer is unlikely to improve the situation and likely to make it worse.

Gunstar Scope Apertures

Ring and a Dot is a fairly common choice.

You can tell I prefer rings. My favorite rings are somewhat thick (thin rings promote finer aiming than I am capable of and are harder to see in difficult lighting conditions). I favor a bright green color which contrasts well with most target faces. By looking through the ring at the spot I wish to hit, my “self-centering program” is free to operate without me spending a lot of time worrying about how jittery my ring is. I have also used such a ring but with fine crosshairs added. I use the ring until I am on a target where fine aiming is desired (birdie/bunnies and 15 yd field targets, for example) and then I use the crosshairs for fine aiming. I can also use them to help with sidehill shots, If the bales or a target hut gives me any kind of level surface, I can use the horizontal crosshair to keep the bow plumb while focussing on aiming (again subconsciously).

All of this said, there is a psychological factor involved. Some archers just prefer dots or fiber optics. (I gave up on fiber optics because how bright the dot at the end of the fiber affected how large the dot appeared and that varied with lighting conditions.) If you think you have such a preference, make sure that you have tried (really tried) some of the other options and you are not confusing one’s normal preference for what one is used to for an actual preference between tested options.

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Scoring Well

Every year, the team I coach acquires new archers, many of whom have very little experience. I wrote the following handout on how to begin to score well for them and I decided to share it with you. SPR

Scoring

When you first seriously undertake learning to shoot your focus is upon your form and execution. Form being your body positions (foot positions, hip positions, shoulder positions, full-draw-position. etc.) and execution being the movements made to get from one position to the next. This is necessary. First you must build your shot, then through repetition you come to own it.

Then if you find you like competition, another aspect arises—scoring. Being able to shoot repetitively, creating nice tight groups is one thing, scoring well is another. An example is a student I had who worked very hard to make sure her sight settings were good and would go to a competition and shoot tight groups but not score well. On one occasion, her arrows were bunched well below the center of the target. She kept shooting, hoping things would work out and when we asked her why she didn’t adjust her sight so the arrows would land in the highest scoring zone, she answered that her sight marks were good, she must be doing something wrong and she just hadn’t figured out what. Compare that behavior with the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal winning archer, Simon Fairweather. After warming up and shooting two ends of three arrows in his gold medal match, he shot his first arrow in competition. He looked through his spotting scope, then reached up and adjusted his sight setting. The lesson? If you want to score well, put the damned aperture where it needs to be to make the arrows go in the middle.

Even if everything were perfect during practice and warm-ups, when competition pressure builds up, you change making things different. tension makes muscles shorter, making it more difficult to get through your clicker or into your full-draw-position, for example. This changes the feel of your shot. It doesn’t feel right any more. This is the challenge: making whatever changes needed to score well without trying to invent a new way to shoot in the process.

Here are some suggestions on how to score well:

  1. You must “trust your shot.” Improvising new techniques to score well is counterproductive. This can happen subconsciously!
  2. If your arrows are grouping off center, change your point-of-aim, crawl, sight setting, etc. so that your groups become centered. This is a basic condition for scoring well.
  3. Know thyself. Learn about how you respond to competition pressure. Take notes. If you shake more at full draw under pressure, note that (it doesn’t necessarily affect your scoring much), etc. Learn about what you need to eat and drink and do during a competition to perform your best.
  4. When things go wrong, troubleshooting must address whether the problem is your equipment, the environment (includes your target), or you. If you get the source of your problem wrong, you will not have solved the problem but probably also made an unneeded “fix” that makes scoring worse. I had a young student who was given a target with a soft center (they thought she would hit it much so it shouldn’t be a problem). End after end, she found arrows in the grass she was sure should have hit the target. Those arrows were going through the soft spot unnoticed and received scores of zero instead of 10s, 9s, or 8s.
  5. Track your competition and practice scores and compare them. If you are scoring 10% below your practice scores in a competition and you think that is a problem but it is, in fact, normal for you, you just created a problem that doesn’t exist and any “solution” to that problem will make your scoring worse.
  6. At the end of every competition, make two lists of at least three (3) items each: #1 Things I Learned and #2 Things I Will Do Differently Next Time. Do this within 24 hours of the end of the shoot. Read these lists to develop practice plans and to prepare for the next shoot.

There is more … much more.

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Barebow: How to Aim?

QandA logoI got an email from Mr Benedick Visser (from Africa?), to wit:

“Thank you for sending me information on Archery. It is so helpful. I used to shoot Compound bows, but I love shooting bare bow. More challenging and fun. But I struggle to aim correctly. Please can you help me with it?”

***

Hooboy! A controversial question! (I am trying to be funny.) There are some strong feelings about how to aim without using a bow sight in the U.S. Some archers are very traditional and insist that aiming be only done “instinctively.” Others are thoroughly modern and use every part of the bow itself to aim with. I assume you just want to get started.

When I teach beginners, the first question they ask is: “How do I aim?” Our response is “Just look at and focus on the spot you want to hit.” This is a form of “instinctive” aiming. The word “instinctive,” though is a misnomer. We are not talking about an instinct for aiming. This is a thoroughly learned process, learned through the process called “trial and error” or “trial and test.” It is fascinating to those beginners that the desire they have to hit the center of the target will result in them hitting the center of the target if … and it is a big IF … if they are willing to follow instructions and not try to aim. Trying to aim is taking over a process which is subconscious and replacing it with one that is conscious, one you really have no idea how to do, consciously that is. (Almost all beginners try looking down the shaft of the arrow, a technique that works out to maybe five meters or so, but then is defeated by gravity.)

Just wanting your arrows to hit what you are looking at does work, although it takes a great deal of practice over a long period of time. It has the advantage that you can change arrows and even bows and still shoot well. It has the disadvantage of not being the most precise way to shoot a great many arrows from the same position. Anyway, this is Option #1.

If you want to have a system for aiming, most people progress to “shooting off of the point.” The problem of archery is to execute shots consistently with the bow held in a position such that when arrows are loosed, they hit the desired target. Bows need to be held higher for farther targets and lower for near ones. Bows need to be held “off line” to adjust for wind and other factors. The question of aiming is “where do I hold the bow?” The answer (at least in the Western Tradition) was found by a British gentleman of the name Horace Ford in the mid 1800’s. His scores immediately rocketed past anyone else’s and, I am sure, he was accused by some of cheating. He solved the task of where to put the bow in space by lining up a part of the bow (he was shooting English longbows) with some fixed part of the background. It turned out to be very effective to use the arrow point for this purpose (there not being as many parts as our modern bows). So, an archer would watch his arrow point and when a shot hit the gold, he would note where his arrow point was vis-à-vis the background. On his next shot, he would again place his arrow point on that “point of aim” to ensure consistency and success. (Another name for this approach is “Point of Aim” archery.) There are many variations and extensions of this approach but this is the starting point.

Longbow archers were used to looking at their arrow points as a gauge of whether they had fully drawn their bows (the arrow point sitting on the top of the bow hand made a particular shape when drawn “full compass”), so this was not at all a huge departure for some. And, immediately people devised ways to make this more productive. They introduced artificial points of aim. When their POA was not on the target face, they placed an object on the ground to aim with. If their POA was on the target face, they invented the target clock to identify POAs (e.g. 10 O’clock in the Blue).

This technique has been used by target archers from then until now. If you want to know more about the extensions of this technique, key terms for an Internet search are “string walking” and “face walking.”

To get started, shoot comfortably at a large target face up quite close to you (8-10 meters). When you are hitting the center comfortably, notice where your arrow point is with relation to the background (by starting up close, we are trying to make sure it is on the target face). On subsequent shots, line up your arrow point with the point you identified and shoot several arrows. Did your group get smaller (indicating you were more consistent)? Also, if your arrows are still not where you want them (and your POA is on the target), you need only move your POA the same direction and distance you want your arrows to be. So, if your arrows are four cm too far to the right, move your POA four cm to the left and your arrows will also move four cm to the left. This should get you started and learning.

PS You can shoot compound bows Barebow, I still compete this way.

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Q&A Will shooting in the rain damage my bow?

QandA logoI received the following question from a student: “Will shooting in the rain damage my bow?”

I will take this occasion to point out that archery is often shot in the rain and supply some general suggestions as well as answer the question.

To answer the question directly, the answer is “no,” bows are mostly made out of anodized aluminum and plastic (the strings/cables are polyethylene) and are therefore waterproof. Wood bows are painted or varnished or waxed to repel water. Just be sure to take towels and whatever you need to dry off all of your equipment thoroughly, especially sights and release aids. If you just throw your gear into a bow case and zip it up, you are inviting rust on steel parts and even mold.

General Suggestions for Shooting in the Rain
I just got a tip on what to wear on your feet on rainy/wet grass days … waterproof golf shoes. These are made to comfortable, waterproof, and nonslip. Sounds like a good tip. Also, take extra dry socks. Swapping out wet socks for dry ones is refreshing and having dry shoes and socks to change into at the end of the day is very nice.

If you wear glasses, you’ll need a way to wipe them dry. If you use a scope on your sight, same thing. (Some use miniature cans of compressed air to blow them dry.) You’ll need a way to keep tabs and releases dry between shots (a belt pouch) and have a backup tab if yours gets drenched (as in the case in which you drop yours in a puddle). I use a lot of Baggies: one large one to tent over the arrows in my quiver to keep them dry and others to keep small parts dry. A quart size Baggie will hold all of the score sheets, keeping them dry between end scorings.

If you are going to wear a rain jacket, you want it to fit snuggly or carry a bunch of thick rubber bands so you can strap down the billowing fabric on your bow arm. Just putting your armguard on top of the jacket sleeve is often not good enough. You should test whether your jacket will be in the way before you need to use it in the rain. Some high-level archers use golf rainwear, because many of the rain jackets have removable sleeves.

The other thing about rain shooting, you probably will need to lower your scoring expectations, although when the FITA Round Compound world record score was shot, it was raining to beat Hell during the 90m end and later. Peter Elzinga still shot 1419 out of 1440. (He also set the WR for the 70m segment.) Most people, though, shoot poorer in the rain than they do in good weather. But everyone in the field is at the same disadvantage, so if you keep your attitude strong, you will have an advantage over those who get bummed out by the rain.

Good luck! (Luck, of course, is based upon hard work and preparation!  “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson)

 

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