Tag Archives: Buying

Should I Upgrade to Premium Limbs?

I have an Olympic Recurve student who is also a coach and he has been considering moving up in draw weight. I gave my standard recommendation: start with inexpensive limbs until you settle on a draw weight that clicks, then move up to higher end limbs then. Jumping into a new set of high end limbs can be really expensive if they do not work out.

Here is the question I got back today:

These $81 36 lb. limbs are working fine for me. I think I could even go to 38 lbs. My question is what real ROI do I get by upgrading to Win&Win limbs for $400 or so? There’s got to be solid reasons why the Korean team uses them rather than my A+ limbs.”

And here is my answer:

* * *

With regard to the high end limbs, the elites use them because they are sponsored and don’t have to pay full price or at all (in part). With regard to quality and performance, yes, they are better but … most archers (IMHO) are not skilled enough to realize the benefit or all of the benefit. In the Frangilli’s book The Heretic Archer, Vittorio and Michele did an evaluation of a large selection of limbs, which most people have neither the time, money or skill to do. Their conclusion … at that time … was that the quality of the limbs was determined primarily from the quality of the components in the limbs. All of the designs were so similar as to be the same. The differences were small, mostly noticed in the form of the harshness of the shot, not in significant differences in arrow speeds or anything else. So the differences in limbs are small (and expensive).

As long as the inexpensive limbs work for you (you have a baseline of personal comparison with your old higher end limbs) I’d stick with them. If you wanted to try a heavier pair of limbs, I would go up 4#, not just 2#, because you can back them out 10% so 38# limbs can be backed out to 34.2# which overlaps substantially with the 36# pair. 40# limbs can be backed down to 36# (40# – 10%) which is your 36# limbs maxed out … ta da! These are the nominal draw weight values (@ 28ʺ), not at your draw length, but I think it gives you the idea. Once you settle on a pair of limbs and a draw weight adjustment, shoot those for a while. Then, if you can borrow a pair of high end limbs of the same specifications, you can make a direct comparison as to whether the $$$ limbs are better. For one, they should feel more “taut” and energetic. The arrows should hit higher on the target for your old sight settings, etc. If you don’t find enough to get excited about, stick with the less expensive limbs and use the savings to buy other gear!

I suspect that many archers look at their bows as being on a ladder. As they gain expertise, they expect to get more and more expensive equipment. We often start with used gear, then graduate to buying new. We buy less expensive gear while we are finding out what spine arrows work for us, etc. Then we move up. In many cases, this is justified. A $350 bow sight flat out functions far better than a $35 bow sight, but is it far superior to a $250 bow sight? And the sight isn’t responsible for performance. Things like bows, limbs, tabs, release aids are.

There is almost zero help in deciding whether an equipment upgrade will provide benefits to an archer at any skill level. The manufacturers want you to buy their gear. The responsible ones will tell you that you do not have enough skill to benefit from Fancy Bit XYZ but you have to consult with someone highly skilled in making those decisions and most shop staff don’t have that kind of expertise. (I have seen this happen and it is a joy to see.)

Most coaches are not trained well enough to help. I have yet to see any aspect of a coach training program address such things.

Let me know if there is anything else I can help with!

 

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The Danger in Copying Pros

In every sport, copying professionals is a common theme. The question is: should archers do it? My answer is no … unless you want to become that much of an expert and copy everything, including practice volumes, coaching, equipment … everything. Otherwise this is not a good idea.

This topic came up because of an article on a golf blog. (There he goes again talking about golf … well, I wouldn’t have to if you sent in more questions for me to write on! ;o) The blog post addressed whether you should play with a new ball each time or play with used balls. So, what do you think, is it better to play with a new ball at the beginning of a round of golf or one of the used balls in your bag?

If you used the behavior of golf pros, who you can watch perform on TV, as model behavior of how “experts” do things, you will probably answer “use a new ball,” there is less risk that way.

The author of the blog post took samples of used balls from a company that sells them. The company had three different grades of used balls, so he got some of each (all from the same manufacturer, same model). He put the three levels of used balls and new balls of the same kind through some launch monitor tests. The results? No real difference between their performance.

So, why do the pros take a ball out of play when it has a tiny blemish in it? Well, I think there are two factors. One, they get their balls for free. And two, they are exhibiting behaviors that benefit their ball sponsors. (To be fair, they may also be eliminating marks on their ball which may be distracting when they are looking at the ball.) They are certainly not criticized for using too many balls by their sponsor, I am sure. If the manufacturers can get amateurs to ape the pros (taking perfectly good balls out of play), they will sell a lot more balls, so it is in their economic interests to do just that.

In archery, we do much of the same thing. We accept recommendations from professional and other elite archers regarding our equipment and our technique. They tell us that XYZ really works for them and we almost automatically think “I want me some of that!” In all reality, they are so skilled that almost any move or any equipment will work better for them than we can do. I consider all such recommendations of sponsored archers to be hype.

I once had a sponsored pro archer tell me that his bow sponsor’s bow was more accurate than its competition. But bows don’t provide accuracy. They provide arrow launch speeds. They provide arrow launch angles and they provide consistency in both of those things (either good or bad). But they do not provide accuracy … at all. The archer provides that by properly aiming the bow and executing shots consistently. The professional archer making this claim was not trying to con anyone; he was just trying to help sell his sponsor’s product by saying something nice. He himself may have seen an increase in his scores with his new bow, but that comes from an increase in consistency (indicated by a decrease in group size) while he was making sure the arrows ended up in or near the 10-ring.

So, what is the harm in aping a pro? The harm comes from pursuing a goal one is not prepared or physically equipped to achieve, which equates to a waste of time and money, often lots and lots of money. For example, some high performing pro tells us that his new stabilizer system is why he won Tournament X. So, you run out a buy such a system. You put it on your bow and, well, it feels different. Most of us stop there thinking we have made our archery setup “better.” But has it? The only way you can tell is to compare round scores (or something else indicating scorability) before and after the change. Most of us never do that.

Do not get me wrong, you can buy better performance! The most obvious example is replacing a set of banged up, poorly tuned arrows with a set of new weight-matched, highly tuned arrows. You will see a big difference in performance before and after this change. But will you get such a change from one set of weight-matched, highly tuned arrows with another set from another manufacturer? My guess is that you will not see a difference. If you are an elite archer, you might see a small difference and elite archers are frequently checking out new equipment very, very carefully looking for those things that make very small differences in their ability to score. But ask yourself, if someone offered you money to shoot their equipment and it didn’t hurt your scores, would you take the money? Would you say nice things about your sponsor and their equipment?

Think about it. There is a big difference between pro and amateur athlete’s situations, with regard to both ability and budget.

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How (Not) to Sell Archery Gear on eBay

From time to time I help students or colleagues to find archery gear on eBay. As usual I find myself irritated at the mistakes made by sellers. Here are some tips about how to sell gear on eBay effectively.

Listing Titles
One of my pet peeves is sellers who provide useless information in their listing titles. They list their item in a category, say Compound Bows, and then proceed to list everything you do not need to know. People who start their Listing with “Compound Bow” in such a category are wasting time and space. I skip over listings that have stupid titles as I have little time to waste. Start your listing titles with useful information, such as “2005 Mathews Conquest 4.” You do not need to tell me what color it is as you have included a photo. You did include photos didn’t you?

What else do you think your buyer might want to know? How about draw weight (range)? How about draw length (range)? These are very crucial and should be in your header.

An ideal header for a bow might be “2005 Mathews Conquest 4, 60-70#, 29.5˝ DL.” From this I can tell the manufacturer, the model year, the model of bow, the draw weight range, and the draw length range. Take a look at any compound or recurve bow listings on eBay and note how many people leave out one or more of these crucial things.

Currently I am looking for a Mathews Conquest 4 bow with a 40#-50# DW range, so my search terms are “Mathews Conquest 40.” I don’t mind wading through a few Conquest 3s or even Conquest 2s for sale and their draw lengths can be changed with readily available module changes so I don’t search for the DL. And, I don’t really care about the year of manufacture.

Good article titles really help people find your gear to buy.

Photos
I can’t tell you how many unhelpful photos I have seen. I just share one with you to exemplify what not to do.

Is this any way to sell a bow?

This looks like one of those “can you find the …” photos. All this photo tells me is that the camo on this bow will let me blend in with the rugs in Las Vegas casinos. For your photos, use a contrasting, neutral background so the item you are trying to sell will stand out.

Show photos of the things people want to see, including areas of high or low wear. If there is a defect, take a photo and include it. If you are shooting a compound bow, don’t take photos of the backsides of the eccentrics, show the front sides! That is where the modules or adjustments are made in the draw length. Don’t take pictures of limb surfaces unless there is something to show. If there is a label showing the DL and DW characteristics, shoot that. If the label is tucked into a limb pocket, which is the trend in recurve bows nowadays, take the limb out and shoot the label.

Item Descriptions
Go overboard here. Include everything you know about the bow. At the end you can say “I don’t know anything more than I have listed here so don’t ask.” which will help you avoid incessant questions about your item for sale. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to query the seller for basic information they should have included; it is not just a few times.

Additionally
Selling surplus gear on eBay is a good way to get some money back from prior purchases to fund current purchases. Before you set a price, search eBay for the same article to see what other people are asking. Asking too little for your gear will make someone happy but can make you the poorer. Asking too much means your item sits idle and you have to relist it for a lower price.

If your local club or organization does not have a way to list your surplus gear, eBay is a viable route to sell it on. For Recurve folks I generally suggest they keep one set of limbs that is lower in DW for the occasions in which you have had a lay off or an injury requiring you to build back up to shoot your “normal” bow. It is always a good idea to drop your DW when learning a new form element. Having a backup bow can be valuable, too, so keep that in mind when you decide to sell some of your gear.

 

 

 

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Compound Letoff—More is Better, Right?

Letoff is what makes compound bows special. Without letoff, compound bows are just a mishmash of wheels and pulleys. But, with letoff, wow!

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, compound bows incorporate mechanical advantages to have the draw force of a bow ramp up faster than recurves and longbows and then when they reach “peak weight” the force drops off down to a much lower “holding weight” at full draw (see illustration). Because of that faster ramp up, the total energy stored in the bow is greater for a 40# compound bow than for a 40# recurve or 40# longbow, even with the force give-back from the peak weight to the bottom of “the valley.”

The most typical “letoff” is 65% but when they were introduced they were 30-40%, then 50% became popular, then 65%, and now bows with as high as 80% letoff can be purchased. The letoff percentage is how much of the draw force is taken off, so a 40% letoff would reduce the peak weight by 40% at full draw. A 60# compound bow with 67% letoff leaves the archer only holding 20# at full draw, twenty pounds! The other 40# or so has been thrown onto the cabling system so that, in effect, the limbs help pull one another.compound-draw-force-curve

So, being Americans, we think that if letoff is what makes a compound bow special, we want “to get me some more of that,” and the more the better.

Unfortunately this is not necessarily a good thing.

One can design a bow where there is almost 100% letoff and you would be under almost no strain from the draw at full draw. But for target archers this is definitely not a good thing. We want to have enough holding weight to get a clean launch of our arrows. Even with release aids, a very low holding weight (aka a high letoff) means that only a small force is needed to change the launch position of the rear end of the arrow. Therefore it is easier to mislaunch arrows. This is the same consideration with recurve archers who do not have enough draw force “in hand” to get cleanly off of the string. (The hardest bow I have on hand to shoot is a 10# recurve bow. Getting off that string cleanly is very difficult.)

Most compound target archers seem to have gravitated to about 65% letoff. I say “about” because exact letoff cannot be built into a bow. If you change draw weight, or brace height, or any number of things on a compound bow, you can change the letoff involved (not hugely, but some).

Hunters are more prone to use a bow having 80% letoff as they will only be taking a few shots, may have to shoot from an awkward position, have larger targets to hit, and may have to wait for a moving target to clear obstructing brush or turn for a clean shot. The extra letoff allows more time at full draw.

More time at full draw is the advantage of letoff. Because of the lessened strain on the archer at full draw, they have more time to align their bows correctly and then aim carefully. When peak bow weight happens at full draw, as it does with recurves and longbows, time at full draw is necessarily short and less care can be afforded.

 

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When Is It Time to Move Up to a Better Bow?

QandA logoI got an email from a Olympic Recurve student regarding what kind of bow to move up to. He is a serious student who has a good beginner/intermediate bow, an SF Premium Plus. He had tried a couple of other bows but went on to say “Not that it will make me a better archer, but if I feel more comfortable, maybe it will help me improve. What do you think?” Often these requests are just fishing for recommendations of brands and models for them to go check out but this request is more level-headed and needed to be taken seriously. Specifically, it is important to not pooh-pooh the effect of a new bow on keeping interest in the sport up. One does not, though, want to encourage students to be constantly buying new gear because that is what they like best about archery.:. playing with new gear. If the archer’s goal is to shoot competitive scores, the equipment’s role is secondary and if you let it become primary, don’t expect to meet high goals.

Here’s my response to this student’s question (slightly modified):

* * *

Let me quote former Olympian, Simon Needham of England:
When an archer starts out a reasonable ‘beginner bow’ is a good bow to start with. Then when moving on to the point of to getting their own bow, a mid-priced bow will be a good choice with ILF limbs. Then, as they get better and stronger, they may well need to get higher poundage limbs. As they pass the 500 point and perhaps are looking for a better bow, I suggest that they get a top level riser, either new if they can afford it or a good second hand one. At this stage of shooting, a new or good second hand bow will have the same benefit. Any of the manufacturers best risers will take the archer up to the 650 level. It is really only scoring at that level that one manufacturer’s riser will suit an archer better than another.

The “500 point” he is referring to is a score in the Olympic Ranking Round (72 arrows shot at 70 m at a 122 cm target face, 720 points possible). The 650 level is an internationally competitive level and he is saying that only when you are that good can you tell the difference between one high quality bow and another.

So, basically, you can go a couple of routes. You can stick with what you have and make adjustments (see below) or you can upgrade to a near top-tier bow (used high quality risers are much cheaper than new). You don’t really need to worry about nuances until you are shooting very, very well. I also add that the very top-tier bows require elite expertise to shoot them well and are to be avoided until you reach that level. (Some students get carried away with a credit card.)

If you decide to keep going with what you have, the same basic considerations are involved: how does the bow feel and how does it shoot? The feel is determined by the weight of the bow (which can be adjusted by adding stabilizer weights or weights screwed directly to the riser, and the grip section. Grips can be purchased to replace the grip on your bow or, if that is not possible, the grip that is on your bow now can be modified (using polyester auto body fillers, tape, etc.—see photos). You may want to experiment with adjustments to both of these to get a better idea in your mind what you want from your bow—some prefer heavier bows, some lighter. If you prefer lighter, don’t buy a heavy riser, etc. I spend a great deal of time sanding and taping grips so they feel right in my hand.taped-grip

Also, if you are shooting with others and someone has a bow with a draw weight you can handle, it is acceptable to ask them to try their bow. It is also acceptable for them to say “no” to your request and you must not take this personally. If you do get a chance to try other bows, be sure to use your sling! Dropping someone’s bow on the floor or ground is not a good way to make friends.

jager-grips-high-med-lowSome bows fit me like a glove. Others are uncomfortable no matter what I do (too heavy, too front heavy, etc.). Trying a selection of bows will educate you as to what you like and do not like.

Evaluating whether you can shoot a bow well can only happen after you buy one because you have to tune it in, shoot it until you are comfortable, and then shoot some practice rounds to see if it at least scores as well as your old bow. (If it doesn’t, no matter how hard you try, it goes up on eBay to get enough money to buy another.)

I suspect you wanted me to say “Buy a Hoyt” or some such, but it is not the case. I heard Coach Kim of Korea ask in a seminar at the Olympic Training Center in California “Who make best bow?” When we were confused as to what he was asking, he followed with “Hoyt make best bow” which we were a little shocked at. Then he chuckled and pointed to himself and said “Hoyt dealer for all of Korea! Ha, ha!” He went on to say, “bow doesn’t really matter.” An archer who shot a 1340 FITA Round, would be given a new bow and when tuned in and comfortable, he would be shooting 1340 FITA rounds with it. “It is archer, not bow,” emphasized Coach Kim.

Having said that, there are personal preferences and Coach Kim was comparing top drawer bows from elite manufacturers. There are differences between bows but the best bows made by the major manufacturers are all capable of supporting world record scores, if the archer is capable. And as Simon mentioned above, you are not going to be able to even notice the differences between one high-end bow and another until you have reach quite a high level of expertise.

Also, you can go piecemeal on this. Buy limbs first or riser first, then the other later. (Buying better limbs will affect performance much more than buying a better riser.)

Buying a new bow is something I recommend to archers who a) have settled on a draw weight (have you?) and have reached a plateau in their performance (have you?). The only “need” of a new bow is when the bow you have is limiting your performance somehow. Buying good limbs is quite expensive and after you do if you decide you need a different weight limb, you have just spend a wad of money on a short-term use of the first limbs you bought. If you are still trying out different draw weights, I recommend you stick with limbs like those available for the SF Premium risers.

 

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Where Are My Archery Underpants?

I just noticed that there is now available for purchase, golf socks and golf underwear. These are not just items offered for sale to golfers that are ordinary items, these are designed to facilitate a better game for golfers! So, add those to the golf gloves, golf shirts, golf pants, golf rain gear, golf hats, golf glasses, and all of the other items of clothing made available for golfers which are designed to make them better on the course.

So, imagine that … someone designed men’s underpants to allow the free movement of hips and legs required by the modern golf swing. Well if they can design men’s briefs to do that, why can’t they design men’s briefs that help someone be really, really still? Maybe they could be so uncomfortable that if you move, you get tactile feedback. (Ow, ow, ow!)

Now for those who scoff at my desire, and claim that there are so many more golfers than archers, so their market is just bigger, which is why so many golf products are available, let me say that there are about 25 million golfers in the U.S., more or less, according to the National Golf Foundation’s yearly study on participation. According to the 2015 Archery Trade Association survey, there were 22 million archery participants in 2014 and they didn’t count kids under 18! In addition, the number of archers is growing at a substantial pace while the number of golfers is actually shrinking. So much for that argument.

Seriously, the actual reason there are no “archery underpants” available is the usual (Hint Follow the money!). The 2UNDR underwear that prompted this post and which claims “2UNDR underwear will change your life, on and off the golf course,” are $30 per pair. Now you know.02undr

Also, seriously, when are the purveyors of archery goods going to wake up and recognize the size of this market? We seem to be locked into the idea of the market we had back when we thought there were only a few million archers in the U.S. Well, the economy still sucks and they aren’t going to use any of my money (I don’t have any) to expand offers anytime soon, so I guess it is still a matter of “follow the money.”

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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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Arrow Shaft Lengths: Some Ins and Outs

I have just been corresponding with a student regarding arrow shaft lengths. He was ordering Easton arrows and using currently available data charts from Easton. What he found, though, was that he was ordering his arrows “uncut” but the arrows he had made were ½˝ longer than the numbers indicated. After going back and forth about the topic of “arrow lengths” we didn’t resolve the difference.

Here are some different aspects of arrow length:
Shaft Length In Easton’s catalog if you find this listed it is the length of the shaft alone.
Arrow Length Most people measure from the bottom of the nock groove (where the string touches) to the end of the shaft. This is also called a “cut length.”
Total Arrow Length For front of center (FOC) calculations and some computer sight mark programs, the arrow is measured from the bottom of the nock groove to the tip of the arrow’s point. Some even include the full length of the nock.
The kicker is that these measurements go under quite a few different names. Argh.

Since I know that Easton has changed the lengths of some of their shafts without notice, I grabbed an arrow off of the shelf, an Easton 2013 Platinum Plus arrow and measured just the shaft. It measured 32.5˝. I picked up the current Lancaster Archery Supply catalog and it had a chart that listed that shaft at 32˝. So, I looked back at a LAS catalog from several years ago (about when that arrow was purchased) and it listed the shaft at 32.5˝. Bingo. A change had been made. And unlike software that tells you (or at least lists) all of the differences from the previous version when an upgrade is installed, this doesn’t happen in archery.

Even when you know what is going on, it doesn’t mean you know what is going on. And you need to keep in mind that distributors buy thousands of shafts at a time, and some may not have good inventory control (which has rules like sell the older stock first, just like at the greengrocers!) and they may even have some “new” and “old” stock mixed in their bins.

Serious competitive archers have arrow saws and cut their own arrow shafts, then assemble them. The final length is the result of a tuning process, not something one looks up in a chart. If you don’t have the tools to cut arrow shafts, melt point cement, own a jig (or five) for fletching, etc. you are at a disadvantage as a competitor and as a coach. These are things that friends had when I got started but it was clear I needed my own tools (I am doing some fletching for a friend right now). And the above situation is one of the reasons.

Welcome to the wonderful world of archery equipment!

* * *

PS I am working on, amongst myriad other things, a series of pamphlets that cover these equipment issues. My goal is to provide these as e-pamphlets that you can carry around with you on your smart phone to consult as you need to. Until then I still recommend the wonderful book Simple Maintenance for Archery by Rowe and Anderson.

PPS If you haven’t noticed it Easton has made some rather large changes in its recurve target spine chart. If you are buying Easton arrows, you should use nothing older than the 2016 chart.

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A Fletching Conundrum

For those of you using plastic vanes or feathers and doing your own fletching you need a fletching cement. For twenty years or so, my “go-to” cement was Fletch-tite from the Bohning company. But about two years ago, the performance of that wonderful stuff dropped from “wonderful” to unusable. Fletches fell off as if they were held on with spit. At first I thought is was just a bad batch but I bought fresh tubes and checked in with other archers and coaches and … same thing. There are even reviews on sites like 3riversarchery.com and other websites to the same effect. It is sad, because having a trusted component of a routine like fletching is important.

I suspect this may be the result of chemicals used in the original formula of that wondrous fletching cement becoming no longer available for common use and a reformulation using substitutes was made. And my track record on such guesses is woeful, so I probably should just stop guessing.fletch-tite-glue

The question is “What to use instead?” The first thing I found was a fletching cement from the Allen Company, but after one tube it became “no longer available.” I am not a fan of cyanoacrylate glues (the so-called “super glues”) but I may be forced to use them. Then I got a hint (can’t remember from where) about Loctite Go2 glue and that works okay. Since Go2 wasn’t made specifically as a fletching cement, I am also trying Loctite Vinyl, Fabric & Plastic Flexible Adhesive because it also has attributes that should make for an acceptable fletching cement. I suspect that many of these products are quite similar, being distinguished by only small differences, but the goal is to find an available, affordable fletching cement that isn’t one of the “super glue” types.

I may end up trying the old standby from the wood arrows and feathers days: Duco Cement.

What do you use?

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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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