Tag Archives: Buying

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.



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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,

* * *

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.

* * *

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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Wanting to Try a Compound?

QandA logoI had a Recurve student write to ask:
I’ve been thinking about compound bows, is it a big difference shooting one and another?
If I wanted to buy a compound bow what would you suggest? (Not that I’m going to buy one, I just want to check prices and everything else)

* * *

Oh … boy, oh boy, oh boy! There are big differences between compound bows although they all operate on the same principle. The basic design of a compound bow (there are many variations) builds in a mechanical advantage by not attaching the bowstring directly to the limbs. The bowstring is attached only to the “eccentrics” at each limb tip which can be as simple as a pulley with an off-center axle to fantastically complex freeform shapes, but which all have the same role. The eccentrics are connected to the limb at the other end of the bow through the means of a cable. When the bowstring is drawn, the eccentrics rotate and act as levers to bend the limb opposite via its cable. Once the rotation gets past a certain point, the force of the pull on the cable is thrown onto the limb and the only force required to keep the bow drawn is the force need to keep the eccentrics rotated, which is a small fraction (one fifth to one third typically) of the “peak weight” of the bow. Because of this “letting off” of some of the draw force, compound bows are made with substantially harder to bend limbs than recurve bows, allowing them to store more energy that other bows of the same draw force.

Pros and Cons of Compound Bows
First of all they are quite a bit heavier than recurve bows. This makes them more stable when shot (improving consistency) but makes them harder to lift up shot after shot (especially for youths).

• Because of the letoff, the stress on the archer at full draw is much less and more time is available to aim.

• Because of the design of the bow, the bow has its own draw length! The string, when pulled, goes back only so far and stops. That “stop position” is adjustable and must be carefully adjusted to fit the archer’s draw length (which will be different from his recurve draw length, even if still using fingers on strings). Some bows have only slight DL adjustments (circa 1/2˝) and require new parts (draw length modules) to make larger changes. Most bows have several inches of DL adjustment, and some of the new ultra-adjustable bows have many, many inches of DL adjustments (and draw weight adjustments, too).

• Virtually all modern bows are designed to be shot with mechanical release aids, which have a technique all to their own to learn (it took me three years to master release technique).

• Most modern compound bows have been designed to be shot in bowhunting environments which means they are short … very, very short. The lengths of compound bows are measured from “axle-to-axle” (aka ATA). When compounds were first invented, the ATAs were 48-54˝. All of my compound bows that I shoot with my fingers on the string are in the 46˝ to 48˝ ATA range. Most modern compound bows are less than 35˝ ATA, which means the string is at a very sharp angle if you try to draw the bow with a tab and fingers. This sharp angle causes “finger pinch” which is very uncomfortable (not so much at full draw, but definitely at the “peak weight” of the bow you must go through to get to the more comfortable “holding weight”).

• Kid’s compound bows are often “zero letoff” meaning they don’t have their own draw length, they just keep going like a recurve bow (although typically the draw weight does not go up in the latter part of the draw). These bows do not have to be constantly adjusted to the ever increasing draw lengths of fast growing kids.

By all means, try a zero letoff bow (e.g. a Mathews Genesis), their very low draw weight makes the finger pinch of these short bows endurable.

• If you want to try a “real” compound bow (aka one with letoff), ask somebody who is your height, as they will have a draw length roughly your own. You want a very (Very!) light drawing bow to try first and they are rare. If the someone you ask has a typical bow they will have a peak weight of 55# to 70# and you can hurt your shoulder just trying to draw such a beast. So ask someone what their draw length is and what their peak weight is. You are looking for something 45# or less. So, the prime candidate for you to ask is a tall woman. Most people are willing to let you give their bow a try, but if they say “no” they are not being rude, so do not take offense.

• This is very, very important (especially with modern bows). Once the bow reaches “peak weight” … let’s say #45 of force, it will rapidly become much less than that, say 15# at full draw. This is such a shock to people expecting for the draw to increase and increase as it does on recurves and longbows, that they are shocked and let go of the string, dry-firing the bow. This can damage the bow if you do it and will be really, really embarrassing, so on your first draw (always with an arrow), draw and let down, do not even give your fingers permission to open.

• If you are looking to buy a compound bow, I suggest investigating the ultra-adjustable bows first. You can turn the draw weight down to a very low value for learning and then up later. You need to make sure that the bow’s range of draw lengths includes yours! A bow I am currently reviewing is the Kinetic Rave bow which is built in Europe (where this student is located) and there are quite a few others. Beware! Not all draw weights are available at each draw length. I am aware of only one manufacturer who is claiming they are for their bow (the Parker bow company) but they haven’t returned any of my emails, so I can’t vouch for that. You can download the Owner’s manual for almost any bow now from the Internet and it is well worth the research to do so.

A Final Note
The best case scenario is to have a large archery shop nearby with a knowledgeable staff. If you tell them what your interests are, they can measure you up and show you some of your options, which you can also usually test shoot. Of course, they are not doing this for their health, they are trying to sell you something. So, don’t go and find the bow you want on the Internet for $10 cheaper and stiff your local vendor. The pre-sale service and post-sale service you are getting are usually invaluable. You do not get those through Internet purchases. And, if you don’t spend some of your custom at your local shop, there won’t be one soon (this is the predicament of this questioner—no shop, no range, no club nearby).

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Recommending New Equipment to Parents

My friend and coaching colleague, Tammy Besser, suggested this topic for me to write about: what is the best way to recommend archery equipment to parents of a young student-archer (push hard, don’t push at all, what?) This is a very good question.

Being generally ignorant of a families recreation budget constraints, if we press too hard, we may be hurting that family, certainly the relationship between the archer who wants new equipment and the parents who can’t see how they can afford to do so can end up at odds. Or if we aren’t clear about the recommendation, the parents may be left with so much confusion that they don’t know how to start. Or….

The solution to this conundrum lies in education.

Helping Parents with Equipment
Parents of new archers are typically non-archers now. In the past the most common case was children of archers were being introduced to our sport by their archer parents, but we now know that a great many new archers have parents who are basically clueless about archery equipment.

So, how do we make recommendations they can understand and evaluate?

I think there are some key points that need to be made to “frame” the issue and then there are things needed to make the equipment purchase or acquisition doable.

Key Points Regarding Having Your Own Equipment

(For Archery Parents)

  1. If your child is shooting with program equipment he/she is missing out on what can help them improve in archery and that is accurate feedback. If the bow and arrow and child’s ability aren’t matched to one another you can get false feedback from the arrows shot. For example if the bow your child is using to heavy they won’t be able to hold the bow up. If the arrows too stiff they will fly off to the left (right-handed archery) no matter what.
  2. When your child has his/her own equipment, we can set up that equipment so it gives them good feedback. If an arrow misses where they were aiming, it will be due to something they did wrong and they can correct.
  3. Having your own equipment also allows participation at a great many other archery venues, especially archery competitions (which expect each archer to bring their own equipment). Very few archery venues rent equipment.

Then, there is some education needed on the part of those parents and the wonder of the internet allows them to do their own research. Even if there is an archery shop in the community, many have very little equipment specifically designed for entry-level archery buyers. And even if they will order stuff for you, you need to know what stuff to order.

Coaches can provide a simple guide to your recommendations in the form of a Word of PDF document in which there are embedded links to online retailers who provide information along with the opportunity to buy. Because you write this all out ahead of time you can include sections on bows, arrows, arrow rests, bowstrings, armguards, tabs, release aids, everything you think your students might be shopping for. Or you can make separate docs for each category; it is up to you.

This document can include a printable shopping list for the parents or archer to print out and then take notes on things they want to explore.

Probably the most difficult task is helping them buy arrows. When you order made to order (MTO) arrows, you must include all parameters needed: shaft, cut length, fletches (length, color, and pattern), point type and weight, and nock type/brand. We strongly recommend you fit your students for arrows and give them their shopping list with all of these specifications written down. Otherwise they can come back with some disastrous choices. We sent one young man to a shop we thought was reputable and they took some 30-50# carbon shafts and cut them down to the young man’s very short draw length, making them suitable for a 70#-80# bow! (We believe there may have been a temp on duty that day, because this otherwise makes no sense. Shafts graded by draw weight range are “tuned” to that draw length by cut length. The uncut arrows correspond to the lightest bow weight in the range and the shorter lengths for heavier draw weights in the range. Whether this works for somebody’s draw length has to be figured out.)

But, Wait, There’s More!
We wrote “A Parent’s Guide to Archery” especially for parents who have no background in archery with a focus on how parents can support their kids (and protect their pocketbooks). It wouldn’t hurt to recommend that book to them.

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Marketing on a Myth

I was reading a website’s marketing piece for yet another mechanical broadhead design. The line that caught my eye was “… allows the <brand name of broadhead> to maintain a minimal amount of blade exposure reducing the wind planning (sic) effect insuring better accuracy at a distance and (than?) a comparable field point shot.”

All mechanical broadheads are designed around this central bit of dogma. There’s only one problem with it: the “wind planing effect” is bogus. As the “wind planing effect” story goes the blades of an old model broadhead (see photo) act like airplane wings and cause the arrow to “fly” off line.

An "old style" two blade broadhead (still available)

An “old style” two blade broadhead (still available)

This is very bad science. An airplane wing allows a plane to fly because a number of factors:
1. Its shape causes air to move farther around one side than the other causing the pressure there (above the wing) to be lower than on the other side (below the wing) resulting in the air pushing harder from below than above creating aerodynamic lift.
2. The wing is angled to the line of flight, more so at slower speeds than to create more lift but also more drag. When the plane gets going, the higher the speed, the lower the “angle of attack” to reduce the drag and the lift (you only need enough lift at that point to keep the plane level, not climbing even more).

So, to get this “force” attributed to broadheads, the blades (aka “wings”) would have to be curved and at an angle to the air sliding by them. In fact they are flat, that is “not curved,” and in line with the shaft of the arrow creating no lift whatsoever. Not only that but there are two or three of these wings spaced equally around the point either cancelling each other out or accentuating one another. If there were actual lift created (there is not) it would be at a right angle to blade and hence a right angle to the shaft and since it would be off axis, the effect would be to spin the arrow shaft around the shaft (faster or slower depending on whether they are working with or against the arrow’s fletching), which is considered to be a good thing.

A mechanical broadhead cocked (below) and deployed (above)

A mechanical broadhead cocked (below) and deployed (above)

So, where did the idea of the “wind planing effect” come from?

I have found references to this effect that go back to the early 1970s and I suspect they go back even farther. But I suspect it came about when people had the opportunity to compare the same arrows with different points, so possibly when screw-in points were invented. Arrows with a screwed in target or field points would impact in different places than a screwed in broadhead of the same weight. People immediately wondered “why?” and the wind planing effect story was invented to explain the problem.

So what was the real reason the two arrows hit in different places?

My guess is that a number of things could be the cause. First, broadheads are quite longer than target or field points. If they were not perfectly straight, when screwed on a shaft you would have the equivalent of a bent arrow and so it would not hit in the same place. Second, those considerable longer broadheads create a longer arrow with a different weight distribution (a different “front-of-center” or FOC balance point). That would cause the arrows to fly differently, too.

Of course, there are dozens and dozens (and dozens) of mechanical broadheads being sold in today’s market. All of the marketing for which is, well, bogus. So bowhunters are buying into more complicated and more expensive broadheads (in which more things can go wrong, such as the cutting blades not deploying or parts falling off before use making them unusable) for no good reason.

Can you see now why I ask all of my coach-trainees and all of my archers to think through everything and ask a lot of questions?


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