Tag Archives: Compound bows

Tuning the Genesis Bow Follow-up

QandA logoI got a follow-up email regarding the Genesis tuning problem.

With NASP unfortunately we can’t change the arrow in any way and must use the Easton 1820 “Genesis Arrow” so it seems we’re left to play with nock height and repeatable form. Is that how you see it?

This is the case for official NASP competitions. My previous answer was for the broader archery community and competitions out it the wonderful world of archery outside of NASP. Here’s my answer to this email:

* * *

Yep, it is somewhat of a trap. The idea is to have a level playing field (same bow, arrow, target, distance) and I agree with that. Poor kids wouldn’t have the resources of richer kids to get their own arrows and have them fitted and tuned. But then each kid is stuck with identical equipment and to shoot well, equipment must be fitted to the archer and his/her abilities.

The only way to “weaken” an arrow like the Genesis competition arrow is to increase the point weight, and I am not sure that even that is allowed by NASP rules. The significant factor you seem to have control over is draw weight. If any of your kids are shooting anything less than full draw weight, getting them up to that will help. Also, you can do a little testing to see if there are bigger problems you do have control over. One of the things I see on a lot of Genesis bows are streaks on the arrow shelf and arrow rest. These are little smears of plastic left behind when fletches collide with the shelf/rest. For this reason, you want to clean off those surfaces regularly. A bad loose of the string by a beginner and Whack! there is a new streak. You won’t see it, though, if there are myriad others still there.

So for your really serious competitors, get a can of foot powder spray (it has to be powder). Spray the shelf and rest of their bows and have your archers shoot a couple of arrows. If there are any disturbances in the powder, you have a clearance problem. If you are shooting arrows with press-in rather than glue-on nocks (I think the old Genesis arrows had glue-ons), you can rotate the nock so that the fletch that was hitting no longer hits (since the arrow doesn’t start rotating until it is clear of the bow it is usually the bottom fletch). Re-test and rotate the nock until no more problem. Then make all of the other arrows the same by rotating their nocks into the same position. They make nock rotating tools that have built in guides for just this task (see photo below).

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

Since archers with different draw lengths have different string paths, you will need to test each bow-arrow-archer combination. (Bring lots of rags so that archers can clean up their bows afterward.)

If there are big streaks or the rest is getting hit, check the nocking point height. If the nocking point is too low, they will be launching their arrows “nock low” which is asking for clearance problems.

I do believe that you are allowed to adjust your draw weight, no? Having an arrow that stiff (spine is 0.592˝) would require the bow to be about 40#-45# to be shot correctly at that length, so reducing the draw weight would just make things worse, but turning the bow down just a bit (which changes the string path) may correct for a clearance issue so that may be worthwhile. If there is room to turn a child’s bow “up” a bit in draw weight, that might cure the clearance issue and provide better arrow flight.

 

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Problems Tuning Genesis Bows

QandA logoI get a lot of requests for help and I am glad to provide what I can. One of my readers upbraided me for this because I have been more than a little adamant that archery coaches shouldn’t “work for free.” So, I am being somewhat inconsistent. There are a couple of reasons I do this. For one, I am still trying to learn how to “coach remotely,” so I embrace opportunities to do that. Second, there is so much need for help in the archery coaching community. The main reason, though, is that people are turning to me because they can’t find the help they need. Not that that help isn’t available in every case but that it has been made hard to find. (I really, really, (really) wish the archery organizations would embrace coach support wholeheartedly instead of the current “train ‘em and drop ‘em” approach.) Until such resources are more widely available I will continue to do as much as I can to help those coaches who seek it.

Today’s topic comes from a reader of this blog who seeks help tuning Genesis bows. Here’s his email:

I’ve been darn near driving myself insane trying to learn to understand and tune a bow, specifically the Genesis.

A little background: I’m Level 2 certified wanting to do level 3. Just having trouble finding a training that’s close and works with my schedule having five kids of my own. I’ve read many of your books and in fact own 4-5 of them as resources for me and our coaches. We have a very large NASP program of 95+ in our elementary school from grades 4-6. We’ve been doing NASP for 5-6 years. We’ve won a team state championship in our second year and some individual championships. I’ve not done anything to the bows except yoke tuning and nock point tying 3/8˝ high of zero on a bow square and the occasional serving repair at the local archery shop. Perhaps I should be tying the nock even higher.

I’ve talked to other coaches and have picked up a few tips/suggestions regarding bow tuning and done far too many hours of research. Most coaches, since we’re competing against them, I believe are a bit guarded about sharing too much info. However, it seems almost all of our bows make arrows kick to the left for a RH archer no matter what I do.

For bows that seem to have cam lean I’ve tried rotating the bottom limbs, fiddled with the ATA length by twisting strings/cables, and replaced bushings in the cams. Regardless, I still see arrows kicking typically.

I realize that when pairing archers with bows that are not their own in a program it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However about 50% of our archers have their own bows and I’d like to be able to tune them properly but cannot figure it out.

Also, once we begin shooting as a team we have enough bows for those who don’t own their own bows to each use one of ours thereby allowing us to individually tune. As NASP has grown it’s become more competitive and I’m wanting to keep up but feel we’re being left behind and want to keep our kids competitive and give them every chance possible to win. I’m willing to do whatever it takes we just don’t know what that is when it comes to bow tuning for the Genesis. If you understand these bows I’d be willing to pay you good money for a private bow-tech clinic if you’re ever in the area, not joking. 🙂

I just read the below link where you mention attaching a guide to bow and arrow fitting to the article regarding but don’t see the text document mentioned. Perhaps it would help. https://archerycoach.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/porpoising-and-fishtailing-follow-up-and-the-acg/

Any guidance or assistance is greatly appreciated!

And here is my response:

* * *

The document mentioned in that post was attached to the email sent to the correspondent, not the post. I have attached it to this email in the hope it might assist you.

Everything I am going to say from now on applies to right-handed bows. If you are dealing with a left-handed bow, you have to switch left and right. ;o)

Your kids arrows are flying to the left and you can’t tune it out because the arrows are too stiff. The “Genesis formula” (my term) is to make a bow and arrow combination that can be shot by a great many people. So the bow has zero letoff, which allows it to be shot by people with widely different draw lengths with no adjustment (not so with a bow with letoff) and an arrow that is too long and too stiff for people with short draw lengths so that it will be long enough and not too weak for people with longer draw lengths. But arrows that are too stiff for a particular situation will fly off to the left. Arrows that are too weak, will fly off to the right. (Remember that left and right directions have to be switched for left-handed archers.) Since most youths fall into the shorter draw length category, most arrows used for the Genesis (especially the “Genesis Arrow” are too stiff and will fly to the left no matter what you do to the bow.

This is because the farther you draw a bow, like this one, the more energy is stored in the bow. The more energy stored, the more energy is given to the arrow when shot and the stiffer the arrow needs to be to receive it. (Imagine a whippy thin arrow being shot from a very stout bow–the arrow might break upon release!)

“So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow.”

So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow. (Little tweaks of the bow may take place for fine tuning purposes, so this is just a generalization.)

The hard thing with kids is that they are still growing. If you fit them for arrows (see attachment) “correctly” they will over the next six months, grow an inch or half an inch and their draw length goes up accordingly and now they arrows are too short (for safety) and too weak (as the bow is now “stronger” because it is being pulled farther). What we recommend is to fit arrows to youth’s bows that are one spine group stiffer for each extra inch of length you choose. By choosing to use an arrow that is 2-3 inches longer than usual, if you didn’t choose a stiffer shaft, the arrow would be too weak. But with those stiffer shafts, when the youth grows and needs a stronger arrow, that extra length allows the arrows to be shortened (making them stiffer) while still being long enough for safety.

Standard bow setup for “fingers” shooters is to have the bottom of the top nock locator 1/2” above square. The purpose of this is to launch arrows a bit “nock high” to avoid clearance issues with the arrow rest. Genesis bows are not what one would call high precision bows, so some cam lean and other less desirable attributes are to be expected and really don’t contribute to your issues. The problems you are having are likely due to just arrow shaft stiffness mismatches.

I hope this helps.

Steve

PS We are working on a series of e-booklets explaining all of this and the attached document is to be part of that, from which we expect to make a little money ($1.99 per booklet?), so I ask that you don’t share the document SMFAwith your colleagues. Of course, if you learn the knowledge provided in it, you will be free to share that with your fellow coaches. ;o)

PPS We have done bow maintenance and tuning workshops before and we might be able to set something up if you would like (we are not so far from one another geographically). There are, however, people in your community who might be able to provide this service cheaper (we need to recover travel and lodging costs, etc.). The purpose of this e-booklet series mentioned above is to provide much of the information you need. I also strongly recommend the book “Simple Maintenance for Archery” by Allan Anderson and Ruth Rowe. It contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks need for tuning and maintenance (with photos!). It is now out in a second edition (photo is of first edition).

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Is it My Equipment, the Environment, or Me?

When experiencing problems in archery, the key question for archers is: is it my equipment, the environment (wind, rain, etc.) or me responsible for my misses. Since you cannot solve a problem you do not know you have, this is something coaches have to help with as often as not. Believing one has an equipment problem when it is really form/execution is to road to nowhere.

Consider the following story from my friend Tom Dorigatti, a compound bow guru:

Do you remember me telling you that a careless person in the range went running (and I do mean running) past my bow and knocked it flying some 15 feet onto the hard concrete floor? Do you also remember me telling you that the silly thing was just not shooting well, or holding well, and was tossing flyers at will high and/or low out of nowhere?

I put on a new Hamskea arrow rest (taken off my Merlin bow), I checked axles and cams for straightness/cracks, misalignment. I rechecked and checked my measurements again. I found nothing that should be causing this. I do not miss by 12˝ or more at 20 yards, period.

“Well, I went a step farther and took a large magnifying glass and went over that bow from stem to stern looking for anything that may be a crack, or break in the limbs and/or the riser. I found nothing.

I have no way of checking for a twisted riser, however. So, we were down to either a twisted riser or a failure somewhere on the bow that we/I couldn’t detect. I called up Darton and explained what exactly had happened to the bow. I explained how it wasn’t shooting for crap, and that I would like to send it in for them to check out for a twisted or cracked riser. I got an RA Number sent immediately.

From the time I sent the bow in until the time I got it back was 10 days. They had asked for an arrow that I was using out of the bow and how I set the bow for its paper tune. Of course, I tune a slight nock high right tear because bullet holes for me doesn’t cut it.

I called them back after about a week and asked if they’d found the problem. They had. That idiot who knocked the bow flying had splintered (not visibly) all four limbs on the bow! What was happening is the splinters were opening and closing at their will and state, and not consistent because they were failing worse as time went on.

“What is important for coaches to do is to listen to these stories.”

The riser was checked and it wasn’t bent or twisted. Darton replaced all four limbs on the bow, and set it back up to factory specifications, which so happens to be exactly where I had it set anyway! Of course, I checked all settings before even trying to shoot the bow, and I guess it was right by them, since they told me they checked the tune after they’d rebuilt the bow.

Now the thing shoots like it is supposed to and I’m not fighting the nose-dives and wild arrows. It is shooting as tightly (or a touch tighter) than I am able to hold, so I don’t have any complaints.

In spite of the fact that the bow had been “abused” (not my me, though), Darton replaced all four limbs, reset things, and sent it back at absolutely no charge to me.

I now have a bow that holds steady now, after months of fighting it and blaming myself. because of the “shake,” when all the while most all of it was broken/failing limbs. I was lucky … because those four limbs could have broken all at once at full draw and … that is not nice to think about!

My sight movement since I started shooting has always been an up and down movement. Rarely do I ever have a side to side swim of my sight. I don’t have very many left and right misses either. So, I should have known that there was something really out of kilter with the bow when it kept getting worse and worse as time went on. But, I blamed form, and that shake because I went through all the measurements of the bow and they were spot on.

My suspicions really arose when it got to the point I couldn’t find anything else. I knew I was fighting the bow constantly. I had a friend shoot the bow and he said he struggled to keep the bow up close to center; it was like he had to fight the bow to keep it from having the sight drop out the bottom, too.

Another thing that put me onto the bow being screwed up was paper testing. I always shoot six different arrows when paper testing, not just a single shaft. Who the heck knows, you could pick a good one or you could pick a bad one, but when all your arrows give the same tear, you know things are good. With the “broken” bow, I was getting several tears per my tune, then a wild nock right tear of 2-3˝, then back to a “normal tear” for a couple, then a another wild tear. And it wasn’t the same arrow each time. Sometimes I could get three or four in a row, and rarely five or all six. That finally convinced me that something on that bow was moving around or changing as the bow was being shot.

“So, coaches, keep your ears open. Ask questions of the story tellers. Keep mental notes.”

The reason I am sharing this long story with you is because it was a long story. Here was a very, very careful archer, an archer who documents his equipment very carefully, an archer who is very cognizant of his own shot details, and an archery who has loads of experience and it still took him a great while to finally come to grips with the real problem.

When recurve limbs have interior defects, they eventually show up as limbs that look deformed, but compound limbs are shorter and typically solid fiberglass and do not necessarily show signs of internal damage.

What is important for coaches to do is to listen to these stories. From them you can glean knowledge but also they can give you an appreciation of how hard it is to diagnose some equipment problems. Because Tom is such an experienced bow mechanic, it took him longer to eventually send it back to the manufacturer with a note “It’s broke, can you fix it?” It is a matter of pride for both Tom and I that we can fix almost anything that goes wrong with our gear and it can cost us time and money and effort to overcome this belief.

It is also important to listen to these stories for examples of good and bad behavior on the part of the manufacturers. Darton showed itself to be a quality company. I have had equally good service from other manufacturers. But when an archer has a bad experience with a seller or manufacturer, he then tells that story repeatedly for the rest of his life! This contributes a lot to a feeling of negativity floating around archery and it is nice to be able to note times in which a positive result happens.

So, coaches, keep your ears open. Ask questions of the story tellers. Keep mental notes. The deeper you get into coaching, the less obvious equipment problems become (the easy ones are detected and fixed easily). There aren’t any textbooks or training programs on how to help your student-archers with equipment problems … yet, so you have to find ways to educate yourself otherwise.

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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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Principles-Based Archery and Coaching

I work with a few coaches who are trying to expand their archery knowledge so as to be able to work with more students. (Mentoring coaches is important. If you aren’t doing it—either as a mentor or being mentored—think about it.) In one case I am teaching a recurve archer/coach about compound archery. Some coaches are more comfortable sticking to what they know best and that is fine. You do not have to learn about multiple styles, you can specialize. I do think, however, that a principles-based approach can help coaches apply what they know to different styles of archery (for those interested) as well as different variables within their chosen style and my intent for this post is to give an example of this.

This comment is based upon a very good archery instructional video: “How to Find a Recurve Anchor Point” hosted by Archery 360 (a site of the Archery Trade Association) and this video was made in conjunction with World Archery. It is available on YouTube here.

This video is wonderfully made, with excellent production values and high quality presentations. The archers shooting demonstrated excellent form (this is not always the case). And, of course, I had a quibble.

In discussing the characteristics of a high quality recurve anchor position they made the claim that the nose touch by the sting is intended as a mechanism to set the bow into a vertical position. This is debatable at best, actually I think this is wrong. Rather than a mechanism to set the bow into a vertical position, it is a mechanism to make consistent one’s head position. In the video, a illustration was drafted of how the bow being placed off vertical somehow changes the position of the string on the nose as a “tell” and this allows the archer to straighten his/her bow up so that it contacts the nose correctly. This might be true if the archer were struggling with holding his/her bow anywhere near vertical. It also might be true if archers didn’t put such a premium on the nose touch that they will tilt their head to make the nose touch the string no matter what. (Have you seen this? I have.) I think this concept of what the nose touch is for is misleading. For one, the nose touch is not calibrated such that one could detect a canted bow at all well. For example, could you determine a 3 degree bow cant at the tip of your nose? Our sense of touch is limited in the first place and the tip of our nose is not anywhere near as sensitive to touch as, say, our fingertips or lips. In other words, the tips of our noses are not up to this task. In fact, without our eyes, we are very limited in determining plumb or level positions of our own body parts.

A "nose touch" can be incorporated into a side anchor or a center anchor (as here) or in a totally screwed-up anchor. Its primary function is in controlinghead position, primarily head tilt.

A “nose touch” can be incorporated into a side anchor or a center anchor (as here) or in a totally screwed-up anchor. Its primary function is in controlling head position, primarily head tilt.

The actual context for the nose touch, I believe, is that the bow is raised into a vertical position after we set our heads to be level (we hope)—a level head is needed because the eyes need to be level to function optimally. The nose touch occurs at anchor, confirming that both head and bow are vertical and the head is not tilted up or down. One can keep one’s eyes level and tilt ones head up and down (do it now and you will be agreeing with me, aka nodding). But tilting one’s head up and down changes the distance from the nock to the pupil of the aiming eye, which changes one’s sight marks. One does not, I believe, adjust the verticality of the bow based upon the touch of the nose. The nose touch is almost all about head position, not bow position.

These things are not minor quibbles because they can mislead archers as to the procedures they are to follow. When should the bow be made vertical? I think this needs to be done at the end of the raise. (Keeping the bow vertical as long as possible locks in the feel of the bow being vertical when shooting. Compare this with, say, trying to make the bow vertical just before the loose.) When should the head be made vertical? I think this is just before the raise. After that point, there are many other things to do and we do not need to add to that list. Since we want to “bring the bow to us and not move our bodies to our bows,” we need to establish where we want the bow to go.

Note The entire shot sequence is based upon a “set and move on” basis, that if done quickly enough, the things done earliest stay where they were set.

So, the sequence for recurve archers is: set head erect, eyes level (establish line of sight to target), raise bow to be vertical, draw and anchor, establishing nose touch which confirms verticality and sets head tilt to be consistent shot after shot. Having to wait for “nose touch” to check bow verticality and adjustments if necessary is inherently imprecise and also wasteful of time and energy at full draw.

Compound archers, on the other hand, check whether their bow is plumb after they hit anchor. This is facilitated by letoff, creating a draw weight at full draw that is a small fraction of the peak weight passed getting to full draw (a 60# bow can have a holding weight as low as 12#), thus allowing more time at full draw to check things, plus the fact that their sight apertures have bubble levels set in them that allow bows to be set perfectly plumb (if the bubble level is correctly set up).

As you can see, I think there are sound physical reasons for doing these things at these times. It may be a small point, but an archer mislead leads to difficulties later when sequences need to be shifted around and a “new shot sequence” learned.

 

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Should I Be Shooting from the Valley?

I got the following question from one of my students. It is about compound bow set up.

What is Coach Larry Wise talking about when he suggests “adjusting your draw length to shoot from the middle of the valley?” Is he saying you don’t want to be against the wall? Many of the new 2017 bows make big points about being able to adjust the hardness of the wall so why would you want not to be against the wall? Is there a way to adjust the draw length via twisting the string to put you in the middle of the valley? Doesn’t that also decrease the let-off?”

* * *

Here is my response:

Some Background for Coaches Not Compound Fluent Yet
The valley is jargon for the segment of the force-draw curve of a compound bow (see illustration) right at full draw. The force exerted by the bow drops steadily from peak weight until a minimum is hit at the “bottom of the valley” and then it skyrockets thereafter. Because the draw force increases so quickly after the valley is reached, it feels like one is pulling against an unmovable object like a wall, hence the jargon “the wall” for that segment of the FD curve (again, see the illustration).

compound-draw-force-curve

A generic compound bow force-draw curve.

Shooting from the “middle of the valley” was common advice back in the day of round wheel bows (aka “wheelies”). My mid-1990’s PSE Magnaflite bow had a 2˝ wide valley as an example. With the advent of high performance, dual-cam “speed bows” and one-cam bows, the valleys were so short that you had to be in the middle of the valley, whether you wanted to or not. With more moderate cams such as are on today’s bows, the middle of the valley is still the place to shoot from. You do not want to “pull hard against the stops” (PHATS). The PHATS strategy was invented, I believe, on the fly by an archer who was creeping at full draw as a way to prevent creeping. But Tom Dorigatti has shown in one of his more brilliant Archery Focus magazine articles that doing that (PHATS) results in draw lengths that vary by as much as a quarter of an inch creating more vertical dispersion in your arrow groups.

Larry’s argument, one that I subscribe to (it is hard not to agree with Larry), is that a key to performing well is being relaxed. PHATS disrupts any such relaxation you might muster and doesn’t provide anything of value. Larry teaches that you have to set your bow’s draw length so that you hit perfect full draw position when you are in the middle of the valley, and that you hold that position because it is your full draw position (draw elbow straight back behind arrow), not because the bow is preventing you from pulling farther. This allows you to relax and even though there is variation in all positions of your body from shot to shot, the minor variations in a comfortable feeling elbow position (at which point your elbow is on an arc pointing sideways to your arrow, so not affecting the draw length all that much) results in only small changes in draw length, which because you are near the center of the valley, result in the initial launch conditions of each arrow being virtually identical. (The FD curve is basically flat at the bottom of the valley, so if you move forward or back ever so slightly from the middle, the draw force soon to be acting on the arrow is essentially the same (again, see the illustration).

Regarding “Is there a way to adjust the draw length via twisting the string to put you in the middle of the valley? Doesn’t that also decrease the let-off?” Most bows only allow adjustments in draw length via modules, etc. in one half inch or one quarter inch increments (1/4˝-1/2˝). Pros won’t accept more than 1/16˝ error in their own draw length, so yes, you will have to twist strings and or cables to accomplish these. There are too many schemes to be able to state a generic process for doing so, but in general twisting cables makes for larger changes than twisting bow strings. And, yes, this does affect let-off but so do draw weight changes. The listed let-off of bows is determined at one particular draw length and weight and varies slightly when either of those variables is changed (see image as example).

kineticrave-owners-manual-2_page_7_image_0002The changes due to cable or string twisting/untwisting are so small as to change the let-off only a very small amount, so not to worry.

As to why manufacturers are offering “features” to adjust the feel of the Wall one is pulling against, I guess we shouldn’t criticize them from giving us what we are asking for. We should OTOH be more careful in what we are asking for.

Does this make any sense?

 

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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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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)
.”

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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
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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.

Recommendations
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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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Archery Ignorance on Display! Argh!

I guess I should be grateful that Scientific American chose to write a piece about the inclusion of compound archery into the Olympic Games (Compound Archery Shoots for Olympic Inclusion), but it is difficult to do so when the execution was so poor.

Consider the following statements:
In order for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider adding a new event to its roster, the event must be distinct from other Olympic events. Competitive compound and recurve archery differ technically and also procedurally, with different point systems and rules used in each country. Compound archers generally shoot at a six-ring target with a diameter of 80 centimeters from a distance of 50 meters whereas recurve archers shoot at a 10-ring target with a diameter of 122 centimeters from a distance of 70 meters.

Hello? The international archery federation, World Archery (formerly FITA), sets all of these rules and they are all quite arbitrary. Why compound archery, the archery that is more precise, shoots at a distance that is only about 70% as far as the recurve people shoot is illogical at best. They compensate by using a target that is 66% as large, but a recent world record was set in the compound ranking round that was 1 point off of a perfect score. Soon we will be up to our hips in perfect scores. The compound people could be shooting at that same target at 70 m or farther and it would be a fair test, but apparently it is too important to salve the egos of the recurve community. (Those gaudy score the compounders are shooting? Well, they only shoot at 50 m and …)

Another factor the IOC considers when evaluating a new event is whether the athletes—not their equipment—are scoring the points and setting records, Dielen says. That is technologically where compound and recurve archery deviate most. Compound bows have a mechanical release aid that assumes some of a bow’s draw weight and also come with a magnified scope, which together make the sport less about physical power and more about shooting accuracy. Recurve bows are more about a complete performance, requiring more physical strength to pull back and hold the string until the arrow is shot.

Hello? The release aid takes none of the bow’s draw force, none! It passes all of it through to the archer. It is physically impossible for it to assume any of the draw weight because it is only in contact with the bowstring and archer. Where is the force it “assumes” supposed to go?

So drawing a 50# recurve bow requires more physical strength than a 60# compound bow? Holding up a 8-9 lb compound bow at arm’s length requires less strength than holding up a 6-7 lb recurve bow? Plus the 60# limitation is by rule. If that rule were to be lifted, you would find any number of archers at draw weights over 60#. Also, why are compound bows limited as to draw weight when recurve bows are not?

And so what if the compound archer has a magnifying lens in his sight’s aperture. That lets him see the target a bit clearer by does not help the archer hold the bow more steady. In fact it leads archers to try to reduce normal motion at full draw (a fool’s errand), thus requiring additional training to get them to accept that.

Recurve shooters must also take into account the archer’s paradox, or the phenomenon that arrows take a curved and undulating path through the air after leaving the bow. This requires skill on the part of the archers, as they need to shoot slightly off to one side in order to hit their target. “The compound bow is a much more efficient system,” says American recurve archer Zach Garrett, who will represent the U.S. at the upcoming Rio Games. “You don’t have to worry about how you make the string leave the arrow.”

This doesn’t require skill on the part of the archer as the correction for the archer’s paradox is set into the bow when the centershot of the bow is set (and matched with a appropriately spined arrow). The archer does nothing special. Consider the poor compound archer by comparison. The recurve archer’s arrow is off of the arrow rest (and therefore no longer touching it) after the arrow has traveled about a third of the way to the point where it comes off of the bow string. Because of the archer’s paradox, the oscillating/undulating arrow bends around the bow so that the fletches pass by the arrow rest when they are at a maximum extent of the oscillation thus making clearance problems with a well-setup bow moot. But the poor compound archer has his arrow sliding along the arrow rest virtually its full length and even if the arrow “lifts off” of the rest, it is still close enough for the fletches to hit the rest as they go by, thus deflecting a perfectly aimed arrow making it a less-than-perfectly aimed arrow.

Compound bows show smaller group sizes at any distance compared to recurve bows for really only three reasons. The compound bows, being heavier, have more inertia and hence are less likely to move or move less than lighter recurve bows during the critical phase when the bow is pushing the arrow out of the bow and the bow is being held in one hand only. The second reason is letoff. The compound bow has eccentric wheels built into them to cause the bow’s peak weight to be reduced to a small fraction of the bow’s peak weight at full draw. This gives the compound archer more time while being under less tension/stress to aim the bow and release the string. The third reason is the mechanical release aid. It provides a cleaner lose of the string, creating less variation in a set of shots. But release aids aren’t a cheat. They are only used by archers competing against others also using a release aid. And they are not easy to use, far from it. From the first time I used a release aid, it was three years before I felt I knew how to use it properly.

Finally
This article did correctly address many of the issues associated with the expansion of an included sport (archery). But they quoted a World Archery officials and an Olympic Recurve archer. Could not a compound archer have been consulted or a compound coach? And while the officials quoted are two of the more knowledgeable ones, this is the organization which banned “shoot through” cabling systems for compound bows for a time for fear that the archers could brace their bows by pressing their bow forearm into the cables. (For the compound uneducated, doing such a thing would create large quantities of unresolved forces that would make even hitting the target at all quite an accomplishment.)

So, thank you Scientific American for the exposure for compound archers. But I can’t thank them for all of the mistakes riddling their article.

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Another Example of Archers Getting Screwed

I received an urgent email from one of my students who discovered that one of the locking screws from the rear of the limb bolt on his recurve bow was missing. He didn’t know how long it had been missing and he had been shooting a great deal so his concerns were twofold: was it safe to continue shooting with that screw missing and how was he to find a replacement?

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Top Limb Bolt showing missing locking screw (top), Bottom Limb Bolt (bottom)

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For those of you who do not shoot modern recurve bows, the screw being referred to is a common part on “adjustable limb pocket bows.” Compound people know that turning the limb bolts in or out creates more or less draw weight, respectively. It has only been recently that this feature has been added to recurve bows. A common mechanism designed to accomplish this involved taking the limb bolt and drilling a hole in the very end and tapping it to accept another, slightly oversized, screw. The drilled and tapped end of the limb bolt has several saw cuts made into it and then it is inserted into the bow. Through a hole in the other side of the riser, the “locking screw” is screwed into the newly tapped hole, causing the end of the limb bolt to spread out in its hole, effectively locking it into place.

Compound people don’t have locking screws of this nature (although some models have used a kind of locking mechanism). Because three-piece recurve bows are typically dismantled after every use, they need some sort of locking mechanism, otherwise the limb bolts could move around while the bow was being jostled while traveling in your car. Compound bows are not dismantled after each use and the tension on the limbs tends to keep the limb bolts in place (although it is wise to index then with marks on the bolt heads to show whether they have turned or not).

So, the residual vibration from shooting this recurve bow caused the “locking screw” to wiggle its way out and fall to Earth. (I keep a strong magnet available to find small iron-based parts in the grass. Sliding such a magnet around where one shoots frequently might turn up the missing part.)

Is it safe to shoot without the locking screw? Yes and no. Those limb bolts are often quite tight all by themselves. But if the vibration left over from shots causes the limb bolt to turn, you are changing the tiller setting of your bow which will effect the size of your groups, etc. Nobody wants their bow to give them poorer feedback on how well they are shooting, so, clearly, it is in any archer’s best interest to replace that screw.

Here is where archers have been screwed in the past. It was almost impossible to obtain replacement parts for bows. Local vendors didn’t stock them and even their manufacturers didn’t always stock them. Once a manufacturer has made a “new, improved” model that doesn’t contain that part, they don’t have an incentive to maintain an obsolete parts inventory. When you sell millions and millions of units, you can have a thriving parts industry serving it, consider auto parts stores and restoration auto parts companies as examples. But if you don’t sell millions. . . .

So, I would recommend that archers remove the back screw from the other limb (remember to hold the front screw in place while doing so) and take it down to a good hardware shop to see if they could get a replacement (or two or three if they are cheap). The store should be able to check the threads to see whether they are metric or Imperial/Standard/English/SAE. The bow companies almost never sold spare parts but you may be able to get on the phone with customer service of said manufacturer and talk them out of one. If you had a good relationship with them, you might just get what you want.

In this case it turns out that Lancaster Archery Supply carries the needed part! They also carry replacement limb bolts for Hoyt and Win&Win bows. They aren’t cheap ($49.99 for a pair of limb bolts!) but at least they are available.

Addendum For you history buffs, before the adjustable limb bolt bows were available, people did adjust their bow’s draw weight and tiller but it was a clunkier process. Since limb bolts were just plain bolts, archers would back the limb bolt out (or nor screw it in as far) and then slip tiny wedges, also called “shims,” between the limb butt and the pocket, then tighten down the limb bolt. If you shimmed both sides of the limb butt equally, you adjusted the draw weight of the bow (downward, slightly). If you shimmed the top limb differently from the bottom limb, you were adjusting the bow’s tiller. If you had a larger shim on one side of the limb bolts than the other, you were actually rotating the limb (slightly) which could be enough to compensate for a slight twist in the limbs.

One can argue that the advent of the adjustable limb pocket systems currently available were the result of too many bows being returned to manufacturers when initially bought due to very slight limb twists and tillers being out of spec. With the adjustable limb pockets this small issues could be adjusted out as a matter of course. I suspect that the “spare parts” available in Lancaster’s catalog (Bless LAS!) are there because of so many of them either wearing, or falling, out.

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