Tag Archives: Q&A

Apertures: Pin or No Pin?

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Line Control for and Coaching the Hearing Impaired

I got a question in the form of a comment on a previous post and because I don’t think you spend a lot of time going back to previous posts and reading the comments, I decided to make a post on just that question. The question was “What about deaf/hearing impaired archery? I’ve received inquiries from a deaf potential archer, and I have no idea how to deal with things like line safety (can’t hear whistles or “clear” calls) and communication during coaching. Are there any resources that I can use to help here?”

* * *

The only thing I have heard is the use of flags instead of whistles. The timekeeper stands at the end of the line and raises a green flag to begin shooting. With 30 seconds left to go, a yellow flag is waived. At the end of the end a red flag is waived. I bought a string of decorative plastic pennants on eBay (see photo), cut the triangular flags off and collected the green, yellow and red ones. These can be taped to an old arrow to make quite a good set of flags for this purpose.

They may be cheesy, but they are also cheap. (Hey, that’s important to me.)

If there are left-handed archers, you will need a “flag person” at each end of the line to be perfectly fair.

I have not heard of any other accommodation although there are timing systems that use colored lights (from computer screens to reused traffic lights) that are used in competitions. That, of course, does not help in practice situations if you do not have such a system.

With regard to coaching, the only thing I could think of is that they would have to bring someone along who could sign the conversations needed. Lip reading is a possibility, but the hearing impaired also can have a problem with speaking.

There are resources on the Internet. Here is one: http://www.archerygb.org/images/content/Hearing-impairment-factsheet.pdf



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Why Did I Make That Change?

Every archer I know says the same thing. Basically they say “my <widget> was working perfectly, I don’t know why I changed to something else?” This thought was prompted by an author who was working on an article about compound bow launcher arrow rests. He said: “Goodness, there a lot of options on launcher style arrow rests! I was digging in my junk drawers and kept finding other types and styles. They all worked but with a few exceptions, I don’t recall why I stopped using them.”

We then told several stories back and forth, because that’s what archer’s do. But, of course, I couldn’t leave it there. I have to add …

* * *

We all succumb to the “new, improved” sales pitch which appeals to the magical thinking of archers. (Better scores are available here, just step through this door!) This reminds me of the story of P.T. Barnum solving the problem he had of getting people out of his exhibits so he could fit more paying customers in. He put up a sign that said “This Way to the Egress” over the exit. People flooded through, ending up outside.

We keep going through the door labeled “This Way to Higher Scores” based upon buying something. This is a form of magical thinking as we cannot supply any reasonable reason for why a new stabilizer or arrow rest will actually improve our scores, but it is only $59.99 and it sure looks cool!

I was just watching a video of Darrell Pace and Rick McKinney shooting in the 1984 Olympics. They had wood-fiberglass limbs, aluminum arrows, Dacron bow strings, flat V-bars with steel rod sidebars with simple weights on their ends. No Doinkers or other vibration dampeners in sight. Almost 35 years later, how many Americans do you think are shooting as well as those two guys? (Pace averaged 1308 in two FITA Rounds in quite breezy conditions.) Maybe a handful at best. Gee, I wonder how they did it? It was probably that they had the best archery equipment! (Not!)

The still brilliant Rick McKinney is one of the few elite archers who has written a serious archery book.

Currently my thinking on any equipment change is: “any reasonable piece of kit is fine, but learn how to get the most out of it.” And, “if you feel a change is going to be profitable, prove it.” I have made a number of equipment changes in my life that really produced better results. One was changing from a 20+ year old bow to a six-year old one. Another was a change of stabilizers (to one that was much better in the wind). Other than that, there was little difference in my scores based upon equipment changes. In one case, I bought my first brand new bow and my scores dropped. (A year later a professional archer told me that none of the pros had ever got that model to shoot well. That bow model lasted just one year, possibly because of the feedback from sponsored archers.)

I am not saying, don’t bother changing your equipment. I am saying research it well. When you make the change, find the best setup for that thing and then prove to yourself that something is indeed better. (I recommend practice score benchmarks.) If your performance is the same or worse, you wasted some money. If it is the same, you can go ahead and keep the change as no harm was done. If it is worse, change back immediately to your old setup and give that piece of new junk you bought to a rival.



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Breaking News! Archery is Counterintuitive!

I got the following email from my best student this morning:
“Okay coach, explain this one to me. Increasing my bow weight seems to make my arrows shoot more to the left. Compounding my confusion is that tonight I got the groups to move back to the right by tightening my plunger. Count me confused and dazed!

If this has never happened to you, you haven’t been in archery very long. The student in question shoots Olympic Recurve, so you have that as background. Here is what I answered, expanded for this post).

* * *

A bow is a closed system, when you change one part, many others are affected. (Memorize this!)

You got two counterintuitive responses to things you did. The problem is that ceteras parabus was nowhere to be seen. (Ceteras parabus is the principle that “everything else was the same.”) When you make a single change to a bow, you make other changes, too … always! There is no such thing as “everything else was the same” when working with bows.

For example, you increased your draw weight. I do not know how much but it was not a fraction of a pound is my guess. When you screw in the limb bolts, you change the angle of the limbs to the bow (making the limbs more upright as it were). This results in a lower brace height. (Plus more tension on the string at brace, plus …) The brace height is one of the determinants of the point in space at which your arrow’s nocks separate from your string at the end of the power stroke. Since the string’s path toward the riser is a flattish “S curve,” the change in the point of separation of the string and nock is complex. If the nock comes off more to the right from where it did previously, the arrow ends up pointed more to the left (the point has enough inertia that it doesn’t move as much as the nock end). If the nock comes off more to the left, the arrow will be pointed more to the right. (Think about it.) I have also to point out that when the arrow separates from the string it is no longer touching the arrow rest.

“Coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes.”

When you change the bow’s draw weight, you are also changing the efficiency of the bow due to a spine match or mismatch. I think I told you about the compound archer who lowered his draw weight (just a half turn on each limb) only to have his arrows hit higher on the target. What happened when he lowered the draw weight,  he created a better spine match (arrow to bow), which created a more efficient transfer of energy from bow to arrow which made up for the energy loss from the change in draw weight and more. These are the kinds of counterintuitive things that can happen.

If we had created a perfect spine match for your bow before (unlikely, such things take a great deal of time and effort), we no longer have that spine match. When you finish your draw weight changes, a complete re-tune is necessary because so many things have changed.

If you think the string goes straight toward the riser, think again. (Yeah, this is a stringwalking Barebow archer, but I get to exaggerate for emphasis, don’t I?)

A general consequence of this situation (reality actually) is coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes. This is because of the reasons stated and because what you were taught were often oversimplified rules of thumb. For example, “weak arrows fly to the right, stiff arrows fly to the left.” and “If you lower the nocking point, you will raise the hit point of the arrow on the target.” (All of these are for right-handed archers.)

These equipment aphorisms were intended to get you down the road until you could think through such problems without needing them. From a perfectly tuned bow, if the nocking point is lowered a slight amount, the arrow will hit on the target lower than it did previously. But if you lower the nocking point enough, the rear of the arrow will start hitting the rest or arrow shelf and where those arrows land is anybodies guess.

All of those pithy little rules need to be taken with a grain of salt. And, they need to be thought through as they are all true … up to a point. By thinking them through they provide an entry to better understanding of archery equipment. If you do not, they become unreliable crutches. (I am speaking from experience here. If I had a nickel for every mistake I made, I could have retired earlier.)


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Back Tension from Different Anchor Positions

QandA logoI got an absolutely fascinating question about anchor points just yesterday. Here it is:

Hi, Coach Ruis:
I am working on my anchor point and back tension. I typically use a split finger/chin/nose anchor point for my Olympic bow and sight. I also recently acquired a Samick Sage recurve I use for roving/stump shooting. I have been trying to figure out string walking/point of arrow aim for my Samick for stumping.

I started to use a three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor to reduce the string walking crawl sizes relative to a split finger, under chin anchor. Using the corner of the mouth anchor and string walking, my crawls decreased ~75% in size. My precision using the corner of the mouth anchor has also improved noticeably over my under chin anchor (and the bow sounded much happier when loosing).

My question really is about back tension. When using the three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor, all of a sudden I can easily feel the barrel of the gun through my upper back relative to the chin/nose anchor. My draw length increased a full inch using the corner of the mouth anchor, so I am guessing this is the cause of the new positive upper back sensation.

I am thinking that if I could get this sensation with my Olympic bow/chin/nose anchor, this would be a very good thing. How can I make this happen?

* * *

There are quite a few changes going on in both of these anchoring positions. One you do not mention is draw arm position. When using a “high” anchor, corner of the mouth or higher, your draw arm position is different. (Stand up, assume the position of your low, under chin, anchor and then switch to the high anchor position and note the different positions of your draw arm at full draw.) The whole purpose of the low anchor is to be able to shoot longer distances. Back when everyone “shot off of the point” the line of sight across the arrow point and the point of aim (POA) fixed the arrow point in space somewhat. To get more distance it was necessary to lower the back end of the arrow, hence the lower anchor position for longer shots. This draw arm position affects the use of muscles in your back.

Shooting long distances also results in upper body tilt, which changes eye angle and lots of other things that affect “feel.”

Another point you do not mention is head tilt. In order to get a workable low anchor, I must tilt my head up slightly. If I use the same head position as I have with my high anchor for my low anchor shooting, my string fingers, positioned under my jaw line are on a surface sloping down, so when the shot is loosed, the top finger slides along the jaw line … downward which creates resistance and drag. By tilting your chin up slightly the path the string follows as the string flicks them out of the way is cleared.

Such are the sources of different feelings (along with the ones you mention).

My impression is that the high anchor encourages involvement of the muscles somewhat higher in your back, which when bunched up due to contraction are easier to feel. The low anchor involves muscles lower in your back which I suspect are somewhat harder to feel. (When archery coaches talk about using muscles lower in your back, they are referring to muscles lower … in your upper back.) So, I suspect that the difference in “feel” is real and you basically do not want to have the same feeling of back tension in both because that would mean you were using the same muscles when your arm angle was different.

If shooting Barebow as you describe (which I love) is relatively new to you, then the sensations in your back are relatively new and hence more noticeable. With time they might fade to the same level of feeling as in your high anchor shooting. Also, in many shooting techniques, surrogates for back tension are employed. For example, many of the Koreans focus on the feeling of the position of their draw elbow instead of the feeling in their backs. To some extent this is because the feeling of tension in the back diminishes due to humdrum regularity.

Another possibility is that you might need to open your stance when shooting Olympic Recurve. If you are particularly flexible, you may not be engaging your back muscles enough to get a strong feeling. In Rick McKinney’s book, “The Simple Art of Winning,” he claims that having an open stance allowed him to “get into his back” better. I found this puzzling at first, until I found some pictures of Mr. McKinney (in his prime) with his open stance and his draw elbow 2-3 inches past line. If he had been using a square stance, his elbow would have been even farther past line which have had negative influences on his shots. Unfortunately, their success lead to the adoption of the open stance by almost everyone, but this is a source of problems. In McKinney’s and Pace’s cases the open stance reduced their ability to get in line, which lead to a stronger feeling of back tension, strong enough that they could use that feeling to tell whether they were in the correct full draw position. If you are not as flexible as they were, this would be a mistake as it would probably reduce the quality of your alignment (as it does for hundreds/thousands of archers, young and old, I observe).

The only way to tell whether this is in play for you is to experiment a bit. I like to use a 10# bow for this, but any light drawing bow will do. Start with a square stance and draw to anchor and see what your back feels like. With a 10# bow you can play a little, moving your draw arm and shoulder around and feeling the effects of those position changes. Then open your stance by 10 degrees and repeat. Then another 10 degrees, etc. McKinney shot with about an 80 degree open stance when he was shooting in stiff wind (the torsion in your trunk helps stabilize your stance), so you can go as far as you want with this experiment … or as far as you can. ;o) The key thing is if you get a better feeling in your back with one of those stances and you can maintain good line, then this is something you might want to incorporate into your shot. The key element, though, is maintaining or achieving good line. In the Chicago area, you can recognize almost any recurve archer who has worked with me as they probably shooting from a closed stance. (Orthodox sources on form and execution do not even mention closed stances any more.) A closed stance makes it easier for you to get in line and after my students learn to shoot with good line I encourage to explore any other stance they want, as long as they maintain good line.

Is this enough food for thought? If not, do note that high and low anchors do change draw lengths (and affect tunes thereby). For compound archers changing from “fingers” to “release” or the reverse also affects draw length.


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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.


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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Central Plane ? of the Bow?

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

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

Here’s my response:

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shoulder Problems Shooting Low Indoors?

QandA logoAn Olympic Recurve student has been struggling a bit with bow shoulder soreness and emailed me the other day with this question:
I have been doing many tests to understand why sometimes my shoulder hurts and I believe I found out why. I should keep my shoulder down, but sometimes I don’t and I don’t even notice. It happens more often when I’m shooting the lower target indoors. And a archer I meet at competitions told me that it happens to him as well and he is taller than me, so it should be even worse for him, and he has been shooting for some years. I believe that when shooting at 70 meters it is easier to control. Am I wrong?”

* * *

They are two sides of the same card. When shooting at close range and your target face is low, archers tend to try to shoot with level shoulders and just holding their bow lower. This changes the angle of the arm entering the shoulder arm joint, which exerts an upward force on the shoulder which can result in a “raised shoulder” which can lead to injury. (The injury stems from throwing this upward force at the shoulder onto the relatively small rotator cuff muscles, whose job it is to stabilize the shoulder joint, but which are not up to this task, especially if high draw weight is involved.)

The solution is to keep one’s upper body geometry the same and make tilting adjustments using the lower body.

“The solution is to keep one’s upper body geometry the same
and make tilting adjustments using the lower body.”

To shoot the lower targets indoors without disturbing your upper body geometry, you have to tilt your upper body downward slightly from the waist (only). This is done by slightly (slightly!) pushing one’s hips away from the target (rear hip moves to the right if you are right-handed). Did I say slightly?

At 70 m it is necessary to do the reverse, push one’s hips slightly toward the target to tilt the upper body up slightly, thus keeping your upper body in the same geometry.

In this fashion we can shoot low and short using the same geometry as high and far … by tilting the platform (our lower body) from which we shoot.

When shooting up and down at extreme angles, there are other techniques but those are a different topic.


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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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