Tag Archives: Recurve Bows

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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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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The Relationship between Draw Weight and Stabilizer/Bow Weight

QandA logoI love it when I get questions I had never thought about before. When you learn a subject, it tends to channel one’s thoughts, thus avoiding questions that can challenge them, so it is good to consider such questions. The question that stimulated this flood of philosophical thinking was: “If I increase the draw weight of my bow should the weight of the stabilizer also be changed?”

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At first this seemed like one of those questions beginning Olympic Recurve students ask that are inherently nonsensical, but this one is not.

The “stabilizer weight,” including how that weight is distributed, is primarily a matter of balancing the bow as well as resisting movements that can occur in the short amount of time the arrow is on the string and moving (~ 20 ms). (The long rod of a OR setup resists the bow from tilting up and down and twisting left and right, while the short rods resist the bow from rocking left and right or rotating around the axis of the long rod. About the only motion they don’t resist is movement along the axis of the long rod, which is normal and acceptable. Note, though, that the biggest source of movement resistance is the mass of the riser itself.) The draw weight is a matter of force applied to the string and riser by the archer. The weight of the stabilizer and bow is also a force but it is at roughly a right angle to the draw force … and the two do overlap some. (If you didn’t know that weight is a force, you weren’t paying attention in middle school science class.)

The deepest part of the grip of your bow (called the “pivot point”) is typically the midpoint of the length and mass of the bow. Your bow hand is mostly below that point so the bow draw force (created by your two hands and the musculature and skeleton between them) is pulling the bow back into your bow hand but also partly upward, too (like the way a construction crane works (see illustration and photo), the pull of a cable from the bottom causes the top of the other end of the crane to rise, including any weight attached to it). So, like the crane, the draw hand is supplying some of the upward force needed to hold the bow up against gravity. When you raise the draw force, you increase the amount of this effect and it is easier to hold the bow up at full draw, that is the bow “feels” slightly lighter. So, you could add more weight to your bow or take some off if it feels better, but there is no reason to try to compensate for the increased draw weight other than that.

The bridgework bit is like your bow arm. Pull on those cables and the arm will move up. (The draw force is the equivalent of the pull on the cables) And, yes, I know that the cables can also lift what is on the end of the hook without moving the arm, sheesh!

The bridgework bit in this crane is like your bow arm. Pull on those cables and the arm will move up. (The draw force is the equivalent of the pull on the cables.) And, yes, I know that the cables can also lift what is on the end of the hook without moving the arm, sheesh!

There should be no effect of the draw weight change on the feeling of balance at full draw, even though the strain you feel at full draw has gone up. That increase in strain is horizontal, not vertical. So, if your bow still feels nice and balanced, you are good to go.

The bow arm acts like the beam of the derrick, with the draw force being like the force acting through the cables. This produces a slight upward force at the bow hand which helps to hold the bow up.

The bow arm acts like the beam of the derrick, with the draw force being like the force acting through the cables. This produces a slight upward force at the bow hand which helps to hold the bow up.

Realize, though, that since your “back half” takes on part of the work of your “front half” as described above, once you let the string go, then it is harder for the front half (your bow arm specifically) to absorb the loss of help from the draw arm and “dropping your bow arm” after the shot becomes more of an issue. We do not want the bow arm to drop soon after the shot because of “normal variation”—sometimes the drop will occur later (no problem) and sometimes sooner. If the “sooner” instances involve cases in which the arrow is still attached to the string, the dropping bow will take the string and arrow with it and a low shot will occur (definitely a problem). The indicator for the form flaw “dropping your bow arm” is that low arrow hits points show up out of the blue, as we say.

 

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Olympic Recurve Alignment

I have a right-handed Olympic Recurve student I am coaching remotely and he sent me a couple of videos and a question:

I’ve sent You two videos to your Dropbox; in the video that the camera is between me and the target you can see that after the release my string hand goes out to my right side instead of just going back. It means that I’m doing something wrong, right? Have you seen this happening before?

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Yes, it is called a “pluck” as one would pluck a string of a guitar or other stringed instrument. (The bow was probably the inspiration for stringed musical instruments.) At some time or other, every “fingers” archer (non-mechanical release archer) has to deal with this issue. If you are asking “have I noticed you doing this before?” as opposed to “have I ever noticed anyone doing this before?” the answer is yes in both cases. In your case, we have been working on other things and, in general, beginning archers are often “all over the place” meaning that they lack enough consistency to identify which things they are doing often enough to suggest correction.

The cause of plucking? If you would look at the video taken from in front (I say “toward” as in “toward the target”) and look at your rear elbow. It is sticking out to your right. Ideally placed it would be right behind the arrow in the central plane of the bow (the one with the arrow in it) or slightly past that position (around toward your back—see the diagram). Because your elbow is out to the right, the pull on the string is slightly out to the right also, but most importantly, your subconscious mind knows that just relaxing your string fingers from this position will not get your fingers enough out of the way of the string, so it tries to “help” by opening your hand slightly. (Your fingers can move in toward your palm much farther than they can move back away from being straight. In order to avoid the string, your fingers need to be “out of the way” and your subconscious mind evaluates how successful that process will be.) Since this hand opening must be done quickly, your subconscious mind overdoes this motion and your hand moves out away from your face. Unfortunately, the string follows this motion of your hand, to some extent, taking the rear end of the arrow out to the right, resulting in shots that go to the left of where you aimed. (Target Cue: if your arrows start hitting left of where they formerly did, plucking the string is a common cause. Learning to read targets is a skill necessary for progress and making corrections while competing.)

the-lines-of-archery-lo-res

In the right hand photo, the shoulder line of this Olympic Recurve archer can clearly be seen.

To fix this problem, your shoulders must adopt a slightly different position. We want a line across the top of your shoulder (called the shoulder line—see “The Lines of Archery”) to point at the bow. Currently, yours are pointing to the left of the bow. (Your rear shoulder cannot rotate your rear arm around to be pointing at the bow if your front shoulder does not have your bow arm lined up with your torso. Many times I find that these problems originate in the front shoulder more so than the rear.) Try turning your torso/front shoulder in toward the bow … slightly, and rotating your rear shoulder around toward your back more. This has the effect of lengthening your draw, so your current clicker position will have to be adjusted inward. But before you do adjust it, you can use your “old” clicker position for training. Stand up close to your target butt, and draw and shoot with your clicker on and your eyes closed. The goal is to slide through the clicker before you are ready to shoot by doing as instructed above. (Don’t shoot until you are ready; since the clicker is too far out, its “click” is not a correct signal to shoot.) When you can do this several times in a row, you can adjust your clicker … inward … and see if you can get your shot timing back. (Having someone watch how far your arrow point gets behind the clicker’s edge will help you figure out how far to adjust it, but you can do it a bit at a time with trial and error testing.) The clicker should only go off when you are in position … preferably a correct position.

force-triangle-finished

The “archer’s triangle”

What you are working on is the “alignment” of your upper body to the bow and when you get where you want to be, people will say you have “good line.” This is also what people are talking about when they mention “the archer’s triangle.” One side of the triangle (viewed from overhead) starting at the bow goes across both shoulders and is straight, thus your shoulders point to the bow.) Having “good line” is a prerequisite for consistent accuracy in Olympic Recurve because it means you are pulling directly away from the target (rather than away and out to the right as you currently are) and when you loose the string the string will go straight toward the bow and your hand will fly straight back along your face because that was the direction it was pulling, but only a small amount because your shoulders were in an extreme position. Monitoring where your hand moves upon release (it moves on its own, you don’t move it) is a way of affirming you had good full draw position/alignment. Since your position at full draw is very close to the limit of your range of motion in that situation, there is a very uncomfortable feeling in your back muscles just before release. This uncomfortable feeling is another part of “the feel of your shot” which helps you recognize the difference between doing it correctly and doing it incorrectly.

Sorry for the length of this response, but if you had focused on just keeping your hand close to your face, you would unlikely to be working on the correct source of the issue (your shoulder alignment).

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Anchor Positions (Finger Shooters)

John William's "center anchor."

John William’s “center anchor.”

I was struck by a photo of an archer from the recent past who used a center anchor to some effect, namely John Williams of the USA, the 1972 men’s Olympic gold medalist (see photo at right). Currently, there has been an almost universal adoption of the “side anchor” specifically the variant in which the string touches the corner of the chin, but not farther back (see photo below). This post is about why these changes have been made.

Most beginners think that these things are about string positioning but really they are about head positioning. By having the string touch certain parts of the head, at multiple points if possible, this guarantees that the positions of the head and the all-important aiming eye relative to the bow are made more repeatable. The archer must still try to endeavor to hold his/her bow in the correct orientation and hold their head in the correct orientation besides, but consistency is much improved by monitoring these other “touches” tactilely.

Brady Ellison's "side anchor."

Brady Ellison’s “side anchor.”

Very few people use a center of the chin anchor position any more because it often requires a substantial tilt of the head to line everything up. This we consider to be suboptimal because when we tilt our heads, there are physiological repercussions. When our eyes aren’t level, we lose some of the benefits of binocular vision, for example our depth perception and ability to estimate distance are degraded. For another thing, we actually lose physical strength when we tilt our heads because this is a submissive posture. Recall your posture when your Mom caught you with your hand in the cookie jar (or whatever). Dogs will actually drop their heads to the side exposing their jugular veins to convey helplessness to another dog. This is why people of power want you to bow your head; it puts you into a weak, almost powerless posture and your body and mind accept those positions.

Now look at the two photos; which of the archers has eyes that are level/horizontal?

The idea of the string touching your nose is also a head positioning element. If the nose and string do not touch, what should you do (or ask your student to do)? Certainly you do not want to tilt your head to make this happen for the reasons mentioned above. You also don’t want to move your anchor position back along your jaw. Since your fingers are curled around the string toward you, when the string it loosed, the act of the string pushing your fingers out of its way causes the fingers to push the string back (Newton’s third law). This means that as the string moves forward it also moves toward the archer. High speed video has shown that when the string is held against the face behind the corner of the chin, the string drags along the archer’s face as it leaves, causing ripples in the skin! This drag lowers arrow speed and is a source of variation we do not need.

Positioning the string at anchor at the corner of the archer’s jaw allows the string to leave its position without drag on the archer’s skin and allows the archer’s eyes to remain level.

If there is no nose touch or too much touch and some is desirable, it is possible to create what you want by changing the length of a recurve bow, for example. The Korean women, who have short noses, tend to use longer bows, which provide less acute string angles at anchor. Compound archers who use a nose touch have learned this the hard way as bows being manufactured now are much shorter axle-to-axle than they were in the past, making vastly more acute string angles at anchor, making a nose touch harder to achieve. Be aware, though, that nose touches are less useful to compound archers because they have peep sights, acting as an additional alignment point to the face touches. So, going to great lengths to get a nose touch on a short ATA compound bow is probably not worth doing.

Throughout archery’s history we have learned through trial and error and by emulating the more successful, a process I describe often as: monkey see, monkey do. We are now teasing out why the things that work actually work, which means we are reaching a level of understanding at which we will have more control than ever over what we do to maximize our own and our student’s effectiveness.

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The Confusing World of Archery Equipment

I got an email from a student who is looking to upgrade his bow sight on his Olympic Recurve bow:

Hi, Steve,
I was talking with someone from the club and he said that there are better sights from SF than the Shibuya Dual-Click. What do you think about that?
The price is more or less the same.
Best regards,
<name>

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Specific

I would doubt that. The Shibuya sights have been around for a long time and been tested all the way up to the world championship level. Also SF was bought by Win&Win which is not known for their bow sights (and neither was SF). I think they might be suggesting that the top of the SF line sight may be equivalent to the bottom of the Shibuya better sight line and that may be true. If that is the case, then you have to ask yourself “How ambitious am I?” If you intend to keep striving upward, then you are better off with the Shibuya sight, because their design is common to their whole line and learning all of the “ins and outs” of using them makes moving up to a better sight in the same line easier.

I looked up the most expensive SF sight I could find and it was US $140, not up to the elite level price range (US$300-350) but comparable to the entry level Shibuya and clearly a clone of the Sure-loc bow sight which is based upon a different design. Moving up from the SF sight inside the same design (so all of your “learning how to fiddle with my sight” knowledge is not wasted) would entail moving up to a Sure-loc sight which is also an excellent sight.

An Aside If you don’t think this kind of knowledge is important, I once switched from one release aid to another from the same manufacturer. But the hook/jaw that attaches to the D-loop on the bow string moved the opposite direction (L to R rather than R to L). Six weeks after making the switch I was still fumbling the simple act of attaching the release aid to the string! If you get used to turning a click-set knob on a sight counterclockwise to move your aperture downward and that changes to the reverse direction, expect many lost points as you make incorrect sight adjustments over and over (or doing them takes away too much attention from the rest of your shooting). Many of the little things get programmed in to make them automatic and changing those takes time and effort.

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General

When looking to “move up” in archery equipment, such recommendations (such as SF over Shibuya) occur often. You get advice from a fellow archer who says A is better and B (or B is better than A). I want to know “How would this guy know?” So, ask them if they have owned both A & B. Most often they have not, they are just happy with their purchase of, say, A. (People who are happy with a purchase often overstate how good a thing is, and one way of doing this is to compare something as being “as good as <the best>.”) If they haven’t owned both pieces of gear, then their opinion is, shall we say, “uninformed.” If they have owned both A & B, ask were they recent models? (“I had one of those 20 years ago and it was not so good.” So what does that have to do with today’s models?) If they have owned recent models of both, ask them how they tested A against B. (They will never have tested them, just used them and had a preference for one over another.) People will always “talk up” what is “new” or “improved.” simply because it is currently a topic of discussion. There is no harm in listening to the chatter. Often most of it dies down or fades away.

One of my other students commented that he thought another piece of archery gear must be superior because so many Olympians were shooting with them. Uh, that is not a conclusion that will hold up. You can conclude that that piece of kit is adequate but at the elite level, archers are “sponsored,” which means they receive cash and/or gear to shoot the equipment they are given. If someone gave you a $1500 bow or $2000 worth of arrows, you would use them, right? If the equipment is trash, it will hurt the reputation of the company so these sponsorship deals are made by companies that are well-established. No aspiring championship-level archer wants to bet his/her success on unproven equipment. You also need to realize that the larger companies can dominate such sponsorships by simply having a bigger budget to do them.

Also consider that a big company might bring out a new product, say a bow sight, and they aren’t trying to take over the market or make the best bow sight possible, they are just trying to carve out a bit of market share. It weakens their competitors and, as long as they don’t lose a lot of money, strengthens them. People will buy stuff based upon manufacturer’s reputation but they don’t necessarily know (care?) what the basis of that reputation is. Win&Win made their excellent reputation making recurve bows (mostly limbs), but what does that have to do with making bow sights? If Easton Archery, the world’s largest manufacturer of arrows, were to bring out a bow, should their excellent reputation as an arrow maker have anything to do with how well they make bows? Probably not.

Also, if you look at products like the SF sight, very often you can see that they just cloned another sight and didn’t really innovate, just made it look slightly different (they don’t want to get sued for making knockoffs). SF has made its reputation making intermediate-to-advanced level equipment. Shibuya sights are advanced-to-elite level, so this doesn’t make sense that SF would be challenging Shibuya, maybe they are just trying to carve out a bit of a market that allows them to garner sales from people who like their intermediate level stuff (which is very, very good) and want to step up.

And if you don’t think that this sort of thing happens, consider the ILF recurve limb pocket system. This system was designed and made popular and patented by Hoyt Archery. Hoyt has a large product base, so companies making limbs wanted them to fit onto Hoyt risers so they copied the Hoyt limb attachment design. Then there were so many limbs that attached that way that riser manufacturers started including those limb pockets in their risers. Somewhere along the line those copycat manufacturers sort of forgot to pay royalties to Hoyt for the design and the “International Limb Fitting” was born. Hoyt didn’t call it that, it just became impossible to defend their patent because so many were violating it.

So, if you open your eyes and look around you can learn a lot but you have to take what you see and hear with a grain of salt, especially when fellow archers say “A is as good as B” or “C is better than A.” Ask them “How do you know that?”

 

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V-Bar Questions

QandA logoI just got an email from a Recurve student in Portugal I have been working with. Here are his questions:

Ho Steve,
I’ve been wondering, what is the difference between a top rod and a riser dampener? They look the same. Is it just the weight?
What if I buy an extender, small rods and v-bar, what should I get? What sizes and angle?

Best regards, …

* * *

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)

This V-bar is flat (zero angle to long rod). Photo by Andy Macdonald.

A “top rod” is any stabilizer rod screwed into the hole made for them near the top of the riser. I am not familiar with the term “riser dampener” but the Koreans claim that a four inch rod with a Doinker at the end, screwed into the same hole helps dampen string vibration very, very well. (Residual string vibration that finds its way into archer’s bodies leads to fatigue and joint soreness.)

I can’t answer the second question definitively but here is what I recommend. A 4˝ extender seems to work for most (its job is to just move the center of gravity forward a bit). I would buy a V-bar that had adjustable side rod angles (see link below for an example, not a recommendation … seems these have gotten very expensive; I would look for a less expensive one—I got all of mine second hand (via eBay)), and most use 9-10˝ side rods. How much weight to put at the tips is a matter of taste. I suggest you start with “none” (use plastic end caps to protect the threads). As to the length, the whole meghilla should allow you to stand the bow on its long rod tip and have your elbow very slightly bent when your hand is on the bow as it normally is. If this is not the case for your current long rod, hold your bow (back down) at your side (string horizontal) and have someone measure from the stabilizer boss straight down to the floor/ground. That length, minus 4˝ for an extender and 1˝ for a V-bar, gives you the long rod length you start with. From there it is trial and test. Long rods have been used at 0 degrees up to 90 degrees, even to the point of them being mounted on gimbals allowing them to hang straight down no matter the angle the bow was held, so try anything that appeals to you. Same goes for the weights used at the tips of the rods. You should look for what affect any equipment change has on group size (smaller is better).

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/mybo-3sixty-adjustable-v-bar.html

If you would just like to start from a “one size fits all” (kind of) here are two “kits” from SF Archery that I can recommend. One is shorter, and one is longer.

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/sf-archery-velocity-stabilizer-set-28-10.html

http://www.lancasterarchery.com/sf-archery-velocity-stabilizer-set-30-10.html

I have yet to find a piece of SF kit I could not recommend to an intermediate archer: good stuff, reasonable prices.

 

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Trying a Sight Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding Q2 I do.

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

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

Let me know if this helps.

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

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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?

bottom top

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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