Tag Archives: Setting Up Equipment

Last Chance?

Lancaster Archery is clearing out “Simple Maintenance for Archery” (see https://lancasterarchery.com/products/ruth-rowe-2nd-edition-simple-maintenance-for-archery) for US $4.95 which is a steal. (Thanks to Ron Kumetz for the “heads up” on this sale.)

We contacted Ruth to see if she wanted us to republish this very, very valuable book and she was not interested. We are considering creating something to replace it, but that may or may not happen.

Get’em before they are gone.

This is the cover of the First Edition. The sale is of the Second Edition.

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We Get Letters! (Part 5) Peeps!

David Beeton had a follow-up question regarding a question about setting up compound bow sights. Here it is:

What is the best way to locate a peep, into the string, such that it can be “fine tuned” to get the best position? I had thought about using a couple of clamp-on nock points, gently squeezed to grip the string, and then replace those with tie-ins when the position is set.”

Word of Warning! (Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!) I have written so many articles, books, and blog posts, I can’t remember what I said recently, or even at all, so I may end up repeating something I said quite recently. I warned you!

* * *

The advantages of using a peep sight are many, but of course, there are disadvantages, the primary one is the time they take to use properly is at full draw when we do not want to get distracted, nor do we want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary in that position.

The first thing to note is that the position of a peep sight is a variable. Since it must always be placed right in front of the aiming eye, as the bow’s elevation is changed for near and far shots, the entire bow rotates around an axis through the peep sight. The release aid, therefore, is in a different position vis-à-vis the face for very close and very far shots. (Anchor positions may vary!)

The prudent approach, then, is to put the peep so that one’s anchor position is most findable/comfortable/etc. on the more difficult far shots. (If competing at a single distance event: indoors or outdoors), then you want that most comfortable anchor to correspond to the position of the bow making that particular shot.

To get an approximate starting point, take a small sliver of masking tape, have your archer draw on a target of that particular distance, then close their eyes and settle into that most comfortable anchor position. Use the sliver of tape to mark the bowstring right in from of their aiming eye.

It is easiest to use a bow press to take the tension off of the bowstring, so the strands can be teased apart and the peep inserted. If you have neither a standing nor portable press, you can make a tool out of a popsicle stick (use sandpaper to turn one tip into a wedge (with no sharp edges!). Then wheedle that tool into the bowstring, turn it sideways, and insert the peep. (These are sold commercially as “string separators”—see photo just below).

The peep needs to be anchored in place or it is likely to pop out of the string on the first shot. My preferred way of doing that is to tie on a tight nocking point locator both above and below where the peep is positioned. Then when the peep is properly positioned, slide the two locators as close to the peep as you can go. Friction tends to keep them in place, keeping the peep sight in place. Secure and adjustable!

Adjusting the Peep’s Position When you set about fine tuning the position of the peep site, you will quickly find out that if you push the peep up or down at all, you end up rotating it around the string. This is because the bowstring has twists in it and the peep rides those twists as it moves up or down. So, the usual case is that you finally get the peep into the proper vertical position, but it is pointed off to the left or right. Here is the procedure for rotating I back where you want it:

  • If you take a strand from the right side and take it around the front of the peep it will point the peep more to the left.
  • If you take a strand from the right side and take it around the back of the peep it will point the peep more to the right.
    If you already have too many strands on the left and not enough on the right:
  • If you take a strand from the left side and take it around the front of the peep it will point the peep more to the right.
  • If you take a strand from the left side and take it around the back of the peep it will point the peep more to the left.
    When you are done slide the locators back up against the peep.
    Note The reason there are two processes given to make a move to both left or right is so you can keep the number of strands on each side of the peep the same. So, if you want to point the peep more to the left: take a strand from the right side and take it around the front of the peep and take a strand from the left side and take it around the back of the peep. This will keep the number of strands on the two sides the same.

And . . . Sometimes during competition, a string stretches and the peep no longer lines up. To fix the problem, simply slide the nock locators away from the peep. Figure out how the peep has to rotate to get it to work and then take a strand from one side of the peep and swing it over to the other side accordingly. Obviously the string stretching has other ramifications but unless you have a backup bow, there isn’t an easy way to deal with all of them.

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We Get Letters! (Part 2)

See the previous response to a question submitted by Joe Seagle (We Get Letters, Part 1). This continues that post, and addresses how to train in one’s release and how to select a release aid.

David Beesom (David wrote a bit for AF) also asked “Selection of compound release aids and how to determine an optimum anchor point (as a topic), if that is possible. Read the books, but need more info from a more senior coach!” And since the two are related, I will fold his answer into this post.

Training in any Aspect of One’s Technique
Something that can’t be said often enough is: be sure you have it right before you train it in! So, David’s question about finding one’s best anchor point is a good one. If you haven’t found it, then don’t practice it in.

All such trainings consist of phases. Volume shooting, that is shooting a large number of shots, should be considered a memorization technique and should always be saved for last. Prior to that one must explore and “discover” what technique works best for them, that is what technique is optimal for you. Otherwise you may be memorizing a technique that is suboptimal.

Finding Your Optimal Anchor Point
This is a variable folks, if you shoot a compound bow and even with a recurve bow. For example, if you are shooting Barebow Recurve, indoors, you do not want to use a “low” or “under chin” (aka Olympic-style) anchor point. If you do all of your points of aim will be on the floor! Most Barebow Recurve archers use some form of high anchor (commonly index or middle finger in the corner of the mouth) which tends to give one much higher points of aim. Ideally we would like to have a POA on the target face (which has the advantage of looking the same no matter where you are shooting).

For you compound sight shooters, your optimal anchor point depends upon the distance being shot to some extent. When shooting Compound-Release aka Compound Unlimited aka Compound Freestyle, you have the advantage of using a peep sight. But there’s a complication. The peep sight is in a fixed position in front of your aiming eye. For very short shots, the bow is held lower and since the peep has to be in front of your eye, your anchor has to be nudged up slightly. For long shots, it is the reverse. The bow is held higher, so with the peep fixed in space, the anchor is nudged lower. So, you have to choose which distance should have the most comfortable anchor point. Most field shooters choose a longer distance and the process goes like this—pick a target face at that longer distance and then draw your bow on that distance with your scope/pin on the target, but with your eyes closed. Then after you draw, anchor so that your hand fits comfortably against your jaw bone (this varies depending on the style of release you use). Ideally we would like the jawbone to be involved and maybe knuckle bones on your hand. (The idea is that the flesh may swell depending on exertion and temperature but the bones won’t, so bones covered with a thin layer of skin are preferred.) Once you have found that anchor, open your eyes and see where your peep is. If it is too low, move it up. If it is too high move it down. Keep doing this drill until when you open your eyes, the peep sight is centered on your aperture which is centered on your target face at the selected distance. Always make sure your peep is anchored down when you have finished moving it.

This, btw, is why having a dedicated “indoor bow” is an advantage as the peep and all of that can be set up for your most comfortable anchor position and you don’t have to move around things from your outdoor setup.

Training It In
Whenever I start work with a new release archer I give them a length of paracord from which we make a “rope bow.” This I ask them to keep in their quivers because later they will see all kinds of neat release aides being used by fellow archers and want to try them. They should never, ever shoot their bow with an untried release aid! They should always try any new or different release aid with their rope bow first.

A Great Release Aid Starter Kit! An old “Stan” with a rope bow.

To use this rope bow for training. The length of the loop of cord needs to be adjusted so that when the archer loops the rope bow around their bow hand and with the release aid attached assumes “the position” with a slight pull on the loop (representing the holding weight of the bow) they are in perfect form for the point of release. Coaches need to help adjust the loop because the archers can’t see when their draw forearm is directly away from where the loop crosses their bow hand. If the loop is too small they will have a flying elbow. If the loop is too long, their elbow will be wrapped around toward the back of their head.

Once the loop is the correct length it can be used for training. On their first tries, they need to pull slightly against their straight bow arm and operate the release aid. When the release trips, the loop should fly out of their open (but relaxed) bow hand and land on the floor a few feet in front of the archer. It should land on the same line they were drawing on. If their pull is too feeble, the release may just droop from their bow hand instead of fly off of it. If their pull is too hard, the loop may fly five or six feet away or more.

Doing this drill with their eyes closed, they can concentrate on feeling the position of their draw/release hand against their face, the feel of the release aid in their hand (if handheld), the feel of the trigger as it engaged, etc.

If your student is a newbie release shooter, or is struggling with using the thing, when you switch to a bow, you can use a Genesis or other zero let-off bow after the loop. You can even get them to “assume the position” with such a bow with the eyes closed and trip the release yourself. (Be sure to tell them what you are doing, this is not something to fool around with.) After they are comfortable with the zero let-off bow, you can switch them to their bow, always start in close to a butt then moving back as they acquire control over the actions.

Selecting a Release Aid to Shoot
I recommend that my release archers do ask to try other’s release aids because what release you shoot is a personal decision based substantially on how it feels. (I also tell them that others can say “no” without prejudice as can they.) If you have never tried a index finger release, how could you know whether one of those is preferable to, say, a handheld release?

So, what constituters a “try?” Obviously if you are trying a buddies release after a tournament, a few shots with your “rope bow” will have to do. If you are able to borrow a release aid for a few weeks, then the rope bow, followed by a low draw weight bow, followed by your bow routine should be enough to tell you whether you like a release aid.

Actually, most releases are judged right from the get-go. We evaluate how they fit our hand (handheld) or how they fit our wrist (if wriststrap involved) etc. which shows the crux of the problem. You can’t move things around on a borrowed release unless given the permission to do that. (Most release archers have a drawer containing many “old” releases and they may loan you one to set up properly.) If you can’t adjust the release so that it fits you, you can’t give it a good try. So, initial “tries” are often just a feeling out.

My Approach to Training Release Archers
If I have an archer who wants to shoot Compound-Release but hasn’t a clue how to go about that I start them on a hinge release with a lockout. (Tru-Ball makes many nice ones that are affordable, but I lend them such a release to get started.) I start them on a rope bow, teaching them about the lockout. The lockout is critical for their mental protection. All of the old time release shooters have stories about archers who knocked themselves silly when a release tripped mid-draw.

These release aids are wonderful because after the technique is mastered, they can be shot without the lockout making them very simple. (Many pro archers have gone to hinge releases of late, so you know they work.) And, because they are triggerless, there is no trigger technique to learn. Of course, these have to be set up carefully so that the release trips at the correct point in their draw cycle, but all releases need to be set up carefully.

Because I was a release shooter for many a year I had a pouch of different releases in my coaching backpack for my students to try, if they wanted to. Be aware, however, that fiddling setting up a release aid can consume most of an hour long lesson very easily.

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We Get Letters! (Part 1)

Responding to my request for topics you would like to know more about, Joe Seagle sent in “I would like to know what your thoughts are concerning release, if it’s done thoughtfully or subconsciously. If it’s the latter, what training process is used. Thanks!”

Note—If you don’t want your name used, let me know. I am obsessive about giving credit where it is due.

So, Joe, you didn’t specify whether you want me to address finger releases or release aids, so I guess I will have to do both.

The Finger Release
When I work with new Recurve students I ask them what part of their shot needs to most work and the most common answer is “My release.” And I have to tell them that that belongs on the bottom of their To-Do list, not the top.

The finger release is the action of, well, what? Basically all you are doing is stopping holding the bowstring. When you stop holding the bowstring, the string pushes your fingers out of the way on its way back to its original position (at brace). Because of Newton’s Third Law, the string exerting a force on your fingers means that your fingers are exerting a force on the string, so the string takes a somewhat circuitous path back to brace. The harder you make it for the string to push your fingers out of the way, the greater this effect, so practice involves relaxing the “hook” fingers as rapidly as possible. (There are drills, and one can shoot blank bale with a focus on having a “clean” release (which is a release with your fastest relaxation).

The finger release is not something you do. It is something that happens when you “stop” exerting yourself to hold the bowstring back. Thinking about this happening, as we are wont to do when we are “working on our release” often encourages us to “do something” so this is rarely recommended. So, a refined finger release appears to the archer to be subconscious.

The Release Aid Release
Most release aids today are mechanical (the first releases had no mechanisms, the bowstring simply slid off of a hook or ledge or a strap). There are two general kinds now: triggered releases and triggerless releases. Both need to be set up in the same way, in my humble opinion. The release aid and the technique of the user have to be set up so that the release trips when the archer is pulling straight back from the bow. If the archer is pulling sideways in any way, the bowstring will travel in some sort of S shape, like in the finger release, and that will be a source of variation (how far off line one is pulling will cause different impact points for the arrows shot).

Triggerless Releases There is more than one kind of these, the most common is the “Stanislawski” model, which is a “hinge style” release aid. When set up properly, the release trips when the draw elbow is aligned to pulling straight away from the bow. I have seen at least ten (a hundred?) set up incorrectly for each set up correctly. And the incorrect ones tend to get manipulated by the archer’s fingers to rotate far enough to trip.

I will say this over and over—if set up to trip when your form is correct, it gives you feedback on whether your form is correct. If you have to twiddle with the release aid with your fingers, you are getting no such feedback.

Another form of triggerless release aid is the “straight pull” releases, none of which has garnered much popularity, because they can be a bit “twitchy” to say the least. (Tom Dorigatti wrote a muli-part article for AF on why a particular release got grades of A and F and little in between.) These are set up to trip when the pull force reaches a certain amount. They have a cut out so they don’t trip on the draw, but when you reach the valley, the cutout is turned off, and a pull of 2-3 lbs. over your holding weight causes it to trip. This type of release gives no feedback as to your form.

Thumb and Finger Triggered Releases The majority of target archers tend to use a triggered release, one in which a trigger gets “pulled” to cause the release to trip. I think the popularity of these is they imply that you have some control over when the release goes off. Actually, most archers do not want that control. I set up my thumb releases so that the trigger presses on the stem of my thumb (not the pad, thumb and finger pads are never involved) and when I rotate my arm into position this pushes my thumb against the trigger and, poof, it trips. (I have, like most release archers, used variations on this technique.)

If you use a release with a index finger trigger, it is usually a wriststrap release aid. A strap is firmly attached to your draw wrist and the release aid is attached to that strap. (You do not hold onto the barrel of the release as an aid to drawing the bow.) Basic technique is, if there is much “throw” or “travel” of the trigger (usually a sign of an inexpensive aid) you squeeze off part of that as you draw, so that the finally tiny bit can be generated by the movement of the draw arm into “straight away” position. Or, if you want to take the advice of the teenage behind the counter at the archery shop, you just swat the trigger with your finger when you are ready.

Trigger Swatting/Punching There are more than a few names for manually operating a release trigger when you feel like it. Recently some pros have been advocating for “command style” release operation, which is just that. If you decide to go pro, that is something you may want to explore, but I suggest that most amateurs will benefit more from a style as I describe above, featuring the so-called “Surprise Release.” The pros have an almost complete command of their shooting form and execution and so may not need the feedback a properly executed surprise release provides.

And, the “Swat the Trigger” technique is not bankrupt. If you are a bowhunter and you take 1-2 shots per day (not counting warm-ups) that technique is not all that bad, although it does prime its user to experience target panic more than the other techniques above.

Release Archers and Target Panic If you think target panic only came about because of release aids, think again. I have read book references to target panic, before the invention of the compound bow, and certainly before the invention of the mechanical release aid.

While it is hard to say anything definitively about target panic, it seems to be linked to techniques that require decisions to loose shots. Olympic Recurve archers invariably use clickers now. Why? Because it relieves the process of when to shoot. I can remember when I first started in archery. I shot a compound bow “fingers” with no clicker. I was unsteady and my aperture pin would slide through the target center up and down and left and right. I would wait for it to stop moving, which of course I know now that it does not, and I could hear my self thinking “Now . . . no . . . now . . . uh uhn . . . now, yes!” Clickers and setting up release aids to trip when your form is right eliminates these decisions and, thus, protects one from the ravages of target panic (at least that is what I think now).

I’ll answer the training part in the next post.

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Mea Culpa

When we stopped producing bimonthly issues of Archery Focus magazine a year ago, I said offhandedly that I would have more time to post things on this blog. Clearly that has not happened. I believe I underestimated how much stimulation was involved interacting with authors and the topics they chose to write upon.

So, if there is a topic you would like me to address, please comment below and tell me what topics you would like to see more on and I will do my best to meet those requests.



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Wow, Great Bow!

I just read another personal bow review. (I have read not a small number of these, I just don’t know what that number is.) The bow was claimed to be “nice to shoot” and was “incredibly accurate.” And, of course, people are urged to “try it out.”

The reporter doesn’t mention whether he is a sponsored archer or not, which leads to me wondering about his motivation for the “review.” There are, in archery, fanboys of the bows of certain manufacturers. Just as I grew up with “Ford guys” and Chevy guys” and “Mopar guys,” there are archers who are Mathews guys and Hoyt guys. If this guy is a fanboy of this company’s bows, then he might have posted this review just to get some props from his contacts inside the manufacturer.

I also have to ask “why?” Why is this bow more “accurate” than his previous bows? What were his previous bows? How much more “accurate” was it?

Of course, bows are not responsible for accuracy at all, we are. So bows aren’t accurate in an of themselves. A better statement might be “I shot more accurately with this bow than any of my previous bows (list of previous bows).”

What we do ask from bows is consistency, that if we aim them the same way and release them the same way that the arrows land in roughly the same spot. (I say roughly because the arrows have a lot to say about whether they land in the same spot and no two arrows are exactly the same, etc.)

The bow has to impart the same energy to each arrow and the guiding bits, mostly the arrow rest but also the eccentrics and their synchronous actions, have to guide the arrows in the same way, etc. And we can’t just use shooting machines to test a bow’s abilities in this realm. Some bows are stable and steady in the hand and some are not. Some are positively squirrely. For example, the last time I bought Claudia a new bow, she absolutely loved the way the bow “fit her hand.” I, on the other hand, felt as if the bow (another bow as she is left-handed and I am right-handed) was going to slide out of my hand and fly back and hit me in the face. After several attempts to draw that bow, I declined to try any more, for reasons of personal safety. Clamp that bow in a shooting machine and I have no doubt that you could wreck some arrows (one crushing the previous one).

So, back to the review I read. The bow was a carbon fiber-risered bow. I am not sure there is a net advantage to using such bows, except to the manufacturer who can charge a great deal more for the whiz-bang technology. The largest stabilizing factor of a compound bow is the mass of the riser. Newer bows are using longer risers and shorter limbs, which makes them somewhat more stable. The bow has to stay still while it is driving the arrow out, otherwise it changes the position we put it in while aiming. We can’t hold it still because we just add to the movement of the bow through trying. So, carbon fiber compound bows are lighter, which may be an asset over time because you won’t get as tired lugging it around and lifting it into position, but you are also sacrificing some bow stability through that loss of mass. So, what the carbon bows allow is for mass to be added back, but instead of being near the bow hand, the added mass can be placed out on stalks, which we call “stabilizers or rods.” In effect this takes mass that was concentrated near the bow hand and moves it out away from the bow, which makes that mass more effective at stabilizing the bow.

So, did my reviewer do that? Did he change his stabilizer setup? (He didn’t say.)

So, when I read one of these “reviews” all I can say is “Well, one person was happy with his purchase.”

Does it say anything, anything at all as to whether that bow would please me?



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Alert, Alert, Alert

Quintessential Archery has closed its business and that affects you thusly: they were the publisher of the very valuable book Simple Maintenance for Archery, the “go to” book for coaches and archers as to how to repair and maintain their archery equipment. They have sold all of their remaining inventory to Lancaster Archery Supply which is selling them off at a very low price. So, now is the time to get extra copies if you already have one or a copy if you have not.

Here’s the link: https://lancasterarchery.com/products/ruth-rowe-2nd-edition-simple-maintenance-for-archery

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It Could Happen to You (or Your Students)

Recently professional golfer Viktor Hovland was flying to Hawaii to participate in a golf tournament. When his clubs finally showed up, there was breakage involved.

Why he wasn’t using a hard case is beyond me, but what do I know? (I always used a hard case when flying.)

So, could this or something like this happen to you? I suggest the longer you are involved in archery competitions and the more ambitious you become, the more likely something like this will happen to you.

So what should you do?

I remember Rick McKinney telling us that when he flew, his broken in finger tabs were not in his luggage but in his pocket. Everything else could be replaced.

Because of the wonders of modern communications, you do not have to carry a physical description of your bow, arrows, etc. with you, because you can park such a list online, in a Dropbox or whatever. But that list must exist and it must be updated every time you make an equipment change.

The story is somewhat old now, but champion compound archer Dave Cousins was flying to Sweden to participate in the World Field Championships and his airline lost his luggage, all of it. (I still don’t know whether it eventually turned up or not.) His teammates supplied a backup bow for him to use, including stabilizers and release aids, arrows, etc. After sighting in and practicing a bit, Dave was in second place after day one! If you think about all of the equipment variables involved, that is as close to an archery miracle as I have ever heard of.

Part of being a high level competitor is being prepared. And that isn’t limited to physical fitness and tuning your equipment. Preparing for the worst case scenario can be very helpful, even when the case isn’t worst. Plus, you may end up with a great story to tell your grandkids.

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Reading Old Archery Books

I am an intellectual, a geek, I know that. When faced with a task the tools that come to hand easiest for me are books and articles, etc. What I want to address here is “reading old archery texts” and why you might want to do so.

There is a general tendency among archers, mostly compound archers, to look at the latest and greatest as having more value. We want the latest equipment, the latest tuning methods, the latest technique tips, etc. This is because we have been led to believe that things are better now that they were in the past and that, in general is true . . . but not absolutely true. My friend and colleague Tom Dorigatti has a bone to pick with the phrase “new and improved” which is a bit of marketing nonsense foisted upon us through TV ads and now other media. He claims, quite so, that something cannot be both “new” and “improved” at the same time.

Basically I have read archery books dating from recent to hundreds of years old. I have learned many things, including the idea of back tension goes back centuries. But specifically, let’s look at one book, namely: Doctor Your Own Compound Bow by Emery J. Loiselle

I gave away my copy of this book, so I am operating from memory. My later version included a section on those new-fangled two wheel compounds. Most of the bow was about four- and six-wheeled compound bows. Never having shot one of those older bows I learned a lot in seeing how they were tuned. They were open-ended systems so you could feed cables through from one end and they would come out the other, giving you a huge number of tuning options. Two-wheel compound bows are a closed system in which one thing feeds into another and so provided many fewer tuning possibilities.

The two-wheelers were also less complicated mechanisms and thus less could go wrong.

Historical tidbits are dropped along the way. Did you know that the earliest compound bows used banjo and guitar tuning pegs for their cabling take-ups? There wasn’t anything being ready made at the beginning, so they used what they had.

Did you know that the early compound bows had no bow presses to help work on them. The bows were loosened until there was no tension on the cables or string and then dismantled, which meant that retuning was required for any such process.

Did you know that the first bow presses had a single point of pull, resulting in myriad broken handles (and the invention of the two point harness)?

Did you know that “creep tuning” was invented in the 1970’s?

Some of this knowledge is of just historical interest but much of it underlies the processes used on modern bows and why modern bows are designed the way they are.

Old archery books are available for a song and many of them have information that is pertinent today still. You may be surprised at how little archery form has changed, for example.

Happy reading!


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Coaching Tools—An Arrow Saw

There are many tools that archers have available to them that also serve coaches. One of the most useful is an arrow saw.

The reason an arrow saw is one of the most useful tools to a coach is that we often find ourselves in the position of helping archers tune their arrows. And the absolute best way to tune a new arrow is to take a tuning set of five of them (never work on a whole dozen until you have nailed down the parameters for your arrows) and test them when full length (I use bare shaft testing). (Always order your shafts and arrows uncut if you have your own saw.) They should test “weak” at full length, so then you cut a little at a time, testing as you go until they test just right. (By making small cuts and bare shaft testing them as you go, you can get a feel for how much to cut each time (each cut will move the bare shafts closer to the fletched group.) Generally the cuts get smaller and smaller as you “inch” closer to the correct cut length for your system. When you find it. Shoot the test set until you are comfortable with them and then cut the remaining arrows/shafts to that same length.

The first photo is of a Decut Minicut arrows saw which I saw an ad for at US $200. My saw is an old Apple Arrow Saw (mine doesn’t have the dust collection system like the one in the second photo), and there are modular ones that snap together, professional ones (professional arrow cutting?), etc.

Once you acquire one of these, you’ll wonder how you got along with it.

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