Tag Archives: V-bars

Archers Need More Help with Stabilizers?

We have addressed the topic of stabilizers, primarily how they work, and how to get started using one. It seems that it is time to expand on that beginning. Here I am going to focus in on how you, as a coach, can help archers wend their way through a forest of stabilizers.

More Stabilizers, More, Please
It seems to me that many novice archers, young and old, rush to make their equipment look like the “good archers’” stuff. This is especially true of young archers whose moms and dads are archers. The problem with doing this is that such additional accessories may not help and might just hurt their progress in archery. Each new accessory changes how their bow feels and needs to be adjusted and tested. If your student does not shoot quite well yet, they may not be able to notice that there is no improvement in their archery from the addition of the XYZ Gizmo. And if they are adding mass to an already “too heavy” bow, they will be hurting their progress.

These accessories only make small differences in their results and if they really want positive attention for their skill as an archer, practicing and refining their form will probably pay off more than fiddling with their equipment.

That being said, you will probably not make many friends if you pooh-pooh each student-archer’s desire to add something to their kit. So let’s look at how you can help.

Getting Fitted
One of the areas archers need the most help is with their archery purchases. The archery marketplace is bewildering to even many seasoned archers, so it is especially so for novices and beginner-to-intermediate archers. If you prove valuable helping with these purchases, your opinion on subsequent ones will become more and more impactful. Besides, trying to help an archer is always one of the better things we do.

Fitting Long Rods Short stabilizers are limited in length by rule, but long rods are not, so let’s look at long rod fitting. An easy way to measure a student up for a long rod is to have them hold their bow at their side, string up. Have them allow it to hang as far as it will, but their hand should be in the bow as it is when shooting. Then measure from the stabilizer boss to the floor/ground. Add an inch to this length—this is a good first estimate as to what length of long rod to start on. If your archer is still growing, add another inch. If the long rod you are shopping for doesn’t come in that length, err on the long side, but not 5˝-6˝ long as that will be unwieldy.

As to how much the rod weighs: lighter is better (stiffer is better, too). The rule of thumb is a lighter weight farther out has a greater stabilizing effect than more weight closer in. There are now some carbon fiber long rods that are not too expensive that are lightweight and quite stiff, too. If on a tight budget, an archer can look for a used rod or a less expensive aluminum one. Some very gaudy scores were shot using aluminum stabilizers. Don’t fall for the “carbon is like bacon: it makes everything better” rule.

With regard to long rod “end weights” we recommend they start with none, maybe just a plastic cap to protect the threads on the end of the rod. If the rod comes with end weights, they can be just taken off (and put in a Baggie labeled and dated!) and added later when your archer is feeling experimental or just stronger.

Fitting Side Rods Side bars and V-bars themselves come in a number of variations. V-bar blocks (the block the side rods screw into) can be “fixed” or “adjustable” as to the angle. For compound archers, “one side only blocks” are available, but you can just use an ordinary dual rod block also, even though only one rod is the norm. The V-bars themselves come in various lengths, sort of small, medium, and large. If your student is fairly short in height, they should get the short side rods. If they are fairly tall in height, recommend they get the long side rods. If in the middle, have them get the mediums. If an adjustable block is used, the angle the rod makes with the bow tunes the effective length of the rod.

To fit them, they need to be attached to the bow and your archer needs to shoot some to adjust to the new feel. After this “break in” period, you need to ask them how the bow feels. If they pay attention, they will notice whether the bow tends to react left, right, up, or down. If they do not notice, have them shoot some arrows blind bale, specifically asking them to pay attention to how stable the bow feels at full draw and which way the bow tends to move when the shot is loosed.

Angling the side bar or bars downward moves the weight distribution from back to front (and the reverse does the opposite). So, if they feel like the bow is “rolling back” in their hand too much (or less forward, these things are relative) then the bow is back heavy and weight needs to me moved forward. Angling the side rods(s) down will fine tune this. Adding weight to the tip of the long rod would be the most affective way to move weight forward (and so removing it is the most effective way to move weight back). What you want to be leery of is adding a bit of weight on the end of this side rod, then a bit more on the end of the long rod, then a little weight on the other rod, . . . ; this can lead you to a bow that is much heavier than before, something that might not be desirable (this is a warning for youths and smaller adults who have less shoulder muscle development).

To get a feel for how the bow is balanced, try hanging it from a hook or loop of cord so it can hang freely. You will eventually develop an “eye” for how a bow that is balanced well hangs. One with too much weight forward will hang with the long rod at an angle that looks “too steep.” One that has too much weight to the rear will hang with the long rod to flat to the floor/ground. From behind the bow, the bow should hang straight up and down, if it doesn’t then weighting of the side rods needs to be adjusted. (This is the only reason for a single side rod on a compound bow—to balance the weights of the “compound weight” bow sight and arrow rest on the other side of the bow.)

Testing, Testing, Testing
We have recommended over and over that when anything new is added to a bow (or the accessories jacked up and a new bow put inside of them), the new rig needs to be tested against the old. Notes need to be taken regarding the arrangement of the “old rig” and some measures of how it performs need to be had (group sizes and round scores seem to work best). Then the “new rig” needs to be set up, adjusted, and tuned and tested in the same way. This is what serious competitive archers do.

Having said this, don’t beat this approach like a borrowed mule. A little bit goes a long way, here. Your first goal is to establish that “this is the way things are done.” You are not trying to establish that this is the best equipment setup in all of the world for your archer. U.S. archer Jake Kaminski has set up a YouTube channel and has made some very useful videos in which he walks through setting up new equipment and testing it. He is an elite archer and has worked out how best to do those tasks for him. You will also see the amount of equipment he acquires and tests, looking for small improvements in his performance. The amount of effort is amazing. Do not try to emulate this as your students are nowhere near ready yet.SAve the elite archer routines for the elite archers.

Bare shaft tuning works well (Jake uses it). Simple testing routines that can be done in a single practice session (or between lessons) should be the goal.



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Getting Into the Swing of Archery

[Note I have been on vacation for the past several weeks, which is why there has been little posted here. Steve]

Recently I got an email from a student working to set up his first pair of V-bars, long rod, etc. Here’s his email:

I was trying to find the correct balance between the small rods and my stabilizer. In the end I had 20 grams on the right side and 70 on the left side. Does it seems normal to you? Isn’t it too much weight?


(Note This student is right-handed. If you are left-handed you need to reverse all left-right references. Also you need to know that a stabilizer system is used to improve: (a) steadiness and (b) balance, and very secondarily (c) excess vibration reduction.)

Since the sight is attached on the right side of your riser and the arrow rest/plunger, too, I would expect more weight to be needed on the left than the right side of your short rods to achieve balance. This assumes (and it may not be a good assumption) that the riser is balanced around its central plane (because of the “sight window” they tend to be “right heavy” if anything). (Obviously you don’t want to add so much weight that you struggle to hold the bow up!)

Here is a test. Have a friend stand in front of you as you draw (no arrow!) with your eyes closed. When you are at anchor, have her check to see if your bow is straight up and down. Do this a couple of times to see if it is repeatable. If it is, you are good to go. You want to be able to feel that your bow is straight up and down and gravity is your best reference for this (actually there are others).

Your bow doesn’t have to be straight up and down at full draw, it just has to be consistently located, but what is your reference for, say, 7 degrees off of plumb? Any angle other than 0 degrees off of plumb is hard to repeat.

If you can hold your bow vertically, and the string is in the same vertical plane as the center of the riser, the long rod, etc. and the sight bar (the vertical bit at the end of the extension bar of your sight) is parallel with that plane, you have the best setup. If the sight bar is at an angle to that plane, then as you move the aperture up and down, you are also moving it left and right! Not a recipe for success!

Image the plane of the screen you are viewing this on splits these risers perfectly in half. That is the central plane of the riser. Your limbs need to be centered on this plane, as is the sight aperture and your bowstring.

Imagine the plane of the screen you are viewing this on splits these risers perfectly in half. That is the central plane of the riser. Your limbs need to be centered on this plane, as does the sight aperture and your bowstring.

There have been people who built a “cant” (e.g. 7 degrees slant) into their full draw position. They wedged their sight to match this angle (so that its sight bar was vertical when the bow was held at that slight angle) because they felt that the canted bow was the most natural position for them. Few people do this. The point is the bow doesn’t have to be straight up and down, it just makes everything easier. My preference is to have everything perfectly plumb by having stabilizers, back weights, etc. to create a center of gravity lower than your hand and usually slightly forward of it to make your bow roll after the shot which allows us to feel that straight up and down position easier. To experience this, if you were to hold a hammer with the head up, the hammer is tippy, unstable, but if you hold it with the head down (just two fingers on the handle are needed) it is very stable … due to gravity). Having your bow set up this way (bottom heavier than the top), allows you to have the bow set its own position (vertically).

The idea behind setting your bow up to be front heavy as well allows for some post shot feedback. If you shoot a recurve bow when it is bare and if you have a relaxed bow hand, the top limb rocks back toward the archer after the shot. This is because the pivot point of the grip is the center of the bow vertically and you are holding the bow mostly on the bottom half, making it top heavy (you are also holding it where most of the mass of the riser and limbs is toward you which is why the top limb rotates down and back. In this case the center of gravity is behind and above the pivot point.

When a long rod stabilizer is fitted to a bow, recurve or compound, it causes the bow to rotate forward instead of backward (a small amount of weight placed far away has more leverage than a larger amount placed closer). So, after a shot occurs the bow rolls forward in your bow hand. If your hand is relaxed (key point) the bow is reacting to the forces acting on it at the moment of the string loose (gravity, the limbs changing positions, etc.). This “rollover” should occur the exact same way after each shot and thus is a gauge of whether you are being consistent. If the bow rolls differently after each shot you are being inconsistent. So, when a shot is made, beginners are looking at the target to see where their arrow hits. More advanced archers are paying attention to their bow’s reaction to the shot to see if it is consistent with the last and other previous shots. The arrow is launched; it will hit where it will hit. That’s what binoculars and spotting scopes are for. If you do not pay attention to your bow reaction, that information is lost into the past; no binoculars are powerful enough to see it.

As a coach, one of the things I do is watch the long rod of an archer (compound or recurve). From the moment of the string release, I expect to see the tip punch out a slight amount (~1 inch, 2-3 cm) due to recoil and then the stabilizer rotate straight down. If the archer is keeping their his/her arm up (not always the case), only his/her wrist bends as the bow goes through its “bow.” (The shot is not over until the bow takes a “bow.”)

When the bow is setup to be neutral (I believe Butch Johnson of the US shot this way), the bow doesn’t roll, it just keeps its position. But a slight shift of the bow, up or down, left or right, isn’t easy to see or feel under these circumstances. The sweeping arc of a rotating long rod is easier to see and feel as it acts as an amplifier of those small variations. This is feedback that is very valuable which is why I recommend you never to anything like a “bow hand release” which simply adds forces that have nothing to do with the shot into the mix.

Setting up stabilizer systems is all about feel. My preference is to set everything up for a vertical hold and then if I don’t like the feel so much, I adjust the grip to give me the feel I want. (At one point I bought a stationary belt sander primarily to make such adjustments.)


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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).


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.



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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