Selection of bows

Target panic and how knowing our bows can help

In the previous post on overcoming target panic I talked about building confidence and how knowing your arrows can help give you confidence. In this post lets look at the second side of the archers triangle the launcher of those projectiles, our bows.
archers triangle graphic

The archers triangle

Our bows come in all shapes and sizes. They can be a hand crafted traditional English longbows or the latest high tech compound from Bowtech. Yet they all share one or two key facts. They are all designed to perform one function, to launch a projectile effectively and hopefully deliver said projectile to the target. They all require correct setting up and maintenance at varying levels of complexity to ensure they perform this task. Just to be clear though I’m not going to go into detail about tuning bows in this post, that’s for another time. What I am will do is give you some points to consider,
So I want to start by pondering a couple of questions.
Does your bow perform exactly the same each time you use it? I’m not talking about how well you shoot it but how well it performs. Hopefully it does, but what if it doesn’t. If we take this question further and look at one element of set up as an example, the brace height.
How often do you check your bows brace height? Each shooting session, once in a while?
For traditional bows or take down recurves the question can be Is the brace height the same each time you string it? Its very easy to drop the string and loses a few twists. Alternatively if it is a new string it could stretch slightly as it beds in.
Without knowing the bow is performing consistently how can you have confidence in its behaviour and its delivery of the arrow to the target.
Definition of brace height the brace height of a bow is the gap from the string (nocking point) to the riser. The actual brace height of different bows vary, but all manufacturers will provide an upper and lower limit. Normally for a recurve this will range from about 7 1/2 inches to 8 3/4 inches.

One tip I will share is using your arrows cresting to help you check the brace height of your bow, as shown in this photo. The black banding is set at the ideal brace height for the bow as it lines up with the white band you can see.

Sharons bow and arrow set up

Sharon’s bow and arrow set up

Tune don’t Twiddle

I would always suggest you spend some time and ensure the bow is set and working at its best, tweaking brace height, nocking point etc. until you reached the optimum. Once it’s tuned and working well stop. Yes, stop. Focus on learning to shoot that bow. If you are constantly altering elements of your bows set up, say the brace height or nocking point, then you will have an ever changing platform on which to try and learn to shoot. This twiddling or constant changing will not help you develop confidence in being able to shot the bow.
Top tip – If you have something that works please don’t be tempted to twiddle or tweak it, especially in the run up to a champs or competition. You might think it will help and get you those extra few points, but the flip side is it could cause all your training to be for nought if it has a negative effect on your setup.
I’ve seen lots of archers spending a fortune on kit, along with hours of time chasing the idea that a slightly different spinning of arrow shafts or couple of extra twists in the string will make the difference. When in reality they already have something that works really well and changing means quite often they lose confidence in their kit. As well as points on the score card.
“Learn to shoot with the bow you have” was something my old coach always said. Know that it works and your arrows work and this will give you confidence.
I tend to record what works well for each of my bows. This means I have a record of string length, brace height, plunger set up, etc. for all my bows and over the years I have found photographing the brace height and nocking point particularly useful. I have found this makes it much easier when setting up a new string. It provides visual guidance something that makes your life much easier. I tend to bring the image up on my tablet screen so it’s large enough to see easily.
Bracing on bow

Bracing on bow

Using your phone camera is one piece of advice I will offer as it can not only help with set up, but also monitoring any possible problems i.e. how much has the string stretched or worn over the space of a few sessions.
Bows like arrows are susceptible to damage, this can be via accident such as dropping it or through ignorance in improper usage.
dmaged riser

Damaged riser

Again your camera phone can help here for documenting wear and tear on your bow. I’ve know archers to use their phone cameras to photograph the limb bolts after marking them to see if they undo over time. Other forms of damage can occur from incorrect usage such as dry firing.

Dangers of dry firing

What is a dry fire? It’s when you draw back a bow without an arrow loaded on the string and release the string.
Why is this a problem?
All the energy that would normally be transferred to the arrow from the bow has nowhere to go other than back into the bow. This is never good and has seen bow risers break, limbs delaminate or even snap. There are a few YouTube videos on what happens and archery360 has produced a good one.
In short NEVER ever dry fire a bow.

Arrow weights V bow damage

While talking about bow dry fires I want to mention arrow weights. Be mindful of how light your arrows are. Some manufacturers recommend a minimum arrow weight for their bows as a safe guard against potential damage or failure. Shooting an arrow that is too light can be akin to a series of mini dry fires and over time can lead to damage to the bow. So check if the manufacturer’s have a minimum arrow weight.
String maintenance – It sounds like a simple thing to remember but I am always amazed at how few people actually maintain their bow strings. Whether this be waxing it on a regular basis or just checking for any fraying or damage to the serving. If you shoot a compound bow with a d-loop, please keep an eye on these. I’ve seen an archer at full draw have their D-loop snap. The arrow went flying off some 50 yards. Our coaching equipment is regularly checked as we’ve noticed wear and tear on the serving loops from them being fitted and removed constantly.
Please don’t over bow yourselves. I know I have said this so many times before but it’s really important. A well set up bow with well matched arrows often negates the need for heavier draw weights. One final point for you to ponder I’ve written previously about the benefits of having and using a light poundage bow when working on form or recovering from injury etc. So much as it might be tempting to exchange or sell the lighter poundage limbs you might want to hang onto them just in case.
Personal insight
This process of arrow and bow set up certainly gave me confidence when I started. Knowing the quality of the arrows and the bow I was shooting, and they were working correctly together meant there were less things for me to worry about.
Both of these elements are pretty easy to tune given time. The fare harder part is the archer, as unlike the bow and arrow, the archer has a mind of their own. The thing is once you know your kits right, you will inevitability grow in confidence as your bow delivers your arrows with more consistently at short, medium or long distance.
So lets start looking at building confidence in the third and final element, the archer.
Thanks for reading.

Question from a reader – Improving grouping

Last week I posted a response to a readers question concerning aiming and focus. This is  the second part of my response and in this I will try and address another question
I practice very very much and I can not reduce the diameter of my groups
I know this feeling all too well and I used to spend hours quietly practicing at the range at Black Arrow and now at home.

Reducing the diameter of the group comes with practice. Lots of practice in my case. It takes time and consistency in equipment and techniques.
Here are a  few tips I’ve picked up along the way. I  hope they help.

Know your Equipment

If your equipment is not consistent then you have a constantly changing variable to any practice you undertake.

If you shoot a takedown recurve each time you dismantle and reassemble your bow you run the risk of accidentally changing settings. Whether this be the bracing height or dropping twists in the string. So take care and time to make sure everything is right. I have found a camera phone invaluable aid for checking brace height or nock position. Set the bow up, making sure everything is right  and then take a few photos of the bracing height, nocking point etc. It provides you with a quick easy to check reference.

Photo of recurve set up

Photo of recurve set up

If you do change anything make sure you change one thing at a time. However if you change bracing height you might need to immediately change your nocking point as well.

Weather can play a part on equipment too. Traditional English longbow archers will tell you that in warm weather the bow will behave differently to when it’s cool.

Arrow weight and quality

  • Are all the arrows you are using straight and in good condition re nocks and fletching wear?
  • Do they weigh the same?
  • Do they really have the same spine?

I had one student who was struggling with grouping and when we weighed his arrows we found a huge weight variation which explained his issue at longer distances. Additionally, the spine shown on the boxes of wooden shafts  can vary, (in some cases we have found a 20lb variation in a single box that is theoretically ranged within 5lb.) This can be caused for a number of reasons from storage to temperature.

A good idea is to number the arrows and note where they hit. That way if you find one that always goes left or drops short you know it’s the arrow not the archer. I also make a note on each arrow how much they weigh in grains and match shooting sets of the same weight. (Definition of Grain)

This is obviously more of a problem with wooden arrows than with carbon or aluminium arrows.

Equipment consistency is easy compared to archers.

Are you consistent in draw, anchor and release?
If you aren’t being consistent here then getting a good group is impossible.
Light is right and going back sometimes to a lightweight bow means you can focus on draw, release and overall technique.

Take your time between shots don’t rush to shoot as your muscles take time to recover after each shot.  A rushed shot is seldom on target but can often infuriate you.

One technique I use is to start at short distance say 5 yards. And focus on bringing the group in. I then move back 2-3 yards and work on grouping at that distance.  Gradually you move further back. This builds an image bank in your brain of where you should be at different distances. I would practice at, 5,7,10,13,15,17,20,23 and  25 yards shooting 3-6 arrows. Not until I would get at least 5 arrows constantly in a group of 3 inch diameter would I move to next distance. This took months of practice and patience, lots of patience and quite a few replacement nocks. Some days I would shoot 40 arrows others 120 depending on how I was feeling and whether I could focus on the practice. no good practicing if you aren’t focused.

Jim Grizzly Kent recorded a video for YouTube a while back on cup shooting which is another good practice technique.
 Finally, if you can get a friend to video you shooting this might help identify any inconsistencies that you have (once you get past being self concious of being recorded). I am thinking of doing an article on the use of video in the near future.

I hope this helps once again thanks for reading.