Keeping Your Equipment Dry

NB 2013 1 546All weather conditions present various challenges for competing as my earlier blog about weather can attest. If you have been shooting for some time, you probably already have experienced what the weather can do to your equipment. The rain, or any adverse weather, can have some undesired long-term effects on your bow.

Rain is especially tricky as it can get into all kinds of small places that you would never even expect like inside your string, inside your plunger or other various tiny screw holes. It can even impact the inserts for your limbs. If ignored, rust can form and make things very difficult to adjust in the future, which can lead to a lot of work to fix or money to replace.

peeledRain can also create havoc during competition with your equipment like impacting plunger performance, making your handle slippery, and it can even impact limb reaction speed. However the most common and problematic is with your sight. Besides the potential of additional weight on the arrows, impacting your sight marks, there is the potential of faded sight marks or the sight mark tape losing adhesive and peeling completely off.

Although shooting in the rain is unavoidable for any competitive archer, there are a few things you can do before, during and after a rainy competition.

Pre-Competition

  • String: Make sure your string is waxed
  • Handle: Add grip (adhesive or wrap) to the handle
  • Pack: A Towel, Small Tarp, Plastic bags, Umbrella, Footwear, etc…

During Competition

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  • Before Each End:
    • String: Pluck your string to remove any accumulation of water.
  • Between Ends
    • Sight : Protect your sight with a Ziploc or small plastic bag when not shooting
    • Bow: Store your bow under a tent, tarp or umbrella
    • Finger Tab: Store your finger tab in a dry place.
  • During Breaks
    • All Equipment:  Use a towel to dry off all surfaces

Afterwards

  • String: Pluck the string before taking it off the bow.
  • All Metal and Plastic Equipment: Thoroughly dry off all surfaces and meticulously towel dry all small parts of your bow including sight, limb fittings, plunger, any screws, etc..
  • All Other Material Equipment: Take a hair dryer to your finger tab, sling, arm guard etc…
  • Bow & arrows: Towel dry each arrow shaft and dry your feathers.

Personally, I love shooting in the rain, it can be lots of fun if you are in the right mindset. So, if you are prepared, all you need to do enjoy it.

Bowstring Maintenance & Replacement

P1230461In the last blog, we discussed the purpose and application of bowstring wax as a part of proper string maintenance. Another way to prolong the life of your string includes proper storage. Obviously, you should store your string in a safe dry place, and protect it the best way you can to prevent damage. However, you spend time tuning your bow including adding the “perfect” number of twists to the string, therefore you should store your string to maintain this tuning.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to interlace the teardrop loops together as shown here.

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Although, proper maintenance and storage of a string can help a string last years, every archer will eventually need to change their string. Before any shooting sessions or tournament, it should be a part of your regular routine to check your equipment for damage. Where your string is concerned, if there are signs of damage such as signs of fraying or one or more strand breaks you should consider changing your string.

Although as string materials have evolved, the strength of individual strands have far exceeded where they need to be in terms of breaking under strain.  The number of strands impact the nock fit and when shooting with the extra strands added, it was found that it could help make the bow a bit more stable. Competitive archers rarely will shot with even a minimally damaged sting since it may impact the performance and therefore, any competitive archer should have two strings for tournaments. The two strings should be exactly the same, ideally created at the same time, on the same day, on the same jig, by the same person; this way you can swap them confidently. Personally if a single strand breaks, I immediately switch to my backup string or alternatively during a tournament to my back up bow.

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Strings are so important that some archers schedule string changes so they can maintain the same performance, since strings can stretch over time, and also not worry too much about potential damage.  Depending on your budget this may or may not be an option. Another option includes custom strings and making your own using a string jig however that is the topic of another blog.

Bowstring Wax

Applying bowstring wax is part of regular maintenance and the main purpose is to help prolong the life of your string. It also helps keep the string together longer, maintain the number of twists in the string and protect the string from fraying and moisture.

uvbowwaxUsually manufactured strings are purchase pre-waxed and only need to be maintained. How often depends on the amount you shoot and the condition of the string. Often you can tell if your bowstring needs waxing as small “hairs” or “fuzz” appear on your string. This happens because bowstrings are made-up of multiple strands and the fibers get dried-out and separate from regular shooting and the elements.

To re-apply bowstring wax to an existing string, apply wax to all sides of the string (avoiding the center serving) and use your fingers and rub it up and down 360 degrees of the string, this will heat the wax up so that it is able to soak into the string.

Quick Tip: You can use a piece of dental floss to spread the wax by wrapping the floss around the string once, holding both ends and dragging it up and down. Note: It has been my understanding that using leather is another option however this must be done very carefully as it can also damage the string.

For those of you who choose to make your own strings, you will need to apply bowstring wax several times before shooting the bow the first time.

Bowstring Wax is usually a silcone-based wax sold in tube form for easy application and is usually available at almost archery retailer or repair shops. Alternatively some archers use bees wax mixed with other materials to produce their own recipes. Here are a couple of recipes I found on the web include

  1. 2 parts beeswax to 1 part anhydrous lanolin (available from pharmacies)
  2. 4 parts beeswax to 1 part pine sap
  3. One pound of bees wax and one wax toilet ring seal, melted together
  4. 3 parts beeswax and 1 part coco butter
  5. 50% bear grease (rendered bear fat) and 50% beeswax
  6. 3 parts bees wax and 1 part toilet bowl wax ring.
  7. OR Pure bees wax needs no softening, it is perfect like it is

Proper maintenance will help keep your string in tip-top shape and tournament ready and help make a string last several years. However there are times when you should replace your string and in the next blog we will discuss string replacement.

String Alignment

Consistency is the key to a successful archer. In an earlier blog, we developed a consistent anchor point to develop a starting point for your hand and grip to help develop consistent vertical groupings. Now we need to address consistent horizontal groupings through the use of string alignment.

IMG_8525So, while at full draw at your anchor point, you should be able see a blurred image of your string; align this “blurry” image of the string with the riser. If it’s slightly off, rotating your head either left or right slightly will correct this. (Remember to maintain your anchor as you quickly check for this alignment). If the string picture is in the wrong place, then your aiming accuracy will be off and the result will be groups which are spread horizontally.

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Quick Tip : Note that sometimes a dark string is difficult to see against a dark riser, therefore try adding a small strip of white tape along the inside of a dark riser to help see the string.

Ideally, you should try to use the same spot for all distances, however this can be different for all people. It can help some archers by aligning the string on the inside of riser for close distances, middle of the riser for middle distances, and outside of the riser for long distances. The best alignment it is different for everyone because everyone has different head and nose structures. Therefore, you will need to experiment with the string alignment until you have the perfect string alignment for you.

Quick Tip: If you are having difficulty seeing your string, try closing you non-dominant eye.

Remember once you have your string alignment, changing things such bow length, draw length, arrows or anything else can effect your “perfect spot”. Consistent form is vital for consistent groupings, if you get a consistent string alignment, the bow will be at a consistent horizontal angle, and your horizontal grouping should improve.

Bow Tuning – Basic Setup continued

IMG_7304Now that your bow is together we need to make sure the arrow rest is installed correctly, install a nocking point and adjust the center-shot. It is my recommendation to always install the arrow rest before installing your nocking point. So, let’s start with the arrow rest.

Installing the Arrow Rest

There are a lot of types or arrows rests available on the market. Check out my earlier blog about the various types of arrow rests. For this blog, I will be focusing on the most commonly used one for Olympics style bows, the pressure/plunger rest.

The main purpose of the arrow rest is to hold the arrow in place until the arrow is shot. A  plunger style arrow rest is designed with a support arm just long enough to hold the arrow, with a slight inward angle to the bow, and it moves out of the way with the shot.  They should also be adjusted so that the support arm does not protrude beyond the outside of the arrow. This is to minimize contact with the arrow and minimize impact on the arrow flight. Lastly the arrow rest must be positioned so the plunger/pressure button is square to the center of the arrow.

arrow-rest-backhole

Olympic recurve bows come with a threaded hole for the plunger/pressure button and the arrow rest typically is installed and centered over the hole as the arrow rest and plunger work in conjunction with each other. Note, some risers have two holes and you should use the back one as a starting point which should be directly over the riser’s pivot point.

Pivot Point: The deepest part of the riser handle.

Alternatively, if your bow did not come with a threaded hole or you are using a traditional bow the arrow rest should be installed at the contact point of the arrow onto the rest directly above the “pivot point” of the bow. You may also want to investigate other types of arrow rests to match your style of bow.

Nock Pointing

Although some recurve archers use a tie-on nocking point, I recommend starting with a simple clamp-on type nock. Clamp-on style nocks are fairly easy to install and simply require your bow square and nocking pliers.

Nocking point: The location you attach your nock, it is usually measured 5mm (1/4”) above square from the center of the plunger and arrow rest.

measure-nockingAttach your bow square to the string so it is centered on the plunger ( or plunger hole) then measure up 5mm, attach a clamp-on nock, and secure it with nocking pliers. If your arrows are loose on your string, you can consider adding a nock serving for a better fit however once the nock is installed you can begin shooting.

Center-shot and the Plunger

For an Olympic archer the plunger (pressure button) is probably the best thing to attach to your bow for fine-tuning. The plunger can be adjusted to help match an archer’s release and counteract a lot of archer’s paradox. For a better understanding of arrow selection, center-shot and Archers Paradox check out my earlier blog.

To set your center-shot, set you plunger to the middle and install it in the threaded hole. Attach an arrow to the string, below the nock, and from behind the bow check to see if the tip is pointing slightly to the left (or right for left-handers).

center-shot

Although adjusting the plunger WILL require a trial and error approach, it is important to set the plunger to the middle position using the screw on the end. The amount of pressure setting for your plunger will depend on the archer, the limb poundage and your form. The best approach is to start with medium pressure and adjust accordingly after shooting a couple of arrows (Typically clockwise for more pressure and counter-clockwise for less).

Your bow should be basically setup and ready for you to focus on  developing consistent form. In upcoming blogs I will dive deeper into fine-tuning your bow.

Bow Tuning – Basic Setup

IMG_7304For a beginner, if you purchased your bow from an archery shop, hopefully they worked with you to “basically” setup and tune it for you. If you are in the unfortunate situation were you do not have a pro shop near by and/or purchased your bow online you will need to perform the basic setup yourself. This may be a difficult task if it is your first bow and you are a green horn to archery. Shooting form has the most impact on your performance and you need to be relatively consistent to see any major impact from bow tuning.

That said in the first couple of blogs, I will give a basic overview of how to setup your bow so you can begin shooting with it. Later in the series we will discuss the intricacies of tuning each area of the bow.

For any bow setup you should have a couple of basic bow tuning tools

IMG_7604Bow Square: T-shaped tool for measuring brace height, tiller and nock position.

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IMG_7606Nock Pliers:  Specially designed pliers for installing nock points.

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IMG_7608Bow Stringer: Provides a safe and convenient way to string recurve or long bows.

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You may also need an Allen Wrench Set (Hex Keys), Pliers, adjustable wrench, scissors and/or various screwdrivers depending on the composition of your equipment. Reference the manufacturer’s manuals for necessary tools. There are a ton of additional bow tuning tools such as a pressure button measuring tool, bow scale, electronic chronograph, bow press and leveling tools. These are optional and will not be used for the basic tuning.

Completely assemble your bow, for a quick and simple step-by-step guide check out my earlier post about Putting an Olympic Bow Together.

Make sure you gather all the pieces that you are going to use including the riser, limbs, stabilizer system, string, nock, arrow rest, sight, clicker and plunger. It is important to start with everything when tuning, since even one change can have you starting all over again.  Start by making sure that all the pieces fit together, and are correctly assembled so you have a tight fit.

In the first blog we will make sure your limb alignment is correct, the string and brace height are within specifications, and the tiller is properly set so the limbs are correctly set. Olympic bows are typically take-down bows with risers that have International Limb Fittings (ILF) so you can easily replace them. It is very important that limbs are aligned straight and that both limbs are aligned with the center of the grip. Some risers ILF slots can be adjusted side-to-side and you may need to make some adjustments to align the limbs.

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For good limb alignments the things to check are…

  • The limbs are correctly installed and the top limbs in the in top slot, and bottom in the bottom. (this may sound obvious but it would not be the first time someone got their limbs mixed up)
  • The string is lined up with the center of each limb and the center of the grip.
  • The limbs are not twisted – check out my earlier blog about Twisted Limbs.

brace-heightNext we need to make sure you are using the correct string for the bow. This is measured using the brace height or the distance between the center of the string and the grip when the bow is strung using a bow square. Each bow manufacturer provides the specific tolerances for the brace height however the following chart is a pretty good guide.

62” Bow            7 3/4″ – 8 1/4″              197 – 210 mm
64” Bow            8” – 8 1/2”                    203 – 216 mm
66” Bow            8 1/4” – 8 3/4”              210 – 223 mm
68” Bow            8 1/2” – 9”                    216 – 229 mm
70” Bow            8 3/4” – 9 1/2”              223 – 242 mm

If your brace height is just slightly out of range you can try to add a couple of string twists to adjust within the specific tolerance however never put more that 20 twists in a string.

tiller-measureNext we need to make sure the correct amount of draw weight is shared between the limbs. The difference between the top tiller and the bottom tiller will effect the bow reaction on release and your ability to hold steady at full draw and aim. Your hand on the grip is centered in the bow however your arrow is actually above center, the bottom limbs needs to be slightly heavier to compensate. This is accomplished on an Olympic bow using the adjustable tiller. Most risers are shipped with the tillers adjusted to the correct depth. Adjusting the tiller is an extremely advanced bow tuning technique, and should ONLY be adjusted by a someone with experience. The thing for you to check is to make sure that top tiller is about 1/8” to 1/4″ (3-8 mm) greater than the bottom tiller, if not take your bow to a professional pro-shop or coach to help you adjust it.

In the next post, we will cover installing the arrow rest, nocking point and setting up your center shot.

Anchor for increased Accuracy

All archers need an unchanging anchor point for their draw hand, a location on or below your chin to ensure you have a consistent starting point for your hand and string. One of my Tumbler followers, Andy, asked…

…Since I’m just an amateur with the bow and don’t have any training… why you and archers in general, when they stretch to the full pose, set the hand that is stretching the string with the arrow bellow the chin? That helps for a better accuracy shoot? or is because the type of bow?(sorry I don’t know any terminology if you can help me with that too it would be cool). Thanks for the help…

There are four basic locations for an anchor point; under-the-chin, beside the face, over-hand anchor, and floating anchor, all have there pros and cons depending on your shooting style.

Under the Chin      

Draw the string to the center of the nose and middle of chin. A good anchor point consists of an unchanging triangle with the string touching the center of your nose and the center of your chin and your thumb tucked squarely under your jaw line and the shelf of your index finger riding along your jaw. (Alternatively string to the side of nose and the corner of your mouth however this is typically less accurate for recurve archers and better for peep sight usage on compounds.)

  • Advantages: This anchor has multiple touch points for triangular consistency and helps avoid overdrawing.
  • Disadvantages: It takes a little longer to position and master, and can be less comfortable depending on the archer.

Side of Face

Typically the string is drawn back until the tip of the index finger is at the corner of the mouth with the hand tight against the face. Some archers tuck their thumb under their jaw.  Depending on the tournament, some archers can face walk for difference distances. (move your hand up and down on your face)

  • Advantages: Anchor style can be established quickly and allows bare-bow to sight down the arrow shaft.
  • Disadvantages: This style is not typically as precise as under the chin and sometimes leads to plucking the arrow string.

Over-hand (Mechanical Release)

Typically over-hand is associated with a mechanical release. Mechanical release aids offer less interference with the string and are most commonly used by compound shooters and hunters. When having an over-hand release for a compound shooter you would have either your knuckle(s) or your thumb touching behind the corner of your jaw.

  • Advantages: Very accurate and it allows your elbow to align with the arrow at release
  • Disadvantages: Takes longer to set and position and a release aid needs to be setup based on the individual archer. Also since it very accurate scores are VERY high in competition and you have less room for error.

Floating Anchor (or partly floating)

A floating anchor is another option for some archers, the shape of some people’s jaw can make it difficult to do an under the chin anchor position. Some people take this position literally and have their hand floating in the middle of nowhere; this is really hard to make consistent because you have no point of reference to make the anchor position easily repeatable. However, you could go with a ‘partly’ floating anchor where you can have your hand touching a point of your jaw (or more if you can).

  • Advantages: Can provide an easier anchor point  for people with wider jaw lines.
  • Disadvantages:  Typically, not as consistent or as easily repeatable.

The anchor needs to be consistent and repeatable  on every shot. Some tips include…

  • Keep your head straight and still and bring the string to you so you can easily make your anchor and draw length consistent.
  • Chewing bubble gum, talking, or even moving your chin will result in inconsistent shots and therefore lower scores since you are changing the angle of the string as our jaw moves.
  • Keeping your shoulders relaxed and in their sockets and pointing your draw arm directly behind you.
  • Check your string alignment by matching the blurred image of the string in relation to the bow’s riser.

You will want to establish as many touch points as you can manage to help develop the most consistent anchor. A great consistent anchor leads to a happier more consistent archer.