Vision – Glasses, Contacts and Archery

Being an archer, competitive or recreational, does not require perfect 20/20 vision. E Perez asked…

I’m not sure if you’ve worn glasses before but if so, do you have any suggestions on archers who used glasses and are now switching to contacts? I’ve recently switched from glasses to contacts and my aiming is way off!

I can relate to this question, when I started shooting I had 20/20 vision, and around high school I needed glasses. I have not tried contacts yet, however it was an adjustment. Remember, the purpose of a corrective lens helps refract the light or images into in focus so you can see. Check out this website that explains how your vision works and how corrective lenses affect vision.

Wearing glasses or contacts can sometimes be a challenge for archers, since we actually stand to the side of the bow, not directly behind it. Therefore we are always viewing things on an angle, add the complexity of a corrective lens and it may be difficult to clearly focus on the target. It depends on the strength and thickness of the corrective lenses. I have a friend who can not shoot with her contacts on. The angle of the bow, combined with the angle of her contacts and she can not see her string alignment at all, which can affect your group.

Picking glasses out also presents a challenge because of the angle of the lenses and the thickness of the frames. My sister can not shoot with her prescription glasses because the frames are too large for the angle of the bow and she can not see her string alignment. If you need corrective lenses, it may take some trial and error experimenting to find out what works best for you.

I’ve recently switched from glasses to contacts and my aiming is way off!

If you are able to see the target and string alignment in focus, consider your arrow groupings.

Groups open up: Your brain could be simply catching up with your new perception, give it some time and practice. If the groups do not get better, then try shooting with your glasses on again and comparing the results.

Groups still tight; just off center: Move the sight. Even the smallest change can affect everything else, your vision is a large change.

Moved your sight; no change: Check your form, since many things can affect your your arrows including plucking the string.

Vision is important however not as important as good form. In fact, you may have read my earlier blog about legally blind South Korean archer, Im Dong-hyun, who broke the world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Im Dong-hyun has only about 20% vision in his right eye and only 10% in his left eye.

Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them – Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars

Your vision is important, however you may want to focus on making sure the shot “feels” the same every time, this is the key to success. For me, my coach still insists everyone warm-up with the following exercise to help us focus on feel not vision.

Close-Open-Close Warm-up 

  1. Close your eyes and draw your bow to full draw; focusing on your form. Try to make sure all your muscles and bones are in the same position with the same amount of pressure
  2. Quickly open your eyes to move the sight to the target
  3. Close your eyes and then shoot.

I hope I have provided some guidance and answered your question. If any other readers have experienced changes from moving to contacts from glasses, we would love to hear from you.

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Rests

Basically an arrow rest is part of your bow setup that holds the arrow in place, ready to be shot. Allen asked…

What kind of rest would you recommend for a beginner recurve shooter? I’m a COMPLETE newbie to archery, so I blindly went with the archery shop guy’s recommendations when buying my first bow. I ended up buying a Samick Polaris that he set up with a rug rest. Is this a bad kind of rest to use? Wouldn’t the two non-index fletches hit the bow on the way out? My arrows tend to hit the target at an angle instead of perpendicular, so I wonder if the rest could be causing it.

First lets cover the various types, most people say there are four basic types of arrows however I believe there are five; shoot-thru, containment, drop-away, pressure/plunger rests and the additional shelf. The shelf is often overlooked because it is part of the bow, however you do “rest” the arrow on it.

Here is a general overview of each type.

Shoot-thru (or prong) rest : A two-pronged arrow rest with a gap between and spaced about two-thirds of the width of the arrow to create a cradle. The arrow sits on top of the prongs with one fletching pointing down between them and is usually spring-loaded to allow additional clearance for the fletchings. These rests can be tricky for beginners because the arrow can fall off with wind or bad form.  They are best for hunting and the use of a mechanical release.

Containment rest : A totally encircled or a simultaneous 3-point contact arrow rest holding the arrow completely in place until release. These are the most common choice for archery hunting, they are relatively easy to install and tune. Great for beginner hunters since the arrow will not fall off the rest.

Drop-away (or fall-away) rest : Designed to drop out of the way upon release and therefore eliminate any chance of contact with the arrow. Activated by the release of the string, the rest holds the arrow long enough to keep straight and needs to drop out of the way before the fletching reaches the rest. Since this can be very tricky to tune; it is best suited for a compound bow. It is popular for hunting with large fixed-blade broad heads and helical fletchings.

Pressure/Plunger rest: Used commonly by finger shooters (no-mechanical release), they are designed to counter-act the horizontal oscillation from release with your fingers. Standard type bows without a cut-away, typically use a simple flipper rest (a rest with an additional “flipper” that acts like a plunger to help push-back against the pressure). Bows designed with a cut-away for your center shot typically use a rest along with an adjustable plunger. A pressure rest is used on Olympic bows and can be used be any finger shooter.

Shelf: Most traditional longbows and modern recurves bows are now designed with a cut-away area in the riser which includes a shelf area. For this type of bow instead of a pressure rest you can choose to shoot off the shelf. An arrow rest is attached to the shelf of your bow and is usually installed with an arrow plate to the side. They serve as protection for the bow and arrow and act as a soft, smooth surface for the arrow to be shot from.

Selecting a rest depends on a list of things including…

  • Type of bow (compound or recurve)
  • Chosen application (hunting or target shooting),
  • Type of release (finger or mechanical)
  • Budget (cold hard cash)
  • Experience (your ability to tune the rest and bow)
  • Form (some rests are more forgiving)
  • Tradition and historical nostalgia
  • Competition division (division restrictions)
  • And personal preference (bling factor)

There are a ton of rests available on the market and most bow manufacturers follow the same AMO (Archery Manufacturers Organization) standards. Therefore the drilling and tapping for the majority of bows are universal however before you purchase or upgrade make sure a selected rest will work and function with your bow.

A rug rest is a type of rest for a shelf and could be a very good selection for your shooting style if you are shooting traditional however it would not be the best selection for an Olympic archer or a compound hunter.  I am not in a position to recommend the best rest for your bow, since the bow is only as good as the alignment between the rest, release and nocking point. Obliviously, a better quality rest for your style of shooting can impact your accuracy.

To specifically address… My arrows tend to hit the target at an angle instead of perpendicular, so I wonder if the rest could be causing it.

A rest is only one small piece of the bow, and has very little to do with controlling the oscillation of the arrow. I would personally need to watch you shoot and inspect your bow to provide any valued and specific advice. There are a ton of things that can cause your arrow to impact the target on an angle. The bow may need tuning, you may be plucking the string, the arrows may be too stiff or too flexible, and a lot of other things.

Quick Insight: “Bows only perform actions as directed by you; so make sure you have good form first.”

For more information on good form check out my website page The 10 Basic Steps of Archery and to understand controlling arrow movement such as oscillation, check-out the complete Arrow – The series.

Arrows Series – Part 6: Fletching and Indexing

Now that you have cut your arrows you need to fletch them. Fletchings are found at the back of the arrow, traditionally made from bird feathers and are used to stabilize the arrow by creating a small amount of drag.

Wikipedia: Fletching (also known as a flight) is the aerodynamic stabilization of arrows or darts with materials such as feathers, each piece of which is referred to as a fletch. The word is related to the French word “fleche”, meaning “arrow,” via Old French; the ultimate root is Frankish fliukka. A fletcher is a maker of arrows.

Nowadays, there are two types of fletchings, real or synthetic feathers and plastic vanes. Some target archers have them attached to the arrow with a slight twist to increase arrow spin because a spinning projectile is more stable and helps reduce the effects of Archer’s Paradox (We will discuss Archer’s Paradox in more detail in the Part 7 of the series).

The most conventional style of indexing is a three-feather fletching where feathers or vanes are mounted to the arrow, evenly distributed around the spine of the arrow. One feather, called the “cock”, is set at a right angle to the string and pointed at the archer and the other two fletchings on the riser side are angled up and down away from the bow. This is done so the fletchings/vanes will not contact the bow when the arrow is shot. For compound archers the cock feather’s indexing depends on the type of arrow rest.

Quick Tip: Choose a different colour for the “cock” feather. It is great reminder to always point it towards you and away from the riser for proper nocking of the arrow.

Fletching an arrow is a time consuming and tedious task to do accurately by hand. In modern times, most people use a fletching jig, especially to fletch arrows with a slight twist. Check out my earlier blog about fletching jigs.

It is important to understand that once an arrow is released it starts to bend and if the arrow is not correctly indexed the feathers or vanes will make contact with the riser. This will cause the arrow to react differently than expected, distort your feathers and possibly cause damage to you or your equipment.