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.

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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.

Arrows Series – Part 5: Cutting Arrows

In this blog, we will discuss physically cutting arrows. Remember, the correct measurement for your draw length is from the nock groove point to the end of the shaft NOT including the point.” For most archers, accuracy within half-inch of your draw-length is close enough. If you are competitive and working towards improving groups you may need to cut just a couple millimeters at a time, until you find the optimal length. I recommend you visit your local pro-shop for assistance at this level. For young archers who will grow and change frequently, you need to weigh the cost of arrows versus the ever changing physical size.

Remember:  Draw length plus 1” minimum for safety and for young archers draw length plus 2” minimum for safety and growth.

The best way to cut Aluminum and Carbon Fiber is with an Arrow Cut-Off Saw or build yourself one using a Dremel wheel saw. Although when cutting wooden arrows you can use a straight blade such as a saw and I have seen some people use a plumbing pipe cutter and this may be okay for recreational shooting however I would not encourage it.

Quick Tip: The first basic rule of carpentry is measure twice cut once. In archery I like to measure a few more times than that.

Personally, I still get my coach to cut my arrows on their shop machine to make sure they are consistent and clean. Usually, when you purchase arrows at a pro shop, they will assist you cutting your arrows to length, most will even help with the fine-tuning.

If you are interested in cutting your own arrows check these two videos: “How to use an arrow cut-off saw” and “How to make a arrow cut-off saw using a Dremel”.

Whether you are cutting your own arrows at home or at a shop, cut them a little long and test them out first. Make small adjustments until you are happy with consistent groups. Remember, once you cut them, you cannot make them longer again.

Shooting with a Clicker

Every competitive Olympic recurve archer uses a draw length checker or “clicker”. A clicker is a device that assists an archer to draw their bow consistently.  The clicker rides along the side of the arrow and produces a “clicking” sound after it passes over the point, hence the name “clicker”. By consistently measuring the draw length of the arrow, you get a consistent power off the bow and therefore a more consistent grouping of arrows resulting in better scores.

There is a lot of debate of when you should start to use a clicker. Anyone who wants to advance and develop smaller groups should start using a clicker as soon as possible. HOWEVER, since clickers take a lot of discipline, patience and practice, maturity is the key factor; age maturity and shooting maturity. If you are disciplined and maintaining consistent form, then you are ready for a clicker.

Recently, one of my readers asked:

I just wanted to ask, with regards to the form, if I should be expanding my chest during the draw (pulling your shoulders back towards the spine) in order to activate the back muscles to take the load rather than the arms.

Shooting a clicker is a relatively simple process however; it requires the use of back muscles to create something called back tension. By compressing the rhomboid major muscles (between the shoulder blades and spine) together, it will draw the arrow past the clicker for the shot when you are at full draw.

First, you need to determine the ideal location for your clicker. Have a friend mark where the tip of the arrow is at full draw. This will be the initial starting location for your clicker. There are tons of clickers on the market however there are two basic types of clickers; riser-mounted or sight-mounted. Depending where the initial starting location is measured it will help you determine the type you need.

Once you have mounted your clicker follow this shot process.

  1. Nock the arrow, with the arrow under the clicker and on the arrow rest.
  2. Raise the bow and draw towards your anchor point.
  3. Continue to draw the arrow until the tip of the point is still just in contact with the clicker.
  4. Aim and while still maintaining, squeeze your rhomboid major muscles together.
  5. Once you hear the “click”, relax your fingers and finish the shot.

It is important that you are able to reach your anchor point at full draw. The clicker needs to be within the distance so your rhomboid major muscles can activate the shot. Remember, over the course of an entire day of shooting, your muscles weaken and you will have to work harder to draw the same amount, it may need to be adjusted to find the ideal location for entire day of shooting.

Important: Once you have determined your clicker location, leave it alone. Making any adjustments will affect all your sight marks, and they will need to be adjusted too.

If you have never used your rhomboid major muscles before this is going to take some time to master. Practice using your rhomboid major muscles with the following exercise.

With palms down and your forearms parallel to the floor, bring your fingertips together at chin level. Try squeezing your rhomboid major muscles together. You should witness your fingers spread apart about an inch. This is all the space you need to activate the clicker at full draw.

You can also check out this website for exercises to help develop strength in your rhomboid muscles.

The mastery of a clicker is essential for any competition archer. You will need to work on it regularly however once you master the process a clicker will become your best friend.

Arrows Series – Part 2: Measurements

As we start to dive deeper about arrows, my goal is to simplify the information so young archers can have a good basic understanding; it is not meant to be all in compassing or a physics lesson, remember I am still learning too. Therefore, the next step is to understand how arrows are measured and how to determine draw length.

The Archery Trade Association (ATA) formerly the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization (AMO) has the following standard for measuring draw length:

AMO DRAW LENGTH STANDARD

For Manufacturers

Draw length is a specified distance, or the distance at the archer’s full draw, from the nocking point on the string to the pivot point of the bow grip (or the theoretical vertical projection of a tangency line to the pivot point parallel to the string) plus 1 3/4”. Draw length from pivot point shall be designed at DLPP (Draw Length Pivot Point) and shall be called TRUE DRAW LENGTH.

EXAMPLE: 26 1/4” DLPP plus 1 3/4” is the equivalent of 28” draw.

For Dealers and General Use

For practical reasons not requiring precise terms, draw length is the distance, at the archer’s full draw, from the nocking point on the string to the back of the bow at the arrow rest.

EXPLANATION: The standard Manufacturers is consistent with the Bow Weight Standard as related to the pivot point. The DLPP plus 1 3/4” is compatible to previous concepts of draw length. Draw length for Dealers and General Use relieves the burden of preciseness not required for general use and facilitates determining arrow length. THIS STANDARD SUPERSEDES THE PREVIOUS STANDARD.

This can be technical and confusing, however with most recurve risers, the distance of the draw length pivot point (DLPP) to the front edge of the riser is 1 ¾”. Therefore, in general terms…

Your approximate draw length is equal to the distance from your string to the front edge of the riser at full draw.

You could use a measuring tape to measure this distance however unless you have a very consistent anchor point and good form you will have varying results, since you should measure several times. Therefore, any archer who is at the point they are fining tuning arrows for high-level of performance they should consult a professional. Otherwise, I would suggest you use the following simple method to determine your draw length.

Arms Length method

Using a ruler (or other straight stick), place one end in the “V” of your neck (where your neck meets your chest ) and relaxed, reach straight out until your palms touch the ruler. At the point for your fingers is your approximate draw length. Your arrows should always be at least 1” to 2” longer than your draw length for safety reasons and young archers often need to set their arrow length little longer ( 2” to 3” ) to allow for growth.

This gives you a basic understanding of draw length and how arrows are measured, however, things get very complicated for young competitive archers who are still developing and growing in size once you add-in arrow stiffness and flex, arrow cost, type of equipment and bow weight.

It is important to understand how things are measured so you can understand why you are using the arrows you have.  I highly recommend you visit your local archery professional for assistance.

Want to get better at Archery?

I have been asked by many people, how do I get better at archery? The answer is simpler than you think. Practice properly with expert guidance. Target archery is all about consistency since the target is not moving and you are in the same spot. The more consistent you are the better your scores will be.

If you want to get better then there are five areas of archery that deserve your attention.

Equipment

Ensure you have the right equipment for you. Find the right bow, proper mass weight and draw weight for you and your size. If you are unable to hold or draw the bow you are not going to be able to practice very long. Also arrows need to sized according to your draw/bow weight and draw length. Shooting arrows that are incorrectly sized will not perform well and will be very frustrating.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Mark Twain

Form

Focus on consistent archery form, pay attention to the minor details such as your exact stance, exact hand position, your exact anchor point, etc. Replicating the exact same form every time will improve your performance and accuracy. Some people blame their equipment for malfunctions which can be true however more often than not it is your form. Focus on to your form not your equipment.

“There is no spoon … Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”  Spoon Boy. The Matrix

Practice

Practice, Practice and when you are done practicing, practice some more. It takes thousands of arrows to make a difference.

“Practice is the best of all instructors” Publilius Syrus

Remember when practicing adjust one thing at a time until you have corrected it, and then work on the next thing.

Guidance

Nothing can replace proper guidance from a good certified coach with years of experience. Coaches are another set of eyes with knowledge to help you make those adjustments that will improve your shooting. So find a local archery shop and sign up for regular lessons.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” John Wooden, basketball coach

Fun

Remember the reason you got into archery in the first place; it is fun.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” Michael Jordan

Fletchings Jig

Fletchings are found at the back of the arrow, traditionally made from bird feathers, are used to stabilize the arrow by creating a small amount of drag.   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.

Most archers start using arrows with feathers, as they are ideal at short distances; however, feathers produce a lot of drag at greater distances causing the arrow to drop a lot. Plastic fletchings called vanes produce less drag over greater distances reducing the amount of drop allowing archers to reach longer distances more consistently.

Historically, people known as “fletchers” made arrows, however 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.

Fletching jigs have existed for feathers for quite a long time and more recently fletching jigs for plastic vanes have been introduced to the market. Using a fletching jig ensures the fletching feathers or vanes are evenly spaced around the arrow and consistently attached to the arrow at the same location on the arrow.

A popular target archer fletching is the plastic spin-wing vanes manufactured by range-o-matic. These vanes are light and forgiving however they can be a challenge to consistently fletch a quiver of arrows. Some archers apply spin-wings by-hand while others archers use arrow wraps that provide a guide to attaching the spin vanes correctly. Cartel Doosung offers a new spin-vane fletching jig that can help fletch spin-wing vanes consistently and evenly spaced. If you have a large number of arrows to fletch, you may want to consider a spin-vane fletching jig.