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.

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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 4: Spine, Flex and Stiffness

Before we discuss the topic of arrow spine, for proper safety and best performance, arrows need to match your entire bow setup. If you change draw weight, draw length, limbs, riser size, etc. this will affect you arrows. You may need to adjust the arrow length or require different arrows.

Arrow Myth:  An arrow is always straight.

Arrows SHOULD be perfectly straight when not in motion. However, when an arrow is released the force applied from the string causes the arrow shaft to be compressed against the resistant static weight of the arrow point and therefore bends.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion (rest) tends to remain in that state of motion (rest) unless an external force is applied to it.

Since the force applied is greater than the  resistance (weight of the tip), the arrow is propelled forward, and the shaft continues to flex and oscillate as it straightens itself. Arrow shafts that are either too stiff or too flexible will not fly well and will impact the accuracy of your shots or fail causing damage and/or injury. Therefore, we need to manage the flex properly so the arrow does not make any contact with the bow, or your arrow flight will be affected.

Important Tip: Arrow spine refers to the arrow shaft’s degree of stiffness (how much the arrow resists being bent) and is called spine deflection.

Basic Rule 1:  Shorter arrows act stiffer and longer arrows act more flexible.

Basic Rule 2: Powerful bows require stiffer arrows and less powerful bows require shafts that are more flexible.

Basic Rule 3: The heavier the tip equals greater the resistance, therefore the greater amount of compression.  So, a heavier tip causes the arrow to flex more and a lighter tip increase the stiffness.

According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) the modern standards (ASTM F2031-05) an arrow’s official spine deflection is measured by hanging a 1.94 lb. weight in the center of a 28″ suspended section of the arrow shaft and is used for aluminum and carbon fiber arrows. (I believe original AMO standard has a basic guide to use for wood arrows spine determination and uses of 2 lb. and 26” section for standard measurement.) The actual distance the 1.94 lb. weight causes the shaft to sag down is the arrow’s actual spine deflection

For example, if a 1.94 lb. weight causes the center of a 28″ arrow to bend down 1/2 inch (.500″) the spine deflection would be .500″.  Stiffer arrows will bend less and more flexible arrows with bend more.

Almost every arrow manufacturer has its own numbering system and there are no universally agreed spine sizes among the various arrow manufacturers. Simply, the lower the deflection measurement equates to a stiffer arrow and higher the deflection measurement the more flexible the arrow. Manufacturers can number, size, and market their arrows anyway they want, as long as they provide the deflection data and test using the industry standard method.

Fortunately for us the engineers have already done the math for us and manufacturers provide spine selection charts. You are able to select an arrow based on your draw length and draw weight.

So when selecting arrows a good rule of thumb is that lighter draw weight, shorter draw length and/or lighter tip weight equals LESS arrow spine OR heavier draw weight, longer draw length and/or heavier tip weight equals MORE arrow spine.

Arrows Series – Part 3: Draw Weight

Obviously, force is required to move the arrow forward off the bow and it is generated from the tension of the limbs through the bowstring. Therefore, when purchasing arrows you need to know your draw weight so you can purchase the correct corresponding spine size for best performance. Limbs stiffness is determined by the amount of force, measured in pounds, required to draw the bow to a 28” draw length as outlined in the following Archery Trade Association (ATA) standard.

AMO BOW WEIGHT STANDARD

For Conventional Bows

Bow weight is the force required to draw the nocking point of the bow string a given distance from the pivot point of the bow grip (or the theoretical vertical projection of a tangency line to the pivot point parallel to the string). Draw length from pivot point shall be designated as DLPP and shall be referred to as TRUE

DRAW LENGTH.

For the purpose of uniform bow weight designation, bow weight is the force required to draw the bow string 26 1/4” from the pivot point. This weight will be marked on bow as being taken at 28” draw (26 1/4” plus 1 3/4” = 28”) See DRAW LENGTH STANDARD.

EXAMPLE: Weight Adjustment Range: 45/55 lbs. Weight Set At: 50 lbs.; Hold 32 lbs. Draw Length Range: 29” – 30”

EXPLANATION: The pivot point is a more realistic measuring point (when compared to the variations of profile of the back of bows at the handle section) for establishing bow weight since the pivot point is a constant in all bows as well as the contact point of the bow hand from which the true draw length is generated.

The 26 1/4” DLPP is the approximate equivalent of the 28” draw used previously on the more massive wooden handle bows.

Therefore, your draw weight is a combination of your draw length (See Arrow Series – Part 2 Measurements) and the combination of your riser (23” or 25”) and your limb stiffness (15#-50#).

For example, a 25” riser with a 34# long limb produces a 70” bow with a draw weight of 34 pounds at a 28” draw length.  If these same limbs were used on a 23” riser, the combination would produce a 68” bow with a draw weight of 36 pounds at a 28” draw length.

However, not everyone has 28” draw length, especially young archers whose draw length will change progressively with growth. So as a rule of thumb you can add or subtract approximately two pounds for each inch your draw length is over or under the 28” standard.

Using the previous example, if an archer has a 26” draw length and uses a 25” riser with 34# long limbs it will produce 30# of force at full draw OR uses the 23” riser with 34# long limbs it will produce 32#.

This is very important to select limbs that enable you to develop and compete however do not cause long-term physical damage. When purchasing limbs you need to determine if the limbs are too heavy, you can try this simple 7-second challenge.

7-second challenge

  1. Draw the bow to the anchor
  2. Hold seven seconds
  3. Let down without lowering your hands, stay in set-up position to take a 2 sec brake,
  4. Repeat several times.

If you cannot do it properly then the limbs are too heavy for you. If you find this challenge extremely easy, you can look at heavier poundage limbs, if you choose.

Now you understand draw weight and used in combination with your draw length you can see the arrows that match your equipment using a manufacturers arrow selection chart. In the up coming blogs we will try to examine the arrow spine, flex and stiffness.

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.

Adjusting your sights

As a recurve archer, your sight is a vital piece of your equipment. Recently, I had a request to do a blog about the anatomy of a sight and how to adjust it. Although every sight is different, they all have similar components. We will use the Cartel Mighty sight in this example.

A recurve sight is typically made of four components; the riser mount with knob, horizontal extension bar, vertical sight bar, and scope. The riser mount is used to attach the sight to the riser and the knob is used to hold one end of the horizontal extension bar. The vertical sight bar is mounted to the other end of horizontal extension bar with the scope attached to it.  The vertical sight bar and scope have thumb screws that are used to adjust and micro-adjust the scope in relationship to the target.

Most sights have three knobs, one to adjust the length of the horizontal extension bar, one to adjust the height of the scope and one to adjust the left/right location of scope. The latter two usually have both large and micro-adjustments available. When you are ready to start adjusting your sight, remember the simple rule, “Follow the arrow”. Check out my earlier blog called Follow the Arrow: Adjust your sights.

To adjust the length of the horizontal extension bar simply loosen the knob and extend it to the desired length and tighten the knob to secure it. The marks on the bar to help you remember the length so you can set it up again.

To make an adjustment of the vertical location of the scope, loosen the thumb screw fastener and either depress the thumb lever for a large move or turn the micro-knob for small adjustment. Once complete then tighten the thumb screw fastener to secure it.

To make a left or right adjustment of the scope, loosen the thumb screw fastener and either twist the scope in or out for a large change, or twist the tension knob for micro-adjustments and then tighten the thumb screw fastener to secure it.

Once you have adjusted your sight make sure to shoot several arrows to confirm your adjustments. Once you are satisfied with the results, record the location of the sight marks on the vertical sight bar. Remember as you grow, develop muscle and change equipment your sight marks will move. One trick is to add a thin piece of white tape over the sight marks. This allows you to adjust the markings without permanently damaging the sight itself.