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.

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.

Rules of Archery

After I started to get some success in archery, my extended family started to take an interest in the sports even though they did not understand the rules; so they often ask me “what are the rules of archery?”  The answer depends on governing body of the tournament and the specific rules will depend on many factors including bow type, type of tournament, archer age and archer sex.

There are many governing bodies such as FITA, NFAA, OAA, etc… however the primary one is World Archery Federation which was formerly known as FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc) which was formed in 1931 in Poland.

Its seven founding member states were France, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Poland, United States, Hungary, and Italy. The aim of the organization was to create regular archery championships, and to return archery to the Olympic Games (the sport had not been featured since 1920). FITA was finally successful in returning archery to the Olympic program in the 1972 Summer Olympics.

FITA began holding Target World Championships in 1931. They were held every year until 1959, when the Championships became biennial events. 1959 was also the first year that FITA held the World Field Championship. Wikipedia

Personally, I started shooting indoor target tournaments using FITA rules. I remember the first time I decided to try a field tournament, I asked my coach Larry Smith for advice and what to expect. He simply said “Jordan, shoot the X, no matter the target tournament just shoot the “X”.

If you are deciding to participate in various competitions it is important to remember, it is the responsibility of the archer to know the rules for that tournament. Most archers will not “intentionally” give you incorrect information, however if you make a mistake, like shoot the wrong target, you are the one who suffers not them, therefore you need to advocate for yourself. Even at international competitions, it is the responsibility of the archer, not the coach to know and understand the rules. Officials will often help if you politely ask a question, and are far more understanding to juniors since they are considered new to international rules.

If you are planning to participate in archery tournaments familiarize yourself with the rules of that type of tournament. Rules for various governing bodies are available on their website. Check out my Links page for shortcuts to World Archery Federation, National Field Archery Association, International Field Archery Association, Federation of Canadian Archers and Ontario Association of Archers