Frequently Asked Questions – Updated for the 2nd Edition 2/25/10
Q. Where can I find a range or archery club?
A. Start with the Yellow or White Pages. Most clubs or ranges are listed. Try local sporting
goods stores that sell archery equipment; they should know where it’s being used. You can
also try Internet searches on “Archery Club, <your state or province>”.
Q. Is my vintage bow safe to shoot?
A. Depends on what you mean by vintage. Laminated bows from the 1960’s and 70’s, if
showing no signs of failure or damage, yes. Older self bows need to be inspected very
carefully and any metal-limbed bow should be considered a wall hanging.
Q. How much is my <vintage bow> worth?
A. No idea – The monetary value of any object is determined by what someone is willing to
pay for it. Sentimental value really can’t be assessed, except by the owner or prospective
owner. The best way to find out the market value of a given bow is to do several eBay
searches on similar models over several weeks and note the final prices.
Q. What brace height should I use for my <fill in the blank> bow?
A. If your bow has an AMO length on it, buying an AMO string of the same length should give
you the manufacturer’s recommended brace height. Other than that, longbow brace heights
can range anywhere from 6” to 8”, recurves 64”
and under usually 7” to 8.5”, and recurves
over 66”, 8” to 9.5” or as much as 12”. Beyond that,
it has to remain trial and error,
depending on the string material, type of arrow and shooting style.
Q. What’s the greatest factor in making a bow shoot fast(er)?
A. Use the lightest arrow possible. However, the arrow must be of sufficient weight to handle
the energy of the bow. Most modern bows can handle arrows weighing eight to ten grains
per pound of draw weight. Some target bows can handle arrows as light as seven grains per
pound and most vintage bows should be in the nine to ten pound range as a minimum.
Going below those values is tantamount to dry-firing the bow and will ultimately result in limb
or riser failure. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer or bowyer for his recommendations. If
that’s not possible, stay in the nine to ten grains per pound range.
Q. Who makes the best <fill in the blank> bow?
A. Anyone attempting to answer that question simply hasn’t tried enough bows to venture an
opinion. There’s a big difference between “What’s the best bow” and “
What’s the best bow I’
ve shot”. Also, the best bow for your friend may not be the best bow for you!
Q. What’s the difference between a hunting bow and a target bow?
A. The length, and usually the draw weight, but there is always overlap. Target bows may
have additional inserts for stabilizers and target accessories like plungers and clickers. Many
so-called target bows make excellent hunting bows with little modification.
Q. Can I use a Fast Flight (FF) String on my bow?
A. Only if the bowyer or manufacturer states that the bow is FF capable or compatible. Most
bows show only a modest gain in speed (5 to 10 feet per second) when switching from B-50
Dacron to Fast Flight or similar low stretch material. Using a FF string on a bow not designed
for low stretch materials can result in catastrophic failure.
Q. I’m new to shooting stickbows, should I start with a recurve or longbow?
A. First and foremost is what type of bow you’ll be most happy with. If you’re unhappy or
dissatisfied with it, you’re not going to shoot it. Most first time shooters are better off starting
with a recurve. The contoured grip and heavier mass of the riser makes consistency easier
to attain. Typically, entry-level recurves will shoot faster and have less hand shock than
entry-level longbows. Recurves are also usually easier to tune for new shooters.
Q. What is the difference between a custom and a factory or “production” bow?
A. That’s not an easy question to answer, for several reasons. There are custom bowyers
who produce boilerplate bows with a few options and call them “custom” and there are
“production” bow manufacturers who will customize a bow to the buyer’s specifications.
Typically, a custom bow might have a better fit and finish than a factory bow, unless of
course the custom bowyer was having a bad day and missed an error or two. People are
human, so mistakes happen. Similarly, a factory’s Quality Assurance people may also have
had a bad day and just let one ship out that probably shouldn’t have left the plant.
It’s rare that a custom bowyer, usually a “mom and pop” type operation,
will have the same R
and D (Research and Development) facilities (or finances) as the major archery
manufacturers, but there are exceptions.
Q. Will a custom bow shoot better than a factory bow?
A. Depends on what you mean by “shoot better”. In addition to the last part of the previous
answer, I think we’ve shown throughout this book that the equipment isn’t the weakest link in
the shooting system. A custom bow will not turn a mediocre shooter into a stellar performer
over night. However, if the custom bow fits the shooter better and instills more confidence
than a production bow, then there might be an improvement. Remember just about all
Olympic bows are “production” bows.
Q Will a bow tillered for split finger shooting be usable if I switch to shooting three under?
A. The answer is YES, unless the bow is very short or the bowyer mistakenly tillered the
limbs too far in one direction or the other. Since nocking point placement is a function of
tiller, typically all that is required is a slight nocking point adjustment.
Q. I’m shooting carbon arrows, but they seem too light; can I stuff
something into the shaft to
A. Quite a few people do, but it’s a pretty bad idea, for a lot of reasons. The two main
reasons for using carbon arrows in the first place are durability and speed. I think we’ve
dispelled the durability factor in the section on arrow materials; their extreme speed is due to
their low weight, compared to wood and most aluminum shafts. So, the first reason is that it
negates one of the reasons that you bought carbon arrows in the first place. Second, is that
almost anything you put inside an arrow will move around during the shot. That can wreak
havoc with spine and FOC.
Some carbon arrow manufacturers sell weighted tubes that glue onto the back of the pile
insert. While this too will soften the spine somewhat, it’s a known and consistent amount, and
since carbon arrows are stiffer and more resilient than other shaft materials, it’s usually not
too great a concern.
The best answer is always to buy the right arrows with respect to spine and weight in the first
Q. I get the best arrow flight from my 45# bow using 2219s an inch longer than my draw
length; is this OK?
A. If you’re satisfied with the performance, sure. However, it’s a pretty good indication that
something is very wrong with your equipment or technique (shooting or tuning technique). As
we said earlier, most bows can be tuned to accept a number of different arrow spines; some
will be less than optimal. If your bow seems to require an arrow that much over-spined, either
the bow has been tuned too close to center shot, the brace height is way too high and/or
there is something very wrong with your release and follow-through.
Q. Why is it that I can get a better release from a heavier bow than from a lighter one?
A. It usually means you have not really learned to relax your drawing hand and let the string
escape cleanly. With a heavier bow, the string pulls out of your fingers faster and helps to
mask some release errors. Therefore it doesn’t make your release “better”; it makes it
easier. The benefits of an easier release have to be weighed against the problems that
might be encountered by using too heavy a bow.
Q. I’ve just switched from a B-50 (Dacron) string to a Fast Flight (type) string on a FF
capable bow. Will I need to buy new arrows?
A. Maybe; at the very least you’ll need to retune the bow. Arrow spine is a function of limb
acceleration and offset from center shot. By going to a lighter weight string, limb acceleration
should have increased. If your arrows were marginally weak in the first place, the new string
may be enough to push them over their spine limit. You may also find that you’ll need to alter
the brace height to keep the bow quiet and free from hand shock.
Q. What’s the difference between a left wing and a right wing feather? Should a right-handed
shooter use one or the other?
A. Left wing feathers come from the left side of the turkey or goose and right wing come from
the right side. Either will stabilize an arrow equally well for both right and left-handed
shooters. If you have a dedicated left or right-handed fletching jig, you’ll have to use the
Q. I’ve heard that shooting off the shelf is better if you’re an instinctive shooter, because it
gets the arrow closer to your hand. Is that true?
A. It would be true if you aimed an arrow by pointing your finger, but you don’t. “Instinctive
shooting” still uses the arrow as part of a larger “sight picture”, so the arrow’s distance from
your hand is irrelevant as a means of aiming.
Q. Does a bowhunter need to tune a bow the same way a target archer does?
A. The techniques may be slightly different, but the need is the same. Not only does it
ensure the best possible arrow flight and accuracy, but it has been demonstrated to increase
arrow penetration into game by virtue of less energy being lost during paradox and on
Q. Is there a difference between practicing and shooting?
A. As I have stated, “It’s very difficult, if not impossible to focus on the target and on shooting
form at the same time.” That presents us with a fundamental difference between practicing
When we are practicing we need to do so with a purpose and that purpose must be specific.
We may be practicing getting our bow hand in the same position every time, our follow-
through consistent, our timing pattern set or aiming technique refined. Our focus is on the
specific action and not the target. When we are shooting, the purpose is to hit the center of
the target; be it to achieve a certain score or to put meat on the table.
Q. I always hit my anchor, sometimes only for a split second. Does that mean my form is
A. Depends on what you’ll accept as “OK”.
Without a solid and sustained anchor (even for a
fraction of a second), there’s no way of telling whether you released the string before, during
or after your anchor, or more accurately, your “touch point” was reached. Also, even a
consistent anchor (point) doesn’t guarantee that you’re aligning your shoulders correctly or
even reaching a full or consistent draw length.
Q. What is the secret to accurate shooting?
A. That’s an easy one! Do as little work as possible. Once you understand what that means,
you’ll have figured out how to play this game!