So You Want to be an Archer: Intermediate Level Gears

With the equipment discussed in the last part of our SYWTBA series, Beginner’s Introduction to Gears, we have completed the so-called barebow recurve set-up. This set-up, despite the connotation of the name, is by its own right a recognized archery discipline. By virtue of being a college club, we here at Trojan Archery are also interested in providing resources for those who shoot in the other recurve discipline, Olympic recurve. To that end, we present now a short discussion of “intermediate” gears that are the essential differences between the Olympic and barebow recurve disciplines. Note that all photos below were obtained via Lancaster Archery Supplier website.

  • Sight: Arguably the most important piece of additional equipment on an Olympic recurve bow relative to a barebow. The sight is composed of three parts: mounting bar, windage unit, and aperture. The aperture itself is the sight window that is used to visually line up a shot. Most sight comes with their own stock aperture, though it is common for individual archers to try out different apertures and select one that is to their liking. Apertures tend to come with either an open window or one with a pin or dot sight. Fluorescent plastic rods are often used as the sight pin to improve visibility. The mounting bar and windage unit work together to allow the aperture to be properly attached to the bow and control the positioning of the sight window of the aperture relative to the archer’s reference points when at holding. There are, like most other pieces of archery equipment, a broad distribution of prices for sights. In general, when paying more for sights you are paying for improvements in their precision of adjustment, material weight, and resistance to acoustic vibrations (i.e. how well the parts of the sight stays screwed in after each shots).

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  • Stablizers, v-bars: The stabilizer is a long rod mounted in front of the riser (ironically called the back of the bow in official parlance, because of reasons) right below the shelf of the bow. V-bars (also referred to as side rods) are shorter rods that are mounted at the same point as the stabilizer–a specialized vbar mount is needed–and points to either side of the bow. A pair of such side rods forms a v-shape when mounted, hence the name. Though we list them here as a set, v-bars are often considered non-essential and is added on as needed by the archer; the front stabilizer rod is considered to be a standard part of an Olympic recurve set-up. Though this entry appears to be two different pieces of gear, the parts together serve as the weight redistribution system of for your bow.
    By allowing archers to distribute additional weights around their bow hand–the pivot point for the bow during holding–the stabilizer systems allows archers to steady their bow during draw and at holding. A crude approximation and some free body diagrams (because physics haunts all archers’ dreams to some extent) will show that the long rod makes the bow more stable in in the plane of the target, and the side rods make the bow more rotationally stable along the axis of the bow arm. Though stabilizer systems are not allowed for barebow shooters, weights can be attached directly to barebows in competition to affect similar stabilization.

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  • Finger sling: The use of the finger sling is predicated by the central dogma of repetitive motion sport: remove as many variables as possible. To that end, the very act of gripping the bow and holding it through the entire shot process is considered to be too variable. Thus, Olympic recurve archers–and for that matter compound shooters as well–have opted to forgo physically gripping the bow when they shoot, opting instead to let the bow fly free of their hand upon releasing the arrow. However, recall that archery equipment is expensive; thus the finger sling was introduced to prevent all that expensive archery gear from colliding with the ground. The finger sling is a loop of string worn on the bow hand to act as a barrier and “catch” the bow mid flight. The combination of forward weight distribution caused by the front stabilizer and the presence of the finger sling is the source of the highly characteristic bow drop/swing that is a part of the follow-through motion for Olympic recurve.

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  • Draw length checker (Clickers): A small flexible bar that is used to clamp the arrow and measure when the draw has reached a certain point. The set-up of the clicker allows the archer to tell–usually through an audible clicking sound resulting from the arrow being drawn pass the clicker–when they have reached a certain draw length. This is typically useful when trying to make all your shots consistent. However, the utility of this piece of equipment is sometimes suspect since it is easy to cheat your way through the clicker. As such, proper use of a draw length checker is contingent on the archer already having decent shooting form and back tension. In those cases, the draw length checker works as intended and tells the archer when they have–with good back tension and form–attained a certain draw length.

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