By Shane Chuning
As archers, we owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be in this sport. Whether you are a target shooter or a bowhunter, we all have the same goals in mind; and that is to aim small, miss small. We are all striving for the best, most consistent groups we can achieve.
Now some of us might fall short, not due to our own ability, but due to our overall bow setup. Some of the things that might be hindering you would be arrow selection or spine of the arrow, incorrect draw length, form, overall tune of the bow in general and lastly grip. When these things are implemented correctly, you will take an average tune into a super tune and it will yield you some amazing results. In this article, I will take you through my step-by-step procedure of how I tune my own bow as well as many others from across the country.
Some might say I already have a great bow shop; they tune my bow well for me and that is a great thing to have. I am all for supporting your local bow shops; they are definitely needed and should be supported. However, let me give you an example. You have local gun stores that are not necessarily a gunsmith and they aren’t able to customize your firearm for optimal accuracy. The same holds true with archery. There are lots of great shops across the country, but very few people that will go in depth with a bow tune to gain the most forgiveness and accuracy out of a bow. Lets dive into this a little to see how you might be able to improve on your over-all forgiveness with a given bow, as well as your accuracy down range.
First and foremost is your arrow selection. This is best determined by computer programs like Ontarget2, Archers Advantage or TAP. These programs give you a very good starting base for your arrow selection, more so than what you get behind the back of an arrow box. These programs are very price friendly and worth every penny. In the case you don’t have that option and are relying on the manufacture’s arrow boxes, when in doubt choose the next stiffest option when choosing an arrow. I have never had an arrow too stiff that it would not tune properly. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for a weak spine arrow. You will be doing yourself a favor by choosing your foundation wisely to start your tuning process and that begins with your arrow selection.
Now let’s touch base on draw length, which is critical to overall accuracy. The biggest issue I see with draw length is being too long for the most part. Lots of folks are still after the most speed they can get out of a bow and this is a bad way to go about it. Humble yourself and be fitted for your proper draw length despite a possible speed decrease. Your end result will be better accuracy and in return better placed shots on animals you are trying to pursue. What I find to be a very close method is, while in the wingspan position, have someone measure from the center of your chest to where your arm meets your hand. This will generally put you very close to your actual draw length.
Let’s now transition into the tuning aspect of things. This type of tuning would only be recommended for those that have the basic fundamentals down, as well as a decent overall knowledge of traditional tuning methods such as paper, french/walkback and bareshaft. I have utilized all these methods for years and by far the most advanced of them all is bareshaft tuning. In the past I have done this from time to time, but not to the extent I presently do it now. Every bow I get in for tuning I personally tune this way. The end results are very satisfied customers that have a way more forgiving/accurate bow.
Let’s assume you have the basics down and all your preliminary setup is good or within reason. The goal is to have a bareshaft and fletched arrow fly the same at 20 yards. When doing this, it should also have perfect entry into the target, equaling your fletched shaft. This entry is critical to your end results and you need to be very picky at determining this. I take one bareshaft and one fletched shaft and fire away at 10 yards while aiming at the exact same spot and then I assess my results. When I am nock left bareshaft right, I will twist the left side of my yoke – How much depends on the results. Now if I was bareshaft left nock right in relation to my fletched, I would add twist to the right side of my yoke. On a side note, you have to maintain the balance of cam synch, so sometimes whatever you do to one side of the yoke you will need to do to the opposite so cam synch stays the same. Once your entry of bareshaft is exactly the same as your fletched at 10 yards, you would repeat this all over again at 20 yards and then make the same adjustments accordingly.
One major factor in all of this coming together is your grip. The slightest rotation of your knuckles to the target or knuckles away is key to finding that sweet spot in regards to grip pressure. While at the 10 yard exercise, I encourage you to rotate your knuckles slightly towards the target and release a bareshaft, assess the impact and angle at entry. Then do another with knuckles having a slight rotation away from target and more back towards you and release the bareshaft. Again, assess the entry and one will more than likely be straighter on entry into the target than the other. This is a great way to determine which grip rotation your particular bow will require.
Now the rotation is very subtle in nature and if you were to look at my grip you might not even notice there was a change. I can’t stress grip enough, it is very much overlooked and a key factor at getting the most out of your tune, overall accuracy and forgiveness of your bow. Another way to put it would be your index finger knuckle towards the target; this would give you more thumb side pressure. The index finger knuckle, back towards you slightly, would give you less thumb side pressure at the grip. These changes are slight, so I can’t stress that enough.
Now that you are looking good at 10 yards, let’s go back to 20 and see the results. Say at 20 yards you are nock left, bareshaft right a couple inches from your fletched shaft. You can do a couple of things to try and correct this. One is to go back to my reference on grip and see if it improves your impact with bareshaft before you make adjustments. Now if that doesn’t give you that perfect entry with a bareshaft you would need to add a half a twist to the left side yoke and reassess your results, repeating prior procedures as necessary. Let’s say you have bareshafts perfect with fletched from left to right, but are high with them upon impact at 20 yards. You can do one of two things to correct this. One would be to lower your rest and the other to advance your top cam, in reference to a hybrid cam bow. Tuning is all about balance and you don’t want one thing too far out of that balance.
So keep in mind where your nocking point is. If you are already 1/8” nock high you would want to look into top cam advancement vs. lowering your rest even more. To do this you would untwist your control cable or add equal twist to your yokes and then recheck your results and repeat if necessary. Most still think that you would adjust cam synch on a hybrid cam to hit the same at full draw, but this is generally not the case to gain the most out of your accuracy and forgiveness down range. I would even say that 90% of the time you are better off having some slight top cam advancement, meaning top cam is hitting before the bottom at full draw. A good rule of thumb is no more than a strong 1/8” before the bottom. When everything is in that balance, your long range groups will shrink from a vertical standpoint quite a bit, not to mention your groups from a lateral standpoint shrinking from proper grip/grip pressure as well as fine tuning your yoke with a bareshaft as I mentioned early in the article.
These methods will have a huge impact on your ability to find that extra forgiveness and accuracy you are trying to achieve with a bow. Some of this stuff is advanced and not recommend for those new into the sport. For others that might want to up their game and shrink those group sizes, these are definitely a few things that will do that. In some cases I would even say it could cut your group sizes in half when you get these things dialed in. There is a lot of info that goes into keeping that tune in balance, not to mention all the different circumstances of each make and model of bow. Please feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com with any questions regarding the tuning services I offer as well as the DIY guys wanting to tackle this on their own. I will be more than happy to answer your questions.