Some tuning techniques for you!

 

 

Quick(ish) Tuning (for recurve and bare bow)

You can spend many hours tuning your bow, here is a very brief tuning checklist – the basic section won’t take too long, and then when you have more time, you can do the advanced list. There are a number of guides on the website, I have referred to the “Bow tuning tests” guide, which you can find on the ‘links’ page, or here.

This information comes from many sources, including videos and articles written by Jake Kaminski and Ashe Morgan, and tips directly from Jaime Adams and Richard Buckner.

Basic tuning

Probably a good idea to check these items every month.They should be done in the following order, as each affect the others.

 

Tiller

The purpose of adjusting the tiller is to ensure that top and bottom limbs are balanced and working in unison.(See figure 1-3 in tuning tests guide). Check your riser manual, otherwise use the following settings. Tiller is adjusted using the main limb bolts.

  • Measured from where the limb meets the riser to the string

  • If you shoot 2 fingers under, set bottom limb 3/8" closer to the string than top limb

  • If you shoot 3 fingers under, start with the tiller at 3/8" as above.

  • Barebow; if you intend to string walk (an advanced technique, used for field archery) set the tiller equal.

Brace height

The purpose of adjusting the brace height is to get maximum efficiency from the bow.(See figure 1-3 in tuning tests guide). Check your riser manual, otherwise use the following settings. Brace height is adjusted by adding or removing twists in the string.

 

  • Measured from button to string (or deepest part of handle to string)

  • Somewhere between 8" - 9.5", start with around 9” if unsure.

Nocking point

The purpose of adjusting the nocking point is to ensure good clearance as the arrow leaves the bow and to ensure a ‘straight’ shot to the target.

Measured using bracing gauge, attached to string, resting on arrow rest

  • Top of bottom nocking point (i.e. bottom of arrow) will be 4-6mm above perpendicular; start with 6mm if unsure

  • Barebow with string walking, set to 10mm above

Limb alignment & bow plane

Both of these settings ensure a ‘straight’ shot to the target (left & right). (See figure 1-2 in tuning tests guide).
 

Place arrow in bow, stand back, look at how string lines up with limbs, riser bolts, and ensure it is straight – with the string going down the centre of each limb, and through the centre of all limb bolts
 

  • Adjustment is done using the side bolts near each limb pocket
     

Next, check that the bow is ‘in plane’ – it is easiest to check this with a long rod attached (no v-bars).  When you stand behind the bow, looking at how the string lines up with the limbs and bolts, check that the long rod also lies behind the string.  If it is to one side, then both limbs need moving one way or the other by the same amount, to bring the long-rod into the same plane as the string and riser.
 

  • Adjustment is done using the side bolts near each limb pocket
     

Centre shot

Whilst keeping that picture, nock an arrow and see where tip of the arrow is in relation to string.
 

The arrow tip should be just to the outside of the string (away from the bow), adjust by moving the pressure button in or out

 

Button & Rest

 

The rest should be adjusted up or down so that the button touches the centre of the arrow shaft. 


Note that for barrelled shafts (e.g. x10), you should do this for the part of the arrow that is next to the button when at full draw, as this part is thinner than the part touching at brace height – this is the same for the centre shot.
 

Sight alignment

If shooting with sights, it is important that the side bar (the bit you move the sight up and down on) is vertical when you are shooting it.  If you hold the bow vertically (well done) then you need to ensure that the top and bottom of the bar are both set at the same distance from the riser.  If you happen to cant (tilt) your bow when shooting then you need to adjust the bar so that it is vertical – otherwise your sight marks will effectively move left and right as you move closer or further away from the target.  See advanced section for a tuning method.

Balance

A recurve bow when shot has a tendency for the top limb to travel backwards and hit you on the head. This is counteracted by adding weights to the bow.  When adding a long rod for recurve, ideally the balance point of the bow should be about an inch in front of the bow.  Barebow archers need to add flat weights (for competition, the unstrung bow needs to fit through a 12.2cm circle) which should result in a vertical balance point in the centre of the bow - which will result in the bow jumping forward after a shot - and jumping forward and down for a recurve.

Advanced

The following tests are only necessary (or possible) if you are able to consistently get nice tight arrow groups.  The order in which these are done is important, as it is possible to ‘false tune’ your bow by setting one thing badly and another thing badly to compensate.
 

The aim of this tuning is to match your bow to your arrows, and to ensure that your tune is as forgiving as possible, enabling you to shoot better groups regardless of your shot….well….you have to make good shots right?
 

A good order to carry these steps out is:
 

  1. Ensure you have followed a basic tune with:

    • Limbs/string in alignment

    • Tiller, brace height, nocking point, centre shot as above

    • Pressure button using medium spring, on medium setting

  2. Bare shaft tuning – rough check

  3. Centre shot tuning (walk back)

  4. Bare shaft tuning – final

  5. Centre shot tuning (walk back) – quick check

  6. Sight alignment

 

Bare shaft button tuning (and more accurate nocking point tuning)

This should be done at 18m and 30m (no more than 30m, no less than 15m).  If you only have 18m indoors, then you can do there, but it is good to check at another distance.
 

This is done before the centre shot check, just to ensure that your set-up is vaguely ok, and then after the centre shot to do it properly!
 

You should warm up first, shoot a dozen arrows or so, and be confident at shooting a good group at 30m.
 

Shoot normal arrows and bare shafts until a good group is obtained (it doesn’t matter where the group is on the target). If the bare shafts land outside the group, adjust as follows:

  • If bare shafts are low (a little low is good), move nocking point down

  • If bare shafts are high, move nocking point up

  • If bare shafts are right, the arrows are too weak (too stiff if left handed)

  • If bare shafts are left, the arrows are too stiff (too weak if left handed)

Note that if the bare shafts are high or low of the group, adjust the nocking point before continuing with left-right issues.


If the arrows are too weak, then you need to:

  • Lessen the poundage of your bow (unwind both limb bolts by the same amount)

  • Lengthen the arrow (tricky huh)

  • Use a heavier arrow point

  • Use different arrows!

If the arrows are too stiff, then you need to:

  • Increase the poundage of your bow (wind in both limb bolts by the same amount)

  • Shorten the arrow

  • Use a lighter arrow point

  • Use different arrows!


Many guides instruct changing the pressure button spring tension to change the characteristic of the arrow – and this can be done, but you are then masking the fact that the arrows and bow are not correctly in tune – and you then potentially end up with a very unforgiving set-up.  The spring should act as a ‘shock absorber’ to dampen down the affects of differing releases between shots.  If used as a way of forcing the amount of arrow flex, it loses the ability to dampen these.


Once you are happy with the bare shafts at one distance, move to the other distance and recheck – all should be ok at that distance too – if not, then there is a possibility that your arrows are badly mismatched to your bow.


When you are happy, adjust your sight so that the group is in the centre of the target.

Centre shot tuning (Walk back)

The position of the centre shot will affect where your arrows land at different distance (left or right).  Pin a large target face on backwards and use a spirit level or plumb bob to draw a line down the centre of the face.  Mark a large blob near the top of the line.

  1. Set your sight mark to 10m and stand 10m from the boss.

  2. Shoot a couple of arrows, aiming at the mark at the top of the line.They should hit this mark!

  3. Leaving your sight mark where it is, walk back to 20m, and aim at the same mark.The arrows should hit the line a bit further down

  4. Repeat at 30m, and 40m – if your boss is tall enough to allow you to hit the line (do not adjust your sight!)


Examine the arrow pattern:

  • Arrows in a straight line down target, all ok

  • Sloped down to left, move button in towards the riser (out if LH)

  • Sloped down to right, move button out away from the riser (in if LH)


Each time you make an adjustment, you will need to reshoot at 10m and then at your furthest distance (the ones in between aren’t really needed, but walking back the first time allows you to find the furthest distance where you still hit the boss!)
 

When you make changes, you are looking to get the arrows at 10m and your furthest distance above/below each other – for example they can both be a bit to the right of the actual line, as long as they are on the same vertical.  Once this is achieved, you should adjust your sight to get them both back to the line.  

Sight alignment

If you have a tendency to cant (tilt) your bow, you can get a perfect set-up using the methods above but you will find that your groups drift left or right on the longer distance targets w.r.t. groups at closer distances.  To fix this, you can adjust your sight bar to compensate, using the two bolts that fix it to the horizontal bar:

  1. Setup a blank face with a vertical line drawn on it.

  2. Stand 5m away from the boss

  3. Move your sight to the of your sight bar, shoot one or two arrows at a point near the of the line.

  4. Move your sight to the of your sight bar, shoot one or two arrows at a point near the of the line.


All arrows should land on or near the line.  If not:
 

  • If the top arrows are to the right of the bottom ones, you need to adjust your sight rod clockwise (looking from behind it)

  • If the top arrows are to the left of the bottom ones, you need to adjust your sight rod anti-clockwise (looking from behind it)

 

Fine tune brace height

Tricky this one – the ‘best’ bracing height is when the bow is shooting most efficiently, and at this point it is quietist

  • Listen to the shot.

  • Adjust bracing height up and down, by adding/removing twists to the string until the shot is quietest

 

Fine tune tiller

Two methods:

  1. Come to full draw and have someone take a photo from the side.  Use a protractor on the picture to check that the limb tips are at the same angle when the mid-line of the protractor is in line with the arrow.

  2. At 10m, come to pre-draw, place sight on gold.  Draw whilst watching sight.

    • If you notice sight drifts up, increase tiller (tighten bottom limb)

    • If you notice sight drifts down, decrease tiller (loosen bottom limb)
       

This needs to be done when you have the range to yourself!  Start at a 40m target, stand 5m from boss, aim at the top centre of the target, shoot one or two arrows, then move back in 5m intervals and shoot at same point.  The arrows will land lower down the target as you move back. 

Examine the arrow pattern:

  • Arrows in a straight line down target, all ok

  • Sloped down to left, reduce spring tension (increase if LH)

  • Sloped down to right, increase spring tension (decrease if LH)

  • Curved to left, move button in (out for LH)

  • Curved to right, move button out (in for LH)

 

Quick(ish) Tuning (for compound)

Unlike the other bow types referenced here, compound bows remain strung all the time.  As such, once setup up, they remain that way as they are not subjected to repeated assembly/disassembly each time you have a shooting session

 

However, there are still things that can be tuned, but the type of tuning that can be undertaken is largely determined by what can be adjusted without needing to unstring the bow using a bow press.

 

Tuning without a bow press

Nocking point

The purpose of adjusting the nocking point is to ensure good clearance as the arrow leaves the bow and to ensure a ‘straight’ shot to the target.

 

  • Measured using bracing gauge, attached to string, resting on arrow rest

  • Top of bottom nock will be approximately 4-6mm above perpendicular, however most manufacturers will have a recommended nocking point which should be used as a default/starting position.

 

Centre shot & vertical alignment

This setting ensures a ‘straight’ shot to the target (left to right).

  • Place arrow in bow, stand back, look at how string lines up with the back of the riser.  Many risers have threaded holes for the mounting of weights or rods. Adjust your view to align the string with the centre of these bolt holes.

  • Whilst keeping that picture, see where tip of the arrow is in relation to string.

  • Arrow tip should be inline the string.If the arrow tip is to the left/right, adjust by moving the arrow rest/launcher laterally to achieve the centre shot.

  • With the arrow still on the string and rest, from the side of the bow, look to see where the arrow shaft is in relation to the berger hole (the hole where on a recurve the plunger button would be inserted).

  • Ideally the arrow shaft should be central to this hole.  If it is too high/low, adjust the height of the arrow rest/launcher to adjust.
     

 

Peep Sight Height

Getting the correct peep sight height is crucial to maintaining a good shooting form.  A peep sight position that is too low/high will cause you to lean into/away from the string to be able to look through the peep. To adjust you will need a friendly archer to help.

 

  • Stand 5-10 yards in from of a boss.  Your helper should be stood on the shooting line with you as if they were shooting (i.e. feet either side of the shooting line.) but facing you. They should NOT be stood in front of you!!

  • Set yourself up ready to draw your bow.

  • Raise your bow, close your eyes, and draw your bow and get settled at your anchor position, ensuring you are up straight (in a good shooting position).  Your helper should note where the peep is in relation to your (closed) eyes.  Ideally the peep should be at the same level as your eyes when at full draw.  If it’s too high or too low it needs adjusting.

  • Do not fire the bow.  Open your eyes and come down safely.

  • You should now be able to adjust your peep sight by sliding it up/down the string a little too get it in to the correct position.

  • Repeat the above until the peep is set correctly.

You may find that after moving the peep up/down a little that it has rotated a bit.  A gentle twist in the string will often correct this.  If this is not the case, the peep will need re-seating in the string, which will require the bow to the pressed.
 

 

Tuning with a bow press

Making any adjustment that requires the use of a bow press should be done with extreme caution.  Compound bows are under a phenomenal amount of tension which can result in explosive and dangerous failures if they are not pressed correctly.  For the sake of safety, we will not discuss the detail of pressing a bow in this guide.  For details on how to press your bow please refer to your bow manufacturer’s instructions, or better still, take it to a reputable bow shop to be pressed.

 

As compound bows come in such a wide range of configurations:

 

  • Cam types: binary, single, hybrid, no-cam

  • Limbs: single/solid or split limb, parallel, beyond parallel

  • Control cables, buss cables, yolks  

 

It is not viable to describe how to tune each configuration. However, the types of tuning that may be performed include:

  • Cam timing – Like the tiller on a recurve, this ensures that the top and bottom limbs are working in unison.

  • Cam Lean – Ensuring that the cams are in line with the string and not leaning over to one side or the other.

  • Cable Guard – ensuring sufficient clearance between the arrow and the buss/control cables.

To make these types of adjustments it is strongly advised to seek the advice of a seasoned compound bow archer and/or a pro-shop.