Compound barebow explained in the latest Ask the Experts

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Q: Can you explain more about the discipline of Compound Barebow? I prefer the simplicity of shooting a compound bow with a finger tab, no peep and no magnifying sight. I feel the technological developments in compound bows are an intrusion to the rural experience of field archery but I find the anchor point and let-off of a compound much easier to shoot than a recurve.
Lawrence Nicholson

Ever thought about losing the release and trying something else? 

A: As technology has moved on bows have become more accurate and none more so than the compound. The often complex range of accessories and tuning methods have allowed compound archers to achieve scores that would have been unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago.

While these advances have no doubt pushed the discipline to new levels of accuracy they have brought with them a new set of challenges; not only do compound archers need to perfect their form they now need to be competent technicians, as technology only works well when it is correctly set up.

For some, this new hi-tech form of archery can leave them feeling detached from the basic skill of shooting an arrow and hitting their mark. Luckily archery is a diverse sport and with multiple disciplines and bow styles to choose from you’ll always be able to find one to suit your individual interests.  

Like other bow styles, compound archers have a choice of what accessories to add to their bow and there are various competition categories of compound shooting dependent on which equipment you use.

Compound Unlimited archers have the advantage of using every accessory and technology available to them, though World Archery restricts anything electrical. Compound Limited uses both pin and peep sights and full stabilisation, though it restricts magnifying lenses and release aids.

The style of compound shooting you have described is compound barebow; this is where the bow is shot off the fingers with no sighting aids, only an arrow rest and a short front stabiliser no longer than 12” are permitted.

This style of compound is a perfect option for those looking for the challenge of traditional archery but with the benefits of a higher draw weight and lower holding weight. 

Compound barebow is less popular with target archers and is often not recognised as a separate category in World Archery tournaments; all compound archers no matter what accessories they choose to use must compete alongside each other, which obviously put some at a disadvantage.

But compound barebow does have a strong following amongst field archers, especially in IFAA governed clubs where they regularly cater for different categories and bow styles. For those who choose to compete indoors during the winter there are several tournaments that offer a separate category for compound barebows, amongst them the world-renowned Vegas Shoot.

Shooting under NFAA rules, compound barebows can compete in the Barebow Championship division, dreams of being crowned Vegas champion aren’t exclusive to the unlimited class of compound archery.

As the bow is shot off your fingers I would recommend you choose a compound with a longer axle to axle length, this will give you a more comfortable string angle as it will reduce the pinch on your fingers and potentially your arrow.

It would be advisable to choose an arrow rest that is designed to be used by finger shooters, this will ensure your arrow stays on the bow and is correctly supported during the shot. It doesn’t need to be complicated; a simple stick-on springy or flipper rest will work fine.

Whether or not you choose to use a front stabiliser will be down to personal preference, although it would be worth trying one out as they can make the bow feel much more comfortable to shoot, especially on release.

As with any discipline it is always worth checking out the rules on what kit can be used and how it should be set up. Different governing bodies have their own set of rules on what you can and cannot use on your bow, these can usually be found on their websites under the rules of shooting. 

As with any style or discipline of archery the most important thing is to ensure you are having fun and following your passion for the sport wherever it may lead you.

Archery is one of the most inclusive sports you’ll find so there’s no reason not shoot with whatever equipment you’re most comfortable using.
Duncan Busby

Q: My limbs seem twisted, but I’m not sure. I’ve tried to line things up but it’s difficult to be sure exactly whether it’s the riser or the limbs? Can carbon limbs twist anyway? Does it matter?

A: Recurve limbs regardless of the different cores, wood, foam or carbon can start to take a twist if they are not looked after correctly. The two most common reasons why limbs can start to take a twist are because they not set up correctly in the riser and/or the bottom limb is rested on the ground with the bow strung for long periods of time. 

Bows left in hot cars, strung with a limb wedged under a seat or the floor can also start to twist. So it is important to always store a strung bow on a stand or somewhere where the limbs have no external pressure on them.

In my experience, regardless of price it is very rare for any limbs to leave the factory twisted, but they are all made to varying manufacturing tolerances, so they are not always 100% straight.

Sighting the bow to check for limb tip 

A twisted limb is one that just by holding and looking at it you can clearly see that the limb tip is out of line. Many archers wrongly assume that a limb is twisted because after setting a bow up with Beiter limb gauges and getting the string to run through the centre of the riser limb bolts they notice that the string no longer sits centrally in the limb string grooves.  This common set up procedure is not fool proof and assumes that both the limbs and riser are perfectly straight, regardless of how much they cost.

A better check to make sure your limb tips are sitting straight. This does not require any tools apart from a good eye. Hold the bow as in the pic [right] and look straight down the string, ignoring the bow, then look at the relationship of the shoulders of the limb tip closest to you, ‘superimpose’ this image onto the front of the same limb and they should be sitting centrally.

You will clearly see if the limb tips are sitting straight, or are bending over to the left or right, if the tips are not central, then make the necessary limb pocket adjustments on the riser, usually done with an allen key or shims. (It is worth doing this with an experienced archer if it’s your first go.) If you run out of adjustment then there may be a need to contact your supplier.

Alignment is best checked with an upright bow stand – although the back of a chair will do. 

Sometimes it is not the limbs that are twisted but the riser, which again might not be 100% true, but still within manufacturers tolerances. This is the real reason why risers have limb pocket adjustments, which will ensure that the string runs through the centre of each limb and the limbs will unfold and close nice and straight, but in making the correct adjustments you may find that the string no longer runs through the exact centre of each limb bolt. 

Other reasons why a limb might appear twisted and not straight in the riser could be down to how the limb butt is resting in the limb pocket, an uneven paint finish or too much lacquer on the limb can put the limb out of true.

Telltale signs are uneven marks in the limb pockets or on the limb butts. Top archers will make many adjustments, by filing or adding material to the limb pocket to get the limbs fitting perfectly straight.

In the past I have seen thin slivers of a Pepsi can glued to the limb pocket edges to keep everything in line – not something top sponsored archers readily share on social media. But these types of modifications should be left to those that really know what they are doing.

For most club archers the normal limb pocket adjustments will be sufficient to allow you to shoot a straight bow. In the end the most important goal is that the limb tips open and close straight, this will make the bow accurate and efficient and a base from which you can confidently finish your bow set up. There are examples of Olympic gold medals being won with bows where either the riser or limbs were not 100% straight. 
Andrew Smith

Q: What does it mean to have ‘two circles’ to aim with? In the article in Bow 140 magazine relating to ‘What’s on Your Bow’, can you clarify for me what is meant by Bryony when she says, “I now have two circles to aim with”? Am I right in thinking she is saying that with the aperture rings of different sizes, that this is classed as the 1st ring and the second being the Halo Lens? I am saving up for the same Shred Flex Scope and found it really interesting regarding the lens, whereby there is no distortion and the fact I wear glasses. Many thank for your time which is appreciated.
Christine C. Hall

Bryony Pitman’s setup. 

A: It is because I’ve now got two different sized rings (one being the actual scope, and one being the halo lens), I can subconsciously line up both with the circles on the target, which I’ve found has made me more accurate without having to focus more on aiming.
Bryony Pitman

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