Stabilisers made easy

The last few years has seen in a dramatic change in compound stabilisation, certainly the biggest I have noticed in my sixteen years of shooting. You will have seen multiple articles, YouTube clips and other marketing trying to push forward this new theory of a “balanced” stabilisation system. You will notice, though, that a number of top archers have not embraced this change, instead opting for what I will call a “resistance” stabilisation system. The aim in this article is to explain the two different types of system… and test both out!


A balance system keeps the rear rod backwards

A balance system keeps the rear rod backwards

Balanced system

This system aims to create a perfect-aiming bow where the rig is balanced through every axis to give the easiest hold possible. A general set-up would look something like a 30in front bar with 4oz of weight at the tip – and a 12in rear bar, angled down slightly and tucked tightly into the bow, with 10oz of weight on the tip. This system is probably used to best effect by international shooters Jesse Broadwater and Levi Morgan.




Resistance system

A resistance stabiliser setup has the short rod angled out sideways

A resistance stabiliser setup has the short rod angled out sideways

This system looks to give a downward pull through the target, and therefore needs constant resistance from your shooting form to maintain good hold on the target, however the reaction of the bow upon release is far more consistent. A general set-up would look like the one in the picture , which shows a 32in forward bar with 8oz of weight on the tip, and a 10in side bar that has been swung out wide, with 8oz on the tip. The resistance system is best demonstrated by Dave Cousins – and it’s also the set-up I tend to use.


The test

In order to test these two systems I set up two Mathews Apex 8 bows identically in every way, with the exception of each’s stabilising system. The black bow had the resistance system while the gold bow had the balanced system. I had a spare week in my calendar where I knew I would be at home with time to train for six straight days – and the training culminated in a Sunday tournament: A double FITA 720 round in Shropshire. My plan for the testing was to shoot at least six FITA 720 rounds with each set-up in practice – and then at the tournament on the Sunday shoot one round with each. I felt that this would give a good overall test of the two set-ups and should allow me to compare their average score.

On the Monday morning I had almost perfect weather so I spent the whole morning setting the two systems up and getting the hold and bow reaction as impressive as possible by making minor adjustments to the end weights. I then set about scoring in the afternoon.

For the rest of the week I then continued to shoot FITA 720 rounds with each set-up, some of them in the wind and some in the calm (giving a good, fair cross-section of shooting conditions). I also switched around which system I used first to try and avoid the results being tainted by my fatigue. By Sunday afternoon my testing was complete and I was able to go home and calculate my averages for the two systems; the results are shown in the table.

Test results

The points show a four-point lead for the resistance system – but, more importantly, on the day of tournament where high performance was more relevant the resistance system completely destroyed the balanced system. And I’d note that the 705, which I shot in the afternoon, was in windier conditions than the previous 693!

The numbers speak for themselves – and actually made me re-evaulate my position on stabilisers. The balanced system is certainly more comfortable to shoot, aims much more steadily on the target and tires me out less during the course of a round.

The resistance system, while more difficult to use, was significantly more forgiving. When I made a bad shot, I was often clipping 10s while that same mistake with the balanced system often resulted in an eight.

Around 75 per cent of the time the balanced system shot a better inner group, but almost every end I would have one arrow get away into the nine or eight. The groups, while a little looser with the resistance system, did not have these problems. It really shocked me how many times I went to look in my scope dreading to see a wide nine or eight only to spot a solid ten.


The theory 

A balanced system is like a seesaw: If the force is even on all sides then the object will balance and aim still. Over the years I have seen a number of people pick up their bow and at brace height try and find the balance point on their hand.

It’s pointless: You don’t shoot the bow from brace height, and the balance changes completely. How can you balance a static bow to set your stabilisation when the very nature of your shot requires constant movment? And that explains those fliers: If that movement is always consistent in its execution the balance works well, but if it’s even slightly different (and I’m talking about back execution and grip on the riser here) then it’s easy to push the arrows off in other directions.

The resistance system, however, has created a bias to the bow: The set-up is being pulled down and left away from you by the stabilisers with quite a lot of force. In this case if I load differently or make an error with my hand the force applied by the stabiliser system is so great that it absorbs my error and gives the bow a consistent reaction.

I believe this is hugely important to giving good groups downrange. The only draw back to this is that it has a tendency to want to pull the bow down the target – so you must figure out how to add strength to the front end of your shot to the rig up.

In a way though this downward pull is good as it means you only need to fight the bow in one direction – whereas the balance system floats around much more.

Approaching stabilisation like this makes it seem obvious, to me at least, why the resistance system works better (all round). You can be easily tricked into settling for the balance system, as it’s much easier to shoot straight off the bat – but, remember, you don’t get any rewards for style or ease… it’s all about the points you score.

There’s an argument out there for both systems, but I’d recommend trying the resistance set-up – especially if your execution can vary even minutely.

Liam found the resistance system more forgiving

Liam found the resistance system more forgiving

What to look for

Get as stiff a bar as possible to make the correctional movements between you and your weights – as it’s the weights that do the balance correction. You need to have as solid a relationship as possible between the riser and them to allow yourself maximum control over the bow’s reaction. I recommend Easton X10 bars.

Don’t worry about vibration! It doesn’t matter, the arrow has left bow before this occurs and removing it won’t make you shoot any higher scores. Any rubber between your weights and riser will ruin the stabilising effect.

Get a good-quality, adjustable V-bar to keep that stiffness between weights and riser, as it can be a weak point if left to wobble at all. I recommend the Fuse or B-Stinger models.

Get a weight system which you can stack large amount of weight on to without increasing the length too much. I use ¼in-threaded weights of my own design for just this reason. You can pick them up by visiting my website:

Resistance stabilisation gives a more active shot on release

Resistance stabilisation gives a more active shot on release

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6 comments on “Stabilisers made easy
  1. Paul Hadley says:

    I am not surprised to see the above result, but I fear the results would have been reversed if the archer normally shot with a balanced stabilizer system.
    If you have trained for months or years with one system it is unlikely a different system will perform better if tested alongside the original over such a short period.
    I would also expect to see the result exaggerated when under tournament pressure.

  2. Atila Biber says:

    Interestingly not much interest testing double side bars? Let say 35″ long rod and two 10″ side bars straight back and swivel outward about 30-35 degree respectively…..
    I would really like to see a comparison between a single and dual sidebars in real life scoring.

  3. Is there an in between ? A sort of low resistance set up??

  4. Alan Holcroft says:

    Balanced set-up works great on Hoyt Contender with X10 rods. Tried just 5oz on each rod.Holds really steady and bow is quieter than balanced system.
    Groups are tighter at 60 yds around the 10 ring.Need to concentrate on hold a bit more due to pull on side rod but once anterior deltoids get used to it there’s no negative feel at full draw. shooting with both Backspin and Spot Hogg thumb release.
    Next step is to get out to 70 and 90 metres to finally check it out.
    Best move I’ve made up to now since having to change from right to left handed shooting.

  5. Jacob says:

    I shoot a Mathews Apex 8, I read the article about 4 times before I realized that the test was on an Apex 8. This is really helpful. I now am running a balanced settup with a doinker fatty long bar and a centralizer rear bar. 5 ounces up front and 8 on the back. I added more weight up front to account for the 27″ bar

  6. Chris M says:

    “It’s pointless: You don’t shoot the bow from brace height, and the balance changes completely.”

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had this debate after someone balances their bow on the head of a pin so to speak. You’re applying a significant amount of force on a single axis when at full draw. Even in a partially balanced setup with the rear bar mostly straight back the “balance” changes when the bow is drawn.

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