By George Tekmitchov, International Archery Consultant
In the course of providing hundreds of tuning and equipment seminars in more than 20 countries over the past few decades worldwide, I’ve noticed that there are quite a number of recurring questions- questions that seem to come up at nearly every session. No matter if I am lecturing some of the top coaches in the world, providing a World Archery seminar, or doing a tuning clinic for a Japanese high school club, all archers seem to ask many of the same questions.
Even Olympic Champions ask about some of these!
So in no particular order, here are some of the more common recurve questions- and answers- that seem to come up over and over again, from all levels of archers, just about everywhere!
1. How do you find the best brace height for a recurve?
Very often, the “best” starting brace height for a given recurve bow is where that bow shoots most quietly. Unsurprisingly, this is usually near the middle of the manufacturer’s recommendation range. Once the “quietest” brace height has been established, then it’s time to experiment with small adjustments to determine whether a small brace height change (often slightly higher) might produce better grouping.
2. How much point or shaft should be ahead of the plunger at full draw for a recurve shooter?
For a variety of reasons the “standard” answer is that at least two centimeters of shaft (not including point) should be past the plunger center at full draw. More is OK within reasonable limits- some archers run quite a bit more- but less should be avoided. The basis for this involves how arrows vibrate, and interact with the plunger, at launch and while departing the bow.
3. What size of tab should archers use?
Tab sizes are generally similar to dress glove sizes. If one uses a small glove, generally a small tab will do the job. The important thing to remember is the string should not strike the fingertips on release- if it does, it’s likely that the tab leather is too short.
5. What leather thickness should a tab be, or how many layers should an archer use?
This is an individual issue for most, but as a general guide, comfort is important and the tab layers should be thick enough to prevent finger pain. Sometimes, it is possible to get more comfort with fewer layers- for instance, two layers of Cordovan feels about the same as one layer of Cordovan, one layer of thin rubber, and one layer of suede. However, the two Cordovan layers are thinner overall, last longer, and often behave better in wet weather than a solution incorporating suede backing.
5. How long or short should the leather be cut on a tab?
A lot of top shooters never trim their tabs at all, while some others cut it to the bare minimum. You can determine the minimum cut length for your (broken-in) tab by heavily dusting it with talcum powder, shooting a few shots, and looking to see where the talc has been scraped off by the string. Usually, there will be a ridge of powder built up past where it has been wiped off by the string. A point about 3-5 mm past this usually represents unused leather. However, it’s questionable whether it’s actually desirable to trim this in the case of a well-designed tab face, such as a Cavalier or Angel. If you need proof, it’s worth noting that, for example, the legendary archer Park, Sung-hyun, 2004 Olympic Champion, set her incredible 1405 FITA World Record score that same year using the tab she used at the Olympic Games- an untrimmed, unmodified, original Dick Tone Cavalier tab.
And remember- when cutting anything, it’s easier to cut less, than to replace cut material!
6. Why do so many archers seem to make alterations to their grips?
One reason is that it can be useful for specific hand sizes, shapes, or pressures. Changing grips is, for some, a fun activity, and it usually has immediate effects (good or bad!) So, it has become quite popular to adjust the grip. The problem is that a lot of people don’t understand all of the issues that manifest themselves when they make big changes to their grip. For instance, going from a neutral to a high grip changes much more than just the wrist angle- it affects shot timing, bow dynamics, and much more! Many archers like to use tennis wrap or other friction type tapes on their grips to avoid slipping in wet or hot-humid conditions.
7. What advantages does the Easton X10 have over the Easton A/C/E shaft? Are there any disadvantages?
There are several advantages- the smaller diameter and greater ballistic density of the X10 shaft presents less surface area, a smaller cross section, and more momentum, all of which are important in windy conditions at long distances.
The main disadvantage of a smaller diameter includes the fact that more care is needed when gluing components. For the same reason, removing points requires a little more care and time in order to avoid overheating.
They’re also harder to stop in the target- better target materials, especially modern foam targets, help prevent pass throughs.
Besides the smaller diameter and greater ballistic efficiency, the X10 is designed with a substantially less stiff tail section than the ACE, which improves clearance and finger release consistency, compared to the slightly stiffer ACE tail section, and particularly compared to the much stiffer tail section of parallel shafts. This proven design acts as a very forgiving “shock absorber” for slight release inconsistencies on the part of the shooter.
8. What’s the effect of cutting an X10 from the rear/How come there’s no chart to tell us the effect/Why doesn’t Easton recommend cutting X10 shafts from the back?
Cutting X10 (or ACE) barreled shafts from the rear of the shaft results in an effectively stiffer arrow reaction, one that is disproportionate to cutting the same amount from the front of the shaft. This is because of the long taper on the rear of the shaft, and how the arrow reacts to “loading” on release.
As the shaft is cut from the rear, the “tail spine” of the shaft gets stiffer. However, the exact answer to the effective amount of change for a specific shooter depends on a number of variables, the biggest of which is the relative string amplitude at release of the individual archer – something no chart can account for completely. Every archer’s release is nearly as individual to that archer as their fingerprint!
Generally speaking, though, up to one inch (2.54 cm) off the rear of the arrow can shift the shaft an equivalent of halfway toward the next stiffer shaft size- however, this reduces the proven forgiveness feature of the shaft design, which is why it’s generally not recommended. It’s better to slightly reduce bow weight, if you need to stiffen the arrow reaction.
Also, note that every Easton arrow has the point end to the left, when the arrow is held so you can read the label- a century-old Easton tradition!
9. What is the best centershot setting for the X10?
A common error made by less-experienced shooters using X10 shafts is that they apply “textbook” centershot settings to the X10- with half, or more, or the arrow point sitting outside the string when the bow is at brace height and viewed from behind. These settings work fine for the shafts weaker than 650, but for stiffer shafts, especially above .410, a bit less less centershot is needed. This is because of the barrel on the shaft. The larger size X10’s tend to dynamically self-compensate for centershot as they travel forward upon release, and so generally they can be aligned closer to center than conventional shafts. A simple walkback test can be used to confirm the correct setting.
Many top shooters tune their X10’s to sit “right down the middle” at brace height.
10. Why are there “weight codes” on top end Easton shafts? Is this important?
With aluminum alloy, the specific stiffness- the stiffness for a given mass of material- is always exactly the same for a given alloy. The great thing about aluminum shafts is that you can get shafts to exactly match ones you had 20 years ago, and 20 years into the future.
It’s generally not so with carbon fiber material, which has a significant stiffness variation in production run to production run, compared to aluminum.
In order to cope with this, Easton first specially selects every batch of the carbon fiber, and does a few proprietary things to eliminate as much of this variation as possible, and then they build shafts of the exact same spine (static stiffness).
Since there’s always some minor variation in the carbon from batch to batch, some shafts of the exact same spine might still be a few grains lighter or heavier than others.
So, Easton goes to the trouble of exactly weight sorting the shafts, putting them in weight categories (C1, C2, etc) to ensure that not only do you have a perfect spine (which is the most important consideration) but that the shaft weights are uniform as well.
In addition, they further ensure every shaft in a factory-packaged dozen are within 0.5 grains.
Frankly, Easton overdoes this a little bit- they’re a little bit obsessed with perfection. Normally there’s so little difference between a batch of, for example, category C3 shafts and a batch of category C4 shafts, that once cut, assembled and fletched, they can be mixed with absolutely no issues.
But the shaft manufacturers that don’t do this have a lot more spine variation in their production than Easton- sometimes as much as a whole shaft size!