I will be showing you how to tune a recurve bow like a champ in this article.
But for the benefit of beginners, it’s important that we go to the background a bit.
What does tuning a bow mean?
Tuning a bow is simply making certain adjustments to your bow to help you shoot precisely.
You see, just like any other equipment, the construction and operational mechanics of a bow means that at some point you will naturally experience a decrease in performance.
As a result, shooting targets accurately becomes difficult particularly when making repeat shots.
And therein lays the chief reason why it’s vital for you to ensure that your bow is properly tuned before shooting.
Specifically, tuning involves obtaining an optimal combination of the bow, brace height, nocking points, arrows, and more for the best shot.
In fact, of all the maintenance processes required to keep a bow in top form, tuning is arguably the most pivotal.
I will now take you straight for the steps of tuning your recurve bow.
How to tune a recurve bow: The basics
Before we discuss tuning proper, start by installing everything in its location.
That’s because adding a new bow part later typically disorients the settings and you may have to retune your bow.
And don’t stop there- also check that you don’t have loose installations.
Above all, check that none of the parts is damaged to avoid risking your safety when fine tuning.
Secondly, to get some insights into your bow’s present accuracy, pull off a couple of shots with different arrows.
Have you done this?
Then let’s look at the step-by-step process.
Note that you don’t need to be a guru to tune your equipment, far from it. Nevertheless, having a bit of experience a recurve won’t do any harm.
How to tune a recurve bow: step by step guide
I am assuming the following:
- That you have mounted all the bow components.
- You are psychologically ready to repeat the required steps until the bow is wonderfully tuned.
Stage 1: Setting up the bow for tuning
Here we will go through the first two primary steps..
Step 1: You set the bow’s nock point to the right height.
Step 2: Adjusting the brace height until any issue affecting your shooting negatively is eliminated.
Remember that you will be making several test shots throughout to identify and remove lingering tuning errors.
Tune the nocking point
To check your nocking point, you need to get a bow square. Next, you measure how far the nocking point is above the bow’s arrow rest.
You might be wondering how the nocking point affects you….
Well, the nocking point height determines the angle at which arrows leave the bow and you don’t want it too high/low.
Here is what happens:
If set too low, arrows often come out point up and the vanes down.
Conversely, your arrows will be coming out point down and vanes up if the nocking point height is too high.
So, how do you tune it?
Here is what I recommend…
The surest method of tuning an incorrect nocking point height is by using bare shafts.
Here is a summary of what you will do..
1. Shoot a few arrows (fletched) and a couple of bareshaft arrows at between 10 to 30m from the target.
2. Observe how the two different sets of arrows behave.
Here you will notice either of the following scenarios if your bow is not properly tuned…
Outcome A: The bareshaft arrows impact higher/above than your fletched arrows.
What it means: Your nocking point is currently too low.
Outcome B: The bareshafts impacts lower than the fletched ones.
What it means: The nocking point is too high.
Remember that the best case scenario is where the unfletched group within the fletched group.
And so it’s clear you need to tweak things if you have different results.
That brings me to the nocking point height adjustment process..
3. Now fine-tune the nocking point. The best way of arriving at the ideal height is by making gradual increments/decrements.
It might take you several repetitions to finally ascertain your true nocking height.
To be sure, you will redo the bareshaft/ fletched shooting comparison test to see whether you have gotten it.
Alternative technique: You can as well use a T-square to figure out your most appropriate height.
- You start by clamping the T-bow square onto the bowstring.
- Next, you position the ruler onto the arrow’s rest or shelf. From there, read the vertical ruler against the bowstring to set the nocking point.
- You will come across a mark indicating the location of the dead center (or “zero”) at some point as per the bow settings.
You can always take some more bareshaft/ fletched shots in an effort to assess whether you have the right measurement after the T-square aided adjustments.
Master-tip: The biggest sign that you have a nocking point issue is your arrows porposing (they wag up and down) during flight.
Stage 2: Setting the brace height (BH)
Now you have to work on your brace height.
In case you’re a starter, brace height is the distance in between the central segment of your bowstring (when loose) and the grip.
Is there a recommended brace height?
Well, the recurves user manual could point you towards the right BH (most suggest 7.5 to 9.75 inches). However, the mentioned height isn’t necessarily your accurate BH.
Rather, the precise BH will be where your recurve shoots best.
Subsequently, establishing your true BH will probably take several experiments.
To make matters worse, your BH may sometimes change depending on the kind of arrows you’re shooting.
This means that you will still shoot a few arrows from your bow to gauge how your arrow flight behaves with varied BHs.
The good thing is that recurves provides room to increase/decrease the BH in either direction by as much as a 1/2″ by twisting the bowstring.
Follow these guidelines:
- Check the manufacturer’s quoted BH.
- Now measure your bow’s brace height. Just put the T-square in the grip horizontally at point C then use the ruler to take the measurement.
- Generally, the right measurement is from string to C.
- You will now see how much difference there is from the present BH to the suggested one. This also helps you confirm whether you will be adjusting the BH upward or downward.
- To elevate the brace height, you make extra twists as necessary. And to diminish the BH, you unfasten the requisite twists to reach the preferable BH.
- Be careful not to untie too many twists since some strings may unravel. 3-5 times work so me.
Once you set your fitting brace height, you will realize minimal limb vibration, noise, and shocks when shooting.
Master tip: The bowstring should be removed when adding/removing twists.
What else should you tune?
· Tiller tuning recurve bow
Once you’ve discovered your quietest brace height, move on to discerning the right tiller setting for the bow.
For the tiller, you basically need to find the sweet point by varying it between +0-6mm.
With each change, you listen to the resulting sounds.
Your interest is the quietest point.
In general, most shooters are at home with the tiller set in between the aforementioned range.
However, you should shoot the bow after adjusting your tiller to confirm if it’s performing as you expected at the determined spot.
Master tip: Just like the brace height, the tiller setting is unique for every bow so don’t try to copy your friend’s setting.
· The Arrow spine
Despite doing all the above, you may still notice that your arrows are still wagging side-to-side (technically we call this fish-tailing).
This is principally caused by an incorrectly matched arrow spine meaning that your arrow’s stiffness does not fit your bow’s weight or design.
How can I tell if my arrows are too stiff/lightly spined?
You simply watch your arrows as they fly off…..
If the arrows seem to fly straight but then impacts targets to the left/right, it’s too stiff.
Similarly, if your arrows seem to jump out of your recurve but again impact to the right/left (instead of straight), it’s too light.
You have several options at your disposal to get rid of this matter..
Option 1: Shoot arrows with diverse weights
You can amend your arrows’ stiffness by shooting arrows with varying weights at the start.
To ‘lighten’ an arrow that’s too stiff, simply add a heavier point. The extra weight makes them flex more and will help it shoot straight.
In contrast, you add a lighter point to stiff arrows. They will flex less and shoot your targets more precisely.
The market is teeming with varieties of points so you shouldn’t struggle to get good points for this adjustment.
Master tip: Arrow point test kits can reduce your arrow tuning work. They allow you to shoot arrows with varied weight points and quickly see the one that flies best.
Option 2: Be creative and install useful accessories
As an alternative, you can beat fishtailing by installing a tiny shim of leather behind the bow’s arrow plate.
A piece of a toothpick can also help push the arrows further away from your sight’s window.
This can help clean up the arrow’s flight if you’re working with weak arrows (Such arrows ‘straighten’ a bit when pushed from the sights window).
Useful tips and ideas
- Bow tuning is usually continuous and you will be growing better at it as your form improves.
- If you’re a beginner, pay attention to your consistency and shooting form before thinking of perfecting bow tuning.
- Never tune during windy conditions. You need still conditions to effectively tune.
- If your bow is frequently going out of tune, either it’s your form or it’s unstable and requires replacing.
- It’s advisable to note down the settings that work best once you figure them out. This eases your future tuning as you only need to refer.
How often should you tune your recurve bow?
First, you should check your tune every time whenever you change anything in your bow.
When I say anything I mean everything including the release, clicker position, your draw cycle, stabilizer weight/balance, anchor point, new sight, tab, new arrows, nock height, etc..
Needless to say, you shall also evaluate your tuning if you start experience unexplained changes in how the bow is shooting.
For example, arrows may begin to fly unexpectedly lowly.
I personally check mine before I shoot every time.
How can you test prior to shooting?
You can, for instance, create a habit of throwing a couple of bare shafts down the range before starting just to be sure.
Additionally, keep an eye (and ear) on how everything works. That way, you will always tell whether things are working correctly or “out of tune”.
Truth be told, you shouldn’t be concerned about tuning until your accuracy and form are fairly consistent otherwise you will end up blaming the equipment when it’s you.
Having said that, contemporary recurves are so improved that they won’t automatically ‘tune out’ after every session like traditional bows.
Wrapping it up
We have been looking at how to tune a recurve bow and as we have seen, the process involves adjusting the nocking, brace height, arrows, plus a bit of the bowstring to attain the desired results.
Obviously, some steps are more difficult than others but none of them is impossible.
We have also said that form and consistency are more important to proper recurve bow shooting than tuning.
I thus encourage newcomers to first target building their form and consistency instead of worrying about tuning.
It’s also not lost on me that people have different tricks and tips when it comes to tuning so we would also like to hear from you.
How do you tune your recurve?
Drops your secret tips via the comments section and I will be happy to share my opinion.