A Quick Guide To Compound Bow Maintenance For Archers
A compound bow is a delicate piece of equipment and if it is not correctly looked after, this can result in it not operating as well as it otherwise would. At worst, the bow could end up becoming completely unusable.
When you purchase a compound bow for the first time, one of the most important things to learn is how to maintain your bow. While there are a lot of things to do, each of these is important and should be taken seriously.
In this article, we are going to be looking at how to perform routine maintenance on your compound bow so that it always performs at its best.
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Why Compound Bow Maintenance Is Important
Compound bows are a mechanical type of bow and unlike their recurve counterparts, these bows have a lot of moving parts that can quickly become ineffective when they are not taken care of.
Your compound bow has an intricate system of strings and cams and if these are off, even slightly, this can affect the performance of the bow. A poorly maintained bow can result in your performance being reduced.
Many archers buy a bow and find their way around it, learning to shoot with accuracy and consistency. However, it isn’t long before that same bow has an extremely negative effect on your ability to shoot in a straight line all because it has not been properly taken care of.
Furthermore, if your bow is not in good working order, it could actually be dangerous. There is a significant chance of the bow causing injury to your or someone in the vicinity and you don’t need us to tell you that that could be devastating.
If you take good care of your compound bow, you will notice that it lasts much longer and retains that ‘like-new’ appearance for much longer.
Understanding The Parts Of A Compound Bow
If you have been used to working with more conventional archery equipment then using a compound bow might seem a little alien. But in order to be able to correctly maintain your bow, you must be aware of the different parts.
- The bowstring is the part of the bow which is drawn back and then released in order to shoot the arrow.
- The limbs are the parts of the compound bow that bend and flex as the bow is drawn, storing energy in them ready for release.
- Compound bows have either one, two, or hybrid cams. These are wheels positioned at the ends of the limbs and their function is to reduce the weight of the draw and create what is known as let off; we will explain this in a little more detail shortly. *
- The riser might be referred to as the ‘body’ of the bow and is where you would take a grip on the bow. Various accessories can be attached to the riser such as sights, arrow rests, and stabilizers.
- Compound bows have cables that ensure the limbs and the cams remain tied together.
*You will often hear about let off when talking about compound bows and this term simply refers to the amount of reduced draw weight. Compound bows, by design, are used to make drawing the bow easier for the archer. If the bow has a let-off of 50%, this means that it will hold 50% of the draw weight, making it 50% easier for you to handle.
Tips For Maintaining Your Compound Bow
There could be endless things you could do to keep your compound bow in good working order but there are some that are considered to be essential.
How often each of these things needs to be performed will vary but we will detail this in each of the following sections.
One of the most important parts of your compound bow is the bowstring. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to release your arrows so it is vital that you pay close attention to the condition of the bowstring and regularly maintain it.
It might not seem like it when you are shooting but the bowstring goes through an incredible amount of trauma every time it is fired. This component stores a lot of energy and with each shot, it loses some of its elasticity.
That being said, your bowstring should serve you for quite some time but it is always a good idea to check the string after every shooting session; even if it has only recently been replaced.
You may notice small signs of wear on your bowstring. Most commonly, this will be fraying but in the worst cases, the string may snap entirely. It’s pretty obvious that at this point, the string will need replacing.
All too often, archers, especially new archers will see that there is a small amount of damage to the string and continue shooting with it. It is essential that you do not do this. While you may be lucky and have a bowstring that does well under pressure, it could just as easily snap, mid draw. If this happens, someone stands to get injured.
What’s more, if you continue using a bowstring when it is not fully functional, it could damage your bow, and the cost of repairing this will be far greater than merely restringing it. On average, you can expect to pay around $120 to have your compound bow restrung.
A good bowstring will typically last for around two years although this can vary dramatically depending on how much it is used and how well it is looked after. A bowstring should be replaced after this length of time, even if it appears to be in good working order.
You may find that in the early days, you need to replace your bowstring more often as you will typically take more shots as your practice and hone your archery skills.
To get the most out of your bowstring, you will need to make sure that it is waxed regularly. Bowstring waxes can be brought for a very reasonable price and are a great way to prevent premature fraying and give your bowstring the best life possible.
When you apply wax to your bowstring, it will cause it to feel slightly tacky, and this is good. If it loses this feel, you will want to reapply. As a general rule, you should wax the string every couple of weeks but if you are using it more than usual, you can up this to once a week.
Wear and Tear
A compound bow goes through a lot and as such, it is going to sustain lots of signs of wear and tear. Some of these will be purely aesthetic and won’t have an impact on the bow’s performance whereas others will need to be addressed.
Every time you use your bow, get into the habit of giving it a quick once over before storing it. You can check for any signs that the bow may be compromised or any components that have come loose.
If you do notice that there are any loose parts, then you should make adjustments to these immediately. It can be tempting to say ‘I’ll do it later’ but later often never comes and eventually, what was an insignificant, easily-fixed problem can become something much more damaging.
If you hear any strange noises or feel any sort of unusual vibration when firing your bow, this could be a sign that there is a problem. These problems are not always obvious, especially to the untrained eye so you may need to take the bow to your local archery shop to have it checked. But we will look at this in a little more detail later in the article.
Some of the things that you can check after each shooting session are:
- The condition of the bowstring, as we have already discussed.
- Look over the riser grip to make sure that there are no cracks or other visible damage. If your riser is fitted with a grip rather than having one carved into it, you should make sure that this is secure and not coming away from the main body of the bow.
- Next, take a look at the limbs and how they are attached to the riser. In the case of a compound bow, these should be incredibly secure and should not wobble at all. If they do, this is a clear indication that something is wrong and you should have your bow inspected by a professional.
- You will likely have several accessories attached to the riser and it is imperative that you check these are securely attached and not coming loose. If they are, make sure that you take the time to reattach them properly.
- You may also notice that over time, parts of your bow ‘erode’ away. This is especially common on the arrow rest. In this instance, you would need to replace any parts that have begun to wear.
A compound bow will wear far more quickly if it is not stored correctly and this is one of the most common mistakes that new archers make. If you want to ensure a long life for your bow, it is important to get off on the right foot and take good care of the bow, even when it is not being used.
Compound bows do not do well when they are exposed to high temperatures. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t store your bow anywhere that the temperature will exceed 100ºF.
If a compound bow is left in extreme heat for long periods of time, this can have a devastating effect on the limbs, potentially causing them to fail entirely. Furthermore, this kind of excessive heat could impact the bowstring material, causing it to wear far more quickly than normal.
The cables may also be affected since the heat may cause them to stretch and ultimately, weaken.
Water should also be kept as far away from your bow as possible and we don’t just mean immersing your bow in water but storing it in humid conditions. When you store your bow, even in a bow case, it is vital to put it somewhere dry.
If the bow is exposed to any sort of moisture, this could result in the various components becoming damaged.
The number of cams that your compound bow has will depend on how you care for it but regardless of how many there are, you will want to regularly check that they are working as they should be.
Compound bows with two cams are very common but they can also present a problem when the cams become misaligned. If they are not synchronized, this will result in you not being able to fire your arrow accurately.
If you ever notice that your aim is suddenly off and nothing has changed, it could be something as simple as realigning the cams.
But before anything goes wrong, it can pay to check the cams every time you finish shooting. Finding out whether the cams are in sync isn’t as difficult as you might first think. The best and easiest way to do this is to draw the bow and watch the cams as you draw. If they are in sync, they should both reach the let-off point at the same time.
If they do not, this will mean that you will need to adjust them. This is not overly complicated and can be quickly learned even by those who are new to archery.
Your aim here is to make sure that the top and bottom cams are moving in unison; their movements should reflect one’s another perfectly. To alter this, you need to tweak the cables and keep checking the movement of the cams. Once you are happy that they are synchronized, test out the bow and you will likely feel the difference.
Dry firing a bow is one of the most potentially dangerous things that any archer can do. Would you believe that there are people out there that do this for fun? We can’t either, but it is sadly the case.
If these people want to damage their bows then dry firing is a good way to go about that but the biggest concern is that dry firing can cause serious injury to both the archer and anyone standing nearby.
In a nutshell, to dry fire a bow means to fire your bow without an arrow. A lot of people are tempted to allow their friends to take a turn with the bow without using an arrow. But we need to think about the physics of doing this.
When the bow is drawn, an incredible amount of energy is built up. Normally, when you release the bow, this energy is transferred into the arrow. However, if there is not an arrow present, this energy gets transferred back into the bow itself.
No archer is exempt from accidentally dry firing a bow, it happens to the best of us and if you have ever experienced this, you will know what a terrifying noise the event creates.
The problem is that the massive amount of energy going into the bow can cause permanent damage to the riser, limbs, or the string. This damage is often irreversible but not always immediately apparent. For this reason, you should always take your bow to an archery shop for inspection after a dry fire.
Transporting The Compound Bow
In the same way that storing your bow should always be done correctly, transporting your bow should be done with great care.
Many archers will take their bows to shooting ranges, tournaments, hunting areas, and even to another country. That’s great that you are able to explore the world and enjoy archery at the same time but this shouldn’t be done at the expense of your equipment.
It is always worth investing in a quality bow case, and one of the most important things to look for is a case that is incredibly tough on the outside. It should be built to protect the bow in all events.
The case should also be padded to protect the bow from the inside and seal easily so as to keep out moisture.
When transporting your bow, always lie the case flat rather than propping it up. If you are traveling by air, the airline should have policies in place on handling delicate equipment but it never hurts to talk to the staff about how you would like your property to be treated; you are paying them for a service, after all.
Know When To See A Professional
As we have mentioned, there are times when you will not be able to complete the relevant bow maintenance and there is no shame in admitting that you need the assistance of a professional.
There are archery shops dotted around the world but it is a good idea to make yourself familiar with one and get to know the staff. This allows you to build up a good degree of trust with them.
These shops have all the right equipment for handling and fixing bows and those who work in them are fully trained. It is especially important to see a pro when you have dry fired the bow or if it begins behaving in an unusual manner.
Furthermore, going to an archery shop will give you the opportunity to learn new skills and get advice on all aspects of archery. You might also meet like-minded people with whom you can share your archery journey.
Every year, you should take your bow to an archery shop to receive its annual tune-up. This will ensure that the bow is fully fitted to you and that any problems are addressed so that they do not cause further issues.
Compound bows are one of the most modern types of bow and work on a mechanical system of cams and strings. They are extremely effective and much easier to use than some conventional bows.
However, if you want your compound bow to serve you for a long time, it is vital that you take good care of it. Regular maintenance and annual tune-ups as well as quickly checking your bow every time you use it are all excellent ways to improve its performance and increase its lifespan.