Weights and Stabilisers

When I came into this sport, I came in with the absolute minimum knowledge about any part of techniques and equipment, etc.

In these articles I try to share what I have learnt in a form that is usable, so as always, please, if you find an error, please contact me so that I can correct it and make it more valuable and usable for others!

Stabs, Stabilisers, Sticks, whatever you call them, they are actually pretty handy!

Basically stabilisers has two functions, to soften up your bow (both on vibration and noise) and to reduce lateral movement (slow down your bow), making it easier to aim and shoot good groupings, consistently.

Reducing Noise and Vibration:

Now the first part is pretty simple, by adding a short stab to your bow, it’s generally not just a stick, it’s a (or supposed to be a) designed stabiliser that has different sections, general design is a shaft, then a rubber connector, and then a weight. The logic is simple to transfer energy down the shaft, and through the rubber, that oscillates the weight at a different frequency than the bow, effectively dampening the vibration, and killing the associated noise and shock (I know, technically, energy can’t be destroyed, but without publishing my PhD on what happens to the energy, for all intents and purposes, it’s influence is reduced where it matters to us)

Now, hunters wants a bow as silent as possible, just to reduce “String Jump” but their hunting range is generally shorter, so they can get away with a shorter stab, and still get excellent accuracy.

Target shooters generally have longer distances to contend with, so they do not care to much about the noise and vibration reduction aspects of Stabilisers, but they definitely want a smoother handling bow.

So on to part two,

Reducing lateral movement:

Ok, so here is the basis of the logic – Tightrope walkers often carry a very long rod which they use to balance themselves with… the longer the rod, the slower the rod moves, giving them time to “press” against it and balance themselves back up again. Adding balanced weight to the rod, allows for a shorter rod, and also adds a “down” force, aiding in balance, and slowing down all movement over the length of the rod.

Obviously, adding to much weight means that at some point, should the balancing tightrope walker tip to one side, the weight will actually drag him further down.

The same principles work in flight…

Front Stabiliser
Front Stabiliser

The long wings of a glider stops the plane from being able to make spins and spirals like an acrobatic plane.

So lets bring that onto the bow:

Long stabiliser (front) – what this one does is simply to slow down the movement on all four axis (up, down, left, right as seen through the sight)… adding a weight to the front, allows you to use a slightly shorter stab. How much weight? no idea… you will have to test it out.

More weight will slow down the movement considerably, BUT, increase momentum, so stopping movement will become more difficult as the stabiliser moves in bigger swings. So if you have a lot of weight far ahead, then you really need to make sure that you draw the string back straight, and not across your cams to start your aiming sequence with a sight that is barely moving as opposed to one swinging across your target. Also, if you have a lot of lateral movement, your weight might be too much for the stiffness of your bar (almost like a whiplash)

You can, however, slow that movement down again by adding v-bars or side bars. These help in balancing the heavy front weight of the bow in your hand, back to a neutral/flat balance point, but also pushes “arms” out that helps to slow down the roll of the bow (angling the bow left or right) – adding different weights, on the left than on the right will also help to balance the bow “flat” if your hand position tends to rotate the bow (NOT Torque!) I have more weight on my right sidebar than my left, that balances out the slightly extra weight of my sight.

Might be important to note, that V-Bars and Side Bars do very little without a Front Stabiliser, but a front stabiliser can function without the back V- and Side Bars.

V-Bars or Side Bars
V-Bars or Side Bars

That rotation of the bow can also be reduced by adding weights to the bottom of your bow. These, in turn, help to bring the bow upright in all directions, so that your stabilisers and sidebars can work more efficiently. It’s like pushing the bow down, from your hand to the ground

Now… after all of this, we need to figure out what actually works best for you and your shooting style, and unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Starting off your bow on a flat, balanced plane is just the beginning of the process, and from there you need to experiment.

Some archers like their bows top heavy, so no weight at the bottom. This can help with shooting field tournaments where targets is at an angle, or when hunting from a tree stand. some like a very light bow (reduces fatigue), other like a very heavy bow (slows down all movement) Some like their bow to lean against there hand, and other like it nose heavy to counteract them slapping or punching a trigger… Yet others try and get a lighter nose to get them out of a Six-O’Clock-Lock…

At the end of the day, take the principles, and start experimenting, and over time you will get the perfect setup for your build, style of shooting, and style of aiming.

In conclusion:

  1. Start with a front Stabiliser (length and weight according to your style of shooting). For hunting, shorter and quieter. For targets longer. The longer the bar, the less weight it requires (on average, double the bar, half the weight)
  2. Target shooters tend to choose a Front Stab about the same as their draw length. Longer if you shoot long distances, shorter if you only shoot short distances or shoot a lot in the wind.
  3. Add weight to the bottom of your bow
  4. If you need it, add v-bars or side bars to balance out nose down/up movement from the front stabiliser (if required) as well as roll  – angling v-bars down decrease the amount of weight you need on the bow itself, but decrease the effect of reducing horizontal rotation somewhat (so you will notice downward angled sidebars are often longer than V-Bars)

REMEMBER! You add stuff to your bow for solving YOUR specific problems, and NOT because some archer on YouTube or TV has it on their bow or because it looks cool! If unsure, go to a shop or archer you trust, and ask them to try out different setups (especially on weights) before you just buy.

If you want more detailed info about stabilisers, look at this document by Steve Ellison (PDF)


Thank you to Archers Edge for letting us play with different setups and weights in different shapes and forms!