Every bow vibrates; even the most expensive and well design bows can’t remove all vibration. Most archers don’t worry about the vibration and see it as feedback from the bow. When a bow vibrates excessively, you will start to experience some issues. Shooting the bow might feel very uncomfortable or the screws on your bow might come loose. Excessive vibration can also decrease your accuracy and decrease the lifespan of your bow. Therefore, every archer should try to reduce the amount of vibration to a minimum.
If you want a quick solution, here are some tips: If possible the best way to remove vibration is by using a stabilizer. Installing a string dampener or a limb saver might be your next step. When the bow keeps vibrating even after these measures, you might have check if your arrow isn’t to light.
Most issues will be resolved by adding a stabilizer or limb saver, but technically you are only solving a symptom of the issue. The cause of the issue is that your bow is unbalanced and creates a lot of vibration. In this article, I will explain in more detail how your bow creates vibration and how you can solve excessive vibration. So I would highly recommend reading the remainder of this article if you experience issues with vibration.
Why a bow vibrates
A bow can both vibrate before the shot and after your release. When archers talk about vibration, we often mean the vibration after the shot. In this article I will therefore zoom in on vibration after you released the string. But I will briefly discuss vibration before the shot in the next section.
Vibration before the shot
The vibration before the shot is caused by the muscles in your body. When your bow hand vibrates before the shot, most often the draw weight is the issue. This means that you can solve the issue, by decreasing the draw weight or training the muscles. If this is an issue, the article below might help you to train your back muscles:
Vibration after the shot
Vibration after the shot is rarely caused by the archer. This vibration is caused by the dynamics of the bow. When you release the shot, the limbs will spring forward while pulling on the string. The string in turn pushes the arrow forward. Sadly not all the energy stored in the limbs of the bow, will be transferred in the arrow. Some energy will be lost during the entire process.
Since not all of the energy is transferred into the arrow some energy will stay in limbs and string. If you watch the video below, you will see string wants to continue forward, due to the momentum. Eventually the draw weight of the limbs gets to heavy pulling the string back. Now this process happens in reverse, until all the excess energy is dissipated.
Some bow designs have a better energy transfer. Recurve bows, for example, have a better energy transfer than long and flat bows. This makes these bows vibrate less, while also increasing the arrow speed. Read the article below, if you want to know more about the advantages of a recurve bow.
Why vibration is bad
The video from the previous section was taken from a World Cup final. Even though the bows used are carefully designed the bows still vibrate quite a lot. Vibration has a lot of negative consequences, which we will discuss in this section.
The effect of vibration on your bow
Most risers are made out of strong materials like metal, but are made out of more flexible materials. This is of course needed to be able to store the energy in the materials. This flexibility, however, also make the limbs the weakest link on the bow. Therefore, it’s quite common for limbs to break when they are extensively used.
Limbs are under normal use already under a lot of stress, and vibration only makes it worse. Therefore, removing vibration from the bow will improve its lifespan significantly. There are even devices that are attached to the limbs, which are called limb savers. Essentially these devices just remove vibration directly from the limb. I will discuss this device in more detail later in this article.
The effect of vibration on your accuracy
When the entire bow is vibrating, some vibration will also be transferred into the arrow. When your bow vibrates, it will therefore interfere with the flight path of the arrow. The effect of vibration on the flight path is random, therefore you can’t correct for it. This effect is very minor on well balanced bows. But if you have a bow that vibrates a lot, your accuracy will suffer. The vibration can also cause flinching, which means that you jerk the bow to one side. When this happens you interfere with the arrow, quite severely. Therefore, removing vibration from the bow can make you shoot more accurately.
The effect of vibration on your health
Our bodies are not good at dealing with vibration. Since the archer is holding the bow, part of the vibration will be transferred into your body. Most archers will not experience any issues. But if you shoot with a bow that vibrates a lot or if you have a condition, you might suffer from pain in your muscles and joints. Therefore, you should be very careful if you have a muscle or joint illness, since your bow might make it worse. Below, I discuss my personal experience with vibration to explain how serious it can be.
My experience with vibration: when I was 18 I worked part time in the wood industry. I was cutting different types of wood with a reciprocating saw all day. If you have ever handled such a saw you know that it vibrates a lot. At the end of the day I would get sore fingers and it got hard to move them. This was caused by the vibration of the saw. Since I now work in the orthopedic industry, I have learned how bad that actually was for my joints.
Some easy solutions
Luckily there are lots of easy solutions that remove vibration from your bow. These devices dissipate the vibration, thereby removing it from the bow. I will discuss all these devices in more detail.
Most recurve and compound archers use a stabilizer, with good reason. Not only is it one of the most effective ways to remove vibration after the shot, it will also remove vibration before your release. This makes it easier to aim and helps you to get a steadier shot. Therefore, you should really consider using a stabilizer, if it fits your shooting style.
Upper and lower stabilizer
Most archers use the main stabilizer in combination with the reverse stabilizer. The upper and lower stabilizers are not often used any more. Years ago most archers used these stabilizers, but most archers now agree that it’s not necessary in most cases. When you are using the main stabilizer and still experience issues it might be worth a try. You can just use the side stabilizers if you have a second pair lying around.
If you are considering this option, I would highly advice reading the article below. In that article I will discuss all important features of stabilizers and give some tips. I will also discuss upper and lower stabilizer in more detail, since most archers don’t know a lot about them.
Dampeners consist of a large rubber piece that dissipates the vibration and sometimes a weight. These devices have the same thread as stabilizers. Therefore you can use any of the stabilizer bushings to attach the dampener. Most stabilizers have some sort of dampener build in. Dampeners are especially effective when used in this configuration, due to the leverage of the stabilizer. Therefore, I would highly suggest trying a stabilizer with a dampener.
There are also stand alone dampeners available. In my experience, these dampeners tend to be less effective especially if they are very small.
When you release the string, the string will spring forward with a lot of power. Due to this power, the string will snap to the limbs when the arrow is shot. This can cause a lot of noise and transfers additional vibration back in the limbs. Some traditional archers therefore use a string dampener. This is a piece of foam, cloth or silicone that absorbs the pressure from the string. This will silence the bow, but it will also reduce the transfer of the vibration. Therefore, this is an excellent option if you are a traditional archer when you experience either of these two issues.
Some recurve archers use a string dampener as well. In general the string doesn’t snap forward that much on well balanced recurve bows. Additionally for recurve archers there are lots of other more effective ways to remove vibration, like with a stabilizer.
Limb saver/limb dampeners
As we discussed previously limbs are the most sensitive part of your bow. Vibration can cause micro fractures in the limbs, which can become serious in the long run. Therefore, some archers that had issues with broken limbs started to install small rubber devices called limb savers. In general, most archers won’t need a limb saver. If your bow makes a lot of noise or if you had issues with broken limbs before, you might want to give it a try.
Since you attach weight to the limbs the energy transfer to the arrow will become slightly worse. In general this difference isn’t noticeable, but you might have to make minor adjustments to your sight. If you place the limb saver close to the riser it will remove less vibration but it will also have a lower impact on the energy transfer. When the limb saver is near the tip, it will remove a lot of vibration but it will also have a bigger impact on your energy transfer. Therefore, you have to make a tradeoff between arrow speed and removing vibration.
Most high power compound archers have a limb saver preinstalled, since compound limbs are under a lot of stress. You don’t have to worry if your compound bow doesn’t. Since the manufacturer has built the entire bow, they often have other features build in to remove vibration. Since you can easily exchange the limbs of a recurve bow, this tends to be a bigger issue for recurve archers.
Most compound bows have a string stopper preinstalled for three major reasons. The first reason is that it might harm the bow, if the string shoots too far forward. The second reason is that it might cause nasty hand slaps if the string shoots to far forward. The last reason is that it will decrease the vibration of the bow by dampening the string. Some compound bows have no string stopper, since it isn’t needed. But if you experience excessive vibration or hand slaps, you might want to try to install one.
The overwhelming majority of recurve bows don’t have a string stopper. But some recurve archers like to use a string stopper to remove vibration from the bow. Recurve bows don’t really need a string stopper, since the string won’t shoot to far forward due to the recurved limbs.
The last easy option to remove vibration is by adding weight to your riser. Heavier objects require more energy to move and will therefore vibrate less. Some risers have option to allow you to add weights below the grip. There are also options available that you add onto one of your stabilizer bushings.
I have to say though, this effect is very minor. In most cases you can’t add to much weight without making it cumbersome to move. It will remove vibration but you will probably hardly notice it.
How to solve the real issue
The options I discussed in the previous section are some inexpensive devices that you can add to your bow. These devices remove the vibration that your bow makes. You can, however, also think the other way around. How can I limit the amount of energy that is wasted into vibration? The devices in the previous section only cure the symptoms. The options discussed in this section will reduce the actual issue.
A well balanced bow shouldn’t have excessive vibration. This doesn’t mean that it’s completely still, but your gear shouldn’t be rattling loose due to the vibration. In most cases if this happens, your bow is probably unbalanced. In this section we will therefore discuss how to make your bow balanced. These options are, however, both more difficult and expensive. So you should consider for yourself, whether you want to try cheap quick fix or if you want to make more rigorous changes.
Decrease the poundage of the bow
A common issue when your bow vibrates a lot is the combination of the weight of the riser with the poundage of the bow. If you shoot a high draw weight, with quite a light riser, the bow will vibrate a lot. This happens because the riser cannot absorb the energy sufficiently from the limbs. Therefore decreasing the poundage of your bow can help. Limbs with lower poundage will cause less vibration because less energy is stored. Therefore less energy can be transferred into the riser.
Some limb materials also tend to reduce the amount of vibration in my experience. Carbon limbs for example tend to vibrate less, while they have a smoother draw. These limbs tend to be very expensive however.
Increase the weight of the bow
If you don’t want to decrease the poundage of your bow, you could always increase the weight of your riser. Since heavier objects vibrate less, the riser will be able to absorb more vibration. Solid steel risers for example are often used by Olympian archers for this very reason. It will make your bow more difficult to wield and will put more load on your muscles. Therefore, you have to make a trade-off between these two evils.
Shoot a heavier arrow
Another common issue is the combination of the draw weight with the weight of the arrow. In general when you have a high draw weight you should also have a heavier arrow. If you have an arrow that is really light, the bow will have lots of energy left after the arrow has already left the bow. This energy will, therefore be transferred into vibration. This is the exact reason why dry firing is devastating for your bow. All of the energy from the bow has to be dissipated by the bow itself, since no energy is transferred into an arrow.
Most recurve archers won’t have this issue, since the draw weight of these bows tend to be quite low. But especially for compound and traditional archers, this might be the issue which causes your bow to vibrate massively. To solve this issue, I would buy new arrows that fit your bow. You can use the Gold Tip arrow chart, below to find what arrow specifications you need. If you are only just below or above the recommended arrow specifications, this probably isn’t the issue that causes vibration. Only majorly imbalanced configurations will cause excessive vibration.
Why compound bows have an advantage
Compound bows tend to produce less vibration than most recurve bows. If you would remove all vibration dampening equipment, you would still find this to be true. This is due to the design of most compound bows. The limbs of recurve bows are horizontal and bend backwards when the bow is drawn. When you release the shot, the limbs will shoot forward, simultaneously causing the bow to vibrate. Since both limbs shoot forward the limbs will not counter each other’s forces.
Most compound bows have limbs that are parallel or almost parallel. This means that the upper limb is drawn downwards and the lower limb drawn upwards, when the archer pulls the string. When the archer releases the shot, the limbs will move in an opposite direction. Therefore, the limbs basically counter each other’s vibration forces.
In a perfect world, compound bows with parallel limbs should be able to remove all vibration. But even minor, unnoticeable changes, may cause differences in the vibration forces of each limb. Therefore, even these bow designs will cause some vibrations, but it will be a lot less than a bow with parallel limbs. This is especially important since compound bows tend to have a high draw weight.
Which options can I use?
If you take part in competitions, you know that you should always check if your gear is allowed in that competition. A traditional archer for example doesn’t want to screw on a stabilizer, since you won’t be allowed to use it in any traditional competition. Even if you don’t care about competitions, some solutions will not be available for you. Traditional bows for example have no stabilizer bushing, so this won’t be an option for you. Additionally shooting with certain gear wouldn’t really make sense in certain shooting styles.
I have added a table below with the options that are available depending on your shooting style/division. This is a simplification though, since the rules per competition and country may vary. Therefore, I would highly suggest checking the rules from your competition, before buying vibration dampening equipment
|Compound||Recurve||Bare bow recurve||Traditional|
|Upper and lower stabilizer||X|
|Limb saver/limb dampener||X||X||X|
* The string on compound bows should never touch the limbs. Since the string is guided by cams, so you shouldn’t really need a string dampener. But technically the compound division doesn’t restrict this device.
Vibration and vibration dampening is one of the most complex dynamics in archery. There are so many devices available so it was very hard to all categorize them. Many aspects of your bow could influence vibration, but describing them all would make this rather long article even longer. Therefore, I only discussed the major causes for vibration in the bow.
If you have any experience with vibration, please let me know in the comments how you solved it. This will help me improve this article and your story will help fellow archers. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below as well. I will respond to any questions as soon as possible.