How to tune an arrow rest

Most modern bows have an arrow rest, which is a small device that holds the arrow in place until the arrow is shot. Advanced arrow rests are highly adjustable and need to be tuned properly. An arrow rest that is not properly tuned or attached will either not hold the arrow or cause inaccuracies in your shot.

Therefore, I will discuss in detail how you can configure your arrow rest and how you should tune it. I will discuss this for both compound and recurve bows. So, keep reading if you want to know more about how to tune an arrow rest.

The different types of arrow rest

Before we can discuss how you should tune an arrow rest, we need to distinguish between two types of arrow rest: shoot-through and side-pressure.

Shoot-through arrow rest

A shoot-through arrow rest holds the arrow precisely in the center of the bow. This arrow rest is found most commonly on compound bows. Although there are some recurve bows with this arrow rest (cheap Chinese bows), it is very rare. The reason behind this is that you can’t use this arrow rest in recurve competitions.

There are a lot of different shoot-through arrow rests available. If you want more information about these arrow rests, I recommend reading the article below:

How to choose an arrow rest for a compound bow

A shoot-through arrow rest holds the arrow perfectly in the center. The rest touches the arrow only on the bottom.

Side-pressure arrow rest

A side-pressure arrow rest keeps the arrow tip slightly away from the riser. This type of arrow rest is slightly canted, this means that the arrow slides down to one side. Therefore, there are two points of contact, on the bottom and to the side of the arrow.

In most cases, a side-pressure arrow rest is used together with a plunger. A plunger is a small device that serves two functions:

  • To configure the left-right adjustment of the arrow
  • To configure the archer’s paradox with the spring tension

If you are not familiar with how a plunger works, I recommend reading the article below. You often adjust the arrow rest in conjunction with the plunger.

How to tune a plunger (still needs to be written)

There are multiple different side-pressure arrow rests available. From cheap and simple arrow rests to advanced and expensive arrow rests. Some arrow rests are highly adjustable while others can severely limit your ability to tune the bow. If you want to learn more about these differences, make sure to read the article below.

How to choose an arrow rest for a recurve bow

On a side pressure arrow rest, the arrow leans against a plunger or a build-in plunger tab.

Compound vs recurve

As I mentioned earlier, most recurve bows have a side-pressure arrow rest, while compound bows generally have a shoot-through arrow rest. But this is not always the case.

There are some cheap recurve bows aimed at beginners which feature a shoot-through arrow rest. If that is the case, make sure to read the section for compound bows.

Also, some older compound bows feature a side-pressure arrow rest or can be set up with a side-pressure arrow rest. If that is the case, make sure to read the section for recurve bows.

How to set an arrow rest on a recurve bow

To correctly set your arrow rest, there are three important things to consider, I will discuss them one by one.

Where the arrow rest is attached

Something a lot of new archers often struggle with is where to place the arrow rest. All arrow rests that have are attached with a piece of sticky tape have a small hole near the center of the plate. You should line up this hole with the button bushing on your riser.

If you have a modern bow, you will have two bushings with the same size threading. It’s important to note that the bushing closest to you when you shoot is the plunger bushing. The other bushing is to attach a screw-on arrow rest.

A screw-on arrow rest is generally more secure, but also more expensive. This type of arrow rest is attached from the outside of the bow with a large screw. As stated earlier, you should use the bushing that is farthest away from you when you are shooting.

If you are using an arrow rest with a piece of sticky tape, make sure to get it right in one go. Once it’s on, it cannot be removed without damaging the sticky tape.

The height of your arrow rest

Some more advanced arrow rests with a metal wire, allow you to change the height of the arrow rest. You simply loosen the hex screw and pull the wire up or down.

Ideally, we want the arrow to sit in the center of the plunger. If the plunger is misaligned with the arrow, you can experience clearance issues. If you have a simpler plastic arrow rest, you can’t change the height of the arrow rest. Therefore, you can skip this step with these arrow rests.

How far the arrow rest protrudes

The final step is mainly important if you have a metal arrow rest. These arrow rests allow you to change the angle of the arrow rest, which in turn influences how far the arrow rest protrudes beyond the arrow.

Ideally, we want the arrow rest to protrude as little as possible. The more the arrow rest protrudes the more it will interfere with the arrow. But if we place the arrow only on the tip of the arrow rest, it will not retain the arrow well. Therefore, we must balance between these two evils.

I recommend, to minimize the amount the arrow rest protrudes beyond the arrow. But if you notice that the arrow keeps falling off the rest, you might want to increase the angle.

How to set an arrow rest on a compound bow

Setting an arrow rest on a compound bow is a bit different from a recurve bow, but in principle, you should focus on the same aspects.

Where the arrow rest is attached

In the previous section, we discussed that modern recurve bows have two bushings, one for the arrow rest and one for the button. The same is true for most compound bows. If your compound bow has two bushings, you can also set it up with a side-pressure arrow rest. Not that I recommend it, I explain why later in the article.

To attach a shoot-through arrow rest to a compound bow we use the arrow rest bushing on the riser. As a reminder, this is the bushing that is farthest away from you when you shoot. Make sure that you attach the arrow rest straight.

I like to also use the plunger bushing because this makes the arrow rest more stable. Even when one of the screws vibrates loose, your arrow rest will be kept in place. Don’t worry too much about it though. Most arrow rest only include one screw, because a lot of people only use one.

I like to use both bushings, because this makes the arrow rest more secure.

Center shot

The next step is to make sure that the arrow is center shot. In most cases, you do this in conjunction with tuning your sight, so if you are not sure how to center your bow sight, make sure to read the article below:

How to adjust a bow sight – a complete guide

To make your arrow rest center shot, you follow the steps below:

Step 1: find a way to prop up your bow vertically with an arrow on the arrow rest. You can either lean it against a wall, ask someone to help you, or use your knee. It’s important that the bow is relatively stable and that you can look at the arrow from a distance. If you are an archery nerd like me, you might want to buy a bow vice. This device allows you to clamp your bow to a table, which is useful for tuning, maintenance, and repair.

Step 2: take a few steps back and center the string on the limbs. Make sure to keep very still while moving to the next step.

Step 3: now you can check the alignment of your arrow rest. If the arrow rest is correctly aligned, the arrow should be in the center of the string. It might even disappear completely behind the string. If that is the case, you know your arrow is center shot. If not, you should follow the next step.

Step 4: how you should change the left-right alignment on your arrow rest differs per arrow rest. Some advanced arrow rests have dials that allow you to change the left-right alignment by turning these dials. Most cheaper arrow rests, feature a locking screw. If you loosen this locking screw you can move the arrow rest by hand.

Step 5: once you made your adjustments you should repeat this guide from step 1, to make sure that the arrow is centered correctly.

Height

Most shoot-through arrow rests allow you to change the height of the rest in most cases you can slide it an inch (2.5 cm) up or down. The first thing you should check is to make sure that the arrow easily clears the shelf. Since the arrow bends slightly up or down, you don’t want to have the arrow too close to the shelf.

There should be enough clearance between the arrow and the shelf because the arrow flexes vertically on compound bows.

Next, you want to make sure that the arrow is perfectly perpendicular to the bowstring. If you haven’t tied a D-loop you have to do that first. If the arrow is pointing down, you should move the arrow rest up and vice versa. If the arrow is pointing up or down very extremely, you need to change the position of your D-loop.

How important is arrow rest tuning?

Setting up your arrow rest correctly is very important. If your arrow rest is skewed, it will interfere with the arrow flight, which can cause major issues. I have seen multiple archers that had serious issues because their arrow rest was not configured correctly.

With arrow rests, you always must balance between two evils. On one side, you want an arrow rest that holds the arrow very well. But an arrow rest that holds the arrow very well can also cause a lot of interference issues.

One solution for compound archers is to use a drop-away arrow rest. This arrow rest folds away when the arrow is shot. Therefore, the arrow will have very little interference while in flight, but it can also retain the arrow very well. If you want to learn more about, drop away arrow rests, read the article below:

How to choose an arrow rest for your compound bow – drop away arrow rest

Shoot-through vs side-pressure arrow rests - which is better?

Earlier in the article, I mentioned that you can shoot most compound bows with both a side-pressure arrow rest and a shoot-through arrow rest. But if you look at any archery club, you will see that almost all compound archers use a shoot-through arrow rest. Let me explain why.

A side-pressure arrow rest has a closer resemblance to traditional archery. In traditional archery, the arrow is put on a canted shelf and leans against the bow. When the bow is shot the arrow will curve around the bow, which is called the archer's paradox. You can see this happen in the video below.

This is quite similar to the setup with a side-pressure arrow rest. But this setup has a few disadvantages, archers’ paradox is quite unforgiving. If the arrow is a bit too flexible or a bit too stiff you can experience some serious clearance issues. It’s also more difficult to get the plunger pressure just right to get the bow to shoot center shot

A shoot-through arrow rest is a lot more forgiving. Since the arrow is in the center of the string you don’t need a plunger at all. It’s also less of an issue if you shoot with arrows that are not perfectly correctly spined (arrow stiffness). If you want to learn more about arrow stiffness (spine weight), make sure to read the article below:

Spine weight – what it is and why it matters

Final words

Although it might seem quite complicated to set up your arrow rest, you only must do this once per bow. I hope my article made this process a bit easier for you. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments down below. I will reply as soon as possible, and I will send you an email to let you know that I replied.

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