In archery, the stability of your compound bow as you take each shot is crucial. A properly stabilized bow increases your chances of consistently hitting the target, which is every archer’s main aim. In the past, archers had to master the art of stabilizing their bows, but that has long changed with recent developments in the field of archery, including the introduction of stabilizers.
Bows are an extremely sensitive piece of equipment, and the slightest error in form or bow movement can send your arrows off course. Bow stabilizers can give you that extra edge you need to deliver accurate shots, which explains why you’d almost always see professionals in target archery and bowhunting use bow stabilizers.
Before we go any further, let us consider what bow stabilizers are and how they work.
Compound Bow Stabilizers - What They Are And How They Work
A compound bow stabilizer is a weighted tube-shaped accessory mounted on the bow to increase stability by reducing bow movement on release, thus increasing shot precision. Stabilizers look simple but actually have an elaborate construction. Though they come in various designs, generally, a bow stabilizer consists of a screw with which it is mounted on the bow, a body made of lightweight carbon polymer or ABS plastic with a rubber dampener attached, followed by the end cap where weights can be attached.
Stabilizers increase the weight of the bow to resist bow movement and also increase the bow’s weight at a distance which helps to resist rotational movement and increase the bow’s moment of inertia (the measure of how resistant an object is to rotation).
Why You Need A Compound Bow Stabilizer
As mentioned earlier, stabilizers give archers a winning edge whenever they take a shot. The reasons behind this are not far-fetched. While the bow is well able to release arrows without a stabilizer attached, there are tremendous advantages attached to using stabilizers, including:
Bow Stabilizers Increase The Stability Of Your Shots
Attaching stabilizers to your bow smooths the aiming and release process by increasing the bow’s inertia (as explained above), resulting in less motion. By adding forward weight to your bow, stabilizers balance the bow in your hands.
A balanced bow also helps steady your pins on your target, which is crucial in hunting and archery tournaments. Aiming with a pin that moves too much can result in punching the trigger - a common cause of target panic.
This additional mass weight absorbs some of the bow's vibrations produced while shooting the bow. You may need bow stabilizers of a certain mass and length for optimal stabilization of your shots.
Improves The Accuracy Of Your Shots
More stable shots increase your chances of having more accurate shots. It’s a no-brainer, really, and is even more apparent when you shoot long distance, and the slightest twitch can send those arrows way off target.
The stabilizer’s extra weight will naturally resist even the smallest movements introduced by your muscles as you try to aim at the target, making your aim steadier - the result of which is more accurate and consistent shots.
Absorbs Shooting Vibrations
Modern compound bows efficiently propel arrows with considerable force. Since the bow isn’t a perfect mechanical system, that much force pushing the arrow could only result in one thing - wasted energy released in the form of sounds and vibration.
Vibrations usually occur in your hands as your release your shot and result from tension build-up in the bowstring, which is released from the arm guard during the draw and release process. The repetitive motions involved in archery and extensive vibrations from bow shooting increase the chances of the archer being physically hurt.
Good stabilizers absorb the shock produced by the bow during draw and release, potentially extending archers’ shooting careers. With a stabilizer and flexible shock absorbers attached, the bow's vibration dissipates faster, resulting in a more pleasant shooting experience and less chance of physical injury or sprain for the archer.
Reduces Bow Noise
Every bowhunter would agree that noise reduction is critical to increasing your chances of success. Stabilizers absorb the sound along with the vibration produced when an arrow is fired. This is of particular importance to bowhunters because most animals have a very keen sense of hearing. And while hunting, you don’t want to scare off your game, as it is much easier to get a clean shot if your target is not moving.
What To Consider When Buying Compound Bow Stabilizers
Now that you know why stabilizers should be a staple in your collection of bow accessories, there are a number of factors to consider when selecting the most appropriate stabilizer for you.
When choosing a bow stabilizer, it is important to prioritize function over looks. You must also find the option that best suits your bow and shooting preferences. The main considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a bow stabilizer include:
Stabilizers come in a wide array of lengths, from as short as six inches to longer lengths up to thirty inches. Longer stabilizers require more torque and force to move and, thus, typically give more balance with less weight. Hence, long stabilizers prevent more motion compared to shorter stabilizers of the same weight, allowing you gain more stability for less weight. They are, however, not without their flaws. Longer stabilizers are rather more inconvenient and less maneuverable compared to shorter lengths. It is also very likely to get in the way of your other bow accessories.
Ultimately, the most suitable length for you will be based chiefly on your shooting environment, shooting style, and personal preference. Below is a guide to determine what length of bow stabilizer to go for:
Less than 10 inches
Stabilizers in this range are considered “small”, and because they are easy to move around and don’t get in the way, they are mainly used by bowhunters in tight spaces like a hunting blind or thick brush. These stabilizers don’t provide much balance but dampen vibration and reduce noise.
10 - 15 inches
Typically referred to as “mid-range” stabilizers, they are the go-to option for bowhunters because they do a great job of stabilizing the bow’s weight and reducing noise and vibration. For standard bowhunting purposes, you can aim for lengths within 12-14 inches.
More than 15 inches
Stabilizers over 15 inches in length fall into the “long-range” classification. Due to their length, these stabilizers do not need much weight and are often made of carbon fiber or other lightweight materials. Some bowhunters go for long stabilizers, particularly if they intend on taking long, difficult shots. Stabilizers of this length are, however, more ideal for competitive target shooting.
Stabilizers usually weigh only one or two ounces, and this provides considerable balance and stability. The most suitable weight for you will depend on your individual strength, the extent of stability you need, and your level of experience.
Except you’ve been consistently doing shoulder strengthening exercises for years, you will most likely have to work up to heavier weights, regardless of whether or not you’re a strong person. The reason behind this isn’t far-fetched - weight helps your bow resist too much movement when it’s shot, but if you are not used to handling it, it can cause your arm to waver.
Since most stabilizers come with multiple weights or provisions to accommodate extra weights, you have no issue starting small and working your way up as you improve your form and accuracy.
You should also consider how much weight and balance you actually need. Archers that already have perfect form could end up doing more harm than good by unnecessarily weighing themselves down. At the same time, purchasing a long stabilizer means you won’t need much weight.
A good stabilizer comes with a rubber dampener at the rod’s end just before the weight. These dampeners help transmit vibrations to the end of the stabilizer from where it is dispersed away from the bow. Your stabilizer setup should consist of dampeners of ideal flexibility together with appropriate front weight for optimal vibration absorption.
Although stabilizers work based on the same principle, they actually come in several different designs, each with its pros and cons. Hence, it's only ideal to choose the design that best suits your situation.
These long, thin stabilizers attach to bows just below the grip. They’re often long enough to stabilize the bow on their own but may sometimes come with disc-shaped weights attached at the end. Because of their long length, they are able to provide more stability for less weight. Their main drawback is their long rods can be rather inconvenient and difficult to maneuver.
A twin stabilizer consists of two stabilizers, each attached to the point where the limbs and the riser meet. Hence, one stabilizer is positioned right above the bow grip and the other right below it.
Twin stabilizers give extra stabilizing and dampening effects, keep the bow vertically aligned by helping it resist rotation, and specifically help counter bow hand errors.
Reverse Stabilizers and Side Bars
A reverse stabilizer is simply a smaller bow stabilizer usually fitted below the bow grip and points directly opposite the poker stabilizer - hence, it offsets the negative effects of the long rod. Although a poker stabilizer provides more balance and stability, its length can place your center of gravity too far from you, making it difficult to hold up. Reverse stabilizers or back bars help finetune the bow's center of gravity, bringing it backward to a manageable point.
Though reverse stabilizers were originally designed to extend back from the riser, it is not uncommon to see archers utilize them in customizing their setup in several ways. This explains why some archers have one or two side rods or rear bars attached to their bow risers at various angles. As you progress in your archery journey, you will learn where your bow needs added stability and tweak the direction of your reverse stabilizer accordingly to achieve that.
This is a critical feature to look for in stabilizers. Your stabilizer should be very difficult to bend - the stiffer it is, the more stable it will be. The general rule to maximize the effectiveness of the stabilizer weight is that the rod of your stabilizer should be as thin, light, and stiff as you can get it.
By now, you already understand that stabilizers come in a wide array of designs and setups, but this isn’t intended to make purchasing them complicated for archers. Rather, this variety takes the individuality of every archer into cognizance, highlighting the fact that as archers, we have different quirks in our form affecting our shooting accuracy.
Bow stabilizers were designed to be adjusted and combined to provide balance right where it is needed, allowing you to have the most stable bow possible. In the end, it’s left to you to find the ideal stabilizer setup for your compound bow, as this could make a huge difference in consistently hitting the bull's eye.