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How to Set Up a Drop-Away Rest

Follow these simple steps to properly set up and tune your drop-away arrow rest.

How to Set Up a Drop-Away Rest

One key advantage to a drop-away arrow rest is that it produces an unobstructed path for the arrow to follow. As the arrow cycles through the bow, the launcher arm quickly folds out of the way, reducing the chance of fletching contact and torque being applied to the shaft. This improves accuracy under the most demanding hunting conditions.

A quality arrow rest is one of those accessories that’s absolutely pivotal to shooting consistency. If it’s not set up right or if it’s not a well-made component accuracy will certainly suffer. This is why paying attention to the details is important during both the selection and set-up process. My goal with this article is to focus mainly on the set-up procedures, but I will also provide some helpful hints as to what to look for in a rest to improve consistency and to tighten groups — especially with broadheads.

Two Rest Designs, Two Set-Up Methods

There are two types of drop-away rests on the market: cable- and limb-activated. With a cable-activated rest, the bow’s pull-down cable applies tension to the arrow-rest arm, either controlling the launcher rise and fall, or as is the case with most of the newer cable-activated rests (i.e., QAD UltraRest), it prepares the launcher for triggering once the arrow is released.

The limb-activated drop-away is completely different. The cable cord connects to the top or bottom limb, and when the bow is drawn back, the limb moves inward, releasing the cord’s tension and allowing the launcher arm to rise up to its full position. Once the arrow is fired, the limb springs outward, dropping the launcher arm just before the arrow’s vanes clear the rest. Many perceive the limb-activated rest as more complex when compared to the cable-activated design, but in reality, it’s extremely simple.

Cable-Driven Setup

Step 1) Attach the arrow rest to the bow riser and adjust the launcher height so it positions the arrow shaft in the center of the threaded Berger Button hole or slightly above it for added vane clearance. Set the arrow’s nock point height to 90 degrees or 1/8-inch above center. Adjust the center shot of the arrow so it’s in line with the center of the bow’s limb bolts, or as indicated by the bow manufacturer. To set center shot, I personally prefer to hold the bow out at arm’s length and, while using only my dominant eye, center the bowstring with the cams’ string grooves, then move the launcher arm and arrow dead center with this position. Note: Rests using the increasingly popular Integrate Dovetail Mounting System attach directly to the back of the riser and are solid and self-leveling, but they still employ micro adjustment for windage and elevation.

Step 2) Attach the arrow rest’s cord to the pull-down cable on the bow, so it’s positioned about one inch above the height of the bottom of the bow’s grip. You can use the supplied cable clamp, or better yet, tie a double-half hitch knot (the same knot as one side of a D-loop) to secure the cord to the cable on the bow. This type of knot tightens with tension but allows the cord to rotate, keeping it perfectly aligned with arrow rest. You will then add serving above and below this knot to secure it further once the setup is complete. (Note: You can also insert the cord through the center of the cable. This will require the use of a bow press.)

Additional set-up procedures are often needed to securely attach a drop-away rest’s string cord to the bow’s downward-moving buss cable. For the cleanest, most secure method, the cord should be either inserted through the buss cable or attached using a double-half-hitch knot, then securely served into place.

Step 3) Leave about two inches of slack in the cord before securing it with the clamp or double-half hitch knot. Then slowly draw the bow back (or use a draw board device) to examine the timing of the cord with the rest’s launcher arm. It should be taut and taking up tension the last inch or so of the draw. For a cable-driven rest with a cocking arm that stays up during the draw, you’ll adjust the cord so it’s taking up tension the last bit of the draw cycle.

For either rest type, you want to apply as little cord tension on the bow’s cable as possible, as this could place unwieldly tension on the bow’s strings, limbs, and cams, causing tuning and accuracy issues. Keep adjusting the timing of the rest until it’s perfect. You can adjust the cord length at either the cable or the arrow rest end, depending on the rest’s adjustment mechanism.

Step 4) Next, be sure to secure the cable clamp and trim the excess cord tag. With the double-half-hitch knot, melt the tag end so it can’t come undone, then serve above and below the melted ball to prevent it from moving position.

Step 5) Once the setup is complete, you can check for straight arrow flight by paper tuning. You can also see my article — “Step-by-Step Bow Tuning for Beginners” on Bowhunter's website for more.

Limb-Driven Setup

Step 1) Use the same procedure as indicated for a cable-driven rest.

Step 2) Next, attach the launcher cable to the top or bottom limb, as indicated by the arrow-rest manufacturer. With the rest in the proper position, and the nock height and center-shot set, tighten the cord until the launcher lightly touches the riser’s arrow-rest shelf, then secure the cord. A double-half-hitch knot with a burned end works well for securing the cord to the limb and the supplied limb pad. Arizona Archery’s Pro Drop rest uses a stainless-steel cord with an assortment of limb sandwiches to work with various bows. This system is easy to adjust, reliable, and stretch free.

Most limb-activated rests require some type of shelf-mounted arrow holder to keep the arrow aligned with the rest’s launcher arm. This keeps the arrow from bouncing from side to side during the initial draw.

Step 3) Double check that the launcher arm is touching the riser just enough to make contact. If not, make the necessary adjustments to the cord’s length either at the limb or arrow-rest side, depending on your preference and the style of arrow rest you’re using. Be sure to stick down a low-profile arrow holder that attaches the arrow shelf to keep the arrow in place during the first couple inches of the draw. After this, the launcher arm will lift the arrow and keep it secure.


Step 4) The arrow rest is now secure and ready for shooting and paper tuning.

Notes on Arrow Rest Design & Quality

Whether you prefer a cable- or limb-activated rest largely comes down to personal choice. However, regardless of the rest’s style, be sure it’s made with machined components, a rugged launcher arm, and semi-beefy lockdown screws. These features will keep in working perfectly while you’re trekking the woods and battling inclement weather.

The launcher arm should also rotate up and down very smoothly without any side-to-side “play” in the mechanism. Such movement will cause not only added vibration (depending on the amount of play) but will hinder accuracy as well. Arrow rests made to tight tolerances using all machined components will cost more but will certainly produce better groups. With arrow rests, you often get what you pay for, so keep this in mind.

Attaching the Rest Cord to the Bow Cable

An alternate way to secure the arrow rest’s cord on a cable-activated rest is to insert it through the center of the bow’s pull-down cable. This keeps it nearly impossible for it to come undone, given it’s burned with a balled-up end, then served into place. Of course, inserting it through the cable will require the use of a bow press.

However, one problematic issue with this method is that if the bow’s string cables are later twisted up to synch the cams’ timing, the cord could be misaligned with the rest’s pull-down lever, causing issues with launcher-arm timing, string torque, and overall arrow-flight problems. To realign the cord, you’ll have to redo and reposition it, which is a big hassle. For this reason, I prefer to keep the cord attached to the outside of the bow’s cable using a double-half-hitch knot. This allows it to stay very secure (once it’s served into place) but able to rotate as needed to maintain perfect alignment with the pull-down mechanism.

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