If you shoot with a quiver attached to your bow then you have already gotten an object lesson in proper bow balance. You may have noticed the bow tends to fall a little to the right (if you are right-handed) when the quiver is on the bow and a little more so when the quiver is full of arrows.
Bow balance may not be a major concern if all you take are short shots, but when you are trying to improve your tournament shooting or looking for ways to increase your maximum range when hunting, you have to control all the variables. The perfect bow is one that doesn't move, tip or turn during or after the shot. The Hoyt Katera, with a very lightweight quiver, is one of the few bows the author has shot that balanced almost perfectly without adding significant weight.
If your bow is not balanced, you must force it into a stationary and vertical position at full draw by exerting a small rotational force on the handle. Furthermore, if you have a relaxed grip, the bow will begin to fall to the right as soon as you release the string.
Whatever the bow does after the shot is what it is beginning to do during the shot. Read that last sentence again and think about it.
Ideally, the bow should be perfectly balanced so there is no "pre-load" on the bow. The bow should stay in exactly the same position during the entire launch cycle -- it should not be moving during the shot. The bow should ideally rest in your relaxed hand in exactly the same position it occupied while you were aiming -- straight up and down, front to back and side to side. This is a good indication the bow is well balanced and you did not torque the grip during the shot.
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There are two ways to achieve perfect balance. First, you buy a bow that is well balanced by design. Second, you apply the proper weights in just the right places. When selecting a new bow, shoot it a few times and pay attention to how well it balances in your hand. The bow's intrinsic balance will affect how you shoot the bow in the future.
Establish A Starting Point
Every bow will balance a little differently depending on the accessories attached, so you need to know exactly what your bow does during and after the shot. When you do your testing, always use a wrist sling so the bow is free to move. Take several shots, paying particular attention to how the bow reacts to the shot. Better yet, have someone film you shooting so you can see what happens from an observer's viewpoint.
Stand three feet from a blank backstop and shoot a few arrows while focusing on maintaining a very relaxed bow hand until well after the arrow has hit the target. Don't worry about dropping the bow; let the sling do its job. Make no effort to keep the bow upright with your wrist; just keep your hand and wrist totally relaxed and let it fall where it will.
Improving Your Bow's Balance
Most bows require some weighting, and regardless of bow design, all will need a counterweight if you want to completely balance a bow quiver. So, if you will be using a bow quiver this fall, be sure it is attached when you're testing the bow.
The easiest bow to balance is one that tips backward during the release. You add conventional, front-mounted stabilizer weight until the bow remains upright in your relaxed hand. Ideally, you will be able to perform this test in the archery shop so you can try a few different stabilizers to find the correct weight that keeps the bow in proper position.
In years past, few bows tipped forward without a stabilizer attached. However, newer ultra-low brace height bows with parallel limb design can tend to tip forward. So, if you have one of these bows, you may have a little work to do to balance it.
There are several ways to balance such a bow: add back weight to the riser, reduce the weight of the sight or reduce the distance the sight is positioned in front of the bow.
Some risers have a threaded bushing below the grip -- an extension of the normal stabilizer hole backwards -- where you can attach a short stabilizer for back weight. For target shooting, you can also use a V-bar system to move weight back, but they are too cumbersome for hunting. Weights that attach to the tooling holes or machined cutouts of the riser near the bottom limb pocket will also counteract the tendency of the bow to tip forward. Finally, if you are using a heavy sight, a lighter model with a shorter extension bar will also help.
You can counterbalance a bow quiver by using a weight on the opposite side of the riser.
Fill your quiver with arrows and use an offset stabilizer bracket (most stabilizer companies offer one) to move the front-mounted stabilizer slightly to the opposite side of the bow. It is a simple step that will slightly improve your accuracy. Also, some bow risers have a threaded hole below the grip, perpendicular to the stabilizer bushing, that will allow you to add weight directly to the left side of the riser (for a right-handed shooter).
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Bow balance may not be a major concern if all you take are short shots, but when you are trying to improve your tournament shooting or looking for ways to increase your maximum range when hunting, you have to control all the variables.
One of the most overlooked features is bow balance. The perfect bow is one that doesn't move, tip or turn during or after the shot. When you achieve this kind of perfection, you can be sure you are gripping the bow correctly and your bow is perfectly balanced.