The global archery equipment market size reached US$ 3.7 Billion in 2023. One of the most expensive and noticeable accessories you can put on your bow is a stabilizer system. So, I expected an article on their effectiveness and importance to be, simple. However, choices of stabilizers are vast and personal. Most importantly, there are almost no studies pointing out their necessity or effectiveness. I came across a lot of opinions, and even came across a mathematical model on how a bow moves in various axis and the force needed to stabilize them. But when looking for Stabilizer vs No stabilizer.
I ended up heading to YouTube. There, I found one Gentleman comparing the effect of shooting with and without on a recurve bow, and another comparing a compound bow’s accuracy with and without a stabilizer.
The results were interesting. The first and most recent video (above) I found on this was by an Archery YouTuber Jake Kaminski. He was the only example that I came across actually demonstrating the difference between shooting a recurve bow with and without a stabilizer. Alternately shot 2 ends (6 arrows = end) with a stabilizer and 2 without, at a distance of 70 meters.
He achieved a higher score on the ends with a stabilizer. He scored 53 on one (top), and 57 on the other.
On the ends without the stabilizer (above), he scored a 41 and 45. However, The arrow grouping stayed relatively tight, but they shifted to the left of the 10 circle. The grouping was almost as tight as with the stabilizer. He also didn’t miss any. At one point in the video he mentions the idea of practicing more without the stabilizer.
He expresses how the bow felt unfamiliar without the system attached. While it didn’t deviate much vertically, there was a horizontal shift. He expressed how awkward the bow felt without the stab. (Yea, I called it a stab ?️). So, It leaves you wondering how good he would have gotten at shooting without the stab if he practiced with it for a while. His groupings all showed that he has good fundamentals.
The other YouTube video experiment I saw (above) was done by Zach Evan using a compound hunting bow at 150 yards (137.16 meters). He did not measure, or focus on grouping size. Rather, he counted hits vs misses. I the end of his experiment, he hit the target 13/15 times with the stabilizer bar on, and 13/15 times with it off. This is partially a testament to how accurate and consistent compound bows can be on their own.
What both Archers showed was that they have excellent technique. Perhaps the stabilizer might have a greater effect on a novice. It would be great if this experiment could be done at a greater scale to get more data. But, when snooping around online, people mostly seem convinced that a stabilizer system is the way to go, especially when talking about competition style target archery.
Most of the pushback seems to come from bow hunters. This is partly because the majority uses compound bows, which are unanimously more accurate and consistent on their own. The other argument is that, a long stabilizer is too cumbersome to carry around in the bush or to have sticking out of a hunting blind. While stubby weights and short (under 6 inches) stabs are common, hunters also don’t tend to shoot at 70 meter+ ranges like target archers might. At 40 yards (36.58meters), most feel that the bow with a few weights should suffice.
But, you’re still, Team Stabilizer. What exactly are they, and what can they do for you?
Stabilizers are weights and rods attached to the riser of a bow. The most familiar stabilizer system would be the type you see on an Olympic style recurve archery bow. Think of those long 3-foot rods sticking out in front of the televised archery competitions. Those things are responsible for that cool bow swing the archer does each time they shoot an arrow. So cool!
Their purpose is to improve the accuracy, consistency and overall shooting performance of a recurve bow. They add weight to the bow, which slows down the bows movement and shaking. The extra weight and length of the bow now gives ti more inertia. It becomes a more difficult thing to move around. While it’s now heavier in your hand, and requires more strength to lift, it has essentially been slowed down.
If we were robotically steady and consistent in our movements, the stabilizer would not make a difference. But since, we’re squishy, twitching flesh bags, we look to physics to steady out movements. There are several ways in which this could help us be more accurate:
- Reducing Vibration and Shock: Stabilizers are designed to absorb and dissipate the vibrations and shock generated when an arrow is released. This helps in reducing hand shock and bow movement, allowing for a more stable and controlled shot. The reduction in vibration and shake can give us a more consistent position when aiming and holding the bow. The vibration that comes along with shooting the arrow generally doesn’t affect the flight of the arrow. However, anticipation of discomfort could cause some to flinch, or grip the bow in a manner that compromises the release of the arrow. So, vibration could be a factor. For some, it may not be a factor
- Balancing the Bow: Stabilizers add weight to the front of the bow, helping to balance its overall weight distribution. This balance contributes to a steadier hold and a more controlled shot, especially during the aiming process. For some, this may result in less vertical separation in arrow groupings. When aiming the bow this generally means that the archer can keep the bullseye in their sight longer, or more often as the bow naturally moves around during the aiming period
- Minimizing Torque and Twist: Stabilizers help counteract torque and bow hand movement during the shot. This is crucial for maintaining proper alignment and reducing unwanted horizontal movement that can affect arrow accuracy. Again, the added mass of the stabilizer system slows down the twisting motion of the bow as the string is pulled and released.
- Improving Aiming Stability: The additional weight at the front of the bow, along with the dampening effect on vibrations, contributes to a more stable aiming platform. This can make it easier for archers to hold their aim steadily on the target, as the now heavier bow moves around more slowly.
- Enhancing Follow-Through: Stabilizers help improve the archer’s ability to follow through smoothly after releasing the arrow. A stable follow-through is essential for consistent and accurate shooting. While follow through happens after the arrow has left the bow, the anticipation of what the bow will do may cause flinching or tensing your grip before the release. Knowing that the bow will fall forward into the finger sling in a predictable manner may reduce the flinch.
- Mitigating Wind Effects: In outdoor conditions with wind, stabilizers can help stabilize the bow against the effects of gusts, providing a more predictable and consistent shot. Again, because they’re heavier and slower now
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of stabilizers can vary based on factors such as the archer’s skill level, bow setup, and personal preferences. Additionally, the length, weight, and configuration of stabilizers can be adjusted to suit individual shooting styles and preferences.
While stabilizers can significantly enhance accuracy, it’s also essential for archers to practice proper form, shot execution, and other fundamental techniques. Stabilizers work in conjunction with good shooting habits to produce the best results. As archers progress in skill, they may fine-tune their stabilizer setup to match their evolving shooting style and preferences.