Archery-Terms, JOAD, usa archery

Minimum Qualifying Scores

USA Archery has only the recurve discipline recognized as an Olympic sport.  There are plenty of tournaments (regional, national, and international) that recognize barebow as well as compound too.  For this post on Minimum Qualifying Scores, only the recurve discipline is being documented.  The MQS is one large part of varying classification schemes used to qualify for Regional Dream Team, Junior Dream Team, and the Resident Athlete programs.  As an archer, you must shoot the MQS.

USA Archery sits somewhere in the mid technology zone.  They seem to have a lot of paper and as such, PDF continues to bridge the gap well for their needs.  The qualifications are published in PDFs, but you may sometimes find an outdated PDF and it’s hard to know if you have the right ones.

This handy chart simplifies the MQS for recurve with four different age classifications.
Current as of February 2018

Links to USA Archery

Archery-Terms, Gear

Archery Science – Arrows and Fletchings

The older kid has chosen to study the affect of fletchings on arrow flight.  Her simple goal is to examine the results of feather fletchings and plastic fletchings for indoor shooting.  Her project includes shooting a lot of arrows which is underway.  Her paper has been submitted to her teacher.  You can read it here.


Archery-Terms, Gear, Getting-Started, JOAD

Finger Tabs With Too Many Options

From what I can tell, the FIVICS “Saker” has become one of the most popular and imitated finger tabs.  Originally released as the Soma, the Saker comes in at least three models (Saker 1, Saker 2, and Saker3) and at least three materials (Aluminum, Brass, Carbon Fiber).


The Saker 1 is on top (blue), the Saker 2 is on the bottom left (green), and the Saker 3 is on the bottom right (red).  Which one is right for you?  This is especially important in the age of online shopping and limited selection in retail.  Importantly, it’s not just the color (more on that later).

They are not named by “quality” either, the Saker 1 isn’t better than the Saker 2 or the Saker 3.  It’s more about the design.  The Saker 1 has more metal and sits back into your hand.  That triangle on the end may not be very comfortable for many shooters. There also appears to be some other accessory that can be added to the back triangle. The Saker 2 has less metal and the Saker 3 has even less metal.  It comes down to how much you like the extra metal and this other fact (that isn’t published on many retailer sites but is available on the FIVICS site ) — what is your preferred positioning of your fingers on the string regarding the load of drawing?


Model Index Finger Middle Finger Ring Finger
Saker 1 30 50 20
Saker 2 30 55 15
Saker 3 40 50 10

Besides the fit in your hand, this other bit of data may be an important decision making point. Kisik Lee in his book says the right distribution is 40, 50, and 10. That would make a good choice the Saker 3, particularly if the Saker 1 is uncomfortable.

Now, what color? Surprise, you don’t pick a color. You pick a size. But most of you are shopping online. What size do you need? FIVICS has put out this guide (PDF), but again, it’s not easy to find. My copy surfaced on a Slovakian site.


You’ll note Dark Blue is XL and at the other end, Green is XXS. The guide may not be flawless, so I found this extra information.


(From Online Archery Equipment in the UK)

Finally, there are three materials. The aluminum model is by far the most prevalent. It’s also the only one with color selections. The brass model is three times heavier than the aluminum model and that may be important for some shooters. The carbon fiber model is lighter and probably stiff than the aluminum model with less chance of deforming.

We ordered the Saker 3 and soon, she’ll be able to tell me how it is to shoot with it.

Archery-Terms, Gear, Getting-Started

Recurve Clicker

A clicker is an addition to a recurve archery bow. It’s most likely a springy piece of metal attached to the riser. The clicker hangs past the arrow rest/shelf.

An arrow fits under the clicker. As the archer reaches full draw, the arrow point will slip under the springy clicker and the archer hears the onomatopoeic sound of “click”. This signifies the archer has reached the right point to release. The clicker provides a high level of consistency. Many archers train around the “click” and integrate it into their shot sequence.


From Abbey Archery in Australia.

The clicker is also used as a draw length check. The position of the clicker is adjusted so that when the archer reaches full draw, the clicker just begins to slide down the arrow tip. When he is satisfied the shot is set up, he increases back tension. As back tension increases, the draw hand moves the bowstring and the arrow back, so that eventually the arrow slides out from under the clicker. The clicker slaps the riser and makes a noise, hence its name. Archers generally watch the clicker to see that the length of the draw is sufficient to place the clicker on the start of the slope of the arrow tip. After that, visual focus switches to aiming. The clicker facilitates the use of back tension, plus it discourages anticipation of the release because the archer is never quite sure when back tension will have increased enough to slide the arrow from under the clicker. For finger shooters, these are important advantages in setting up consistent and well executed shots. Most Olympic style shooters use one, but finger shooters in bowhunter class often are not allowed to use clickers.

More info in this video:

Archery-Terms, usa archery

United States Archery Team

US Archery has stated this is their mission

The mission of USA Archery shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Pan American or Paralympic and World Championship competition and to promote and grow the sport of archery in the United States.

US Archery assembles those athletes into the US Archery Team

The U.S. Archery Team (USAT), established in 1982, consists of the top male and female recurve and compound archers in the country.

Currently, US Archery only recognizes two disciplines: Recurve and Compound, although that changes officially in 2018 for Barebow.

There are currently three age divisions: Senior (any age), Junior, and Cadet. US Archery will recognize a new age division in 2018 as well, Masters (over 50).

Additionally, US Archery recognizes para-athletes as their own division (without age groups). Combining all of this, there are 30 different combinations for US Archery Teams (although I suspect that discipline (barebow, compound, recurve) is not distinct for the para-athlete.

  1. Male Recurve Senior
  2. Male Recurve Junior
  3. Male Recurve Cadet
  4. Male Recurve Masters (new)
  5. Male Recurve Para
  6. Female Recurve Senior
  7. Female Recurve Junior
  8. Female Recurve Cadet
  9. Female Recurve Masters (new)
  10. Female Recurve Para
  11. Male Compound Senior
  12. Male Compound Junior
  13. Male Compound Cadet
  14. Male Compound Masters (new)
  15. Male Compound Para
  16. Female Compound Senior
  17. Female Compound Junior
  18. Female Compound Cadet
  19. Female Compound Masters (new)
  20. Female Compound Para
  21. Male Barebow Senior (new)
  22. Male Barebow Junior (new)
  23. Male Barebow Cadet (new)
  24. Male Barebow Masters (new)
  25. Male Barebow Para (new)
  26. Female Barebow Senior (new)
  27. Female Barebow Junior (new)
  28. Female Barebow Cadet (new)
  29. Female Barebow Masters (new)
  30. Female Barebow Para (new)

Currently, only two of these teams (bold) above compete in the Olympics or Pan-Am games.

Archery-Terms, nfaa, References

Parsing USA Archery

Archery first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900, was contested again in 1904, 1908 and 1920, then again, after an absence of 52 years, from 1972 to the present. In 1931, FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc) was formed to get archery back in the olympics. In 2011, FITA decided to rename themselves World Archery Federation which is strangely abbreviated WA.

What I get from this bit of history is that archery wasn’t well organized for those 52 years. After all, it was clearly present and important in the 1908 Olympics. Unlike a sport like baseball, which from my understanding has one canonical implementation, archery has a problem of many disciplines fighting for a share of the attention. For example, there is not baseball on stilts, aquatic baseball, spring loaded bat baseball, and VR baseball. These things may exist, but they aren’t baseball in the common definition.

So any organization that wants to represent the interests of archery have really distinct constituents. It starts with equipment – namely the bow but also the arrow. There are long bows, bare bows, compound bows, cross bows, and recurve bows. There are wood arrows, aluminum arrows, carbon arrows, hybrid arrows, and probably more I don’t even know exist. In contrast, here is the Major League definition of the bat.

The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.

The equipment is just one way that archery diverges. What people choose to shoot an arrow at is another difference in archery – “paper” targets of all sizes and shapes and configurations, animals, 3D fake animals, fish, and movie screens with a virtual target archery. Probably the biggest division is around the word “animals”. This means that archery is also a hunting sport.

Like other sports, the international governing body wants to oversee various national governing bodies. In the USA, that governing body for a long time was called the NAA or National Archery Association. The NAA was founded in 1879. The NAA is different than the National Field Archery Association. The NFAA was found in 1931, probably over some split over the diversity of different forms of archery. Details are few. It is generally recognized that competitive archery in the USA is governed by the NFAA and the NAA. Also with few details, is the transformation of the NAA into USA Archery. I suspect it happened around 2007. Of course in 2007, we were already living in the mandatory age of websites. USA Archery decided to register themselves under (note that is not USA Archery or – although it looks like they bought the other domain too). This seemingly small detail seems to be in common with the strange FITA -> World Archery Federation or “WA” which continues archery’s identity problem.

So what is going on with USA Archery?

Here’s there mission statment:

The mission of USA Archery shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Pan American or Paralympic and World Championship competition and to promote and grow the sport of archery in the United States.

Importantly, the Olympic bureaucracy has recognized USA Archery as the governing body with the purpose of selecting and training men’s and women’s teams to represent the U.S. in Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and Pan American Games. USA Archery also selects teams for World Championships, World Cups and other international competitions annually. That makes USA Archery different than NFAA.

As the body that controls the Olympic team, USA Archery is not as interested in all of the types of archery. They have stayed away from anything to do with hunting. It looks like they are largely focused on target archery (not hunting) with a big emphasis on recurve archery. You can see that in the logo which is not all of the bow types, it is simply the recurve bow since that is the only current Olympic sport.


So what does USA Archery really do? Mostly it looks like they are trying to get their stuff together. Here’s an excerpt from the 2008 Annual Board Meeting Notes:

Chairman Corbin had previously requested the attendance of USA Archery Board members, all USAA personnel, and USOC representatives to hear his presentation on the status of USA Archery. It was his desire that everyone receive the same message as he felt the organization was at a critical crossroads. Mr. Corbin’s presentation lasted approximately an hour and some key excerpts are noted below in a condensed format. “USA Archery is a dysfunctional organization. There is no viable strategic plan, minimal external funding outside of USOC, no unity of purpose, poor communications, and a passionate resistance to change.” A leap of faith is necessary to establish a new paradigm for archery.

As that meeting progressed:

Belinda Foxworth led financial report with assistance from Gary Urie. Mr. Urie notes conclusion of Kathleen Frazier embezzlement case. In the general discussion of finances Mr. Urie mentions that the organization borrowed $40,000 from the Foundation to get through the year. The board advised Mr. Urie that the CEO does not have the authority to borrow money without board approval and expressed disappointment that it occurred.

And even more turmoil:

Brad Camp gives CEO report and responds to extensive board questions on a wide range of issues.

Chairman announces Mr. Camp’s resignation and Mr Parish’s termination. Mrs. Parker has agreed to serve, and was unanimously appointed by the board, as “Acting CEO.”

By 2012, USA Archery had received a gift from the movie franchise the Hunger Games. There were other media influences too like Disney’s Brave, the movies from the Chronicles of Narnia, and various archers in super hero franchises. All of this drove interest in archery.

By the end of 2015, USA Archery looks to have these jobs:

  • Spread interest in archery
  • Track archers
  • Develop athletes for the Olympics
  • Run various official events
  • Build confidence in the athlete development by standardizing and certifying coaches
  • Manage funding

Here’s a snippet of the 2015 annual meeting, note that the 2008 Acting CEO is still the CEO.

Chair Foxworth turned the meeting over to CEO Denise Parker. CEO Parker’s presentation provided an overview of USA Archery.

  • Membership – Membership growth has brought the organization to just over 18,000 individual members and over 850 Clubs. The organization’s 35% growth over the last 12 months is both exciting and challenging.

  • Explore Archery – The Explore Archery curriculum was developed as part of a joint effort between USA Archery, Archery Trade Association and Easton Foundations to introduce those participating in local community activities (clubs, camps, Parks and Recs, Retail Pro Shops, National Archery in the Schools, YMCA’s, Boy and Girl Scout programs and 4H) to the sport of Archery. 197 Explore Archery programs are currently registered and $10,000 in grants has been allocated to these clubs.

  • JOAD Clubs – Currently there are 502 JOAD clubs across the country. A new club handbook has been developed and USA Archery continues to provide $20,000 in grant funds to eligible JOAD Clubs annually.

  •  Collegiate Archery Program – Current collegiate membership includes 42 clubs and 520 individual collegiate members compared to the 2009 membership of 435. $75,000 in grant funds were awarded to eligible clubs in 2015. USA Archery will begin selecting teams for FISU events in 2016 and thereafter.

  • Instructor Certification – USA Archery currently has 16,000 certified Level Instructors bringing the total number of certified instructors and coaches across the country to over 20,000.

  • World Rankings- CEO Parker announced the current World Rankings for USA Archery National Teams: Men’s Compound, 2nd; Women’s Compound, 3rd; Men’s Recurve, 4th; and Women’s Recurve, 14th.

  • 2015 World Archery Youth Championships Team- The U.S. team competed in Yankton, SD and the promising results were 8 Compound medals and 6 Recurve medals.

  • 2015 World Archery Championships Recurve Team – Three women and three men have been selected to represent the United States in Copenhagen. Women selected were Khatuna Lorig, LaNola Pritchard and Ariel Gibilaro. Men selected for the team were Zach Garrett, Brady Ellison and Collin Klimitchek

  • Events and Event Participation – CEO Parker displayed a graph showing the growth of participation in events since 2009 stating that the growth and size of National events continue to be challenges. 916 people registered for the combined 2015 National Target Championships and Easton JOAD Nationals events.

When USA Archery meets the public, they do it through these targeted Outreach Programs

  • Explore Archery
  • JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development)
  • Collegiate Archery Program
  • Adult Archery Program
  • USA Archery Camps

As a sports body, USA Archery needs to oversee the competition of the sport. They do that through these Events

  • Sanctioned Archery Tournaments
    • Local
    • State
    • Regional
  • USAT (United States Archery Team) Qualifier Series Events
  • National Championship Events
    • JOAD National Championships
    • US National Target Champions
    • JOAD National Indoor Championships
    • US National Indoor Championships
    • US National Field Championships
    • US National Outdoor Collegiate Championships

However, they are not the only organizing body for archery in the USA, they split this job with the NFAA and probably others.  NFAA is catering to a much broader diversity of archery styles (see NFAA and USAT)

To build an athlete pipeline for the Olympics, USA Archery does that though their National Development Programs

  • Recurve Junior Dream Team
  • Compound Junior Dream Team
  • Collegiate Junior Dream Team
  • Resident Athlete Program
  • USAT (United States Archery Team)
    • Cadet
    • Junior
    • Para
    • Senior
    • Master*
    • Barebow*

It is not clear what is going to happen with these divisions.  USA Archery announced they were official in this 2016 Press Release, but selection criteria looks like it is scheduled for 2018.  As non-olympic sports, it looks like they will be similar to compound archery.

As regulators of the National Training System (the 12 step shot sequence) USA Archery meets the public with coaching certifications in the following forms:

As a participant in World Archery Federation, USA Archery is involved with International Competitions

  • World Cups (Indoor, Outdoor)
  • World Championships (Indoor, Outdoor, Field, and 3D)
  • Parapan and Pan American Games
  • Olympic and Paralympic Games

How does USA Archery get funded? According to their 2015 Financial Declaration

Combined Revenue
Contributions and grants 1,011,125
Grants from the USOC 715,281
Inventory sales 654,017
Cost of inventory sold (357,555)
Membership registrations 683,910
Tournament income 486,505
Corporate sponsorships 172,614
Coach certification income 97,382
NAA Foundation grant* 80,000
USOC media/marketing agreement 85,000
Investment income 19,891
Other income 8,425
Total Revenue 3,656,595
Combined Expenses
Program Expenses
High performance* 631,725
National events and trials 599,107
International events 548,225
Grass roots development 422,280
Membership services 322,051
Coach development 272,361
Paralympic team 264,108
National team 115,609
Supporting Services
General and administrative 419,179
Fundraising 7,772
Total Expenses 3,602,417

* These names are hold outs from older programs, for the most part, High Performance has been replaced by USAT. Previously, USA Archery was NFA which must have been able to create some annuity or grant. Another example is that the financials are declared as:


The corporate sponsors for USA Archery may be restricted to the line item of “Corporate Sponsorships”, but it also could under “Contributions and Grants”. This report is available here.

Officially, there are four levels of sponsorship: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Sponsor. What these levels translate to is not disclosed or is very hard to locate.

Gold Sponsors

  • Easton Foundation
  • Archery Trade Association (ATA)

Silver Sponsors

  • Hoyt
  • Easton


  • Nike
  • United Airlines
  • Axcel Sights and Scopes


  • Arizona Archery Enterprises
  • B-Stinger
  • Lancaster Archery
  • Mental Management Systems
  • Pilla, Inc
  • American Whitetail Targets

Here’s an interesting tension for USA Archery. Easton/Hoyt are large contributors to USA Archery. Hoyt for example can clearly hold the noble idea of growing the sport of archery and profiting from that growth. So where does hunting fit into the mix? By far the largest demographic of archers in the US are hunters. By majority, most of those hunters are compound bow owners. A lot of those are bows made by Hoyt and other US manufacturers, so there is a constant tension around compound shooters.

Archery-Terms, JOAD, Outdoor, References

JOAD and USAT Divisions and Classes

For USA Archery that runs JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) and USAT (United States Archery Team), the classes are fewer than NFAA.

JOAD Classes

All archers are allowed to use:

  • Arm guard – plastic, cloth, leather material – to protect their arm from the bowstring and prevent string/arrow deflection during release
  • Finger protector – plastic, metal, leather material – protects the fingers that draw the bowstring back to shoot the bow
  • Finger Sling or Wrist Sling – if the hand holding the bow grips the bow tightly, the arrow will not fly true because tension in the hand affects the bow. If the archer correctly holds the bow with a relaxed hand, the bow actually will leap forward out of the hand. To prevent it from falling to the ground the archer will use a length of string or cloth or leather to encircle the bow grip loosely. This catches the bow after the arrow has left and before the bow hits the ground.
  • Chest protector – cloth or plastic material – this resembles the front panel of one side of a vest, with straps to hold it in place on the side of the chest closest to the bow. It provides a smooth, low-friction surface so that as the bowstring moves forward on arrow release, it does not snag painfully in the archer’s shirt or chest.
  • Weights – different weights can be attached to the bow to assist in release or compensate for a bow with a different center

Other equipment

  • Kisser button – is a plastic button that mounts on the bowstring above the nocking point, and is adjusted to touch the upper lip when the bow is drawn. This helps in forming a stable anchor point. It is a reference point used to provide an additional touch point for the anchor, like the hand on the jaw bone, or the string on the end of the nose.
  • Sight or scope – an adjustable plastic, metal, or carbon device that provides better accuracy without the use of magnifying optics or electronic enhancements (most commonly “sight” as “scope” implies some sort of optics)
  • Aperture – the opening on the sight through which the archer aims at the target. (no magnification or electronics allowed)
  • Clicker – a metal tab that makes a clicking noise when the arrow is drawn to a precise point. Advanced archers have trained themselves into a reflexive release of the arrow when the click is heard.
  • Stabilizer – plastic, metal, rubber, or carbon rods that attach to various points on the bow to help the bow remain still (stable) on arrow release. Vibrations are absorbed by stabilizer components as well. Can have several stabilizers
  • Doinkers/silencers – rubber, metal devices that attach to the bow and absorb vibrations and reduce shock on arrow release
  • Plunger/button – a metal and plastic device that mounts through the riser of the bow to touch the arrow while it is on the bow that helps tune the bow.
  • Release Aid – Attaches to the bow string and mechanically releases the string when the archer is ready to shoot generally through the use of a button but sometimes through specific body movement like back tension
  • Levels – Bubble levels are found on some bows to assist in shooting straighter
permitted weights, plunger
not permitted sights, scopes, stabilizers, clickers, doinkers, electronics, levels, release aid
permitted weights, plunger, sights, stabilizers, clickers, doinkers
not permitted scopes, release aids, levels, electronics
permitted weights, plunger, sights, stabilizers, clickers, doinkers, scopes, release aids, levels, electronics
not permitted

*  In general, barebows do not provide a level of accuracy sufficient to be competitive at the 70 meter distance (which is the Olympic distance for recurve archery).  As such, barebow is not an official class of USAT (said differently, it may be erratically recognized).  That may change in 2018 according to these guidelines.

JOAD Divisions

There are five age groups for JOAD.  More information can be found here.

Division Age
Junior 18, 19, 20
Cadet 15, 16, 17
Cub* 13, 14
Bowman* 10, 11, 12
Yeoman* 8, 9

* In outdoor USAT events, there are no divisions for Cub, Bowman, or Yeoman while at JOAD outdoor events, all divisions may be present.

USAT Divisions

There are four age groups for USAT. Additionally, another division exists which does not follow an age for Paralympics called Para

Division Age
Senior Any age
Master 50+ 50 or older
Junior 18, 19, 20
Cadet 15, 16, 17

JOAD and USAT Gender

  • Male
  • Female
Archery-Terms, nfaa, References

NFAA Divisions and Classes

The National Field Archery Association (NFAA) has different definitions than USA Archery (USAT and JOAD) for age groups and classes.

NFAA Classes

  • Freestyle (coded FS) is virtually an unlimited class. You can shoot any bow with a movable sight, any length stabilizer, and use a release aid. The sight can have certain magnifications.
  • Freestyle Limited (coded FSL) is basically the same as FS with the exception that you cannot use a release aid. “Limited” means you shoot without a release aid.
  • Freestyle Limited Recurve (coded FSLR) are standard Olympic bows. You are allowed to use a recurve with sights, stabilizers, and clickers.
  • Barebow (coded BB) can use any bow including a compound. In addition you can use any length stabilizer, any rest, a level and you can “walk the string.” (“Walking the string” means your fingers can change position on the bow string during the tournament.) You cannot use a sight.
  • Competitive Bowhunter also called Bowhunter (coded BH) can use any bow including a compound. Your string finger must stay against the arrow nock and it must stay in one position below or above the arrow nock. You may not use a sight, clicker or level. You may use a stabilizer up to 12″ in length.
  • Bowhunter Freestyle (coded BHFS) bows can have up to 5 fixed sight pins (you cannot adjust your sight after you start shooting an official round), a stabilizer up to 12″ in length, and you can use a release aid. These are usually compound bows.
  • Bowhunter Freestyle Limited (coded BHFSL) is basically the same as BHFS with the exception that you cannot use a release aid. “Limited” means you shoot without a release aid.
  • Traditional (coded TRAD) bows are all bows without wheels or pulleys (no compounds). All longbows and recurve fit into this division until the longbow class was formed. Your string finger must stay against the arrow nock and it must stay in one position below or above the arrow nock. You may not use a sight or level on your bow. You can use a rest, front stabilizer up to 12 inches and a button. All of the arrows must be identical.
  • Longbows (coded LB) is determined by string not touching the bow limb. A recurve bow string lays on the limb in a limb grove. Not all longbows meet NFAA rules. Modern longbows that have a reflex are considered traditional bows not a longbow. In addition you must use wooden arrows that are all the same.
  • Crossbow (coded CB) is just that, a crossbow. Crossbows are a new class for NFAA and at present is only shot at indoor tournaments capable of handling the additional needs of such equipment. Ranges need fortified bales and may not be able to handle crossbows.

NFAA Divisions

Division Age
Master Senior 70+
Silver Senior 60+
Senior 50+
Adult Any Age
Young Adult 15-17
Youth 12-14
Cub Up to 11

Additionally, there is a “Pro” and “Pro Senior” classification which presumably has to do with becoming a professional (sponsors?) vs. amateur

NFAA Combinations

Pro or Pro Senior

Adult, Senior, Silver Senior or Master Senior

Young Adult, Youth or Cub

NFAA Gender

  • Male
  • Female

Determining NFAA Bow Class

  1. Gender
  2. Age -> Division
  3. Class

NFAA Example Bow Classes

  • Age 14, Female, shooting a recurve
  • Age code = Y
  • Gender code = F
  • Bow Style code = BB

Final Code would look like this: Y-F-BB

  • Age 17, Male, shooting a compound with pins and release aid
  • AGE code = Y/A
  • Gender code = M
  • Bow Style code = BHFS

Final Code would look like this: Y/A-M-BHFS

Archery-Terms, Gear

Primer Recurve Bowstrings

The recurve trilogy is the riser, the limbs, and the string.  Without the string, there’s not much of a bow.


Since archery is an ancient sport, there have been many materials used for bowstrings.  Like many things changed by the chemistry of plastics, modern bowstrings are synthetic and are likely either polyester or polyethylene.  The dominant polyester string is Dacron.  Currently, the polyethylene variant of choice is known as Ultra High Modulus Polyethylene  or (UHMPE).  Three variants of UHMPE that are popular are Spectra, Vectran, and Dyneema.  Many bowstrings are specific blends of different types of UHMPE like Spectra+Vectran.  The synthetic strings have replaced most other types because of their ability to handle different amounts of moisture, wide temperature ranges, and durability.


The bowstring material provides tension to the recurve limb.  If the material stretches or elongates without recovery, this is creep.  Too much creep can make your bow difficult to shoot or dangerous.  Dacron polyester stretches too much and is rarely used outside of beginner bows.  It’s advantage is that it is highly durable.  A bowstring made out of Kevlar would have very little creep, but is notorious for breaking and is not used by many archers.  The Spectra, Vectran, and Dyneema bowstrings won’t creep for most recurve needs (maybe under very hot conditions like inside a car at an outdoor summer shoot in the desert) and are very common choices for this reason.


Traditionally, twisting the bowstring has had two purposes.  Non synthetic materials will have an uneven distribution of the bowstring fibers.  Twisting helps keep the bowstring more uniform.  Twisting will also change the length of the bowstring which can be used to counteract the effects of creep and adjust the brace height of the bow.

Modern bow strings are also twisted for the same two reasons, although there is less creep and generally the synthetic fibers are more uniform.

Twist rate (twists per unit length) can also have a significant impact on string performance.   Too few twists will be a higher performance string, but it will be harder to adjust.  Too many twists may cause performance issues and strangely may lead to a string which is more prone to stretching with use.  This is because your hand twisted string will have more unevenness than the fibers of the bowstring and your twists will tighten and loosen.

Brace Height

A modern bowstring can work with a wide variety of twist rates.  Most strings can take anywhere from 20-60 twists.  The key is to match your brace height designed for your bow and limbs.  Fewer twists will make a longer string and a lower brace height with a slight improvement in speed.  More twists will make a shorter string and increase the brace height with a slightly slower velocity and slightly more control.

Strand Count

A recurve bow is all about tension.  The bowstring is the unit of tension.  The bowstring has to be strong enough to provide the tension of the bow and it needs to do that safely.  A single strand for a bowstring will probably stretch or break.  Bowstrings are made up of multiple strands.  How many are the right amount?  The right answer is you should have enough strands to make your bow safe.  That number used to be higher but it is now shrinking due to the strength of UHMPE materials.  The strand count will affect serving choices.



Your bowstring will likely have three areas of serving.  The end loop serving is at either end of the string.  You can tell the top of the bowstring from the bottom of the bowstring because the top loop is a little larger.  The third area of serving is the center serving.

These two different zones of serving have two different roles and thus can be made up differently.  The end loop servings must be resistant, but cannot be abrasive since they come into contact with the limb tips.  End loop servings create the loop and must tightly grip the underlying string strands to prevent separations, loosening, or fraying.

Center servings connect with your arrow’s nock.  The center serving must yield a smooth and consistent release of the arrow.  The center serving must avoid shifts and changes to prevent the nocking point from suffering variance.  The center serving should keep the same diameter over a long period of time to avoid variance in the nock connection.  The center serving is coupled to your nock size.  Nocks come in different sizes and

Different materials may be appropriate for the two types of serving or it may not matter if you aren’t looking to geek out on your bowstring.  You will definitely to pay attention to the thickness of the center serving since it will be matched to the nocks on your arrows.


When archery bowstrings were former cats or sinew from other animals, keeping the string waxed just made sense.  Today’s polymer bowstrings can also be waxed, but you will be looking for a silicone based synthetic wax.  A wax blended with silicone penetrates the string material very well and keeps the inside fibers lubricated as well as the outside.

Waxing includes the two large sections above the middle serving and before the bow loops.  Some of the waxes may need a little heat generated from your own hands running over the strings rapidly to generate friction.  This will help the wax into the material of the bowstring.  Waxing a modern bowstring can help with

  1. Avoid or prevent fiber to fiber abrasion
  2. The wax keeps the strands together and may prevent stray strings from fraying
  3. May extend the life of the string
  4. Prevent water absorption

The frequency of waxing depends largely upon your environment and how frequently you shoot.  Get used to your bowstring and you’ll probably figure out when it needs waxing.