Archery: What Is Bare Shaft Tuning?

by | Nov 13, 2022

When it comes to tuning your traditional bow, the amount of information out there can seem overwhelming. I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that you can’t tune the bow in traditional archery as you do in compound bow tuning. With bare shaft tuning for traditional bows, you’re dynamically changing the stiffness of the arrow.

And because every source of information you read or watch seems to counteract each other, you end up not knowing what method to use, what to change, and in what order to change it.

Bare shaft tuning highlights any errors with your arrow’s flight caused by the bow. It will allow you to identify an arrow that is too stiff or too weak and indicate the necessary changes you need in order to improve your shot consistency.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what bare shaft tuning is for a traditional bow and how you can use it to improve your overall accuracy. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be shooting off the rest, which means that there are no real means of tuning the bow, so all the tuning we’ll be doing will just be the arrows.

What Is Bare Shaft Tuning?

Bare shaft tuning is fine-tuning an arrow’s flight path using an un-fletched arrow. Without the aid of fletchings, a bare shaft arrow cannot correct itself in mid-flight, therefore showing how it truly matches with the archer’s bow.

Bare shaft tuning examines the arrow’s impact on the target. Looking at the angle of impact can tell you what adjustments need to be made to correctly align your arrows to your bow set-up and whether or not your arrow spine is too weak, or too stiff.

The ultimate goal of tuning is to eliminate any flaws with your equipment, which leaves only our own poor shooting as an excuse!

This process also has to consider the level of shooting that the archer has. So at the very minimum, it’s important that the archer has a good, solid foundation and a consistent release, otherwise bare shaft tuning flat out won’t work.

After the adjustments to your arrows have been made, you will then shoot the same arrows again to see if the arrow is now hitting the target any straighter.

Archery is all about the finer details. If you ignore them, you’ll never be the best archer that you can be.

There are a number of different ways to adjust the arrow that can affect the flight path, so it’s vital to use just one method at a time using small incremental changes to see which adjustment is having the greatest effect on the arrow’s flight.

How To Bare Shaft Tune Your Arrows

Before you get started with your bare shaft tuning, it’s important to have your testing conditions and rules nailed down to avoid any false tuning from impacting your results. You can also refer back to this list each time you tune so that the testing conditions are exactly the same.

Pre-Tuning Checklist

  • Be sure to adequately warm up before shooting
  • Check and make a note of the weather conditions. (Goes without saying, but avoid testing in high wind!)
  • Your arrows need to be exactly the same. You can also wind some tape around the end of the shaft to simulate the weight of the fletchings for even more accuracy
  • Test with a minimum of 3 bare shafts
  • Keep your testing distance to a maximum of 30m. 30m is enough distance to see the primary reaction of the bare shaft in flight
  • Test at different distances. Also try 18, and 25m
  • Use multiple tests
  • When making adjustments, only change one variable at a time

Know Your Arrows

Before you begin the process of bare shaft tuning, it’s important to know the spine range of the arrows you will be testing. There are various charts available that can help you match your draw length and draw weight with the spine range you need for your bow.

*Tip – Order full-length arrows. If you’re between spines, always go for a slightly weaker spine. It’s easier to strengthen a spine than it is to weaken it.

So during the tuning process, you ideally want to be looking for a weak arrow. This will be indicated by the arrow hitting the target with the nock left of the point of impact.

*All of what follows below will be reversed for a left-handed archer!

1. Shoot Your Bare Shafts

Shoot off two or three bare shaft arrows at a distance of 15m, noting down the angle the arrows are hitting the target.

Nock Left – The reason why the nock is to the left is that when an arrow leaves the bow with all that energy behind it, the arrow wants to curve around the riser in a right-handed direction.

Nock Left – Weak Arrow

If the arrow is too weak, then it’s not strong enough to flex in the opposite direction to correct itself before it reaches the target.

The more extreme the angle of entry to the left, the weaker the arrow spine is. If your bare shafts are landing way over to the left, then you should probably consider an increase in spine weight.

If your arrows land perfectly straight, then move back to 20m and re-test again.

Nock Right – If your arrow shafts land with the nock over to the right, then you have a spine that is too stiff.

When a stiff arrow leaves the bow it won’t flex as much to the right but will over-flex to the left, making the nock land to the right.

2. Making Your Adjustments

Once you have your readings and you’re satisfied that you know what adjustments you need to make, let’s look at the different options you have for making the changes to your shafts. Remember, you must only change one variable at a time.

Changing Point WeightLeast Amount of Change

The option that creates the least amount of change to the angle of entry of your arrow is adjusting the point weight.

If you had an arrow that was slightly too stiff, increasing the point weight would decrease the stiffness of the arrow spine. For example, going from a 100-grain point to a 125-grain point.

Or if your arrow was too weak, decreasing the point weight would make the arrow dynamically stiffer. The downside to adding too much weight to the front end is that it will slow down your arrows by a significant amount.

After you’ve made the changes to your point weight, you need to retest your bare shafts to see the impact, if any, that the changes have made.

If you want to keep the same field point, you can still increase the front-end weight by using inserts or insert sleeves.

Changing Arrow LengthMore Change

Another way you can adjust your arrow’s spine is to cut small segments from the shaft. It’s better to start with small increments of a quarter inch because you can always cut off more if needed.

If you take too much off at the start, you can’t add it back on!

For this, you would need access to an arrow-cutting tool. After removing the arrow point cut off a small section of the arrow. A good starting point is 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch.

Then re-test the shafts. Depending on the result, you may need to cut off more to get the desired outcome.

Changing Bow Weight Most Amount of Change

The biggest change to your arrow’s flight will come from adjusting the bow’s draw weight. This would be a last resort if you’ve already gone through the above steps and still seen no noticeable difference.

3. Re-Test Your Arrows

Of course, the last thing you’ll need to do is to shoot your bare shafts to make sure that your arrows are now landing straight!

Adjusting Your Nock Point

Adjusting your nock point will be necessary if your shafts are landing on the target nock high, or nock low.

Nock High – If your arrow lands with the nock higher than the point, then this usually indicates that your nocking point is slightly too high.

Try sliding your nocking point down ever so slightly to see if this affects the arrow.

Nock Low – Similarly, if your arrows are landing with the nock lower than the point, your nocking point may be too low.

When Do You Need To Adjust The Nock?

One scenario that you might encounter after tuning your bare shaft arrows is that your fletched arrows may now suddenly be hitting the target off to the right.

This might be because one of the arrow fletches may be impacting the shelf, sending it off to the right. If that is the case, then you may need to adjust the position of the nock.

You can do this by simply rotating the nock until you get the orientation of the fletchings to the point where the arrow shoots straight.

What Is a False Tune?

A false tune can happen when your arrow spine is wholly mismatched to your bow. This can cause the arrow to behave in the exact opposite way to what is actually happening.

When an arrow spine is completely wrong for the bow you’re shooting, the shaft can clash with the bow, which can cause it to appear too stiff. This will throw off your test results, which is also why you need to conduct multiple tests.

Is Bare Shaft Tuning Even Necessary?

As mentioned earlier, if you’re new to archery, then just focus on form and having some fun. But at some point, you will need to bare shaft tune if you’re considering taking your archery to the next level.

Once they’ve passed the stage of learning the basics of how to shoot, bare shaft tuning will be something every archer needs to learn in order to match the right arrows to their bow.

This simple, yet effective process is essential for improving consistency and accuracy over time.

Other Methods Of Tuning

Bare Shaft Tuning is a very straightforward and simple method for tuning your arrows but it is not the only way. Other methods include:

Paper Tuning

In paper tuning, you’re shooting your bare shaft arrows through a piece of paper at different distances and then examining the shape of the tears to identify the arrow’s flight path. If your arrow creates a perfect bullet hole in the paper, then your arrows are shooting straight.

Paper Tuning Tears
Paper Tuning Tears

But if you have rips that go left, right or up and down, then you need to make adjustments, similar to those made in bare shaft tuning. Based on the results you can then make those adjustments to eliminate any porpoising or fishtailing.

Walk Back Tuning

Walk-back tuning is a process you would normally use after you’ve paper-tuned or bare-shaft-tuned your arrows. In walk-back tuning, you’ll be focusing on fine-tuning your bow.

You’ll be shooting from different distances with the same site pin to tune your arrow rest to your arrows.

Walk Back Tuning

Using a larger target with a horizontal line at the top and a vertical line down the centre, you set your sight pin at 20 yards. Then you aim for the point where the two lines meet. When you hit the target, you walk back to 30 yards, and then 50 yards, but keeping the site pin set to 20 yards while still aiming at the same spot.

You will make adjustments to your rest based on how your arrows land in relation to the vertical line.

Nock Tuning

Nock tuning really is fine-tuning. If you still have an arrow or two that just refuse to go where you want them to, you can try rotating the nock of your arrows to see how it affects the flight.

Start by making a mark from the nock to the shaft with a pencil or crayon. That’s your starting reference. Then rotate the nock until it aligns with the fletching.

Then mark the new nock position with a different coloured marker. Test your arrow to see if there are any changes. If not, rotate the nock again. Keep testing until your arrows are shooting straight.

Conclusion

Tuning your traditional bow doesn’t need to be over complicated. As long as you’re only focusing on one variable at a time, you can easily tune any type of traditional bow.

Never make any adjustments based on the flight of just one arrow. Make an assessment of several arrows, at different distances.

You don’t need to be a sharpshooter, but you need to be able to ‘group’ arrows, and your release needs to be the same each time, or your test results will never be conclusive.

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