Can You Fix A Bow That Has Dry Fired? (All You Need To Know)

by | Jan 16, 2023

One of the first things that archery coaches and professionals tell new archers is, “Never Dry Fire Your Bow!” But accidents do happen, so at some point, you may be asking the question “Can you fix a bow that has dry fired?’

Dry firing a bow is categorically the worse thing you can do. But all hope (maybe) is not lost. The first thing to remember after a dry fire is that you should never nock an arrow and try to fire it again! Even if the bow still looks OK, you can rest assured that it isn’t.

The best course of action you can take is to get your bow to a Pro-shop. They will be able to tell you right away if your bow can be fixed or not. If you’ve been lucky enough to get away with light damage, they will have the exact tools for the job.

Dry firing a bow can be extremely dangerous, especially in the case of compound bows. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dry firing a bow and what you can do to salvage one.

Can You Fix A Dry-Fired Bow?

Bows that have been dry-fired rarely escape unscathed. In fact, there’s a 95% chance that there will be some kind of damage after a dry fire. The extent of the damage may only be limited to minor splinters or limb cracks, but in some cases can be as extensive as your bow literally exploding.

Lighter wooden and fibreglass bows are much more susceptible to damage than some of the more modern target bows that have been built to withstand hundreds of dry fires.

But that still doesn’t mean that you should test out this theory anytime soon.

So can you fix it if you’ve accidentally dry-fired your bow?

Firstly, you should get your bow to a pro shop as soon as you can. It’s better to get a professional assessment rather than eyeballing it yourself. When asked what happened, you should be totally upfront about your dry fire.

The reason for this is that if you’re honest about what happened, you’ll more than likely get a more favourable deal from the manufacturer. The Pro-shop guys will definitely be contacting them to talk about warranty and repair parts.

You don’t want to get off to a bad start during that whole process by not being upfront.

Next, you should weigh up the cost of repair versus investing in a new bow.

If you’ve dry-fired a compound bow, then you’re probably looking at new cams, cables a new string, and possibly a limb replacement. The cost for repair and labour could run into hundreds of dollars if you’re not covered by any kind of warranty.

What If The Damage To Your Bow Seems Minor?

You may only see a slight crack or a splinter in one of your bow limbs. If it’s a recurve bow, you may be tempted to get out your binding kit and glue it up.

I would advise caution here too. The minor damage you can see on the surface of the bow, maybe only be scratching the, um…surface.

What you may not be able to detect are potential micro tears throughout the bow limbs that could result in a bow explosion if used again.

Always get your dry-fired bow checked over by a professional, and never fire a bow that has already been dry-fired!

What Happens When You Dry Fire A Bow?

The damage caused by a dry fire comes down to one thing (ok, two, if you count stupidity), and that is energy.

When you nock an arrow on the bowstring and draw it back, all the bow’s potential energy is stored in the limbs.

When the string is released, that energy goes from the bow limbs to the arrow via the bowstring.

Now imagine that same scenario but without an arrow involved.

Without the arrow, the potential energy still has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, it gets transferred back into the bow limbs. But the limbs aren’t built to cope with that amount of energy coming back from the opposite direction.

This can result in limb splinters, cam derailments, and a whole host of other problems. Not to mention the potential for injury to the archer.

Compound Bow

Because the compound bow is more powerful than other types of bows, the potential for serious damage, not only to the bow but also to the archer, is much greater.

Unlike other bows, compound bows have many structural components that will be compromised during dry-fire.

There are cables, cams, peeps, and screws that can potentially do the archer serious harm if they come flying off during a dry fire.

Recurve Bow

Even though recurve bows have a higher tolerance for dry fires, they are still unlikely to come out on the other side of one unscathed, unless your bow is made from higher-grade material such as carbon.

The stronger the bow, the more damage can occur. This is because a higher draw weight will generate more energy flowing back into the bow limbs.

Another way that a bow can dry fire is when an arrow that is much too light for the bow is fired. This can have the same effect as a pure dry fire because not enough energy is being transferred into the arrow.

This is something to consider if you’re making your own arrows and you have a particularly heavy bow.

Can You Tell If A Bow Has Been Dry Fired?

If you’re buying a second handbow, then I would get verification from the owner in writing that the bow hasn’t been dry-fired.

Recurve Bow

To locate any minor cracks, you can run some cotton wool along the limbs to see if you get any snags. Don’t forget to include the riser and limb pockets in your swab survey as these are also potential locations for cracks.

Check for any signs of delamination (where the layers of the bow limbs have separated), splinters or any twisting of the bow limbs.

Compound Bow

If you get hold of a second-hand compound bow, the dry-fire would be a little less obvious. There are so many moving parts to the bow and potential damage that it can be more difficult to spot; possible derailments, cams twisted, screws missing, cracked axles etc.

Another area for potential stress after a dry fire on a compound bow is the servings.

Make sure you go along the entire string looking for any signs of fraying but pay particular attention to the servings where they contact the cams.

There may be damage to the string underneath the serving that’s not immediately visible.

If you’re in any doubt, l would leave the bow well alone!

Why Do People Dry Fire Bows?

The most common way a bow ends up being dry-fired is through people who are unfamiliar with archery grabbing hold of a bow and pulling the string.

They could be friends of a bow owner who are ‘just playing around’, with no knowledge of the consequences that firing the bow without a nocked arrow can cause.

Don’t Be This Guy…

The other main reason a dry fire occurs is by pure accident. There are plenty of professional archers out there that are guilty of a dry fire. Chances are that if you handle bows long enough, you’ll dry-fire one at some point.

Is It Worth Trying To Fix A Dry Fired Bow?

How much do you love your bow? Seriously, with the amount of money it’s going to cost you to have your bow repaired, you’ll need to ask yourself this question!

In some rare cases, on some of the lighter bows where the damage has been fairly minor, you may be able to patch over the cracks, but these cases are very rare.

If it’s a compound bow that’s dry-fired then you’ll probably want to move on with a new bow.

On another note of caution, if you do get a bow back from the pro shop after a dry fire, then still exercise caution when pulling the bowstring back.

Listen out for any splintering sounds, no matter how minor. Even go so far as to wear protective eye gear, just in case.

Pull to full draw in small increments, and only do so when you feel fully confident that the bow can withstand the tension.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Dry-Fired Bow?

This very much depends on the extent of the damage and on what type of bow you have.

Compound bows will potentially set you back more because of the number of components that might need replacing.

  • Cams (if twisted) $100-150
  • Set of Strings (installed) $125-150

The more expensive recurve bows can also run into the hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of dollars to replace if both the limbs and riser are compromised.

Can Any Bow Survive A Dry Fire?

If you have a bow like the Win And Win Inno CXT that is made from carbon composite material and you accidentally dry-fire it, don’t worry. The Win And Win is built to withstand multiple dry fires without any risk of compromise to the bow.

In fact, most carbon composite bows are able to cope with the high amounts of energy generated during a dry fire. But it’s still not recommended you put them to the test!

How To Prevent A Dry Fire

The fact that you now know what happens and why it happens is the best method for avoiding a dry fire in the future.

Being diligent about how you treat your equipment, and how you instruct others around you about handling your bow are the best ways to avoid you or anyone else from dry firing your bow.

Related: How Do You Prevent A Self Bow From Breaking?

Final Thoughts

By now you should realise that dry firing your bow is bad. Really bad. So to avoid taking your mangled bow humbly to a pro-shop to confess your sins, be diligent as well as careful.

Fixing a dry-fired bow depends on the damage, but the repairs can still leave you out of pocket into the hundreds of dollars.

Compound bows will more than likely be toast following a dry fire, so if your bow is dear to your heart…please don’t dry fire it.

If you do accidentally dry-fire your bow one time, you may get away with it. The repairs needed may be minimal, but you still need to get that bow checked over by a professional before you even think of drawing back the string again.

If your bow manufacturer feels that your destroyed dry-fired bow can be resurrected with the help of your pro shop, then consider yourself lucky.

Never dry fire your bow!