Olympic Archery Explained: Draw Weight

There’s no question the archers who will compete in the Olympic games in Rio this summer are the best Olympic recurve archers their home countries have to offer.

They train hard, shooting their bows for many hours every day. And they’ve been doing that for years.

So it’s no stretch to think of these athletes as the strongest Olympic recurve archers in the world. That is, they are the archers who have the most finely-tuned archery muscles.


Archery is known for using a unique combination of muscles in the back, arms, shoulders and core.

These Olympic competitors have to be shooting the bows with the heaviest draw weights of any archers, right?

Sixty, 70 pounds?

That is, after all, what we typically hear about in discussions of the upper end of draw weights in archery.

Guess again.

How about roughly 40-48 pounds for the women, and 45-55 pounds for the men.


Brady Ellison, the top American male archer heading to Rio, typically draws 53 pounds. Mackenzie Brown, America’s only female archer competing in the games, draws 46.5 pounds.

Usually, when you hear discussions about draw weights pushing 70 pounds, the archers are talking about shooting compound bows.


Regardless of the type of bow being shot, heavier draw weights allow for greater arrow speeds and flatter arrow trajectories. This can help an arrow cut through the wind with less drift and more accuracy.

In drawing an Olympic recurve bow, the draw weight actually gets heavier the farther the bow is drawn back. A 70-inch-long, takedown recurve bow – common among Olympic recurve competitors – reaches its marked draw weight when the archer draws the bow to 28 inches. So a bow that’s marked as having a 44-pound draw weight, hits that mark when the bowstring is pulled back 28 inches.

Some archers have long wingspans and draw lengths, drawing their bowstrings beyond 28 inches. Their bows continue to increase in draw weight by approximately 2-3 pounds per inch beyond 28 inches.

At full draw, Brady Ellison holds 53 pounds of tension on the first three fingers of his right hand.

Compound bows, on the other hand, have what’s called let-off. The bows, which employ grooved pulleys – called cams – and cables, reach their peak draw weights roughly halfway through the draw cycle. When the cam rolls over, the draw weight lets off, so the archer is holding significantly less poundage at full draw.


Most modern compound bows have anywhere from 65-85 percent let-off. Using that range, an archer drawing a bow with a 70-pound draw weight would hold 24.5 – 10.5 pounds of string tension at full draw, thanks to the let-off.

And nearly all compound archers today are holding that weight with a mechanical release that’s either strapped to their wrist or held in their hand. Their fingers don’t touch the bowstring.

So while Olympic recurve archers typically do not draw as much weight as compound archers, they’re probably holding anywhere from two to five times more weight at full draw than most compound archers. And that’s when holding steady is most critical to accuracy.

A competitive Olympic recurve archer regularly trains by shooting an average of 300 arrows per day. The cumulative weight that’s drawn, held and release with their fingers is between 7 and 8 tons.

During an Olympic competition day, archers can shoot nearly 100 arrows between scoring and practice ends, totaling about 4,000 pounds of cumulative draw weight under the extreme stress of competition.



Olympic Archery Explained: The Plunger

Every archer you see shooting in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer will have a device on their bow called a plunger, or cushion plunger. It’s a small piece of gear that kind of looks like a spark plug, which works in concert with the arrow rest.


And it’s absolutely critical to accuracy.

The plunger is mounted through a hole in the riser, just above the shelf. When an arrow is nocked on the string, the shaft will sit on the rest arm and press against the plunger tip.


What does it do?

Well, arrows released with fingers flex laterally as they leave the bow. The flexing is what enables them to clear the bow and stay centered as they come off the bow string.


Think of the plunger as a shock absorber for your car. The shocks soften bumps as you drive over them, and keep the car from bouncing off its line.

A plunger cushions the flexing of an arrow as it leaves the bow, to promote consistent arrow flight. (In the video below, notice the initial flex of the arrow is in toward the riser. You will see the arrow stays centered as the plunger cushions that first, inward bend.)

The tip of the plunger is spring loaded, and so it gives as the flexing shaft presses against it.

The tension of that spring is adjustable, and it’s critical the archer gets it right for his or her setup.  Arrows that are spined a little on the stiff side require a weaker plunger to absorb the shaft flexing, but if the plunger is too weak, the plunger will be collapsed by the clicker, and the arrow could hit the riser upon the shot. Arrows that are spined a little on the weak side require a stiffer plunger setting to counteract any excess flexing by the arrow.

Olympic archers employ many methods to fine tune their plungers to the get the most accurate and forgiving setups. How an individual archer sets the plunger in Rio could mean the difference between watching the medal rounds from the stands or winning the gold.

What’s the difference between Olympic recurve and recreational recurve?

Summer is beginning, and archers are heading to their backyards to sling arrows. For many recreational archers, the bow of choice is the recurve. It’s fun and simple to shoot.

The recurve also is the bow archers will be using in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer. But the recreational recurve and an Olympic recurve are worlds apart.

In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply TechXpert Dan Schuller, who competed for a spot on four U.S. Olympic teams, describes the differences between a recreational recurve setup and an Olympic recurve setup.

Since the gear used by Olympic recurve archers is more extensive, the bulk of Schuller’s time is spent going over all the different equipment used in Olympic archery.

You’ll hear him explain the purpose of the stabilizers, how Olympic arrows differ from backyard arrows, what a clicker is used for and other details unique to both types of recurve setups.

Olympic Archery Explained: The Clicker

If you watch archery at the Olympics on TV this summer, you’re going to notice the clicker.

Camera angles for archery competitions are usually the same, and so what you’ll see in closeup shots of archers drawing their bows is the arrow sitting on a rest through the draw cycle. There will be a thin blade of metal or carbon attached to the very end of the riser, above the rest.

The blade extends down and over the outside of the arrow shaft as the bow is drawn. The archer will come nearly to full draw, and this blade will sit against the very end of the point. As the archer aims, he or she will slowly increase the draw until the point slides past the blade, allowing it to snap back against a metal plate or rod.


At that same instant, the archer will release the arrow. If you listen closely, you will actually hear two sounds at the shot. There will be a click, as the blade snaps back against the riser, and then the twang of the bowstring being released.

That click is caused – not surprisingly – by the clicker.

What is it for?

Well, unlike compound bows, recurve bows really don’t come to a point in the draw cycle where they can’t be drawn any farther. The limbs just keep on flexing, where a compound bow eventually reaches a point where the string can’t be pulled any farther. That’s called the “wall.”

As you can imagine, if an archer shooting an Olympic recurve bow were to draw the bow 27 inches one time, 28 inches the next time and then 26.5 inches the third, the arrows would most likely hit a 70-meter target in three different spots.

To get consistent arrow grouping from a recurve bow, the bow must be drawn and released at the same draw length every time.

A clicker allows that to happen.

When an archer loads the bow, he or she will pull the clicker to the outside of the arrow. Incidentally, all of the arrows an individual archer shoots will be the same length. Every archer’s draw length is unique, and so that length varies from archer to archer. Each archer will have arrows that are correctly cut to that person’s draw length.

When the bow is drawn, the archer knows to release the string as soon as the arrow is pulled all the way through the clicker, and it snaps against the clicker plate.

A clicker plate is a flat piece of metal or a round rod stick out from the riser, away from the archer. It serves as the surface the blade smacks against to produce the “click” sound.

In the Olympics, you can pretty much count on seeing every archer using a clicker. That’s how critical it is for maintaining consistency.

How to wax a bowstring and perform other basic string maintenance

Think of your bowstring as the engine that drives your bow, whether it’s a compound, a recurve or a longbow.

To get energy out of the bow to propel an arrow, you must put energy into it. And to do that, you have to draw the string.

Duane Price

Photo by Jeff Sanchez – BowDoc Archery

Your car engine needs regular maintenance to keep up with wear and tear. Same goes for a bowstring.

(And our discussion of bowstrings here includes the cables on a compound bow.)


The simplest thing you can do to maintain your string is to wax it. How often should you wax it? That depends on many factors – humidity, how often you shoot, the presence of dirt, etc.

Basically, you should be able to touch your string at any time and feel a slight tackiness to it. That’s a well-waxed string. If it feels slick and dry, give it a shot of wax.

When you see “hairs” start to stick up from the strands of the bowstring, like the string is getting furry, it’s time to apply some wax. If you see individual strands sticking out, that’s a damaged bowstring, and it has to be replaced.


Here’s a string that needs to be waxed. Notice how the string looks fuzzy.


Here’s the string shown above after it was waxed.

Applying wax to a bowstring is simple. Most bowstring wax comes in a stick, like deodorant. Just rub the stick up and down the string to apply wax, and then rub it into the string by running your thumb and forefinger up and down the string. Use enough pressure so that your fingers heat up. That will cause the string to melt between your fingers as you work it up and down the string.


Applying wax to a string.


Rub your fingers up and down the string to spread the wax and massage it into the string fibers.

When you’re done, there should be no visible chunks of wax.

Do not apply wax to any serving material. The wax can work its way under the serving material, causing it to slide and separate.

Be sure you don’t over-wax your string. This can adversely affect performance.


Closely inspect all of the serving on your strings and cables. Serving is thread that’s tied in over top of the string.

All bowstrings have serving in the nocking area. The ends of strings, where they attach to the cams or the limb tips usually are served. Also, most compound strings and cables have serving anywhere they touch a cam, roller guard or string stop.

You want the serving to sit in tight coils, neatly stacked one on top of the other, on top of your string.

Any separation in the serving in the nocking area must be addressed ASAP. This can affect accuracy.

Slight separation of the serving coils in other places isn’t a pressing concern, but it’s only going to get worse, and it will have to be fixed at some time.


Slight serving separation.

If the serving breaks, it must be fixed no matter where it is on the string or cable.


Broken section of serving.


This is the string shown above after the serving was repaired.

Your local archery pro shop can fix serving issues, or you can learn to do it yourself. Reserving some area on compound bows, however, will require a bow press.

Be aware that serving thread comes in different thicknesses. Serving thickness is most critical in the nocking area, since you want to use whatever thread allows for proper nock fit.


Recurve archers will want to constantly measure their bow’s brace height to check for string stretch. The brace height is the distance between the throat of the grip and the string. Over time, the brace height on a recurve can shrink if the string stretches – especially within the first few days after a new string is put on a bow.

measure brace height

Here’s an archer measuring brace height – the distance from the throat of the grip to the string.

In that case, unstring the bow and add twists to it until the brace height is where it needs to be. Twisting the string will increase the brace height.

On compound bows, archers need to check cam timing to determine if there’s been any stretching of the cables. You want the cams on dual-cam bows to roll over perfectly in synch. If they are out of synch, accuracy will suffer. Twisting a cable will bring out-of-synch cams back together.

If you have a single-cam bow, check with the manufacturer to find out how to determine proper cam position for your bow. The fix for cable stretch still will be to twist a cable.

Wrist and finger slings: Do I need one?

Take a close look at an Olympic recurve archer, and you’ll likely notice a piece of cord tethering the forefinger to the thumb, around the back of the bow at the grip.


You might see the same thing on the hand of a compound archer, although you’re more likely to spot a cord attached to the bow that encircles the archer’s wrist.

The first is a finger sling; the second is a wrist sling. The purpose of both is to keep the bow from hitting the ground after a shot.

Do you need a sling? Some folks will say, “Yes,” others will say, “No.” Let’s talk about what they do, and then you can decide what’s right for you.

Recurve bows deliver more forward motion and hand shock than compounds, with a noticeable jump forward at the release of the bowstring. Traditional archers tend to wrap their fingers around their bows, so you don’t see many of them using finger or wrist slings, although they could benefit from them.

Olympic recurve archers, however, are going to have their bow hand positioned with knuckles at a 45-degree angle, and with an open grip and relaxed fingers that don’t hold the riser. A finger sling will catch the bow when it leaps forward at the shot, which eliminates the need for the archer to try to catch it with his or her hand. This allows the archer to relax the bow hand, eliminating bow torque and inconsistencies in the shot.

finger sling

Finger slings shouldn’t pin the bow tight against your hand. That’s just another form of torque. Finger slings should allow the bow to move forward toward the target. Some archers like a sling that allows the bow to move forward a little, while others wear slings that allow the bow to totally leave their hand. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

As we already mentioned, compound bows built in recent years don’t jump like recurves. So there are some compound archers who don’t use any kind of sling. Even with a relaxed, open grip, they’re not worried about dropping the bow.

Some will use a finger sling for the same reason as recurve archers. Many more are likely to have wrist slings.

A wrist sling should be loose around the archer’s wrist. You don’t want it tight, so it pulls your wrist in any direction. It’s simply there for safety. If the bow gets out of your hand, it won’t fall to the ground.

wrist wrap sling

Sling that ties wrist and thumb together around the grip

If bowhunters have a sling it’s almost always going to be an open, bow-mounted wrist sling. They can get a hand underneath it quickly when they pick up the bow to shoot, rather than have to fumble with a finger sling.

wrist sling

Open wrist sling

Also, if you’re hunting with broadhead-tipped arrows and you trip, you might want to be able to put some distance between you and your bow as you fall. With an open wrist sling, you can easily toss the bow to the side. That move might be impossible to pull off with a finger sling or a more confining style of wrist sling.

And if you hunt from a tree stand, you really ought to think about a wrist sling, because you’re always going to be pointing your bow hand down when you shoot. Besides the potential for the bow to jump out of your hand, you’ve also got gravity threatening to carry it past your grip. And a fall from 20 feet would hurt your bow way more than a fall from 5 or 6 feet, so the insurance of a wrist sling really makes sense up in a tree.

What you need to know about archery tab faces

Leather finger tabs have a couple different faces. When looking for one, recurve and longbow archers might find themselves asking, “Which tab face is right for me?”

By the very nature of how they shoot, traditional and Olympic recurve archers have a much more intimate relationship with their bowstrings, as compared to compound archers.

Recurves and longbows are shot by drawing and releasing the string with fingers. And most archers put something between their fingers and the string for protection.

Some traditional archers wear gloves. Many other trad enthusiasts, and certainly most – if not all – Olympic recurve archers, use finger tabs.

finger tab

These are hand-held devices that allow for greater consistency in releasing a bowstring than if you were to use a shooting glove.

Think of it this way. If you draw a bow with three gloved fingers, each finger is capable of its own interaction with the string. A finger tab works to flatten or smooth the transition between the fingers and the string. It’s harder for each finger to individually affect the string when using a tab.

Finger tabs are made of a couple different materials, but the vast majority of them are leather. And among the leather varieties, there are three basic types of faces – cordovan, super leather and calf hair.

What’s the difference?

That’s what we’re here to tell you.

Cordovan tabs are the most expensive. That’s because cordovan leather is one of the most expensive and rare leathers in the world.

It’s made from two small circular sections of muscle beneath the hide on the rump of a horse. These shells of very dense fibers are subjected to processing that takes six months to produce cordovan leather.

And there’s only one tannery in the U.S. that makes cordovan – Horween Leather in Chicago.

Cordovan is stiff, weather resistant and super slick. A lot of cordovan leather is used to make high-end shoes, because of its weather resistance and because it is very difficult to scuff. Nearly all of the top-tier Olympic recurve archers shoot tabs with cordovan faces.


Notice the sheen on this cordovan tab. That’s evidence of a smooth, slick surface.

Super leather can come from a variety of hides, but it is processed in a manner similar to cordovan. It’s used to build a more cost-effective tab that mimics cordovan to a degree, but tends to be rougher and not as stiff. The roughness and flexibility can affect shot consistency.

cord vs super

Here’s a look at cordovan on the left and super leather on the right. Notice the stippling on the surface of the super leather vs. the reflective sheen of the cordovan.

Calf-hair tabs are just what the name implies. The tab face is covered with calf hair that’s very slick when it’s fresh. The hair will wear off over time however, which can change the tab’s interactions with the bowstring. Of the three types, calf-hair tabs are the least resistant to weather.

calf hair

Calf-hair finger tab

To look at them, you might think one finger tab is like any other. Think again. Know the differences so you know what you’re buying and what it can do.

How to know if your bow’s draw weight is too heavy

Are you drawing too much weight?

Getting a bow with the right draw weight is an individual endeavor. Everybody’s different. There is no prize awarded to the archer who draws the heaviest weight.

The most obvious impact of having a bow with too much draw weight is that you can’t draw it at all. If you can’t get the string back, you can’t shoot the bow. That’s an easy one.

But even if you can draw the bow, that doesn’t mean the weight isn’t still too heavy. If it is, accuracy is sure to suffer. It really doesn’t matter how fast your arrow is flying, or how much momentum it carries, if you can’t put it where you want it.

Compound bow archers seem to be most apt to try drawing too much weight. They know if they can just get the string over the let-off hump, they’ll hold much less weight at full draw. But that over-exertion at the front end can weaken you at full draw – especially if you’re in a tournament situation, where you might have to draw and shoot 30-60 times, or if you’re hunting and end up having to hold full draw for an extended period while waiting for a good shot opportunity.


Having to point the bow toward the sky is a sign of drawing too much weight.

If you have to point the bow up at the sky, or pull down toward your waist in order to get the string back on a compound bow, you’re pulling too much weight. If you have to collapse your bow arm shoulder inward to get extra leverage, then the weight is too high. If you find yourself shaking at full draw, it’s too much. If you can’t get through a simple practice session without feeling fatigued, then you’re pulling too much. You should be able to hold a compound bow directly in front of your torso, and draw the string without struggling.

If it’s possible, reduce the weight by turning the limb bolts counter clockwise. Whatever you do to one bolt, do exactly the same thing to the other. If your bow already is set at the lowest draw weight possible, then you might have to get another bow with a lower draw weight range. Or, you might be able to get replacement limbs for your bow that are rated for a lower weight range.

Recurve and longbow archers almost invariably will draw much less weight than they would if they shot a compound bow. Compound bow archers who switch must understand there’s no way they will draw and hold with their fingers the same weight they draw and hold with a release using a compound bow.

When you draw a 70-pound compound bow with 75 percent let-off, you’re only holding about 18 pounds at full draw. When you draw a 50-pound recurve – assuming you have a 28-inch draw length – you’re holding 50 pounds at full draw.

The most obvious sign that a recurve archer is drawing too much weight is he or she will shake at full draw. If you can’t hold the string back for even a few seconds without shaking, you’re pulling too much weight.


This archer is comfortably holding her bow at full draw. The weight is not too much for her.

Check your accuracy with bows of varying draw weights. If you’re pretty consistent at 40 pounds, but then notice erratic arrow groups at 50 pounds, then 50 pounds is probably too much weight.

World renowned traditional Archer G. Fred Asbell recommends a test for determining if an archer is over-bowed.  While bending at the waist and aiming at the ground, an archer draws the bow with the back of the bow hand just below the inside of the knee. If an archer cannot do this easily, he or she is likely not strong enough to shoot that draw weight.


Archers shooting takedown recurve bows can usually get lighter limbs to drop some draw weight. Those who shoot one-piece recurves or longbows are going to have to switch bows.

Just because you might not be strong enough for a certain draw weight right now doesn’t mean you can’t ever shoot that weight. The more you shoot, the stronger you’ll get. Couple your practice sessions at lower draw weights with strength-training workouts aimed at your core and upper body muscles.

As you get stronger, increase your draw weight incrementally. If you notice any of the problems we’ve already discussed, back off. Over time, you should be able to reach your goal weight, and be able to handle that weight with ease.

Now you might say to yourself, “Well, I’ll just keep shooting this heavy draw weight, and eventually, I’ll get used to it.”

That’s a bad move. The whole time you are struggling with that heavy weight, you’re tossing good shooting form out the window. A great deal of solid archery shooting form relies on muscle memory – training your muscles to know how to perform correctly during the act of shooting a bow. If you train your muscles to do the wrong thing, then that muscle memory is worthless.

When it comes to draw weight, don’t go for the gusto. I’d rather be able to drive tacks with slower arrows, then have them fly screaming fast, but rarely hit those tacks.

Feathers vs. vanes: Here’s what you need to know

So you’ve got a fletching jig, and you’ve decided to build your own arrows for all your shooting needs – indoors, outdoor target, outdoor 3-D, hunting, etc. And now the question is…..Do I use feathers or vanes?

According to the LAS TechXPert crew, there are many factors individual archers must consider in making such a determination, i.e., shooting style, venue, personal goals, etc. And the answer is going to vary from shooter to shooter. But there are some generalities.

Before we get to that, though, let’s discuss the purpose and composition of fletchings. Think of fletchings as propeller fins for your arrow. They induce spin and stabilize its flight. As the shaft slices through the air, the wind flows over the fletchings, which spin and help align the shaft toward your aiming point. Arrows most commonly are fletched with three feathers or vanes. Some archers use four to stabilize large broadheads or to allow them to lower the profile of all the fletchings.


From the top: 5-inch feather; 3-inch low-profile, outdoor target vane; 2-inch high-profile, broadhead vane.

Feathers are just that. They typically are made from the primary flight feathers of a turkey wing. Vanes, on the other hand, are plastic. Although they can be treated to protect them from rain, feathers are prone to getting water logged, where vanes can withstand any weather.

Feathers impart more drag and spin on the arrow, along with being lighter and more flexible than vanes. Vanes are more durable. Whatever you decide to use, put one or the other on each individual arrow. For example, don’t put two feathers and a vane on an arrow.

Traditional archers often shoot arrows directly off the shelf of the riser, which leads to much more fletching-to-bow contact. For this reason, they mostly choose feathers, which easily give way to that contact without causing erratic arrow flight and inaccuracy like vanes would with direct contact.

trad fletch

A traditional or recurve archer using an elevated rest, like a rest-and-plunger combination or a stick-on style rest, may choose vanes because of the greater arrow clearance afforded by the elevated rest. The vanes would be preferable in rainy conditions, because feathers can get soaked to the point that they simply lay flat.

Indoor compound archers seem to be split between feathers and vanes. There’s no wind or rain to contend with, so the climate will always be prime for both. Feathers are said to be more forgiving, because they flex and fold in the air and around parts of the bow as an arrow is released. Both vanes and feathers have great steering capabilities indoors.

Indoor Olympic recurve archers tend to choose feathers for their forgiveness sliding across rests and risers. But there are those archers who simply shoot their outdoor arrows indoors, and therefore shoot vanes.

And speaking of outdoors, most competition compound and Olympic recurve archers shoot vanes outdoors. You can get much less wind drift using low-profile vanes, plus, they’re waterproof. Olympic recurve archers frequently use curled Mylar vanes, such as those made by XSWings, Range-O-Matic, Eli and Gas Pro, which promote maximum spin, outdoors.

curly vanes

Bowhunters these days commonly use vanes to withstand the elements, but there are some who still put feathers on their arrows for maximum guidance when using fixed-blade broadheads. Both are great for steering arrows tipped with most fixed or expandable broadheads.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing between feathers and vanes. The best way to figure out what will work with your rig under the conditions you expect to encounter is to try both and gauge the results.

A basic guide to arrow nocks

It was in 1991 that the “Iceman” was discovered by hikers high up in the Italian Alps near the border with Austria.

Among the artifacts recovered alongside his mummified corpse were an unfinished longbow, a quiver and a handful of arrows, only two of which were ready to be shot. They had leaf-shaped flint heads held in place within a notch by wood pitch and sinew; three trimmed feathers for fletchings; and notches cut into the back end to receive the bowstring.

So archers have been using nocks of some fashion for more than 5,000 years, because the Iceman is believed to have died 5,300 years ago. Today, arrow nocks are much more sophisticated, but they still serve the same purpose.


Press-fit nocks arguably are the most common nock today, as they are used with nearly all but the skinniest carbon shafts. They’re also used with many aluminum shafts, too. As the category name implies, to install a press-fit nock, you simply slide the nock post inside the arrow shaft, and press down until the shaft end contacts the actual nock.


insert nock


No glue is required with press-fit nocks. You just stick them in, and pull them out, as needed.

They are completely indexable, which means you can turn them to any position to align properly with your fletchings and to achieve rest and/or cable clearance for your fletchings.

With press-fit nocks, it’s critical to know what shaft you’re shooting, since not all shafts have the same inside diameter. Naturally, all arrow manufacturers make nocks to fit their arrows. Aftermarket press-fit nocks bear the common sizes G, F, X, A, H, S and GT.

G and F nocks fit shafts with a .166-inch inside diameter.

X and A nocks fit shafts with a .204-inch inside diameter.

H and H.E. nocks fit shafts with a .234-inch inside diameter.

S nocks ‑ also called Super Nocks ‑ fit shafts with a .244-inch inside diameter.

GT nocks fit shafts with a .246-inch inside diameter.

Some archers will put aluminum Uni-bushings into the nock ends of their arrows in order to help protect the shafts from being damaged by other arrows. They then must find press-fit nocks that fit those bushings.

Also, bowhunters use certain press-fit nocks with battery-powered lights inside that light up when an arrow is released. The lighted nocks help bowhunters recover game and/or their arrows in poor light.


Pin nocks are tiny nocks that fit onto an aluminum pin that’s installed into the nock end of the shaft. The pin bushings are meant to protect shafts from being damaged by other arrows. Any nock labeled as a “pin” nock will fit any pin insert, since all pins are a standard size.

pin nock

Pin nocks are popular among competition archers, who shoot expensive shafts they don’t want to get damaged. Also, target archers believe the smaller, more fragile pin nocks tend to be more accurate and they minimize deflections of their own arrows, which could result in an arrow getting pushed into a lesser scoring ring.


The overnocks are those attached to an arrow by sliding the arrow inside the nock. The nock fits over top of the shaft.


Overnocks are most commonly used with carbon arrows and they come in nearly two dozen sizes to fit a host of shafts. They’re also used with shafts made of other materials. Easton’s X10 Overnock, for example, can be used with the company’s X10 aluminum/carbon shafts.


These nocks are used on aluminum arrows with the cone-shaped back ends, called the swage. They come in several sizes which correlate to shaft diameters. You can simply press these nocks into place and tighten by hand, or you can lock them in place with a non-cyanoacrylate glue.

conventional nock


Some other nock references you need to be aware of are “small groove” and “large groove” sizings. The groove is the opening between the nock posts or ears. The small-groove nocks are meant for the skinnier bowstrings, like you’d find on low-poundage recurve bows. The large-groove nocks are meant for compound bows and for recurves with thicker strings.

You want your nock to make an audible click when you seat the nock on the bowstring. Usually, you’ll only hear that click when the nock fits perfectly. You don’t want your nock to be too tight or too loose on the string.


Crossbow nocks, obviously, are the nocks used with crossbow bolts. There’s the flat nock, the half-moon, the Omni-Nock – which features six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels – and the Capture nock – which closely resembles a traditional arrow nock.

crossbow nocks

From left, flat nock, capture nock, Omni-Nock and half-moon nock.

Different crossbow manufacturers recommend different nocks for their bows. Check to see which one is recommended for the bow you’re shooting.

The nock is the critical connection between your arrow and the bowstring. Know which one you need to get the job done right.