David Houser on stabilizers for indoor archery

On a 40 cm Vegas target face, the X-ring is the size of a penny. The indoor, compound target archer who most consistently hits that tiny ring from 18 meters away, undoubtedly will win the day.

To do that over the course of a 30- or 60-arrow round requires a steady hand. And that’s where bow stabilizers are critical.

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Stabilizers – front and side – allow indoor target archers to hold their compound bows rock steady through the shot process. That’s assuming the stabilizers are set up properly. And that involves choosing the proper bar lengths and then fitting those bars with the right amount of weights.

All of that is an individual task. What works for your favorite archer might not work for you.

David Houser has been winning indoor archery tournaments for years, even though he’s only in his early 20s. In 2017, his name became a household one in the indoor archery world when he finished third in the prestigious Vegas Shoot.

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There’s arguably no other shoot in the world that places such a high emphasis on perfect shooting in one of the most pressure-packed venues on Earth.

Houser was like a statue throughout the tournament, which propelled him past dozens of the world’s best indoor archers.

So we figured we’d pick his brain about choosing stabilizers for indoor archery.

LAS: What is your total stabilizer setup for indoors?

DH: Thirty-inch B-Stinger Premier Plus front bar carrying 6 1/3 oz of weight, and mounted on a 10-degree downward quick disconnect; 12-inch B-Stinger Premier Plus back bar carrying 19 oz.

(David mounts his side rod using the front stabilizer bushing.)

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LAS: Does your setup result in your bow being perfectly balanced in your hand?

DH: My setup results in my bow being relatively balanced in my hand. It slightly leans forward, favoring the left side. I like it to sit this way because it is where it aims the best, and keeps my bow level in my hand when at full draw.

LAS: Why do you use a 10-degree downward offset for your front bar vs. having it straight out the front? And why do you have your side rod angled the way you have it?

DH: I feel that the 10-degree disconnect reacts better to weight and seems to settle down faster when I draw back. Also, using the 10-degree disconnect I can rotate the mount to get the end of the stabilizer to be directly out in front of my riser at full draw.  Sometimes if you have a side rod kicked way out to one side it can cause the bow to torque in your hand. That can result in a straight front stabilizer pointing one way or the other. The 10-degree can be adjusted to counteract this and keep the stabilizer pointing straight at the target.

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10-degree down stabilizer mount.

My side rod is angled the way it is because it aims the best there.  Adjusting the bar angle of your side rod adjusts the aim of the bow.

When you angle the side bar downwards it will make the bow aim, or “point” higher, which helps to correct a low hold if you are experiencing one. The opposite affect is true when angling the side rod upwards

LAS: Front and side rods come in many different lengths. How did you settle on the ones you use?

DH: I decided on the lengths that I use mainly through trial and error. During my testing using different lengths, I found that the length of the stabilizer is very important to what your sight picture will look like.

For example, if you shoot a very long front and back stabilizer, your weights are going to be very far apart which will result in a very slow moving sight picture. With shorter stabilizers, your weights are closer together and your sight picture will be a lot faster.

What I mean by the speed of your sight picture is how fast (or slow) your dot or pin is moving around while aiming at the center of the target, because there will always be some sort of movement – even if it’s faint.

That is why I settled on the 30-inch and 12-inch bar combination. For me, it’s a perfect mix of recovery time and relatively slow pin movement that I really like.

LAS: How did you settle on the amount of weight you put on each bar?

DH: I settled on my weight I put on my bars mainly through extensive trial and error. What I found is a total mass weight that I can comfortably handle. So, for example if I feel like having an overall bow weight of around nine pounds, I will choose the amount of weight to add to my stabilizers to achieve that mass weight at a 1:3 ratio. For every ounce I add to the front, I add three ounces to the back.

Getting a bow to aim well is one of the most important factors to shooting a good score. If you can’t aim the bow in the center, then it’s going to be difficult to hit there consistently.

For instance, I might notice I am getting a low hold, where my pin wants to stay on the bottom side of the dot, and I can’t move it higher. This tells me I either need to add weight to my back stabilizer, or remove weight from my front stabilizer.  The opposite happens if your pin is wanting to float to the high side.

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Front bar weights = 7 ounces.

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Rear bar weight = 20 ounces.

Also, I will add weight if I’m moving left to right on the spot I’m trying to hit.  If I am having that left to right movement, I will usually add one or two ounces to my front bar, which will usually settle the bow. If I do that, I might need to add weight to the back stabilizer to counteract the weight I added to the front.

LAS: Do you find that the pressure of live competition creates any changes that you make to your stabilizer setup over your practice setup?

DH: Absolutely! Everything is easy in the comfort of your home range without any pressure or high stakes. Many things react differently when you get nervous.

For example, in practice I would always run a 1:4 weight ratio on my stabilizers. Under pressure, I tend to see more movement in my sight picture, and in order to slow down that movement, I adjusted my stabilizer weight set up to 1:3. I use my findings from tournaments to make small adjustments to make my bow perform as well as possible under pressure.

LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see new archers make when they choose their indoor target stabilizers?

DH: They either choose lengths too long or too short. I recommend everyone start out with a 30-inch front bar and 12-inch back bar, and then experiment from there.

LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see new archers make when they choose the weights for their stabilizers?

DH: They add weights in the wrong places to increase their mass weight hoping that their bow will aim better. It takes the archer testing different weight combinations to see what will work best for them.  Many times new archers put weight on their bows without knowing how it will react or what it will affect.

I would recommend new archers start with four ounces on the front bar and 12 on the back, and then test and adjust from there.

Bowhunting Tech Tip: Stabilizers

In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply TechXpert P.J. Reilly talks about the use of stabilizers for bowhunting setups.

Reilly walks through factors bowhunters should consider when choosing a stabilizer for their compound bow, such as the amount and distribution of weight they are willing to carry into the woods.

Along the way, he also discusses the purpose and function of stabilizers, including talking points about the choices available to bowhunters, and about how stabilizers can affect accuracy. The discussion also covers the use of side rods, and how they can help balance a bowhunting rig.

Bee Stinger Sport Hunter Xtreme 10.8 Kit

The Bee Stinger Sport Hunter Xtreme 10.8 Kit is discussed in this product review by Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert Justus Leimbach. The kit features a 10-inch front bar and an 8-inch side rod. That’s where the “10.8” in the name comes from.

Inside the package, you also get the mounting bracket, which allows you to change the angles of the rods, so you can position them to balance the bow the way you want. Leimbach walks through the process for adjusting the rods and for adding and removing weights to meet your needs.

Bee Stinger Premiere Plus Stabilizer and Side Rod

The Bee Stinger Premier Plus Stabilizer  and Side Rod system is discussed in this video by Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert Justus Leimbach. The system consists of a front stabilizer, which comes in six lengths from 20-36 inches, and a side rod, which comes in 10, 12 or 15 inches.

The two pieces are sold separately, and can be used together, individually or in conjunction with other stabilizers or side rods.

Leimbach talks about the various weighting options for the bars, which allows you to balance your bow the way you want. He also mentions the color options available.

Do you really need a stabilizer for your bow?

One of the questions we hear from new archers all the time is, “What is that thing sticking out from the front of the bow?

“A stabilizer,” we reply.

Inevitably, there’s the follow-up question, “Do I really need a stabilizer?”

That’s a personal choice. The simplest answer is, “No, you don’t need a stabilizer to shoot a bow. The bow is capable of releasing arrows without a stabilizer attached.”

However, there are tremendous advantages afforded by stabilizers. Look to the pros for proof. Professional archers can shoot with or without any equipment they want. They use what they need to win. That’s their job. Except for archers who compete in the classes that forbid them, you won’t find a professional target archer on the shooting line who doesn’t use a stabilizer. Most use more than one, in fact.

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Now you don’t have to rig your bow with stabilizers like the pros do just to punch targets in your backyard, or chase deer in the woods or even to shoot at local tournaments. But if you want to shoot tighter arrow groups, you might want to try a stabilizer of some stripe.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

A stabilizer is mounted to the riser back, by screwing it into a threaded accessory hole located just below the grip. Nearly all compound and Olympic recurve bows come from the factory with this accessory hole in place.

Stabilizers perform a variety of functions. They absorb vibrations in the bow at the shot, which reduces the shock felt in your hand on the bow grip, and makes the bow quieter. They help keep the bow balanced, by adding weight below the grip. That weight down low encourages the bow to stand up straight, which is critical for consistent accuracy. It also helps settle your sight as you aim at the target.

Stabilizers combat bow torque. When an archer releases the bowstring, the riser torques as all that energy hits it. But a stabilizer, which adds weight out in front of the bow, resists that torque.

Think of it this way. Stand with your arms at your side and twist at the waist. There’s no resistance. Now hold a broom by the handle out in front of you, with the stick parallel to the ground, and twist at the waist. The broom will resist the twist.

HOW LONG SHOULD IT BE?

The length of the stabilizer you choose, again, is up to you. If you’re a bowhunter sitting in a ground blind, shooting at game no more than 20 yards away, then you might prefer the light weight and maneuverability of a 6-inch stabilizer. But if you’re a tournament archer shooting at targets 70 meters out, you might prefer the steadying power of a 30-inch stabilizer.

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Know this. The longer a stabilizer is, the more it’s going to resist bow torque, and the more it’s going to steady the bow as you aim. And the best place for the bulk of the weight is at the very end, away from the bow. That’s what gives the best stabilization.

So, maybe a bowhunter heading out West to chase elk, who might have to shoot 40 or 50 yards, would do better with a 12-inch stabilizer, rather than the 6-incher favored by the ground-blind hunter shooting no more than 20 yards. That extra length can help tighten arrow groups at longer distances.

In competition, there are limitations on stabilizer lengths for certain classes. The National Field Archery Association, for example, limits stabilizers to a maximum of 12 inches in its bowhunter classes. So that might dictate length for you.

WHAT ABOUT SIDE RODS?

Adding side rods, again, is a personal choice. Their purpose is to help balance the bow by adding weight behind the riser. A bowhunter, for example, can counteract the weight of a bow-mounted quiver by putting a side rod on the opposite side of the bow from the quiver. Target archers often use only one rod, too, to counteract the weight of their sight and rest. Or, they might put one rod on each side of the bow using a V-bar, which many feel makes the bow rock steady when they take aim.

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The best thing you can do when making a decision about stabilizers is to think about how and where you shoot – and what you shoot at – and then try different lengths and combinations to see what fits your needs.