Question from a reader – Improving grouping

Last week I posted a response to a readers question concerning aiming and focus. This is  the second part of my response and in this I will try and address another question
I practice very very much and I can not reduce the diameter of my groups
I know this feeling all too well and I used to spend hours quietly practicing at the range at Black Arrow and now at home.

Reducing the diameter of the group comes with practice. Lots of practice in my case. It takes time and consistency in equipment and techniques.
Here are a  few tips I’ve picked up along the way. I  hope they help.

Know your Equipment

If your equipment is not consistent then you have a constantly changing variable to any practice you undertake.

If you shoot a takedown recurve each time you dismantle and reassemble your bow you run the risk of accidentally changing settings. Whether this be the bracing height or dropping twists in the string. So take care and time to make sure everything is right. I have found a camera phone invaluable aid for checking brace height or nock position. Set the bow up, making sure everything is right  and then take a few photos of the bracing height, nocking point etc. It provides you with a quick easy to check reference.

Photo of recurve set up

Photo of recurve set up

If you do change anything make sure you change one thing at a time. However if you change bracing height you might need to immediately change your nocking point as well.

Weather can play a part on equipment too. Traditional English longbow archers will tell you that in warm weather the bow will behave differently to when it’s cool.

Arrow weight and quality

  • Are all the arrows you are using straight and in good condition re nocks and fletching wear?
  • Do they weigh the same?
  • Do they really have the same spine?

I had one student who was struggling with grouping and when we weighed his arrows we found a huge weight variation which explained his issue at longer distances. Additionally, the spine shown on the boxes of wooden shafts  can vary, (in some cases we have found a 20lb variation in a single box that is theoretically ranged within 5lb.) This can be caused for a number of reasons from storage to temperature.

A good idea is to number the arrows and note where they hit. That way if you find one that always goes left or drops short you know it’s the arrow not the archer. I also make a note on each arrow how much they weigh in grains and match shooting sets of the same weight. (Definition of Grain)

This is obviously more of a problem with wooden arrows than with carbon or aluminium arrows.

Equipment consistency is easy compared to archers.

Are you consistent in draw, anchor and release?
If you aren’t being consistent here then getting a good group is impossible.
Light is right and going back sometimes to a lightweight bow means you can focus on draw, release and overall technique.

Take your time between shots don’t rush to shoot as your muscles take time to recover after each shot.  A rushed shot is seldom on target but can often infuriate you.

One technique I use is to start at short distance say 5 yards. And focus on bringing the group in. I then move back 2-3 yards and work on grouping at that distance.  Gradually you move further back. This builds an image bank in your brain of where you should be at different distances. I would practice at, 5,7,10,13,15,17,20,23 and  25 yards shooting 3-6 arrows. Not until I would get at least 5 arrows constantly in a group of 3 inch diameter would I move to next distance. This took months of practice and patience, lots of patience and quite a few replacement nocks. Some days I would shoot 40 arrows others 120 depending on how I was feeling and whether I could focus on the practice. no good practicing if you aren’t focused.

Jim Grizzly Kent recorded a video for YouTube a while back on cup shooting which is another good practice technique.
 Finally, if you can get a friend to video you shooting this might help identify any inconsistencies that you have (once you get past being self concious of being recorded). I am thinking of doing an article on the use of video in the near future.

I hope this helps once again thanks for reading.

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