Archery 101: All About Bowstrings Archery 101: All About Bowstrings

If your bow were a car, the bowstring would be the tires because it transfers the energy from the bow and unleashes it upon the arrow. Therefore, it’s a vital part of your archery equipment, and requires maintenance and replacement to ensure extended use.

Bowstrings, historically, were made of sinew, plant fibers and animals hides, but today they’re made from high-tech synthetic materials. These advanced fibers make bows shoot faster, and more reliably and accurately.

Modern materials also let archers apply their personal touch to bowstrings, much as they do with custom fletching to personalize their equipment. You can have a neon pink or subdued gray bowstring, or any colors in between. It’s up to you to make your setup unique. If you have a favorite color combination, you can show it off and shoot archery in style.

Before ordering a new bowstring, make sure it becomes a long-term investment by learning a few things about your options, and some tips for reducing its wear and tear.

Recurve and Longbow Strings

There are two types of bowstrings available for recurves and longbows, the Flemish twist and the endless loop string. A Flemish twist, pictured here, has braided loops on each end that are beautiful and very traditional looking. Photo Credit:

When buying a bowstring, you must know your bow length. Measure its length from string groove to string groove. Once you know the bow’s length, you can determine your bowstring’s length. If you shoot a recurve, your bowstring is usually 4 inches shorter than the bow’s length. If you shoot a longbow, the bowstring is 3 inches shorter. If you’re still unsure, measure your current bowstring or visit an archery store to learn the bowstring’s length.

Next, decide how many strands of bowstring material you need. That number depends on the material and the bow’s draw weight. Bows with a heavy draw weight need more strands to handle that weight, and lighter-weight bows need fewer strands. Consult your owner’s manual or your archery shop to learn how many strands your bowstring needs.

Two types of bowstrings are available for recurves and longbows: the Flemish twist and the endless loop. A Flemish twist has braided loops on each end that give it a beautiful, traditional look. An endless-loop bowstring has loops formed by wrapping serving material, which is a braided string, around the bowstring.

Traditional archers enjoy shooting Flemish-twist bowstrings because of their traditional aesthetics, while target archers prefer the precise construction of endless-loop bowstrings.

Compound Bowstrings

Many compound archers like to personalize their bowstrings with either solid- or multi-colored strings. Before choosing a color and purchasing a new set of strings, you must know your string and cable lengths. Photo Credit: USA Archery

Compound bowstrings come in several parts. The main bowstring and one or more cables connect the cams. Your bowstring and cable lengths will be written on your bow or in your owner’s manual. If you can’t find the lengths, bring your bow to the archery shop, and they can look them up in their database.

After you know your string and cable lengths, you just need to choose your colors. You can choose one solid color or a multicolored string. This will likely be the toughest part of your purchase because so many great colors are available.

Bowstring Care

Storing your bow in a climate-controlled setting extends its life by preventing string stretch. If you have a recurve or longbow, remove its string between shooting sessions to extend its life. Photo Credit: World Archery

You can prolong the bowstring’s life by maintaining and properly storing it. Also, regularly apply bowstring wax, which is available at archery stores. Before shooting each day, inspect your bowstring for anything that looks fuzzy, and run your fingers up and down its length to see if it feels dry. If your bowstring feels dry or looks fuzzy, apply wax to it and rub it into the fibers with your fingers until it melts fully into the string.

Storing your bow in a climate-controlled setting extends its life by preventing string stretch. If you have a recurve or longbow, remove its string between shooting sessions to extend the bow’s life.

If you need or want a new bowstring, visit an archery store, where expert bow technicians can help you through the purchase process.

Find a store near you. 

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