By Jackie Holbrook
A compound bow’s string is the unsung hero of every archery setup. Without a bowstring, the bow and arrow are powerless. Every piece of archery equipment requires routine maintenance, but none more than bowstrings. They take a beating transferring energy from the bow to the arrow, and rub constantly against bark, brush and clothing. Even with proper care, bowstrings wear out.
Compound bowstrings sustain significant wear every time they send arrows flying, but you can extend their life with proper care. Store your bow in climate-controlled settings to avoid stretch, and regularly apply and rub wax into your bowstring. Wax is available at archery shops.
How often you replace your bowstring depends on its age, how much you shoot, the poundage of your bow, and where and how you hunt. Most bow techs advise changing strings at least every three years. But if it shows wear like frays or broken strands, get it checked. Visit an archery store and ask the bow tech to inspect it.
Order a new bowstring through an archery shop. Unless you’re experienced working on archery equipment and have the proper tools, you’ll need a bow technician to change the strings. When ordering a new bowstring you’ll need this information:
Bow make and model: If you kept your owner’s manual, dig it out. You probably know your bow’s make and model. If not, it’s written on the bow somewhere. The owner’s manual provides more in-depth info about the year of manufacture and additional info you might need.
String length: The compound bow’s main string connects the cams. It’s a specific length, and you’ll find it in your owner’s manual or on one of the bow limbs. If you can’t find the info, call the manufacturer, visit its website, or ask a bow tech to look it up.
Cable(s) length: In addition to the main bowstring, compounds have one or more cables that connect to the cams or wheels. The cable(s) work with the main bowstring when drawing and firing the arrow. Information about the cables can be found in the manual or by asking a bow tech.
For many archers, the best part of a new bowstring is choosing its color. Have some fun. Select a solid string or be bold with a multicolored string. You can even do different colors on the cables and serving. The center serving features thread wrapped around the nocking point where abrasion is most likely. Servings are also used on looped strings to keep the loop together. As you study your bow’s string and cables, you’ll see plenty of opportunities for flair.
Picking colors is fun, but choosing string materials can be complicated. Each type of synthetic material affects a string’s speed, accuracy and durability, and the options can be confusing. Most bow manufacturers recommend a specific material for the bowstring for each make/model of bow. You’ll find that info in your bow’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. Some common materials used for compounds are BCY 452X, BCY Trophy, BCY 8190, BCY X String and Angel Majesty.
Compound-bow strings usually have 20 to 24 strands. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for strands. A bowstring with too few strands won’t absorb enough energy, and cause significant vibration throughout the bow that can damage equipment and cause injuries.
Unless you own a bow press and know how to work on archery equipment, have a bow tech install the new bowstring. Bring an arrow to the shop to test the nock’s fit. It’s dangerous to shoot arrows with nocks that are too loose or too tight. Finding their sweet spot on the center serving is important.
Work with the bow tech to test your nock’s fit. You should be able to hear it snap into the center serving, and feel wiggle room between the nock and bowstring. Once the nock snaps onto the bowstring, it should easily slide up and down the serving. You should not have to force it. However, the arrow must not move side to side. That means the nock is too loose. Also, if you use nocking points on the bowstring, make sure they’re far enough apart to not pinch the nock, but close enough so the nock is in the same place for every shot.
A fresh bowstring does wonders for your bow’s look and performance, so don’t string your old bowstring along. If you see signs of wear, or your bowstring is several years old, order a new bowstring today.
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