Paper tuning 101
Categories: Equipment Setup
Straight as an arrow.
It’s a saying that’s used beyond archery, but archery is its root.
Achieving perfect arrow flight, or, getting your arrows to fly as “straight as an arrow,” should be the goal of every archer. If your arrow flight is true, then the sky’s the limit for accuracy.
Paper tuning is one of the most common ways compound archers using mechanical releases determine whether their arrows are leaving their bows in a straight line.
(Shooting a compound bow with fingers is more like shooting a recurve bow, and Lancaster Archery Supply recommends bare-shaft tuning in such cases. That’s a topic for another day.)
Through paper tuning you can determine that your arrow rest, bowstring and nocking point are all perfectly aligned, and that you are shooting the proper arrows for your setup. It also lets you know if your hand position on the bow and your shooting form are both correct.
So what you’ll need to paper tune is your bow and some arrows, a frame that can hold paper for you to shoot through, a target backstop and a shooting range.
Your frame needs to hold the paper by all four corners, so it is rigid when you shoot through it. And the frame needs to be positioned high enough that you can shoot straight through it. You don’t want to shoot at a steep angle up or down.
There’s a do-it-yourself paper tuning kit made by .30-06 Outdoors that provides a frame and paper to shoot through. All you have to do is set it on a stand holding the paper at roughly chest height.
Place your target backstop 4-6 feet beyond the paper, so the arrow can pass all the way through the paper before it hits the target. You should stand about 6 feet away from the paper.
Before you shoot, you must make sure your hand position on the bow grip is correct. Check out this article for information on that subject.
If you are torqueing the bow at the shot, due to improper hand position, none of the bow settings will matter. You will have erratic arrow flight.
Also, you must get a smooth, clean release. Don’t slap the trigger or pull your release hand out to the side. Simply pull straight back through the shot with your release.
So you take a good shot through the paper. What you want to see is a round hole with three or four slices extending out from it – depending on the number of fletchings on your arrow.
If you see that, yell, “Bullet-hole!” and don’t change anything. Your setup is perfect.
Short of the bullet hole, what you’ll see is a tear that features a rounded end where the arrow point went through the paper, and a three- or four-slotted hole made by the fletched end of the arrow.
Think about the layout of your tear to figure out how your arrow is flying. If the rounded end is down and the fletched hole is above it, for example, then you know your arrow is flying nose down, with the point below the nock.
Here’s a list of tears, and the most common remedies for each.
- NOCK HIGH – Move your nocking point down, or your rest up.
- NOCK LOW – Move your nocking point up, or your rest down.
- NOCK RIGHT – Move rest away from the riser on a right-handed bow, toward the riser for a lefty. This tear also can mean your arrow’s spine is too stiff. Switch to an arrow with a weaker spine, or you can increase the point weight on your arrow, which will weaken its spine.
- NOCK LEFT – Move rest toward riser for right-handed shooter, away for a lefty. This tear also can mean the arrow’s spine is too weak. Switch to an arrow with a stiffer spine, or reduce your point weight.
If you’re scratching your head over the fixes to the rest for point-right and point-left tears, know that many archers struggle with solving horizontal tears, because the corrective action is counterintuitive.
Logic would seem to dictate that if the paper tear shows the nock is left of the point – commonly called a nock-left tear - then you should move the rest left, to push the point left. But that’s not the case.
What happens is, the arrow wants to fly in the direction of the string’s travel. So if your rest is too far to the left, the point will kick to the right as it leaves the rest to follow the string path, and your paper hole will show a nock-left tear. Move the rest right to solve the problem.
Now what we’ve listed are common fixes for imperfect tears. If you try the suggested fix and you still get a tear, there could be issues not involving the rest or the nocking point.
Unless you’re shooting a single-cam bow, check the timing of your cams. These cams will have timing marks that allow you to see how they’re rotating. If one is rotating faster than the other, you’ll get paper-tuning tears. To synchronize them, you’ll need a bow press, because you’ll have to twist the cables. Or you can take your bow to your local pro shop and let them fix the problem.
If your arrow is making contact with the rest, that can cause paper-tuning tears. Spray your fletchings with white, aerosol foot powder and then shoot that arrow. If it’s making contact, you’ll see lines in the powder. Rotating the nock often will eliminate the contact problem.
Take three shots through the paper each time you make a setting adjustment. If all three shots show the same paper tears, then you know they’re likely the result of issues with your bow, rather than your form.