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It’s not enough for a bow to simply launch an arrow in the direction of a target. For truly consistent accuracy, your bow must be properly tuned. Proper tuning is attained when everything on a bow is aligned and working in harmony to send arrows flying straight as well as at consistent speeds. The rest, cams, limbs, nock and string (among other bow components) can all affect arrow flight.

To determine how well tuned your bow is, the first thing you’ll want to do is put your stick-and-string “through the paper.”


Before paper tuning a bow, make sure that your arrows have the proper spine for the bow. That can eliminate 90 percent of tuning issues.

Shooting an arrow through paper is relatively straightforward. As the arrow passes through the paper it leaves a tear. By examining this tear you can establish how well your bow is performing. Here’s how to do it:

1. Find a piece of newspaper or butcher paper for the target.

2. Tape it over an old picture frame or cut out the bottom of a box and build a frame with that.

3. Set a target 3 feet behind the paper. Raise the target and paper so they’re level with your shooting trajectory. (Most likely you’ll have to elevate both.) You’re now ready to shoot.

4. Stand 6 feet from the target. Do not use the sights to shoot through the paper. Instead, sight down your arrow shaft to make sure you’re aligned.


Paper tears reveal a bow’s true aim. The goal is to achieve a perfect, single round bullet hole–type tear. Here’s what the tears will tell you about what you should adjust to get it shooting properly.

Horizontal: A horizontal tear to the right or left typically means the field point entered the paper from one angle and then the shaft and fletching entered from the opposite side. In effect, your arrow is flying slightly sideways.

A horizontal tear means your rest tension is either too tight or too loose. Adjust rest tension in one direction and shoot through the paper again. If the tear gets worse, you should adjust in the opposite direction. Keep adjusting until the tear is clean. A right tear means the rest is too far to the left. Make small adjustments, moving it back to the right until the tear turns into a clean hole. A left tear indicates the rest is too far right. Again, small adjustments will remedy the problem.

Vertical: These can be either high or low. High vertical tears can occur when the nock is set too high and low vertical tears when it is set too low. Also, high shots might indicate that rest tension is too tight, low shots that it’s too loose.

If the problem persists after adjusting the nock point and checking the rest tension, you might have a cam timing issue. Unless you have a bow press and some training, I’d recommend leaving such adjustments to a bow shop.

Multidirectional: Tears that veer in different directions with each shot are unfortunately the most common and the most misunderstood. The best way to conquer these is to start at one side (i.e., one direction of the tear, be it low, high, right or left) solve that issue as noted above and then go from there. It’s much easier to correct one issue at a time, and you’ll be able to track which changes produce the desired results.


Once your bow is tuned, it’s time to put the rig to the test. Pace off three target distances. Start at 20 yards away, then move back to 35 and then 50 yards (or less if you’re not comfortable shooting that far).

Shoot six arrows at the same target from each distance. Have a friend stand behind you and take note of how each arrow flies. The arrow should track true to the target. You should also have near shaft-to-shaft groups at each distance, provided you are generally a consistent shooter.

Tools for Tuning

If you’re the type who likes to tinker, then you’re going to want to learn how to make many bow adjustments yourself. Setting up your own at-home bow shop is a snap. Here are a few items to get you started.

APPLE ARCHERY BOW VISE Mounts to any table or workbench and holds bow horizontally or vertically, leaving your hands free for performing repairs. ($75;; 717-266-7888)

EZE-CENTER GAUGE Easy-Eye’s Lazer gauge helps dial in arrow center shot and rest windage. ($90; eze-eye. com; 888-908-7446)

E-MODEL BOW PRESS Compresses limbs to allow changes to bow components. ($175;; 717-266-7888)

ARCHER’S WRENCH SET Pine Ridge set offers the right wrench for every adjustment. ($10;; 877-746-7434)

BOW SCALE Shows draw and hold weight of bow. A must for calculating arrow spine. ($28;; 800-237-4444)

FUTURA TUNING KIT Set includes a center gauge, bow square with levels and nock pliers. ($43; goldenkey; 970-249-6700)

SUPER-C MAG TARGET A large bag target makes checking your bow for tuning a cinch. ($40;; 800-237-4444)