Muddy Paths and Bow Grip

After a weekend of sunny weather I decided that I was well overdue a visit to the woods.  I sent my buddy a message and we arranged an evening of shooting. Unfortunately, on the day of the shoot it rained all day which led to the track that leads up to the wood becoming a challenge in itself to navigate. I didn’t get the car stuck – much – but it definitely needed a wash before I took it home.

After successfully navigating the mud track of death I met my buddy at the edge of the wood, we got our kit ready – including wellies – and started our shoot. I really love just wandering around the forest and having a chat about life and archery, I don’t even have to shoot well (but I’d lie if I said that didn’t help), there’s just something about being outside with a bow that instantly recharges the batteries.

In terms of the shoot, I felt that I shot okay, all my arrows hit the target but I need to pull my groupings together. I’m still getting used to the recurve and shooting from a shelf that is so central – the bow however, feels amazing. Whilst shooting I took a few pictures and my buddy took a few of me whilst at full draw. It’s not often that I get to see a picture of myself shooting but I did notice, when I went through the pictures at home, that my bow hand is in totally the wrong position.

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As you can see I’m holding the weight of my bow in the gap between my thumb and finger which means that the weight of the bow is held in my wrist. I need to push my palm into the bow which will help me engage my back tension which in turn will make my release smoother (hopefully). In my minds eye I was already doing this so it came as a bit of a shock seeing the evidence that I wasn’t. It’s something I’ll start working on correcting the next time I pick up my bow but it goes to show how easy bad form can creep up on you.

 

Picking up the tab

Archery is never far from my mind. In those moments of the day where I have a spare few seconds I often imagine how I’d make a shot hit something I’ve seen or go through my shoot routine in my mind. I probably do more archery in my head then I physically get to do.

In one of these “archery ponders” I was thinking of the advantages of using a glove and why I use one. Here’s my list.

  • I can select and nock my arrows easier.
  • Once I’ve shot I don’t need to remove my glove when I collect my arrows.

And that is pretty much the list, I can’t think of anything else…. can you?

When I initially saw my short list of advantages I was surprised that none of the advantages actually impact on the shot itself. Once the arrow is nocked and on the string then that’s, as far as I can see, all the advantages of shooting with a glove over with.

Then I started thinking about how much time I put into selecting the right string, the right shelf material, the right arrows, the right bow and the constant reassessment of my form, all in an attempt to get my arrows to go where I want them to go.

At this point it seemed like madness that I’m knowingly adding something into the mix that could detract from all the work and pain I’ve done just to give me some advantages that don’t impact on the actual shot.

With this in mind I thought I’d pick up a tab in the hope that it has a noticeable impact on the end result of my shot and to see if I can live with or adapt to the lack of instant mobility in my shooting hand.

It may make no difference, it may make a negligible difference that isn’t worth the mobility sacrifice or it may make a world of difference. Either way it surely has be worth a go! I’ll report back after a few weeks to see if I’m a convert……or not.

Striker \ New Breed RK1

I haven’t picked up a recurve since I completed my beginner’s archery course. As soon as I got my hands on my course completion certificate the club recurve was unceremoniously cast away in favour of the English Longbow and I haven’t looked back since… until recently that is. You see, over the last few months I’ve really got myself into traditional shaped rut. My form, I felt and was told, was good but I was struggling, and I mean really struggling, to hit anything that wasn’t bigger than Big Bird in anyway that even resembled consistency. I was crap and it was getting me down. Archery for me has always been about losing myself in the moment, to relax and forget about my troubles, to simply loose some arrows. Now I’m not competitive with others but I have expectations of myself which boil down to “if I’m going to do something, then I do it well” and recently I haven’t been shooting well.

As I wasn’t feeling “it” with my longbow I thought I’d try and shake things up, cleanse my pallet, and go right back to the start of my archery journey by picking up a recurve. The last and only recurve I’d shot was a beginners recurve, the type that get dished out to all beginners that all have the same characteristics of big thick risers with sloooooooooooooooow low poundage limbs that are in short god awful to shoot. Now I obviously didn’t want to recreate this experience but I did want to try a recurve again.

So after lots of research, review readings, bowyer bothering (where you bother the bowyer with questions), archery bothering (like bowyer bothering but you bother archers who have a bow that’s in your shortlist), archery stockist bothering (you bother the bow stockist using the same method as bowyer and archer bothering) and youtube video watching, I decided I’d pick up the Striker/New Breed co-laboration bow the RK1.

So why the RK1?

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The foremost reason was that I wanted a pallet cleanser, something as different from my English Longbow that I could get whilst still maintaining a strand of “traditional” DNA. The RK1 ticked that box for me, the “traditional” DNA is supplied by Striker whilst ultimate pallet cleaner comes from the New Breed compound inspired aluminium riser. The second reason was that everyone who I’ve spoken to and reviews that I’ve read have all been positive and not just positive… really positive. The third reason, which is probably just as important as the others, is that the the RK1 looks absolutely stunning, it’s a work of art.

After several emails to Lale at Silver Archery – which involved me asking lots of questions and Lale replying with informative answers – I ordered the RK1 with recurve limbs. The bow took a couple of weeks to come from Striker in the States to Silver Archery in the UK and then to my door but overall the delivery time was very quick! So if you want an RK1 then get one from Lale at Silver Archery.

I’ve had the RK1 now for two weeks and I’ve shot it several times which is enough to get an initial impression and feel for the bow and to start to understand it’s character. It’s obviously not enough to really get to know the bows character but I’m in that happy place at moment of still discovering and being surprised by the bow whilst not knowing everything about it.

The RK1 comes with either the Striker made 60″ recurve or 60″ longbow limbs, both sets are glass and bamboo core laminates with a black hydrographic carbon fibre finish. If the finish doesn’t float your boat then you can get some custom limbs which have an exotic wood veneer, yum. The limbs are interchangeable with all Striker limbs so you can swap and change them to your heart desire. I went for the recurve limbs.

The 16″, fully machined aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminium riser is made by New Breed archery. The riser comes in either black or dissolved camo as standard, again you can get custom colouring so if you have cash and the imagination you can customise the colouring to your hearts desire. My hearts desire was to go dissolved camo, for a standard finish it’s still very distinctive and noticeable without being covered in bright pink unicorns. I suspect that if you ask for bright pink unicorns then New Breed/Striker will be able to accommodate your request….. I now really hope that someone does get a custom unicorn RK1! You can also attach a quiver, sight mount, stablizer/bow fishing rig, side plate or arrow rest to this as the correct holes are where they need to be.

The bow also comes with an 18 strand fast flight string, string silencers (these are bees knees), a side plate, striker broucher and a Striker baseball cap (well at least mine did!).

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Striker’s latest male model

 

The initial bow set up was relatively straight forward, however, when connecting the limbs, I did experience my first, of two minor, niggles with the RK1. Niggle one was that there was no Allen key include in the bag of bits to connect limbs to the bow. This wasn’t a major issue, as I just raided the toolbox and found one, but it would have been nice to have the key included. When you get a new bow and set it up for the first time, it is, for me a least, a really immersive experience and breaking off to go and find an Allen key pulls you out of that experience. Like I said this is just a minor issue.

 

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So what are my impressions of actually shooting this bow? In short I love it, I mean really love it. My brain is still getting used to working out constantly where my bow arm needs to be in order to put my arrow in the right place. I’ve shot off my hand for so long that this may take a few weeks to get right but even after only a few sessions my groupings are tighter and consistent. The sight window on the RK1 is also really big which is very helpful and with the riser being so slim and the shelf so deep your arrows are pretty much sitting in the centre of the riser.

Speaking of the riser the grip is perfect, it sits and balances in your hand like it was meant to be there. The grip and the bow weight gave me the confidence to really relax my hold on the bow and open my grip up. I’ve never had that instant confidence and relaxation from a bow before and if I’m honest it did take me by surprise. My grip has opened so much that I’ve been using a finger sling when shooting the RK1 in order to get the most out of the push of the draw and flow of the release. The draw is also amazingly smooth at 28″ there’s no stacking at all, it’s an absolute pleasure to draw and shoot and to do that repeatedly.

As I’ve been opening my grip up and allowing the bow to follow through I thought it would be sensible to add a little weight to the riser to stop the top limb smashing me in my face during the follow through. I picked up a Trophy Ridge 6″ static stabiliser and attached that to the RK1 and …….wow! I actually didn’t think that the bow could feel any better but that little extra weight and stabilisation just improves the whole process from draw, to the release, to the arrow hitting…. which leads me to my second niggle about the bow. Include a hunting rod with the bow as a standard package. Again, that comes down to archers preference and I’m probably just picking holes here but including a stabiliser  would be the ultimate package.

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In terms of arrows I’ve been shooting the Goldtip Traditional 400 carbons with a 100g point. These seem to fly straight but I may have a tinker with them. I suspect I’ll also try the RK1 with a bow quiver to see how that feels on the bow and I’m also going to pair it up Grizzly String Pro because they’re simply excellent strings!

In conclusion, this is a truly outstanding bow. I love it and I can’t see myself wanting to pick anything else up for a long time. It shoots exceptional well and it stands out, everyone wants to have a look at it and other archers have commented on the grip, the weight and the draw, and the comments have all been very complimentary. I was speaking to one of my English Longbow buddies the other night and he said “you look very at ease with that bow […] you’ve found your bow” which coming from someone who sees me shoot every week must mean something.

Target Panic?

Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my accuracy has taken a massive nose dive. I’ll have some good shots followed by some truly awful ones. If I’m honest it’s starting to frustrate me.

In an attempt to rectify this I’ve asked the club coach to look at my form and shoot routine. The only thing he could see was that I need to relax my grip on the bow. I’ve even asked the coach to go through the basics of aiming with me just in case I’m missing something obvious (this request received a raised eye brow).

I suspect that I’m doing something small that’s wrong which has thrown me off ever so slightly, this will, I suspect, have caused me to unconsciously expect to be off which just amplifies the issue, but how do I break the cycle?!

Tips, hints and tricks will be greatly received.

2017 – A Retrospective

It’s the closing days of the year which is a natural time to look back over the my archery year.

For the first part of the year – the second half of the winter season and most of the summer season – I spent at my old target archery club. Although I’ve been shooting for a few years now I never attempted to get my 252 badges, the club had just revised their scheme so I thought it was the ideally time to work on my badges. The 252 scheme is where you need to get 3 scores of 252 or over at a set distance – 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50yrds – once accomplished you receive a badge. It was a nice way to pass the summer season and it was a good marker to see how I progressed.

In the closing stages of the summer season I made the decision to change clubs from the target archery club to a field archery club. At the time this was a big step but one that I feel has ultimately paid off. At the target club I was one of only a few traditional English Longbow archers which meant that I was pretty much left to my own devices. Overall, I had no issue with this at the time but retrospectively I feel this hindered my progression as I had nobody willing to point out my errors and give me pointers. On the other hand the majority of the archers at the field club are traditional archers who are more than happy to pass on their knowledge and observations, which I feel has helped me progress.

This year I’ve also tried my hand at arrow making which has been a lot of fun. If I’m honest, I struggled with the fletching wrapping as it was difficult to get the spacing the same between the threads. This will come with time and practice so I hope my next batch will be a little tidier.

In 2018 I’m really looking forward to getting out into the forest on a weekly basis and challenging myself to some difficult shots. I’m also hoping to improve the quality and finish of the arrows I’m making. Like everything in life this will come from practice and dedication.

That’s not Cricket!

As I was reading through the BCC News site this morning I came across this headline ‘Surrey v Middlesex: Play abandoned after crossbow arrow lands on pitch‘. In short, a cricket match was abandoned after a crossbow bolt was shot into the ground from around 160 yrds away, the players left the pitch, armed police carried out a controlled evacuation and investigations continue.

Common sense dictates you that can’t shoot a crossbow or bow in an area where the public would be at risk but what does the British Law say on the matter. Luckily, for us the use of a crossbow is covered specifically in the aptly named ‘Crossbow Act 1987’. The Act is a riveting read and if you fancy trawling through it then it’s available for your viewing pleasure here.

However, i’ll summaries it here.

  • You need to be aged 18 years or older to own a crossbow. If you are not and you purchase or hire a crossbow or parts of it you’re committing an offence.
  • If a crossbow is hired or sold to a person under the age of 18 then the seller is committing an offence unless they believed the individual was above 18 and has reasonable ground for that belief.
  • If a person is under 18 years of age and in the possession of a crossbow then they must be under the supervision of someone who is 21 or older.
  • If a police officer suspects that a person under the age of 18 in possession of a crossbow then they can be searched, as can their vehicle and property. If a crossbow is found it can be seized.
  • If crossbow has a draw weight of less than 1.4kilograms (a hefty 3lbs) then it’s exempt from the Act.
  • The maximum sentence under this Act is six months imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine which was a maximum of £2000 when the Act was introduced but is now an unlimited amount.

As you can see the Crossbow Act 1987 covers the ownership and sale of crossbows, so if one carried or  shot in a public place, as was the case here then section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 would be used which makes it an offence to possess any offensive weapon in a public place.  Maximum sentence for under the Prevention of Crime Act would be four years if sentenced at a Crown Court or four months at a magistrates court.

Now I suspect that if anybody is ever arrested for this the sentence will be dependant on external factors such as age and intent.

No matter the outcome it’s very lucky that nobody was injured or worse.

Clubs

I’ve been shooting at my current target archery club for three outdoor seasons and two indoor. It’s the club that taught me the basics of archery and because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart but I feel that it’s now time to move on.

The motivation behind this decision boils down to three things: personal development, style and cost.

Personal Development.

At my current club I’ve always gone against the grain choosing to shoot traditional bows over the Olympic recurve, that were enthusiastically offered, wanting to shoot instinctive instead of adding a sight or using other methods and anchoring behind the ear instead of my chin. This has led to me being left to my own devices by the club coaches with my personal development coming from attending external courses, reading books and watching videos on YouTube. Personally, the coaching element is only a small factor for me but my bow choice seems to have impacted on any extra coaching I may have received.

Style.

Shooting multicoloured targets at set distances is the ultimate test for refined, precise technique and the archer’s ability to duplicate each shot again and again with the only variables being the weather and the archer but after three years of doing this I’ve come to realise that it’s not for me.

The elements of archery that I enjoy the most are the shooting, being outdoors and the chance to unwind and relax. I do get these things from target archery but I’ve found that I get all this and more when I’m tromping around a forest with my bow. Nothing can beat being in a forest with the earthy smells, hearing the birds, feeling the weather whilst loosing and even lose a few arrows.

Cost.

This one is a minor issue but if I feel it’s worth mentioning as everything boils down to money.

The target archery club costs

£107 per year membership. This includes the insurance and governing body fees. It also covers access to the field in the summer season which is two weekday evening and one weekend afternoon.

In the winter we shoot indoors and that is available one weekday evening and at the weekend. For the weekday shoot it costs £5 per session and £6 for the weekend session.

So if I went one evening a week on winter I be looking at £20 a month. The winter season is from October until March so that’s six months with a total of £120. So this coupled with my membership fees means I’m paying £227 a year and that’s if I don’t shoot at the weekends.

The field archery costs

£12 per year membership fees.

£25 per year governing body fees.

£5 per month club fee.

This gives you access to the indoor range for 3 evenings a week as well as the field next to indoor range. It also includes 24/7 access to the clubs 25 acre forest. If my maths are correct then the field club will cost £97 a year which is a difference of £130.

Hopefully, I’ve made the right decision. It feels right and the members of the club I’ve met seem friendly enough and there’s not a long rod in sight.