So You Wanna Become an Archery Coach?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Derek D. Meitzer/Released

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” – Peter F. Drucker

To succeed in any endeavor in life, you must have a caring and knowledgeable coach. A good coach can help you make the most of your archery training, identify weak areas that you may not be aware of, and prevent you from overtraining and causing injury. The best coaches encourage and support you as you grow in your sport and as an athlete, which is why it takes a rare personality and, often, a soft touch to be a coach. As John Wooden says, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” If you believe you have what it takes to be an archery coach, this post will help you prepare for the journey ahead.

The sport of Archery depends on caring, capable coaches who introduce the sport to young archers. In the United States, archery coaches and instructors are certified under a single regulating body, USA Archery. The USA Archery certification program prepares coaches to help athletes successfully and safely develop their skills and abilities as they progress in competition. Instructors who possess a certification have been trained and tested in archery skills and safety, and it is an important credential for professional or semi-pro coaches to market their service.

Whether you are an aspiring coach yourself, or you are looking for a coach of your own or for your children, knowing a little bit about the credentials behind coaching in the sport of archery will help you make wise choices to help you achieve your goal. There are 5 tiers of archery instructor certifications, as follows:

Level 1 Coach

The Level 1 or Basic instructor specializes in introducing basic safety and archery skills to beginners. Typically this type of certification is for instructors who would like to work for summer camps, boy or girl scout organizations, or parks and recreation departments.

To receive a Level 1 certification, you must first take a 4-12 hour course in range safety, set-up, and commands, basic equipment information and care, and the fundamentals of shooting. The only pre-requisite to this course is that you must be at least 15 years of age. The required course for a Level 1 certification costs between $30 and $50 on average.

Level 2 Coach

While it would seem intuitive that you must first pass a Level 1 certification before moving on to Level 2, that is not the case. As long as you are at least 18, have passed a background check successfully, and are a current member of NFAA or USA Archery, you can begin your Level 2 course. While Level 1 is not a pre-requisite to the Level 2 certification, a Level 2 coach is certified to teach Level 1 courses. Typically the Level 2 coach is found in more established archery classes, such as J.O.A.D., college archery clubs, or larger community clubs. This certification also costs between $30 and $50.

The Level 2 course is typically longer than the Level 1 course and covers the bow shooting cycle in finer detail, adding a little more depth to the archer’s technique. The aspiring instructor will also be trained how to fit equipment to their athletes, how to set up, tune, and repair equipment, and how to teach regular archery lessons as well as the Level 1 Instructor class.

Level 3 Coach – National Training System Certified

Whereas the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications primarily dealt with archery instruction in a class setting, the Level 3 certification focuses more on athlete development on an individual basis. All Level 3 coaches are eligible to teach Level 1 or 2 courses. In order to become certified, the candidate instructor must be at least 18 years of age, and have held a level 2 certification for at least a year. Alternatively, if the instructor has three years of experience as an archery instructor, they can ‘test out’ of their Level 2 certification. Level 3 certifications require membership to one of the major certifying bodies (NFAA or USA Archery), and a successful background check.

The Level 3 certification can cost around $250 for over 20 hours of instruction on coaching philosophy, archery training plan development, competition prep, bow tuning, and competitive psychology. Holding a level 3 certification means you will spend less time working with beginner, youth, and amateur archers, and start focusing on athletes who are hoping to take their competition to another level.

Level 4

After an instructor has served as a Level 3 coach for 2 years and they are ready to take their career to the next level, they can advance to a level 4 certification. This certification makes the coach eligible to work for the USA Archery national training camps and the International Team Staff. Level 4 coaches can also teach Level 1 and Level 2 certification courses.

The Level 4 course costs just under $500, and will most likely require travel and a hotel-stay for the week-long duration of the course. This course focuses intensively on sports science, including biomechanics, sports psychology, nutrition, training cycles, and the National Training System.

Level 5 – Elite Level Coach

When a coach has reached the pinnacle of their career, including at least two years as a Level 4 instructor, and a record of successfully coaching three or more archers to a national podium place, top 10 ranking, or Olympic, World, or International team placement, he or she may be eligible for their Level 5 certification. Rather than taking a course, a Level 5 certification is self-paced and self-directed to highlight the candidate’s ability to coach athletes to a high level of performance. Typically the coach will be required to pursue higher-level training, including the ASEP Coaching Principles certification, and the USCO Safe Sport certification. The Level 5 certification also requires training and supervision from a mentor or through a Coach Observer Program. In short, the Level 5 certification is the pinnacle of an archery coach’s credentials.


Every certification except the Level 1 certification requires a background check through the USA Archery organization. Many of the archers a coach will work with in their career will likely compete in youth leagues. Anyone who works professionally with children is required to submit to a background check. Successfully passing a background check is a strong credential and will help ease the minds of the parents of athletes you may work with in your career.

Additionally, all but the Level 1 certification require membership in either USA Archery or the National Field Archers Association. These organizations provide a lot of valuable information regarding training and competitions, and can serve as yet another credential to market yourself as a highly qualified archery instructor.

Expiration and Renewal

Every one of the above certifications is good for three years from the date of your certification course. You can usually renew your certification every three years by teaching archery classes consistent with your certification (Level 1 – Summer Camp, Level 2 – J.O.A.D., Level 4 – Archery camps and attending continuing education). The cost of renewal is usually as low as $30, and may require a re-check of your background screening.

If you have a passion for archery and working with athletes from all walks of life, becoming an archery instructor can be an intensely rewarding career. Though it takes time and dedication to improve both your archery and your coaching technique, there is no greater thrill than seeing your athletes excel in competition after months or years of careful training.

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The South Korean Love Affair with Archery

While the national sport of South Korea, is somehow, weirdly, the online video game ‘Starcraft’, Archery comes in as a close second. The tiny nation comprising the southern half of the Korean Peninsula has become a world superpower of archery. Nationally competitive archers in South Korea enjoy the same lifestyle and professional relationship with their sponsors as NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers in other countries. This articles examines how archery became the ‘real’ national sport of South Korea.


Korean Archery’s Olympic Dominance


The sport of Archery made its first appearance as an Olympic sport in 1904, and was later excluded for over fifty years until 1972, when men’s and women’s individual archery was finally re-instated as an Olympic sport.

24-year old Korean archer Ki Bo-Bae, engaging in a favorite past-time amongst Korean Olympic archers: eating gold medals.

24-year old Ki Bo-Bae, engaging in a favorite past-time amongst South Korean Olympic archers: eating their many gold medals.

Not long after in 1979, high schooler Kim Jin Ho won a women’s team gold and South Korea’s first individual gold medal in the Archery World Championships in Berlin. This began a movement in South Korea that catapulted the small country to superpower status in the sport. Largely under the guidance of national head coach and future archery guru, the South Korean team would win a combined eight Olympic golds from 1984 through the 1996 Games.


One of Lee’s most famous athletes, Kim Soo Nyung led the women’s Olympic team in the 1988, and 1992 games with a total of four gold medals. She was only 17 at the time. She also won consecutive individual and team world championships in 1989 and 1991. After winning a silver medal in the ’92 Games, Kim retired from archery to start a family. In 1999, she was called back to the sport and led the 2000 Olympic team in winning her third team gold, and an individual bronze. Kim is widely considered the best female archer of all time.

Nom Nom Nom

Nom Nom Nom

Cultivating a Culture of Winning


According to British archer Larry Godfrey, there are roughly two British archers who have shot over 1350 points in an Olympic round, whereas in Korea, there are over 50. Much of this can be attributed to the size of South Korea’s national physical education program, and the monetization of corporate-owned teams.


Korean school children receive their introduction to archery while still in elementary school as part of the national physical education curriculum. Children who demonstrate particular talent in their archery classes are invited to join a youth development league, and will train up to two hours a day. Through middle and high school and into University, the level of competition continues to intensify, weeding out those with less ability and motivation.


The best of the best collegiate archers may be scouted and recruited by any of 33 corporate-sposored teams. Similar to auto racing in other parts of the world, companies like Hyundai and LH Corp. sponsor archery teams, providing their archers with a decent wage and a pension solely for competing for their team.


In other countries, few competitive archers make a living from their sport. In fact, in most countries, archers need to be Olympic gold medalists before they will receive enough income (primarily through product endorsements) to cover their cost of living. In Korea, however, many professionals make a very comfortable living without ever competing for the national team.


In short, Koreans have an advantage in the sport simply due to the sheer numbers, particularly youth, involved in the sport. In other countries, the number of nationally competitive archers can be counted on one hand. In Korea, there are over a hundred. There are also over 300 regional teams, and over 1500 archers in a country slightly larger than Indiana. This talent pool is simply too large for many countries to compete with.


Elite Archery Training


The National Training System of South Korea was created by the godfather of archery, Kisik Lee. Although the training system has been scrutinized due to Lee’s religious coaching methods (he baptized Brady Ellis, for Christ’s sake), the system has consistently produced results. Lee partnered with a biomechanics engineer to examine the forces placed on the body when practicing archery.

Brady Ellis receiving the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Brady Ellis receiving the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Based on this research, Lee developed a 12-step shooting cycle that deconstructed the shot down into basic biomechanics processes. Certification in this Training System is required to become an archery instructor under the USA Archery organization as well as the National Field Archery Association.


Although their training is largely based on scientific research, an incredible amount of importance is placed on training each archer’s nerves and their ability to conquer fear and perform under pressure. In teaching the shooting cycle, instructors recommend aiming primarily subconsciously. The general rule is to focus only about 10% of their attention on the target, attributing 90% to the muscles in their core back and fingertips.


This requires an ability for intense concentration, in a variety of conditions. To train for this, Korean archers undergo a variety of eclectic exercises, including training at night, in the rain, and in the bull pens of noisy and crowded baseball games. Athlete’s engage in high diving and bungee jumping as a method of training themselves to deal with fear. All of these exercises are meant to put the athlete’s outside of their comfort zones and prepare them for stressful situations in competition.


A Genetic Pre-Disposition


Some theorize that the Korean advantage is entirely genetic; that Koreans have a highly refined sensitivity that  gives them greater control in their fingertips and awareness over their body as a whole. If true, this could very well be a strong advantage in a sport where the smallest distance can be the difference between a score of 9 or 10 points.


This argument has gained weight due to the success of Im Dong-Hyun who due to a visual impairment has retained only 10% of his sight. Currently ranked as the Number One male archer in the nation, this ‘blind’ archer claims that being able to see the target is entirely secondary to what goes on behind the bow.


Can Korean Archery be Defeated?

Oh Jin Hyek knows if he ever runs out of food, he's always got his gold medals

Oh Jin Hyek knows if he ever runs out of food, he’s always got his gold medals

Other countries who hope to be as competitive would be wise to adopt a similarly extensive kids archery and youth development program. In the states, there have been some movements towards archery classes in schools programs, and J.O.A.D. is certainly available to children who seek out the sport. But these programs have nowhere near the reach of Korea’s archery programs where children are assessed, identified, and cultivated from a young age.


Many countries have increased their spending in the sport, including India’s 61-Million-Rupee incentive to any archer that can bring home an Olympic gold. In America, the steady rise of Brady Ellison has been fueled largely by sponsorships from sports equipment companies like Easton. In fact, the arrow manufacturer just last year signed a deal to build a new 40,000 square foot Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. The fact that the U.S. was able to poach Korean head coach Kisik Lee in the late 90s is statement enough of their willingness to spend on Olympic dominance in archery.


And yet, nightmares of the South Korean dominance in the sport fuels the archery training of athlete’s all over the world. With a winning streak like no other, the South Koreans do not appear to be anywhere ready to give up their title as world’s greatest.

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How to Design and Build Your Own Archery Training Range

What would your personal archery sanctuary look like?

What would your personal archery sanctuary look like?

Every serious archer eventually gets the longing to build his own archery range at home. There may not always be a public range close by, and many ranges require you to pay membership dues or high range fees. Having an archery range at home that is free to use any time of day can be a great asset to your archery training.


Designing and building your own range will provide you with a convenient training dojo, as well as a sense of pride and self-satisfaction. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the home archery range, however, is that there are no rules against drinking a cold beer while you shoot with your friends and family.


Archery Range Design


The process behind designing a range is similar, though much reduced in scale and scope, to the process used by architects to design buildings. An investigation is undertaken regarding the restrictions on the project. What and where is the space? What are the limits imposed by building codes? Then the designer must make a series of decisions about the space. In the same way, you must first start with an investigation, and then make some decisions of your own.


The Space


First, you must decide where you will build your range and start analyzing the dimensions and properties of the space. Clearly an outdoor range is the most cost-effective option in terms of space, but if you are resourceful, it is not impossible to build a space indoors on the cheap.


A few years ago, my wife and I lived in an apartment with a long narrow hallway. In complete violation of our lease we assembled duct-taped frames of stacked corrugated cardboard, layered it with two outdoor rugs, and a commercial kitchen standing pad. While there was some minor damage to the drywall, for reasons I’ll go into later, I’m happy to report that we did get most of our security deposit back.


At a minimum, for a target shooting range (I’ll go into how to build a field archery range in a later post) you need a lane that is at least 30 inches wide by 20 yards long. Most ‘certified’ archery ranges, as defined by the NFAA, require a target butt (the arrow stop) that is at least 40’’ square or 48’’ in diameter if using a circular butt. You will need either a backstop immediately behind the butt or be able to see for 25 yards beyond your target.


Take some measurements of your space, and start thinking of what you can do with it. Will you be able to sink posts into the ground to build a stand and backdrop for your target? Will you need a deeper target butt to cushion arrow impact in an indoor range?


The Materials


Often the best materials for building an attractive archery range are those that you find or repurpose. It certainly doesn’t hurt your finances, either.


Backstop – According to the NFAA, a backstop can be any material that will not damage arrows that are overshot or pass through the target. Commonly, large sheets of plywood are used in competitions. Many larger tournaments will also use a heavy closed-mesh curtain. Wooden pallets are usually free and readily available and when taken apart and typically sanded, can be reconstructed to make a beautiful range, for as little as the cost of wood sealant or stain.


If shooting on level ground, the backstop should be at least 8 feet tall, and a minimum of four feet wide. Alternatively shooting downhill into an earthen berm


Target Butt – The primary consideration when deciding on the dimensions of your butt (all joking aside) is what is behind the target? If you have interior drywall behind your target, like my apartment hallway range, you will need a deeper butt (again all joking aside), to stop the arrow before it does any damage to what is behind it.


Our flimsy cardboard backstop consisted of four layers of disassembled cardboard boxes reinforced with duct tape at the corners and creases. We probably needed at least 2-3 times more butt (last one) to protect our apartment’s drywall, and our security deposit. Additionally, we found a scorpion between some of the boxes when we eventually took it down. These are some of the things you have to consider.


Corrugated Cardboard – when stacked in layers of 6’’ or more makes a good, inexpensive butt that allows for relatively easy withdrawal of arrows.

Hay bales – another inexpensive choice that provides excellent depth and clean retrieval. Keep in mind that if left outdoors and not protected from moisture, hay bale can be susceptible to rot and mold. In this case it will need to be replaced.

Foam – Many cheaply made commercial targets are simply plastic or burlap bag filled with Styrofoam. Styrofoam can often be found cheaply by asking local furniture and electronics stores, or if you are uber-resourceful, dumpster diving. The disadvantages? It can ‘goop up’ on arrows, particular those of composite materials, and will fall apart over time. Actually, the biggest disadvantage is that god-awful, nails-on-a-chalkboard sound arrows make when they are being withdrawn.

Other Materials – There are literally hundreds of different materials including recycled forest and agriculture by-products, recycled plastic, or tightly bundled cloth currently being sold commercially as target material.


The Target


Finally, you have your target. This can be simply painted on the target butt, but will need to be repainted periodically as the target deteriorates with regular shooting. Paper targets are inexpensive and easy to store and replace. Another benefit of paper targets is that you can use regular circular competition targets, animal targets, or even the classic bad guy with a gun target. For Christmas I got these Zombie targets, and after watching Walking Dead, they have seriously inspired my archery training.


The one concern about paper targets is that if they are going to be left on the target for days at a time, they will need to be shielded from the sun and rain. This can often be done with scrap wood or corrugated metal, and can also protect hay bales from moisture if they are kept off the ground.




Once you have analyzed the requirements of your space and selected your materials you are free to add your own flourishes to truly make your range your home. From custom-built PVC bow, arrow, and drink holders, to a sheltered shooting patio that allows you to shoot in all weather, to lighted targets for night shooting, the options are truly endless. I personally, have always dreamed about a Japanese style meditation and tearoom attached to a shooting porch and a covered standalone target butt stand.


What does your dream archery range look like? Let us know in the comments!

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Instinctive Archery Lessons – Unleashing Your Subconscious


Get in touch with your Wild Side


When watching an archery competition, it is standard to see an archer take anywhere from 10-30 seconds to set up his shot, aim, and release. Most competitors believe that they have to follow a step-by-step routine, making sure every component of their shot is perfectly aligned while carefully aiming their arrow downrange. However, our primitive forbears in this sport rarely shot this way. For instance, a primitive archer could starve or be killed by an enemy arrow if he took 30 seconds to line up his shot. Instead, the primitive archer relied on his subconscious instinct to guide his arrow. This article lays out some archery lessons for anyone who wants to learn how to fire off a shot faster and more accurately. While learning to shoot instinctively is ideal for bow hunters who want to improve their skill and reaction time for next season, instinctive shooting is also of great benefit to the target archer as well.


Not Just for Hunters


According to Olympic coach Kisik Lee’s archery training system, during the aiming component of every shot the archer should focus primarily on their drawing muscles while remaining only slightly aware of their sight pin and its relation to the target. The ideal ratio is to focus 90% on your back muscles and 10% on what you are seeing. By training your instinctive shot, you are exercising your subconscious aiming abilities, making you a better all-around archer.


Pre-Requisites to Instinctive Shooting


Arguably the most important requirement for an instinctive archer is that he or she uses a bow that matches the archer’s dominant eye. For instance, if you are left-eye dominant, you will need a left-handed bow, and vice versa if you are right-eye dominant.


The reason for this is that, if you are using a right-handed bow and are left-eye dominant, you will be required to close your left eye in order to aim using your right eye. To put it simply, your aiming eye needs to be on a perfect line that runs from the tip of your drawing elbow through the arrow, all the way to the target. With both eyes open, you will be able to take in more information about every scenario in which you are trying to make a shot. For more information about how eye-dominance effects your shot, click here.


Additionally, you should have a firm grasp on basic technique. It is important that you have complete control over your shot before you start firing arrows willy-nilly, as it were. At the very least, you should have a consistent and strong stance you feel comfortable shooting from, a consistently smooth draw, and a ruthlessly consistent anchor point.


How to Shoot Instinctively


Without having seen instinctive archery in practice before, it can be kind of difficult to comprehend. How can someone just launch a projectile without first carefully aiming with the precision of a sniper? Well, it may be simplifying a bit, but it’s similar to how you throw a baseball or shoot a basketball. You simply ‘point’ your attention at whatever you’re shooting at and align your body to do the same.


In instinctive archery, rather than aiming your arrow like you would a gun, you are simply pointing at the target you want to shoot and using your peripheral vision to gather as much information about what you are shooting as possible. For instance, with both eyes open you are able to see the direction and speed at which your target is moving, or if there is anything that could potentially obstruct your shot.


As long as you are shooting down your line of sight, it is not difficult to send the arrow where you want it to go. It will almost certainly take some getting used to, but by making small adjustments to your technique, shooting instinctively will gradually start to feel more natural. Experiment with a slightly wider stance to give you more stability, and lean in slightly toward your target. Remember to always anchor your arrow in the same place every single time you shoot (just inside the corner of the mouth works best for me).


To practice instinctive archery, try to limit the amount of time you give yourself to aim your shot. To make it easier on yourself, try to shoot ‘on beat’. For instance, give yourself a beat to nock your arrow and mentally prepare for the shot, one beat to draw the arrow, a beat to aim, and a final beat to release. This will teach you to rely on your instinct rather than mentally working through a checklist to prepare and execute the shot.


Finally, shooting at moving targets is always a great way to practice shooting instinctively. Whether you use an archery target launcher, suspend a pendulum to swing in front of your target, or just hunt small, moving game you are certain to develop your instinctive abilities with regular practice.


As a result of learning instinctive archery, you will learn how to improve your aim in target competition, and drastically increase your hunting accuracy. Stay tuned for more instinctive archery drills and tips!

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How to Buy Arrows: 4 FAQs About Arrow Length

Arrow length is one of the most important factors of an arrow's flight.

Arrow length is one of the most important factors of an arrow’s flight.

The commonly held belief is that an arrow should be just equal to, or slightly longer than, the bow’s set up draw length. Following this convention, most would assume that if a bow has a 28-inch draw, it should shoot a 28-inch or longer arrow. However, this is not always the case. Technology has improved so much that this traditional convention may not always be the best for your particular rig. You might find that the best arrow for you is slightly shorter than the draw length. Here are a few questions to ask to help you buy arrows correctly.


1. What kind of riser do you shoot? 


There are a lot of factors at play when determining optimum arrow length, but a good place to start is with your bow’s riser. The ‘riser’ is the handle component of the bow to which the limbs attach. Traditionally risers typically use a molded plastic ‘flipper’ arrow rest. With a traditional riser your arrow, along with the center of your firing line, will lie right next to the riser, potentially causing some interference to the arrows flight.


Alternatively, you may have a cutaway riser, that provides a larger shelf for the arrow, and the riser is moved to the side. With this type of riser, your arrow and its flight path are spaced far enough from the riser that there will be no contact with the riser and the arrow’s fletching. This is the most common type of riser amongst modern compound bows.


So what does this have to do with the length of arrow you buy? Well, if you purchase arrows of a length equal to your draw length, the insert of the arrow should line up perfectly with the front edge of your bow’s riser. However, if you are using a cutaway style riser, you can shoot arrows that are less than the draw length. Compare this to a traditional riser, which requires you to use an arrow slightly longer than draw length so that the tip of the arrow extends beyond the front of the riser.


2. Do you shoot broad heads or other specialty tips? 


If your bow features a traditional riser then your arrows must be at least as long as your draw length if you ever hope to shoot broad heads or other specialty, large-diameter tips. Otherwise, every time you draw the arrow, the broad head would catch on the front of the riser and stop your draw. A half-inch to an inch longer than your bow’s adjusted draw length should work just fine.


If your bow does have a cutaway riser, you can be a little more flexible in how short of an arrow you use, simply because a cutaway riser can easy accommodate a broad head. Most competitive compound shooters trim their arrows as short as possible in an attempt to make their arrows as fast as possible. The general equation is: the shorter your arrow, the lighter it is and the faster and farther it will fly. For this type of riser, buy or trim arrows that are a half-inch to an inch longer than your arrow rest.


Some small game tips require that you use longer arrows regardless of your riser type. For instance, Judy Points and Condor Tips, very wide hunting tips meant for shooting small game require arrows longer than the draw length even if you are using a cutaway riser.


3. What type of arrow rest do you use? 


Particularly with cutaway risers, the type of arrow rest in operation will also need to be considered when determining optimum arrow length.  In older rigs, archers used to use a device known as an over-draw that would extend the arrow rest further back. This was done to allow the archer to shoot shorter and faster arrows.


While no longer in use, the over-draw and other types of arrow rests require different lengths of arrows even if draw length remains consistent. For instance, the traditional arrow rest will position the arrow 1-2 inches below draw length. If you use a whisker biscuit style rest, you can use arrows 2-3 inches less than draw. Finally, the Muzzy Zero allows for arrows up to 4 inches less than draw, almost even with the rear of the riser.


Regardless of the type of riser, the easiest way to check for this is to simply draw and hold an arrow while a friend makes a mark on the arrow where it sits on the rest during full draw. Finally, as a general recommendation, give yourself a half-inch to an inch of ‘confidence’ space beyond your rest. Over time, your bowstring will relax and stretch, and you will be left with arrows that are too short.


4. Should I trim my arrows myself? 


When you buy arrows for sale, you have the option of either having the arrows shipped to you at the ideal length, or more commonly, the arrows you buy will intentionally be left a few inches long so that they can be trimmed to length. Usually there is no extra fee for an archery shop to trim and add inserts to your arrows.


If you have carbon arrows, keep in mind that they must only be cut with a high-speed wheel saw using an abrasive disk, such as a Dremel tool. Using a hacksaw or plumber’s saw can splinter the carbon fibers in the arrow, making them a potential safety hazard to shoot. With the right equipment, and always measuring twice, trimming your arrows to fit your custom setup is far from difficult.


Stay tuned for most posts on buying and selecting the best gear for your archery training!

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