We’ve all seen it. Most of us in the bowhunting world have probably even experienced it. You’re buying a new bow and the “pro” who’s fitting you pulls an 8″ stabilizer bar off the rack and strongly recommends you hang it off the front of your bow to stabilize it and reduce vibration. This sounds reasonable. After all, it’s called a stabilizer bar. Not to mention everyone else has one on their bow. So you shell out the extra $100. Little do you know, the frustration you’ll experience a few months down the road from your inability to shoot a consistent group beyond 30 yards will be a direct result of your expensive accessory.
From the title and the opening paragraph, you might think there’s no way in hell I have a stabilizer bar on my bow. In a way, you’d be right. I don’t have a stabilizer on my bow, I have two stabilizer bars. But that’s the key. Just think about it for a second. Modern bows are fairly well balanced from the factory. What do you think will happen if you get talked into hanging a weight eight to 10 inches off the the front of your bow? It’s going to cause it to tip forward. An unbalanced, tippy bow is a disaster for accurate, consistent shooting at range and will lead to massive amounts of target panic and target anticipation, which makes it even harder to shoot consistent groups.
The way this tendency to tip forward expresses itself at full draw is for your pin drop. Both your sight and the stabilizer bar are in front of your bow, so whatever direction one moves, the other does the same. This means the stabilizer bar is effectively pulling down on your pin. You are literally fighting gravity to keep your pin on target. Naturally, to do this you have to exert upward pressure and torque with your hand. Applying any pressure to your bow except directly toward your target kills consistency.
The next time you are at the range, focus on the way your pin behaves. If it consistently wants to pull down, your bow is tipping forward. Likewise, if your pin is bouncing around a lot instead of just settling on target, your bow isn’t balanced properly.
Now, the sales guy wasn’t exactly lying to you when he told you that stabilizer bars make your bow quieter and reduce vibration. They can even help reduce accuracy-killing torque, but only if they are balanced. This means, if you are going to put a front stabilizer on your bow, you need to have a back bar, and likely some extra weight on it.
I don’t entirely blame the sales guy. He has a quota to reach, possibly commissions to make. And while one stabilizer bar might be a reasonable suggestion, telling you that you should buy two stabilizer bars, plus a V-bracket to mount the back bar (another $60+) is a really tough ask after you just dropped upward of a thousand dollars on a bow, not to mention a sight and arrows. That just feels too far. So he sells you what he can.
Next time you head into your local pro shop to buy a bow, whether it’s your first bow ever or upgrading to the latest and greatest, keep balance at the top of your mind. This applies to hanging sights and quivers off the side of your bow, too. Stabilizers are wonderful tools for helping you shoot more accurately and consistently, but they need to be balanced. If you can afford it, get both a front and back bar. But if you can’t afford to get both, you’re better off with neither.