If you’ve ever seen anyone shoot a bow and arrow at an archery range or while hunting, you may have noticed a particularly protrusive accessory attached to the bow.
The pole that sticks out in front of the bow is called a stabilizer, and its purpose is to balance the weight of the bow as well as to dampen vibrations and reduce noise. They come in multiple sizes and materials for different bow models.
It may seem like more of a hinderance than a help, but stabilizers can actually be very important bow additions, and some archers never shoot without them.
How Does the Stabilizer Work?
Bows don’t need a stabilizer to function, which is why stabilizers are categorized as accessories.
But they are certainly helpful for some archers, including both traditional and compound bow archers.
As stated, their main function is to stabilize the weight of the bow as the archer holds it aloft.
This is helpful for archers who’ve adjusted the specs of their bow, especially the brace height, which can affect the bow’s balance if reduced or expanded too much.
Even those who haven’t tampered with the factory settings of their bow may find that extending the weight beyond the bow’s riser helps them hold the frame steady as they take aim.
This is why the first stabilizer models were simple rods with weighted tips, and some stabilizers still take this basic form.
Nowadays, most stabilizers on the market are more complicated, including weights that can be adjusted. There are even some that don’t have any weights.
There are many models made almost entirely of rubber, and these are geared more towards the stabilizer’s other function–to absorb vibration and dampen the sound that the vibration causes.
These models are geared towards a few specific kinds of archers, mainly those with speed bows and bowhunters (the two demographics often overlap).
Speed bows are notorious for having a lot of vibration, and so archers shooting at speeds over 330 feet per second often have these rubber attachments on their bows.
Bowhunters are usually also interested in minimalizing vibration because of the sound it creates.
The last thing bowhunters want to do is alert their prey that they’re firing.
No one wants to spend a bunch of money on visual and olfactory camouflage just to have the sound of their bow scare all the game away.
In this way, they are similar to the silencers used to reduce the noise of a firearm.
It’s difficult to fully appreciate the utility of a stabilizer until you’ve used one, so I would recommend testing one out for yourself if you’re interested in them.
What Kind of Stabilizers Are There?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of stabilizers available to archers everywhere.
What do the different sizes mean? What material is the best? Can you buy stabilizers that go elsewhere on the bow?
With these questions answered, it may be easier to narrow down the options for your bow.
There are several different parts to the stabilizer, and each one is typically made of a different material.
The stabilizer body is usually the longest part, at least in mid to longer stabilizers.
In the past, this section was typically made of some kind of metal, but as technology became better, technicians realized that the metal stabilizers were adding too much weight to the bow.
Now, adding weight is one of the main purposes of the stabilizer, but if you remember, we want that weight at the end of the stabilizer.
A stabilizer that’s heavy the whole way through isn’t much more than added fatigue to the archer’s arms.
Modern stabilizers utilize lighter materials in the body section such as carbon, ABS plastic, and similar materials.
Often, the top-of-the-line stabilizers will be made of carbon because of its lightweight and rigid qualities.
These traits make it the perfect material to form the main part of the stabilizer, and they also attribute to its minimal wind resistance.
This is especially important for extra-long stabilizers.
The dampening device can also be made of a few different materials depending on the brand.
The most common material is rubber, but sand and gel have also been used to reduce vibration, noise, and residual shock to the archer’s hands and arms.
Lastly, most stabilizers feature a specialized weight at the end.
This element should be the furthest from the bow, and is often made of the heavier metals that used to compose the whole of the stabilizer, sometimes with a rubber coating.
For the weight, it doesn’t really matter what it’s made of as long as it’s doing its job of counterbalancing the weight of the bow.
Some manufacturers even have the option to create custom stabilizers with special materials and lengths depending on what you want them to do.
Stabilizers typically come in three different size ranges.
The smaller range consists of stabilizers three to four inches in length.
This isn’t very long at all, and most in the archery community say that their stubby stature makes them more of a dampener and not much of a stabilizer at all.
Archers who choose to go with this size are generally only interested in reducing vibration and noise and are not so concerned with balancing the weight of their bow.
These smaller models are usually mostly made of rubber and often don’t have specialized weights at their ends.
The middle-stage stabilizers range in size from about five to eight inches.
Most bowhunters choose something in this range, as they get the best balance of all the stabilizer’s functions.
At the longer end of the spectrum, you will find stabilizers that measure nine to ten inches in length.
The longer the stabilizer, the more it will affect the accuracy of your shot.
Stabilizers of this length are typically used by bowhunters who know they are going to be shooting across far distances or by target shooters who are taking aim at targets 70 or more meters away.
Of course, the added weight can be worrisome for bowhunters who are already counting every ounce they have to pack with them, but they continue to be used by bowhunters nonetheless, which attests to their ability to improve accuracy.
There are also special stabilizers made to be attached to the sides of the bow rather than the front.
The purpose of these side rods or offset bow stabilizers, as they are called, is to counterbalance other accessories like sights and quivers.
The function of side rods means that you will usually only see one on a bow.
Bowhunters usually use one on one side of their bow to balance out the weight of a quiver on the other side, which might cause one side to be heavier than the other.
For target shooters like those in the Olympics, they’re usually just used to counterbalance the sight at the front of the bow.
It’s rare that anyone will attach a side bar on either side of their bow, but if they do, it is called a “V-bar.”
If done correctly, the addition of a V-bar can create a rock-solid bow balance.
Do I Really Need a Stabilizer?
Most people don’t start with a stabilizer. If you’re new to the sport, I would always suggest shooting with your bow totally bare so that you can get to know it well before you start adding accessories everywhere.
If you’ve been shooting your bow for a while and are looking for a way to get tighter shot clusters, a stabilizer might be what you need to take your archery game to the next level.
Choosing the right one for you will have a lot to do with how you’re using your bow and what you want it to do.
Consider whether you’ll be target shooting or bowhunting, as well as how far you anticipate the approximate distance to the target to be.
To help you get started in your stabilizer search, the following table provides the best stabilizer sizes for certain archery activities and functions.
|Open Terrain/Long-Range |
Bowhunting or Target Shooting
Remember, however, that the best archers are not the ones with the fanciest tech. Rather, the best archers are those who choose to do the best with what they have.