Stabilizers are all about balance. Balancing weight, balancing vibrations, balancing torque. When you think about it, it’s amazing that the installation of such a simple device can solve so many problems at once.
To find the right length stabilizer for your compound bow, you need to consider the distance you’re shooting across, the environment you’re shooting in, and other factors. Small stabilizers are typically shorter than 10″, medium length stabilizers are 10-15″, and long ones are longer than 16″.
Stabilizers are not an essential accessory for most bows, but if used correctly, they can help resolve problems while improving your accuracy.
Stabilizers: A Review
Before we get into what specific sizes you should be using for your compound bow, let’s make sure we understand the basic function of a stabilizer.
Here’s a hint: it’s not just to make your bow look bigger or cooler.
Stabilizers are made to do just what they sound like they are meant to do: stabilize.
If you ever walked across a log or a balance beam or any thin, long object, it’s likely that you stuck your arms out as you did it.
You probably wobbled and wavered until you extended your arms on either side of you, at which point you were able to gain your balance enough to continue walking with more confidence.
The idea behind a stabilizer is similar.
And it may seem like an obvious conclusion, but the verb “stabilize” actually applies to several different things.
Not only does the accessory work to stabilize the overall balance of the bow, it stabilizes the vibration running through the bow’s frame when the archer releases the arrow. This reduces torque, noise, and hand shock.
With all these factors put into check by the stabilizer, most archers will find that their accuracy is improved as well.
So, even though it may seem like a small accessory with a nearly undetectable impact, the stabilizer can be one of the most important contributors to a tight arrow grouping.
How can they do this?
Well, the main factor in all this is added weight.
Of course, added weight is not always a good thing, especially for bowhunters trekking across the plains or hiking through the forest.
However, added weight in the right place can yield positive results, especially if the compound bow you’re using is especially light.
The bow frame is a very rigid structure, but the amount of force necessary to propel an arrow forward at effective speeds will undoubtedly cause some fluid movement.
That fluid movement can negatively affect your accuracy and cause your hands and arms to fatigue faster.
With a carefully placed weight at the end of the bow, a lot of the dynamic energy can be absorbed into that place and directed away from the bow’s frame.
The extra weight also helps to balance the bow in the moments before the shot, ensuring a smooth release.
But not all stabilizers were meant to do each of these functions equally.
Some were made mostly to absorb shock, while others mostly lend balance.
Determining the right stabilizer for your compound bow will necessitate an examination of your archery habits and existing gear.
We’ll start with stabilizers smaller than 10 inches.
In general, these devices are meant to act more as dampeners than stabilizers.
You may not even notice that they’re there, especially because they’re typically mostly made of rubber and sometimes don’t even have weights on the ends.
These also tend to be the heaviest stabilizers on the market because they have a lot of energy to capture in such a small frame.
If you’re looking for something to help with the overall balance of your bow, these probably aren’t going to be the best choice for you.
Small stabilizers are best for archers shooting in confined areas like dense forests or a hunting blind.
They’ll reduce vibration and noise, as well as minimalizing the jump of the bow in your hands and you shoot.
Because they’re so compact, they’re also optimal for bowhunters embarking on an all-day or even multiple-day hunting trip.
You don’t want to be walking miles and miles with a two-foot-long pole getting in your way.
Additionally, these stabilizers will perform the best in windy conditions, as they likely won’t jut out past your riser very far.
This is also the best choice for youth or beginning archers who are still getting to know their bow.
Though a little expensive, the Bee Stinger Sport Hunter Xtreme Stabilizer is a good example of small stabilizer that will get the job done when it comes to dampening vibration and sound and minimizing hand shock.
Most bowhunters are going to go for a medium-length stabilizer in the range of 10 inches to 15 inches.
These are usually the best choice for those looking for adjustability in their stabilizers.
Having a stabilizer with adjustable weights can make a huge difference in creating just the right balance for your compound bow depending on the conditions and your endurance level.
Mid-length stabilizers will usually be the best option for a more typical hunting situation with more wide open spaces.
A stabilizer that’s around 12 or 14 inches is going to give you the best balance of weight stabilization and vibration dampening, which is why they’re a great choice for hunters.
Having a little bit longer stabilizer can actually extend the reach of your range as well so you don’t have to get quite as close to that giant buck you’re stalking.
Another advantage of choosing a stabilizer with added length is that they don’t have to be quite as heavy.
Since they have more length to distribute the weight across, they can still stabilize your bow without causing it to become so heavy that you can’t hold it up more than a dozen times.
On the flip side, the added length will increase its vulnerability to wind.
So, if you’re shooting in unpredictable or undesirable conditions, it may be better to stick with your eight-inch stabilizer.
The Cartel Maxion Carbon Stabilizer is a good selection if you’re looking for a mid-range stabilizer at a decent price.
The stabilizers on the longer end of the spectrum can sometimes be longer than the length of the bow itself, ranging from 16 inches to 30 inches.
Some bowhunters do use these kinds of stabilizers, but you will see them most often on competition target archers and Olympic archers.
As you may have guessed, stabilizers that are this long are mainly for the purposes of weight balancing.
These are often made from materials like carbon fiber or titanium to reduce their overall weight.
At this length, you will see more diversified diameters to reduce or increase weight as needed.
For example, tubes with a diameter over .625 inches are recommended for use in mild-weathered environments and indoor ranges.
Stabilizers with a tube diameter of less than .625 inches are optimal for outdoor ranges that tend to be windier.
The smaller the surface area of the tube, the less rod there is to be pushed around by the wind, ultimately affecting your aim.
These specific stabilizers won’t help as much with vibration reduction, but if they have weights on the end, they will certainly help with balance and reduced torque.
If you use them correctly, you could also extend your shooting range by about 10 yards if you opt for one of these lengthy stabilizers.
The Bee Stinger Competitor Stabilizer a popular long stabilizer that comes in several sizes up to 33 inches.
While you can use resources like this article to help steer you in the right direction, no one can tell you exactly what length of stabilizer you should be using down to the inch.
And if someone does try to tell you the exact length you should be using, remember that they likely have a different bow than you, use it differently, and are not the authority on stabilizer lengths.
Only you can determine which length is the perfect match for you, and to do that, you have to test some out.
Keep in mind that the ranges offered here are widely recognized as the standard, but people make innovations in the archery community every day that could expand or completely shatter the guidelines laid out here.