In-Depth Bow Tuning | 5 Steps to the Perfect Setup

Bow Tuning Steps

As hunters, it’s our ethical responsibility to make sure our gear is ready, deadly, and going to perform as accurately as possible. This means not only having dependable gear but having a “tuned” setup that we can trust in the field.  Bow tuning should be at the core of our hunting values. 

Most people understand that their gear needs to be tuned occasionally, to ensure that it is functioning at its best. In reality, gear needs to be tuned frequently. Change arrows? Tune it. Change nocks? Tune it. Change broadheads? Tune it. Drop your bow? Tune it. Haven’t shot in a few weeks? Tune it!  

As you can tell, tuning shouldn’t be a one and done deal.  It should be a consistent process that you follow every time you change, damage, or upgrade your equipment. It should be implemented into everyone’s bow hunting routine. That’s why we have put together an in-depth guide detailing exactly what you should be focusing on and why.   If any of your equipment is not up to par, it’s your responsibility as a hunter to buy the right gear, understand it, tune, and test it. Let this article guide you on your way.

Step 1Understand Your Equipment

A properly tuned bow requires you to understand what needs to be adjusted and why. This means knowing your gear and how it will affect your arrow’s flight. Below we go through each piece of equipment, detailing what you should be aware of and how to address it.

Your Bow 

Before you can tune anything, you have to make sure your mainstay piece is ready to go. A few things you should think about: 

  •  Did your string stretch?  
  • Are the cams aligned?  
  • Is your draw length appropriate?  

Strings and cables stretch over time, meaning mistimed cams, out of place peep sites, and too long of draw lengths. Adjustments can be easily made to remedy this.  You can either twist your bow string back down to its original length or adjust your equipment to compensate for the change.


Hunting Arrows 

Shooting the right arrow is a huge factor when trying to be consistent in the field. Too often, people buy the wrong arrow and waste significant time trying to site in their equipment, without ever knowing that their arrow is to blame.  

That’s why we recommend you refer to our Arrow Buying Guide before making any arrow purchases. 

For the purpose of this article, we have summarized the basics below:  

  • Arrow length: In general, shorter arrows are faster; longer arrows are safer.  Finding a happy medium can be done by pulling back your arrow to full draw and having an assistant measure a distance between 1-½” and 2” from the rest.  
  • Arrow stiffness: Higher speed bows generally require a stiffer arrow while slower bows will respond well to a flexible arrow.  Make sure to use the chart from your manufacturer to find the correct arrow for your setup.  
  • Arrow weight: As a general rule of thumb, a heavier arrow will penetrate an animal better, but a shorter arrow will be faster. Make sure you practice with the weight you will plan to kill with.  
  • Type of fletching: Fletching comes in multiple different lengths. However, the blazer vanes have become the standard.  Remember, the vanes and broadheads are dependent on each other. The bigger the vane, the heavier the broadhead can be. 
  • Fletching position: How you align your fletching will influence the way it moves during flight. There are three common alignments: straight, helical, and offset.  The most common is offset, which creates a relatively resilient arrow path (both fast and forgiving).  

As previously mentioned, the best way to tackle your arrows is by referring to our guide.


Step 2: Aligning Your Peep, Rest, and Nocking Point 

The next step is to make sure your arrow will be lined up with the center of the bow.  This means making sure your nocking point and rest are properly aligned, therefore allowing your arrow to be “centered”.  This is often called finding the center shot.   

There are numerous ways you can do this, including measuring your bow, or using a bow square. However, using a simple laser center-shot tool will work well and save you time.  

Here is how to set up a laser center-shot tool: 

  • Simply line up the laser where your site would be and center the laser on the bow string.  
  • When the laser is centered on the bowstring you can lock it in place.  
  • Next, you’ll want to have an arrow mounted on your rest without locking the rest in place.   
  • Once you have an arrow and a rest in place you’ll want to turn the laser on and align it with your arrow shaft. If the laser aligns with the shaft, the rest is in its proper place. If not, adjust it so it is. 
  • Tighten your rest and you are done! Your arrow should be at its true center shot.  

Next, you will want to make sure your peep site is located in a comfortable position. Too often, people find that they are lowering their heads to see through their site.  This is an uncomfortable position that will affect your form and consistency.  

To remedy this, close your eyes and draw your bow back to your anchor position. When you open your eyes, you should be looking through your peep site comfortably. If not, adjust and try again.  You’ll then want to reattach or attach a new site (if applicable). Specific site setups are beyond the scope of this article. However, when attaching any site, remember that a site closer to the riser is easier to keep on target while a site farther from the riser will be more accurate. In addition, make sure your pins are aligned with a nocked arrow and the string. 

If you don’t have the right equipment (such as a bow press, bow square, or laser), don’t be afraid to bring your gear to your local shop. They can help inspect your strings and make any proper adjustments. Knowing that your gear is in good shape will boost your confidence and make the tuning process easier.


Arrow Nocks

Many people forget the significance the nock has on arrow flight. Using the right nock for your setup is important. Therefore, when looking for one, we recommend using our Nock Out Contenders. 

Why go lighted? Not only do lighted nocks reduce the risk of losing your arrows and your game, but they also help with fine tuning your bow. They make arrow flight patterns easy to identify, helping you tune your equipment with ease.   

However, with nontraditional technology comes nontraditional specs.  One of the biggest changes between traditional and lighted nocks is the nock weight.

Regular nocks generally weigh between 8 and 16 grains, while contenders can run up to 25 grains, meaning Nock Out® lighted nocks are double the weight of most traditional nocks. This change in weight will impact your arrow’s front-of-center (FOC), requiring you to adjust your setup to compensate for the difference. Remember, the front-of-center helps determine your arrow’s trajectory.  This is especially important when choosing the proper field tips and broadheads.  In most instances, archers will want a higher front of center (more weight forward).  Most manufacturers often recommend an arrow with 10 – 15% FOC when fully assembled (with broadheads).


Weight isn’t the only factor that changes, as this can also affect your length. Length varies between types, brands, and even within brands. For example, the nock length is 1 5/8th for the original Nock Out® lighted nock, and 1 ½ for the Contenders. This difference changes the weight distribution of the arrow, and subsequently, its flight. 

Finally, you’ll need to know how to properly index your arrow. The index (or cock) vane should be facing up directly in line with your string if you shoot a whisker biscuit, and down if you shoot a drop away rest.  

The Nock Out® Contender comes with 3 black bushings, allowing it to fit X, H, and S/GT arrows.  

  • G nocks fit shafts with a .166-inch inside diameter. 
  • X nocks fit shafts with a .204-inch inside diameter. 
  • H nocks fit shafts with a .234-inch inside diameter. 
  • S nocks  also called Super Nocks  fit shafts with a .244-inch inside diameter. 
  • GT nocks fit shafts with a .246-inch inside diameter. 

Make sure to find the Nock Out that is most suited for your setup.  

Your Broadheads & Field Tips 

Finding the proper broadheads and field tips should come after assembling the rest of your arrow.  This is because your field tip and broadhead weight will depend on what your FOC (front of center) will need to be. This is where the nock weight becomes incredibly important.   

When picking the right broadheads, try to shoot for the 10% to 15% FOC. Why? Because you will have relatively balanced penetration and trajectory. An arrow with too much weight forward will fall too fast, and an arrow with too much weight behind will lose force and accuracy.

Weigh Your Arrow 

After you have properly assembled arrows, you are going to want to weigh and spin them. Remember when we mentioned the different arrow weights, nock weights, and vanes will influence your arrow flight? Weighing your arrows will tell you if each arrow is assembled and flying the same, therefore making your groups more accurate.  

Make sure you weigh and spin test each arrow after assembly and before paper tuning. 

Know your equipment, understand why you have the equipment you do, and then you’ll be ready to fine-tune your setup.

Step 3: Paper Tune

Once your equipment is properly setup, you are going to want to paper tune your gear to iron out any minor issues.   Keep in mind, paper tuning doesn’t work if you don’t know what to adjust.  

Paper tuning should be used as a method of finding any minor problems.  

Below are a few of the basic steps to paper tuning your bow setup.  

  • Find a piece of paper, backstop, and be ready to shoot approximately six to eight feet away from it.  
  • To find out which adjustments need to be made, the arrow needs to shoot all of the way through the paper. Therefore, be sure to set your backstop far enough away.  
  • When shooting, focus on form. Bad form can compromise the entire test.  
  • After shooting, analyze the shape in the paper. A perfect tear means your bow is properly tuned.

Step 4: Sighting In

Once everything is aligned, you’ll finally get to sight in your bow!  If your gear is aligned correctly and paper tuned, sighting in should be a simple process.  

As mentioned previously, sighting in for any particular site is beyond the scope of this article. However, for a general reference, follow the steps below.  

Start by sighting your first pin at your chosen distance (usually 20 yards). You can always take your first few shots within 20 yards if you are worried that your shot will be significantly off.   

If you shoot high, move your pin higher.  If you shoot low move your pin lower. The same goes for left and right. “Follow your arrow” is the general term used when adjusting your site.  

Be sure to site in over the course of days or even weeks. Shooting too much at any given time will result in fatigue and influence the accuracy of your shot.  There will also be days where your form varies, or you simply perform better than others. Therefore, be sure to give yourself enough time to properly sight in before hitting the field.   

Step 5: Stay Consistent 

Your consistency out of the field will affect your consistency on the field. Therefore, checking your equipment, paper tuning, and making regular adjustments are crucial to your success as a bow hunter. It not only improves your bows performance but provides you with confidence when making any shot. Being responsible both on and off the stand is what makes a bow hunter great. 

For more information on archery equipment and hunting tactics, be sure to visit our Nock Out In Action blog.



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