[Updated on 1 June 2020] If you look at a traditional bow, it doesn’t seem all that heavy. It doesn’t have a lot of moving parts and its profile is pretty thin. Anything can get heavy if you have to carry it over long periods of use. Whether you are using your traditional bow for hunting or competition, it will start to wear on your arm and make aiming a literal and figurative pain.
How heavy is a traditional bow that it could have this effect?
It is important to note when you are researching traditional bow weight that there is a difference between physical weight and draw weight. Draw weight is the power behind the bow and reaches upwards of sixty pounds in some cases.
Bows will rarely reach the six to seven-pound range, and if they do, they most likely have additional accessories for specific uses.
How Much Does the Physical Weight of the Bow Matter?
Bows are meant to be light; they were created to hunt game over long distances. Anyone who has used a bow for more than just a few rounds of target practice knows that it will feel heavier the longer you hold it. To get a clearer idea of how much the physical weight of the bow matters you have to take into account the draw weight.
The draw weight of the bow is how many pounds of pressure the bow puts behind the arrow when it is released. While this doesn’t have a direct impact on the weight of the bow, it does impact the fatigue you feel. The stronger your draw weight, the more vibration you will feel which each arrow and that vibration transfers energy from the bow to your arm causing fatigue.
In an interesting turn of events, a heavier bow will help to lessen fatigue brought on by vibration. A heavier bow will dampen the vibration caused by several factors. Tuning your bow, meaning that you are using the right string for your bow and your brace height and arrow shelf, are set up correctly, will also help reduce excess vibration. When everything is properly aligned, a heavier bow will feel lighter than a lighter bow over time.
Do I Have to Get a Heavy Bow?
No rule says you have to have a heavier bow. While a heavier bow will dampen vibration, it is still a heavier bow. Lighter bows have their perks as well, like less general fatigue and faster draw speed.
If you do choose to run with a heavier bow, more power to you, just know that tuning becomes massively more important. You will feel more vibration and in turn, more fatigue from vibration if you are using a lighter bow that is out of tune.
Is Bow Tuning More Important than Weight?
If you had to choose between the two, tuning is always more important. We have already covered how an out of tune bow can feel heavier, but the ramifications go even further than that. If your bow is out of tune, it will transfer that energy to the arrow making your shot less accurate. With an untuned bow the more shots you take, the more you will notice how much it affects your energy and accuracy.
It is important to learn how to tune a bow properly, so you are confident that your equipment is working at the highest level.
How Much Does Each Attachment Weigh?
When weight is a concern every ounce counts so it is good to know the average weight of every attachment you plan to put on your bow.
Stabilizers are meant to reduce vibration on a bow. They fall anywhere between four and ten ounces.
Sights are meant to improve the accuracy of your arrow. It comes in all shapes and sizes with the lighter ones being around seven ounces and heavier ones reach up to eleven ounces. Most fall between nine and ten ounces.
Rests are meant to improve accuracy by allowing your arrow to fly straighter. They come in different designs but are all usually in the four to the six-ounce range for weight.
So you can see that if your bow is fully loaded with all these attachments you will be adding at least a pound to your bow.
Does Bow Weight Affect Competition Status?
There is no single answer to this question as every competition is different, so it is important to know the rules and guidelines of the specific competition. For the most part, the mass weight of the bow isn’t taken into consideration.
When there are restrictions in competition, they are usually dimensional; this means that an unstrung bow has to pass through a ring of a certain dimension. So as long as your bow, unstrung, can pass through a ring of set diameter for competition – 4 inches, for example – the weight doesn’t matter. In this case, you can add additional features like stabilizers and arrow rests as long as they pass through the ring.
If the competition doesn’t allow add-ons to your bow, a heavier mass weight bow is a better option. Since you have the opportunity to set your bow down, there is not as much fatigue during competitive matches.
How Much Does a Heavier Bow Weight Affect Hunters?
Hunting is an entirely different beast than the competition. Hunters often have to carry their bows over long distances and sometimes for days. Conditions can be rough, and you are probably carrying other equipment as well if you are camping on your hunt. After days of carrying a bow, you may only get one shot at your target; so it is important that your bow feel stable in your hands.
In competition, you must make shot after shot and the constant vibration of each shot can ware on you. For hunters, you only need to make one precise shot, so the vibration from an untuned bow isn’t as big of a deal.
The only other concern with bow weight is how fast you can fire your arrow. When milliseconds count in game hunting, you want a bow that can be lifted to eye level as quickly as possible. A lighter bow is better for quickness, but strength training or simply the repetitive movement of lifting a heavier bow will strengthen those muscles making your bow draw quicker.
Is the Bow Material Important for Weight?
The bow material shouldn’t be a consideration when choosing a bow. Yes, different materials have different weights; but the reasoning behind that specific material for the bow is more important than the weight of the material.
If you buy a bow with a specific material because of its function and you find that it is too light for you, you can always add weighted stabilizers and other gear later to increase the weight of the bow.
Other Things to Consider with Bow Weight
Does Arrow Weight Matter?
An arrow’s weight does matter for aim. An arrows weight has an effect on how fast it moves toward the target, how fast it drops over distance, and how far it will penetrate the target; the latter is more important for hunting than target practice.
Just like with your bow, it may take some trial and error to find the arrow weight that works best for you. Unlike a bow, a heavier arrow will cause more fatigue if your bow is out of tune. The energy from the vibration will transfer to the arrow as it flies, forcing you to use more strength to stabilize the bow on release.
How do I Prevent Fatigue?
As outlined above, the best thing to do is tune your bow, but even the most perfectly tuned bow will cause fatigue eventually. There are two ways that you can prevent the fatigue that is similar but slightly different. The first is to use your bow often; the repetitiveness will strengthen the muscles and delay fatigue. The second is to purposely work those muscles through strength training using low weight and high reps to increase muscle endurance.
Can You Lighten the Mass Weight of a Heavy Bow?
There is nothing you can do to make the mass weight of a bow lighter. Drilling holes in the bow will hurt its integrity. The best you can do is remove or replace any attachments you have with lighter attachments and use lighter arrows.
Is This the Same for a Crossbow
Crossbows are completely different from their components to the way they are strung. Most of the information on here would not be the same for a crossbow.
How heavy is a traditional bow? That question is more loaded than a bow with all the attachments. The base weight will rarely exceed 5 pounds, but bows can get heavier when attachments like weighted stabilizers are involved. It turns out the physical weight doesn’t matter as much as one may think. Choosing the right bow comes down to trial and error in a lot of ways; from the physical weight of the bow to fine-tuning with attachments.