Ask the Experts – Why do people put twists in their bowstring?

This is a great question and something that is often confusing for beginners. It’s all to do with something called ‘Brace Height’ which is the distance between the bow and the bowstring. You usually measure this from the button (hole in the riser near the arrow rest if there isn’t an actual button yet) to the string using a bow square. There will be a general guide for each individual riser – this is a starting point. From the starting point (usually around 8.5-9” for a 68” bow.. can be slightly less for a shorter bow and 9-9.5” for a 70”) you then need to do some basic tuning to determine what the perfect brace height for your bow is.


bow square


Couple of things :


1. You should always have the SAME brace height. If you lose ½” of brace height you might lose 20 points on a Portsmouth (or more). Remember that archery is “the art of repetition” and its all about reducing variation. Check your brace height at the start of every shoot.


2. Putting in twists will make the string effectively shorter (think about twisting up a piece of string) which will increase the brace height; taking twists out will effectively give you a longer string and therefore smaller brace height.


To do the tuning – start with the lowest sensible brace height and shoot 3 arrows. Take off string and put in a few twists (you’ll probably need to miss an end to do this). Re-measure brace height and shoot 3 arrows. Listen to the noise the string makes and note your grouping. If you have a bad end and you know you shot badly you might want to repeat another 3 arrows at the same brace height. Keep doing this until you have explored the full range (8”ish to 9.5”ish). You should find two ‘sweet spots’ where the bow sounds quietest and shoots the best – one will be at the lower end of the range and one will be at the higher end of the range. I’ve never been madly successful with hearing this.. but you can usually tell that the bow just feels better. Choose the higher brace height out of the two not the lower. Remember this or mark it down somewhere.


Store the string by doing a simple loop through loop knot (any experienced archer can quickly show you how to do this) in order not to lose twists and have to start from scratch the next time you shoot.


Here’s a little You Tube video I found showing this :


Quick tip : you know that the brace height is too low if the string hits your wrist. As longbows need a much lower brace height than recurves the string ALWAYS smashes into your wrist. This is why longbow archers wear much thicker arm guards and they tend to be worn much lower down the arm.


Nocked Longbow


P.S. its also a good idea to check the brace height on club bows. We try and check them as often as we can.. but the more club members take the responsibility the better they’ll shoot. Just ask an instructor where the nearest bow square is.