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Recurve bows are some of the most common weapons used by archers, especially beginners. This is because they are simple to get to grips with but powerful enough to help you start to craft a good shooting posture and technique while developing your shooting muscles. But like any type of bow, recurve bows have certain maintenance needs. They need to be unstrung regularly to keep them in good condition.
But, how do you unstring a recurve bow? To unstring a recurve bow safely and efficiently, you’ll need to use a bow stringer. These devices help to take up the tension within the bow so that you can remove the bowstring correctly and without having the bow or string snap, which can cause serious injuries. Unstringing a recurve bow using a bow stringer is a simple process.
That’s just the gist of it.
The short, high-level overview.
Thankfully, I’ll be shortly providing you with the step-by-step process – in much more detail.
But first, what will you actually need?
Let’s get started!
What Do You Need To Unstring A Recurve Bow?
Very little equipment is required for the process of unstringing a recurve bow. You only really need your bow and a bow stringer. These can come in two different types – dual loop bow stringers and loop-and-saddle bow stringers. It doesn’t really matter which type you use.
Recurve bows have a simple yet brilliant construction and are made to have some flexibility in them to help disperse the force of a shot and help them deal with the physical loads involved.
This uncomplicated design helps to make recurve bows easy to unstring regularly.
Other types of bows, like compound bows, are designed to stay strung all the time because the various cables and other features can make it a little tricky to remove the bowstring.
The only piece of equipment that you’ll need for unstringing your recurve bow is a bow stringer.
This is a length of cord similar to a bowstring, usually with loops or pockets at each end that fit over the tips of your bow’s limbs.
There are two types of bow stringers – dual loop bow stringers and loop-and-saddle bow stringers.
Bow stringers are pretty cheap and easy to acquire online on Amazon or in your local archery shop.
Dual loop bow stringers are the easiest type to use.
They have two loops or pockets at each end of the cord, which is designed to fit snugly onto the recurve bow’s limb tips.
These pockets are usually made of leather, although some designs with loops might use various types of material.
One end of the bow stringer always has a thicker loop than the other to help you put them in the right place.
Loop-and-saddle bow stringers differ slightly in that they only have one loop or pocket at one end – the part that attaches to the upper limb tip of the recurve bow.
At the other end of these bow stringers is something called a “saddle.”
This takes the form of a pad that rests on the curve of the lower bow limb rather than a second pocket.
Unstringing A Recruve Bow: Step-By-Step
Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide that teaches you how to safely unstring a recurve bow with a bow stringer. The steps are the same regardless of which type of bow stringer that you are using:
1. Hold your recurve bow steady and guide the larger of the two bow stringer pockets (or the single large one if using a loop-and-saddle bowstringer) onto the tip of the lower limb of your bow. Make sure it fits well before moving on.
2. If you’re using a dual-loop/pocket bow stringer, affix the smaller loop to the upper part of your bow, fitting it over the tip at the end. If you have a loop-and-saddle bow stringer, you’ll need to slide the end cord of the saddle part onto the tip of the limb and then let the saddle’s pad rest against the curve of the bow’s limb. With some products, you might need to steady the saddle using your hand while unstringing the bow.
3. Hold the bow so that the string and bow stringer are facing towards the floor. Keep your hands on the bow’s body – with your dominant hand closer to the upper limb tip in the middle of the curve. Your secondary hand should keep a firm grasp on the middle handle of the bow.
4. Lower the bow down until the bow stringer cord touches the ground.
5. Hold the bow stringer’s cord against the ground with one or both feet. If you’re using both feet, keep them fairly close together, around the width of your shoulder or less. DON’T step onto the bowstring itself. Wear stable shoes while doing this.
6. Lift the bow upwards as you straighten your body towards full draw. You should notice that the tension is being held in the bow stringer. Keep lifting until the bowstring looks slack and loose.
7. With your dominant hand, gently slip the bowstring’s loop off the tip of the bow, where the notches are holding the string onto the bow. Don’t let it fall to the ground. Rest the loop loosely on the end of the bow’s tip.
8. Repeat the same process on the lower limb of the bow – sliding the bowstring out of its notches and leaving the loop resting over the tip of the limb.
9. Lower your recurve bow back towards the ground until the bow stringer cord has gone slack again. Both strings should be hanging a bit loosely on the bow now. Make sure that there’s no tension in the limbs of your bow.
10. Slip both the bowstring and the bow stringer off each end of the bow’s limbs. You’ve just unstrung your recurve bow!
Should You Unstring A Recurve Bow?
You should look to unstring your recurve bow fairly frequently. Unstringing a recurve bow helps to relieve a huge amount of pent-up physical force that is held within the bow’s limbs while the weapon is strung. Allowing the bow to release this tension when you aren’t shooting helps to keep the bow healthy and reduce internal stresses.
There are immense physical forces that pass through a recurve bow each time an arrow is shot.
The bow has to hold tension within its limbs to provide power to the shot.
The higher the draw weight of your bow, the more tension that it has to hold. The more often you shoot, the more force passes through the bow’s body.
How often you unstring the bow can have an effect as well.
Too much expansion and contraction in the bow’s limbs while constantly being strung and unstrung can also cause problems.
While some archers might swear by unstringing their recurve bow after every shooting session, this isn’t always necessary.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of shooting in a short space of time – such as one or two times a week – it can be better to leave the bow strung.
But you should definitely unstring the bow if you’re certain that you won’t be shooting with it for a while.
You might be taking a break from archery for a few weeks, or you could be jetting off on vacation.
When stepping away from your bow or putting it into storage, always remember to unstring your recurve bow along with performing other maintenance tasks like waxing the string. If you’re taking your bow on a long-haul trip, you should unstring it as well to prevent things from getting damaged.
Even if you exercise good habits when it comes to stringing and unstringing your recurve bow, you will eventually have to replace the bowstring with a new one.
You should aim to remember to replace your string completely at most every three years. This helps to maintain good string and bow condition without running the risk of the string suddenly snapping as it becomes worn.
What Happens If You Don’t Unstring A Recruve Bow?
Because of the huge forces used to keep tension in the bow, leaving a recurve bow strung indefinitely can severely weaken the limbs of the bow, especially if it’s made from wood. This can pose a safety risk if the bow cannot cope with the tension held within it.
Unstringing a recurve bow is vital for keeping your equipment in good condition.
The powerful forces that ripple through the bow during a shot can gradually wear down the effectiveness of the bow, leading to long-term damage if steps aren’t taken to lessen the load.
With some materials, constant stress can cause tiny cracks and strains that could make the bow dangerous to use if left unchecked.
When these cracks become too larger, the bow may split without warning and potentially cause serious injuries.
Recurve bows are usually made from wood, which doesn’t react well to long periods of tension.
The strength of a recurve bow is dependent on its flexibility, which helps it to spread the force of a shot through the entire bow.
By keeping a recurve bow strung permanently and not allowing it the opportunity to relieve this tension, you can damage the bow or at least reduce its effectiveness.
With wooden bow limbs, keeping them under tension can actually cause them to deform or set in the position that they are when under the tension of the bowstring.
This will have the effect of sapping the bow’s power, affecting the draw weight. The stresses involved in remaining tense and highly strung also make it easier for the bow to get severely damaged while being moved around.
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.