Why The Archers Paradox Happens And How To Stop It

Today we are going to take a look at the Archery Paradox. This perplexing archery phenomenon is known to archers worldwide.

We will see what it is, why it happens, the common myths around the archery paradox and how to avoid it.

Below you have the main takeaway of the entire article. This will give you a firm understanding of what the archery paradox really is.

Archers paradox is a situation where the arrow bends around the bow handle and hits the desired target even though it wasn’t pointed at it.

So why does that happen? Let’s go into detail right now.

Let’s go deeper

The Archers Paradox In Detail

The word paradox means that something is counterintuitive, it does not behave as expected.

Here is what that means in archery.

What is Expected versus what actually happens

The upper picture demonstrates it perfectly, in an exaggerated form. The left column shows where the arrow is pointed and then the right column shows where the arrow actually travels. So how can that be? You would expect the arrow to travel to where it’s pointed.

This contradiction between the expected flight path of the arrow and the actual flight path is referred to as the archer’s paradox.

What is going on here?

How Does The Archery Paradox Happen?

Archery paradox happens when the archer draws the bow and there is a difference between where the arrow is pointing and where the arrow has to fly to hit the target.

Here is what I mean.

POV from the archer

So this is the secret of the archer’s paradox. Arrow flying in a different direction from where it is pointing.

Archer draws the bow. Upon releasing the bowstring the bowstring moves towards the bow. As you can see in the picture above the arrow doesn’t get all that force from the bowstring transferred directly to it. Since it tilts slightly to the left.

Due to the difference in the direction of the bowstring force and the placement of the arrow, the arrow has to bend around the bow to fly in the same direction that the bowstring was trying to force it to travel. The bending of the arrow is further facilitated by the slight side-to-side movement of the bowstring as it’s released by the archer.

On top of all that, there is a third reason for the arrow bending you will see a little later on.

That bend in the arrow is made possible by the arrow spine. In other words the stiffness of the arrow.

What Is The Arrow Spine?

Arrow Spine is an archery term that refers to the stiffness of the arrow. Arrow spine is measured in numbers ranging from as low as 250 to as high as 600. The higher the arrow spine the more bendable the arrow. The lower the spine rating the stiffer the arrow.

I will do a deep dive into arrow spine on some other article. This short paragraph is enough for my next section where I reveal why the bend happens.

Why Does an Archery Bend During Flight?

Archery arrows bend during flight because of three main reasons:

  • The bowstring when released has to move around the archers fingers, that slight movement of the bowstring from side to side gets transfered to the arrow and affects the arrows flight.
  • When the bowstring is released, massive amounts of force is transfered to the arrow, the arrow can not absorb all of that force evenly. That causes the back of the arrow to move at faster speeds than the front of the arrow. That transfer of force makes the arrow bend when making contact with the bow. and as a result keeps bending while moving towards the target.
  • Arrow has the natural tendency to move directly in line with the force provided to it by the bowstring. So, if the bowstring applied force towards the target the arrow will try to mimick that direction as closely as possible.

When the arrow bends the first time its natural tendency is to bend the other way. So this is how an arrow would look like during the flight.

An Example of an Arrow Bending

So the arrow technically is moving straight. It just bends right to left while flying. There are cases where an arrow does not bend left to right but up to down.

I won’t go into detail as to when that happens here. Just keep in mind this. The arrow even though it bends will keep traveling towards the target as long as the arrow nodes are aligned to the target.

Here is what I mean.

Arrow Nodes

Arrow nodes are two points on your arrow that don’t bend while the arrow is traveling towards the target.

If these two points are lined up with your desired target. You will hit your mark. No question about that.

You can see the breakdown here.

Is Archery Paradox a Bad Thing?

Archery paradox is not a bad thing in archery. It is simply an apparent contradiction between where the arrow on the bow is aiming and where it actually travels. So no, the archery paradox is not a bad thing.

It’s a visual illusion. that’s pretty much it.

But wait, doesn’t it affect your aim?

No, it does not. If you have a well-tuned arrow and have chosen correct arrows with the correct spine. Your aim depends on you.

So well-chosen equipment with well-trained archers makes the archer’s paradox a nonissue.

How You Can Avoid The Archers Paradox Completly?

It’s easy. Get yourself this.

Bow With the Centerline Cut Off

This practically makes the archer’s paradox obsolete. The archer’s paradox is present in mainly traditional bows like longbows. With modern ones, not so much. If you look at the above bow you can see you’re able to aim your bow and the arrow directly at the target.

The arrow does not have to bend around the bow. It flies straight.

Now there will still be left-to-right bending while it travels due to the behavior of the bowstring as it’s released from the bow.

Most modern bows allow you to maintain minimal contact between the bow and the arrow as it leaves the bow. This is perfect since it helps to maintain accuracy and prevent any disturbances during the flight of the arrow.

The second option is if you get yourself a plunger. It’s an archery aid designed to minimize the effect of arrow bending on accuracy. You can see in this article if you actually need it or not.

In Conclusion

Archers paradox is a cool concept to learn about since it involves a lot of funky physics. But all in all, it will not affect your archery practice in any way. As long as you remember to practice the correct form, tune your bow, and choose the right arrows for your bow.

When an archer with the right skills gets matched with the right equipment you can do wonders.

Thank you all for reading.

And if you wish to take a look at the common archery terms and what they mean then go here.

Or if you are an archery and history enthusiast then I recommend you click here for an article on why the musket replaced the bow.

Take care.

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