What Is The Archers Paradox?

By Moritz

Oct 30

Today I want to talk about a very fascinating aspect of archery and give you the answer to the question:

What Is The Archers Paradox?

I think you know that “paradox” means that two or more things that can never be true at the same time, suddenly are true at the same time.
So a paradox contradicts itself and defies any logic.
An example would be “a wise fool”. A fool is supposed to be silly or stupid, but wisdom can be found in what they say nevertheless.

Now, what is that archers paradox all about?
When you look at the bow and arrow and give it some thought you will notice that it should be impossible to hit any target with an arrow.
The arrow should not be able to pass the riser (grip) of the bow and hit the target behind it.
Instead it should deflect from the riser and fly either to the right or the left, depending on which side of the bow you are holding the arrow.

Here is a picture to illustrate what I am talking about:

A is the riser. B the target and C the point where the arrow should fly to.

archers paradox draw

Paradox. Used under creative commons from: Hagis123123

 

How Is It Possible To Hit The Target?

It is a paradox that you can hit your target with a bow and arrow, but still you can do it.
People have been doing it for thousands of years.

But how? The arrow can not go through the riser of the bow.
It has to pass by it, but somehow it works its way around the riser and continues flying toward the target.

Lets have a look at an arrow flight in slow motion:

You notice that the arrow doesn’t stay straight during its flight, but that it is bending from the left to the right and back.
It is moving like a snake or wave-like.

This is actually what makes the arrow hit the target and the archers paradox possible.

See here how the arrow flexes to get around the riser of the bow:

archers paradox arrow flexing

Arrow flexing. Used under creative commons from: Hagis123123

 

The Importance Of The Arrow Spine

The arrow spine tells you how stiff an arrow is.
In other words, how much it can bend when it leaves your bow.

If your arrow would be too stiff, it couldn’t bend enough and therefore not get around the riser and would just fly off to the left or the right.
What we need is an arrow that can bend in order to hit our targets.

Every archer needs to find the right spine range for his arrows depending on which bow he is shooting with.
As a beginner it is almost impossible to know which spine is good for you and which is not.
Your arrows shouldn’t be too stiff, but not to soft either.
That’s why it is always the best to get professional help before you buy some arrows.

There are spine meters that can measure the spine of the arrows.
This is most important for professional archers who shoot in competitions, to be as accurate as possible.

spine meter

Spine meter. Used under creative commons from: Jomegat

What Spine Should You Choose?

The rule of thumb is that the stronger your bow is, the higher the spine has to be.

A weaker bow does not have the power to bend a very stiff arrow enough to make it flex around the riser of the bow. So you will need an arrow that is not too stiff.
If you are shooting a strong bow and have an arrow with a low spine, it would bend the arrow too much and would cause high inaccuracies, too.

That’s why it is always easier to ask someone with more experience to help you choose your arrows.
Once your shooting technique is good, you can just shoot an arrow for a few times on a distance you can hit bullseye comfortably.
When you notice that it always flies to different points of the target, even though you always aimed at the same spot, you know that the spine is not right.
Try arrows with different stiffnesses to find the perfect arrow for you and your bow.

correct spine

Spine explained. Used under creative commons from: OgreBot

Beating The Archers Paradox

Now you know that it should be impossible to hit a target with a bow.
But thanks to science we know now how we can hit it.
Something people have done for many years is now explained and understood.

It is possible because the arrow will flex around the riser and stay on course, continuing to move in a wave-like form until it hits the target.

All you need to know is that arrows have different spine values and that your arrow has to fit your bow.
Not only in its length but also in its stiffness.

I really think that this is a mind blowing fact about archery.

By the way, if you are shooting with a compound bow, you usually don’t have to worry about the archers paradox at all.
Most, if not all, compound bows are build after a fashion that the arrow does not get in contact with the riser.
That means that you can use arrows with a very high spine for compound bows, as they don’t need to flex around the riser.

What Do You Think?

Did I answer the questions “What Is The Archers Paradox?” well enough?
Do you have any further questions regarding this topic?

Let me know in the comments and let’s discuss a bit about it.
I really love that we can actually do something that should not be possible!

Happy shooting!

Moritz

About the Author

Hi, as a huge archery enthusiast I love sharing my knowledge about archery. Enjoy your stay and don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question.

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