Archer aiming a compound bow to shoot

How to Tune a Compound Bow: Step-by-Step Instructions

Buying a compound bow is not all that is needed to get started with archery, you have to tune your bow to get results. Compound bows are built to give an archer options so he can adjust them according to his style and get the most out of that bow. Bow tuning is the process of adjusting a bow’s components to optimize its accuracy and performance. It involves fine-tuning elements like arrow rest, nocking point, and cam orientation for precise and consistent shots. For fine tuning the bow we will follow a checklist.

  1. Check Your Gear
  2. Set Up Your Bow
  3. Adjust the draw weight, draw length, peep sight, and D-loop.
  4. Tune the Rest and Nocking Point.
  5. Paper Tuning
  6. Fine Tuning

Now, with your bow in hand and this roadmap at your side, let’ start adjusting our compound bow.

How to Know if the bow needs tuning

If your arrows aren’t hitting where you want or they’re flying strangely, your bow could use some tuning. Look for consistent misses or odd arrow paths as signals to make adjustments for better aim. Feel for strange vibrations and noise when shooting.

If you have installed a new arrow rest or have changed your anchor point, or even if you started using different arrows, your bow might need a retune.

Pre-Tuning Checks

Before we begin the tuning process, it’s important to perform some pre-tuning checks to ensure your bow is in optimal condition.

  • Start by inspecting the physical condition of your bow. Look for any signs of wear or damage on the limbs, riser, cams, and other parts. Any issues here can affect the tuning process and overall performance.
  • Check the bowstring and cables. They should be in good shape and properly waxed. Frayed or worn-out strings and cables need to be replaced to maintain optimal performance and safety.
  • It’s important to have the right arrows for your bow. Arrows that match your bow’s draw weight and length are crucial for accuracy and safety. Using mismatched arrows can lead to poor accuracy and potential damage to your bow.

How to Tune a Compound Bow

In this section, I will guide you through the step-by-step process of setting up your compound bow, covering everything from adjusting the draw weight and draw length to ensuring proper peep sight alignment, D-loop installation, LET OFF, cam timing, and center shot.

bow aimed with sight and rest mounted

1. How to Properly Set Up a Compound Bow

To begin tuning a bow, follow these steps:

  1. Attach the arrow rest: Install the arrow rest on the bow’s riser, ensuring it is securely fastened. The arrow rest should be positioned in line with the bow’s centerline.
  2. Mount the sight: Attach the sight to the bow’s riser, aligning it with the arrow rest. Make sure the sight is securely mounted and level.

2. Setting the Draw Weight and Draw Length

Setting the draw weight and draw length of your compound bow is crucial for comfortable shooting and optimal performance. Follow these steps to adjust these settings:

Adjusting the draw weight:

Most compound bows have an adjustable draw weight. Set a draw weight according to the speed you want but don’t over do it because it will get unmanageable and you will quickly get tired. It will also cause inconsistencies in your form. Use a bow press to relieve tension on the limbs, then adjust the limb bolts to increase or decrease the draw weight. Make sure to adjust both limbs equally to maintain balance.

Setting the draw length:

The draw length is the distance between the bowstring at full draw and the bow’s grip. Proper draw length ensures a comfortable and consistent shooting form. Adjust the draw length by changing the position of the draw length module or rotating the cam’s inner module. Determine your appropriate draw weight by stretching your arms wide out and measuring the distance between tip of both your middle fingers and dividing it by 2.5.

3. Adjusting the Peep Sight and D-loop

The peep sight and D-loop are essential components for consistent aiming and release. Follow these steps to adjust them correctly:

Aligning the peep sight:

The peep sight is a small circular device that attaches to the bowstring, allowing you to look through it and align your sight with the target. Draw the bow and have someone to mark the location of peep sight on the bow string. Adjust the peep sight’s position by twisting the bowstring until it aligns with your dominant eye when at full draw. Ensure the peep sight is securely tied in place. The angle, anchor, and your eye position play a role in determining the optimal position for peep sight on the bow string. You should clearly see through the front sight form the peep sight at full draw.

Installing the D-loop:

The D-loop is a small metal or nylon loop attached to the bowstring, providing a consistent anchor point for the release aid. Install the D-loop by tying it securely to the bowstring, ensuring it is positioned at a comfortable and consistent anchor point. The D-loop should be aligned with the peep sight for accurate aiming.

4. Setting LET OFF

LET OFF refers to the reduction in draw weight that occurs when the bow is at full draw. It allows the archer to hold the bowstring back with less effort, improving stability and accuracy. Follow these steps to set the LET OFF on your compound bow:

  1. Determine the LET OFF percentage: Consult your bow’s manual or manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the LET OFF percentage for your specific bow model. Then check the let off you need for your bow, this selection can be based upon shooting style or laws of your area. Target archers prefer more let off while bow hunters prefer less. This percentage indicates how much the draw weight reduces when the bow is at full draw.
  2. Adjusting the cam stops: Most compound bows have adjustable cam stops that control the amount of LET OFF. Use an Allen wrench to adjust the cam stops, increasing or decreasing the LET OFF percentage as desired. Make sure to adjust both cam stops equally to maintain balance.

5. Synchronize the Cams

Cam timing refers to the synchronization of the top and bottom cams of your compound bow. Proper cam timing ensures smooth and consistent arrow flight. Follow these steps to ensure correct cam timing:

Inspect the cams: Carefully examine the top and bottom cams to ensure they are aligned properly and rotate simultaneously. If there are inconsistencies or one cam reaches a stop before the other, there is a need for correction.

Adjusting the control cables: Use a bow press to relieve tension on the bowstring and cables. Start by twisting the cable that is connected to the cam which reaches the draw stop early. Try half twists or full twists until your both your cams hit the draw stop together. You should not have these issues with a single cam compound bow but if you have a dual cam bow you can refer to these instructions for synchronizing cam timing.

Tuning the Bow’s Rest and Nocking Point

The next step in tuning your compound bow is to ensure the correct positioning of the arrow rest and nocking point.

Finding the correct arrow rest position is essential for straight arrow flight. It should allow the arrow to sit perfectly level on the bow.

The nocking point is the location on the bowstring where the arrow’s nock (the slit at the end of the arrow that clips onto the string) attaches. The nocking point should be set so the arrow sits at a 90-degree angle to the string.

How to Adjust the Arrow Rest:

To start, position your arrow rest in the center of the bow. This is a good baseline, but slight adjustments might be needed later for tuning. Shoot several arrows on the target. If the arrow hits to the right of the target, move the arrow rest to the left in small increments until it hits the target and vice versa. We call this adjustment the center shot. The center shot refers to the correct alignment of the arrow rest with the bow’s centerline.

How to Set the Nocking Point:

Use a bow square to measure the distance from the arrow rest’s shelf to the nocking point. The standard nocking point height for most bows is usually around 1/2 to 3/4 inches above the arrow rest’s shelf. If the arrow is nocked too high, it can cause the arrow to fishtail. If it’s nocked too low, it can lead to clearance issues and erratic arrow flight. To raise the point of impact, lower the nocking point slightly. To lower the point of impact, raise the nocking point. Make adjustments in small increments until you find the ideal nocking point height.

How to set D loop and nock point

Fletch Contact Correction

Fletch contact occurs when the fletching of the arrow makes contact with any part of the bow or arrow rest during the shot. This can negatively impact arrow flight and accuracy. To correct fletch contact, follow these steps:

  1. Check the Arrow Rest timing: If you are using a drop-away rest, adjust its timing so that the arrow does not make contact with it. Listen carefully to any sound of the arrow touching the rest.
  2. Evaluate arrow spine: Arrow spine refers to the stiffness of the arrow shaft. If the arrow spine is too weak or too stiff for the bow’s draw weight and the archer’s shooting style, it can cause the arrow to flex excessively and make contact with the fletching. Consider using arrows with a different spine rating that better matches the bow’s specifications.
  3. Inspect fletching clearance by foot powder: After these steps if contact still occurs, visually inspect the arrow rest, bow riser, and other components to identify any potential areas. Use foot powder and spray it on the arrow and arrow rest. Shoot the arrow on the target and look for marks on arrow or bow to see any interference.

Paper Tuning Your Compound Bow

Paper tuning is a valuable method for assessing the arrow’s flight and making necessary adjustments. It involves shooting an arrow through a piece of paper to analyze the tear pattern it creates.

To perform paper tuning, set up a frame with paper stretched across it. Stand about 6-8 feet away from the paper and shoot an arrow through it. The tear in the paper will reveal how the arrow is flying.

Analyzing the tear pattern is essential for identifying any adjustments needed. A perfect tear should have one hole from the arrow point and three from the fletching. If the tear is irregular or shows signs of tail left or tail right, adjustments to the arrow rest or nocking point may be necessary.

Make incremental adjustments to the arrow rest(horizontal inconsistencies) and nocking point(vertical inconsistencies) based on the tear pattern until you achieve a clean and consistent tear. This process may require multiple attempts and adjustments to fine-tune your bow’s performance.

Paper tuning, arrow pattern chart

Bare-Shaft Tuning

Bare-shaft tuning is another valuable method for assessing your bow’s tune. It involves shooting arrows without fletching to observe the arrow’s natural flight without the influence of the fletching.

To perform bare-shaft tuning, shoot two bare shaft and two fletched arrows at a target. Observe the points of impact for both arrows. If the bare shaft consistently hits to the left or right of the fletched arrow (for a right-handed archer), adjustments to the arrow rest or nocking point may be necessary.

If both hits the target at 10 yards move to 20 yards and see if both can hit the target or not. Carefully adjust the arrow rest and nocking point to get them both hitting the target. Do this until you reach a distance where fletched arrows can not hit the target with consistency.

Interpreting the results of bare-shaft tuning can be challenging, as it requires careful observation and analysis. Make incremental adjustments to the arrow rest or nocking point based on the points of impact until the bare shaft aligns with the fletched arrow.

Yoke Tuning for Compound Bows

Yoke tuning is a tuning method specific to compound bows with a two-cam system. It involves adjusting the bow’s cables to ensure the arrow flies straight and true.

To perform yoke tuning, start by shooting an arrow and observing its flight. If the arrow consistently veers to one side, it indicates an imbalance in the bow’s cable tension.

To correct this imbalance, you’ll need to adjust the yoke system. The yoke system consists of two cables that attach to the top and bottom cams of the bow. By twisting the appropriate yoke cable, you can increase or decrease the tension on that side of the bow, thereby correcting any imbalances.

Make incremental adjustments to the yoke cables and continue shooting arrows to observe the changes in flight. The goal is to achieve a straight and consistent arrow flight. It may take several adjustments to find the optimal balance, so be patient and persistent in your tuning process.

Short Distance Tuning

In scenarios where shooting long distances isn’t feasible during your equipment tuning process, the short distance tuning method comes to the rescue. This method is best used after you’ve already completed one of the fundamental bow tuning techniques, such as Bare Shaft tuning or the Paper Tuning Arrow Test.

Begin at a distance of roughly 12 to 15 yards (meters) from the target. Use a 40 cm or 60 cm target face with the blank white side facing you. Here’s how to proceed:

Short distance tuning horizontal and vertical chart

Up-Down Impact:

Using fletched arrows exclusively, fire around 6 to 8 arrows along the top edge of the target face. This step helps ascertain whether your nocking point is correct. This test is especially valuable because it reveals minor tuning issues that tend to surface at short distances due to maximum arrow vibration.

If you find it challenging to consistently hit the top edge of the target, it’s likely due to a slight tuning imbalance. To address this, make a minute 1/32″ (.8 mm) nocking point adjustment either up or down, and take another shot. Keep refining the nocking point in 1/32″ increments (no more than that at a time).

When your arrows are consistently impacting the top edge and forming a straight, horizontal line, you’re rectifying the disturbance. If the horizontal arrow line widens, revert to your original nocking point and begin making 1/32″ (.8 mm) adjustments in the opposite direction until you achieve the ideal nocking point position.

Left-Right Impact:

Once you’ve established the straightest possible horizontal line of arrows based on your ability, it’s time to address the left-right arrow impact. Shoot another set of 6 to 8 arrows, this time targeting the left edge of the paper in a vertical line.

For archers looking to enhance left-right impact, adjusting the in/out position of your arrow rest is the key. This compensation counters the influence of the eccentric wheel. Due to torque effects and the slight lean of the wheel in compound bows at full draw, the original “limb center” might not actually represent the true balanced center.

Start with a 1/32″ (.8 mm) adjustment either inward or outward and shoot again. Continuously fine-tune the adjustment by 1/32″ (.8 mm) increments until you achieve the best possible vertical impact line of arrows. If the line broadens, revert to the initial arrow rest position and move it 1/32″ (.8 mm) in the opposite direction. If the line narrows, keep making 1/32″ (.8 mm) adjustments in the same direction until you achieve a straight line.

Fine-Tuning for Accuracy

Now is the final test, this is where the tuning journey ends. Follow the step by step guide for walk back test.

  1. Take a target and a colored tape. Apply the tape from the middle center from top to bottom making a vertical line. Use a plumb bob for reference.
  2. Then using the tape again apply it from left to the right making a horizontal line like shown in the figure. This will make a cross.
  3. Now take your bow and stand at a distance of about 20 yards and shoot a group of arrows at the junction of both tapes. If your paper tuning is correct then adjust the sight until you hit the junction.
  4. Then move back to 30 yards and use the same pin as for 20 yards and shoot at the junction again. This group of arrows will land below the previous group. If it lands on the vertical tape then your tuning is fine but it they are tilted left or right then you need to make small changes to arrow rest about 1/2″.
  5. Try it at further distances, the goal is to make a straight line of arrows.
Walk back tuning chart

Maintaining Your Tuned Compound Bow

Once you’ve successfully tuned your compound bow, it’s important to maintain its optimal performance. Regular maintenance and checks will ensure that your bow continues to perform at its best.

Start by regularly waxing the bowstring to keep it in good condition. Waxing helps to reduce friction and prevent premature wear. Additionally, check the tightness of all screws and bolts on your bow to ensure they are secure.

Inspect your bow for any signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, dents, or loose components. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage and maintain the bow’s performance.

Regularly check and adjust the arrow rest, nocking point, and other tuning components to ensure they remain in the correct position. Over time, these components may shift or require minor adjustments due to normal wear and tear.

FAQs on Tuning a Compound Bow

Q: How often should I tune my compound bow?

A: It’s recommended to tune your compound bow whenever you notice changes in its performance or after any adjustments or repairs. Additionally, regular maintenance checks can help identify any tuning issues that may have arisen.

Q: Can I tune my compound bow myself, or should I seek professional help?

A: While it’s possible to tune your compound bow yourself, seeking professional help can provide expert guidance and ensure optimal results. A professional bow technician has the knowledge and experience to address complex tuning issues and make precise adjustments.

Q: Can tuning my compound bow improve my accuracy?

A: Yes, tuning your compound bow can significantly improve your accuracy. By ensuring proper alignment, balance, and consistency in your bow’s components, you can achieve more precise and consistent arrow flight.

Q: Is tuning a compound bow a one-time process?

A: No, tuning a compound bow is an ongoing process. Factors such as changes in weather, equipment wear, and personal shooting style can affect your bow’s tune over time. Regular checks and adjustments are necessary to maintain optimal performance.


Tuning your bow can be a long process and also very tiring but trust me once you tune your bow correctly, your form will automatically improve. Just focus on the steps. One piece of advice from me is to keep your bow measurements and your tuning charts on record to ease things up when you do it again. Mark the position on the cams where limbs meet them above and below.

Keep trying with different settings to find your best settings. If you are interested in compound bows then how a compound bow works might be of your taste. If you want to learn more about tuning a compound bow you can look up at the amazing guide provided by PSE Archery.

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