You can do several checks to see if your bow string is damaged or past its best, and in fact, you are encouraged to perform these examinations before every single session to ensure nothing will go wrong.
Of course, if there are glaring visual issues, for instance, if the string is significantly frayed or nowhere near as taut as it should be, that’s a pretty obvious sign that you should trade it out for a new one as soon as possible.
There are other less stark problems you might encounter with your bow string, like those that come with age or long periods of not being used. By running your fingers very carefully up and down the length of your string, you can feel for them.
Any texture that seems strange, especially a feeling of fuzziness, dryness or separation in the fibers, is a good indicator that your string is “bad” although depending on the significance of the problem you may be able to remedy it.
Get yourself some bow string wax and rub it into the string until everything has been thoroughly absorbed. Allow it a couple of minutes to air dry and then give it a second inspection – if the feeling of a bumpy, dry, or uneven string is gone, you’re fine.
As you may know, bowstrings are supposed to have a natural waxy feeling in order to send forth your arrows as powerfully as possible. Furriness won’t just go away though – although you can delay it with wax, it’s an indicator of future fraying.
With a saggy, stretched-out bow string, there’s no fixing it. Stretched strings absorb more of the energy created by pulling back, which you need for release, preventing you from reaching your maximum potential speed and impairing accuracy.
You may have heard professional (or even amateur) archers talking about this as “creep,” so named because of how the string gradually becomes less taut over time. It is approximated that you can get between 50 and 100 shots from a decent string!
The stretching can also occur if you leave your bow out in very hot or very cold temperatures, rarely use it, or store it away indefinitely. If you’ve not used it in a few months or longer, chances are you’ll want to replace the string when you do.
Though as an archer you might want to maximize the length of time each string lasts for, using it when saggy can potentially damage your bow, as well as put you at risk of injury. It really isn’t worth it to avoid installing a replacement – just swap it out.
You may notice some separation between the string and what’s referred to as its serving: tightly stacked coils of thread that go directly over the top of the bowstring and any of its cables. These can begin to fray and reveal the string beneath.
Much like when the tiny fibers of a bow string start to get fuzzy, if you see any separation of the serving, it’s clear that you need to get yourself a new string pretty quickly. Depending on the severity, you might be able to get away with it for a bit!
For instance, if there is only a slight separation of serving coils anywhere on the bowstring that isn’t the nocking area, you might be able to push on a little longer. Separation of serving around the nocking space means immediate replacement.
Likewise, if the serving ever completely breaks – as in, snaps, and comes loose completely, rather than just some separation – then you need to get a new string right now, even if it isn’t in the nocking area directly.
What happens if your bow string breaks?
That depends! Strings snap somewhat regularly – usually as a result of improper firing technique, failing to wax them up before you shoot or because they haven’t been replaced soon enough and were frayed or had separation of the serving.
If you’re lucky, it just breaks and you have to replace it before you can practice your archery again. If you’re not so lucky… then you’ll end up seriously injured, or worse. Bow strings snap at serious speeds – if one hits you in the eye, you could be blinded.
Strings can snap at any point from one end of the length to another, and depending on where exactly the breakage occurs, it will either ricochet forwards or backwards, probably moving you with it at great force and terrifying you in the process.
All it takes is a quick Google search of ‘snapped bowstring injury’ to see the extent of the damage they can cause, from bruises, welts and slices to much much worse.
Even if it misses you, it could hit someone in the vicinity – anyone around is at risk.
Depending on the force of the break, the bow itself could be ripped from your hands by gravity, which again has the potential to injure yourself and anybody nearby – even though they don’t feel that heavy, believe us, you’ll definitely feel it at speed.
The worst possible string snaps can cause damage to your bow, even if you do manage to keep a hold of it. Think about how much more it will cost to repair or replace your bow compared to just buying some new strings!
Either way, even if it doesn’t result in any injury, you’ll definitely be terrified by the gunshot-esque cracking sound that coincides with a string snapping, and probably more likely to replace your string when you spot the slightest bit of damage.
When it comes to archery, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. You’re risking not just your own safety but that of other people’s by failing to properly inspect your string before every session – be sure to make it part of your routine.
Don’t be a cheapskate either: the better the quality of your strings, the stronger the likelihood that it will last longer and won’t snap on you spontaneously. Make sure you opt for a decent quality – your health is literally on the line.