How to Paper Tune a Bow

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Paper tuning a bow is when archers shoot an arrow through a suspended piece of paper to study the rip that it creates. The rip creates a “snapshot” of the arrow’s flight and it tells the archer what they need to do to perfect their accuracy.

To paper tune a bow, suspend a piece of paper and shoot at it from 4-6 feet. Analyze the rip it creates and make necessary adjustments. Repeat the process at 10-12 ft and 18-20 ft until you get a perfect shot.

I’ll explain everything you need to know to paper tune your bow quickly and efficiently.

Is Paper Tuning A Bow Necessary?

Paper tuning your bow is not necessary, but it is a helpful starting point for shooting straight arrows. It allows you to assess the accuracy of your shots, encouraging cleaner hits.

How Far Away Should You Paper Tune A Bow?

There are three separate distances that you need to shoot at to paper tune your bow. You must test them in the following order:

  • 4 – 6 feet
  • 10 – 12 feet
  • 18 – 20 feet

Shooting at 4 – 6 feet is the perfect distance for assessing the fundamentals (a.k.a. everything that you can fix on your bow). It will help you answer questions like: is the center shot in the right place? are the timing and tiller aligned correctly? is the nocking point where it’s supposed to be?

The 10 – 12 foot distance is great for figuring out if there’s anything wrong with your arrows. It will help you answer questions like: are my arrows too weak or too stiff? do they carry too much front center weight or too little?

Finally, shooting at 18 – 20 feet will help you assess your fletching. It will help you answer questions like: do I have enough fletching to stabilize my arrow as it flies through the air?

How To Paper Tune Your Bow At Home

Paper tuning your bow is easy. Here’s everything you need to know.

1. Suspend a piece of paper

The arrow has to pass through the paper completely, so there should be nothing directly behind it. The paper should be firm. Some people build wooden frames and staple or tape the paper to the sides. Here’s an example:

how to paper tune a bow

The frame should be at least 2 x 2 feet wide to give you ample space to shoot. The arrow isn’t to scale.

Another option is hang a roll of paper on a pole and add a paper weight to the bottom.

2. Stand 4 to 6 feet away and shoot

Shoot your arrow at the paper once, as you normally would. You may want to mark the hole that it makes.

3. Analyze the hole the arrow makes

Find the one that looks like yours in the chart below and follow the instructions accordingly. Your goal is to get a “perfect” shot —the last image in the chart.paper tune a bow

4. Step back until you are 10 to 12 feet away from the paper and shoot

If you are a right-handed shooter, a left tear means that the arrow is too stiff. Move the arrow rest towards the riser.

A right tear means that the arrow is too weak. Move the arrow rest away from the riser.

If you are a left-handed shooter, the opposite is true. If your arrows carry too much or too little front center weight, there will be a vertical tear. Adjust accordingly.

5. Repeat the process at 18 to 20 feet

If the shot isn’t perfect, you may need more fletching to stabilize your arrow’s flight.

How Much Does It Cost To Paper Tune A Bow?

Most shops will paper tune a bow for free, especially if you’ve just purchased it. However, you could pay someone to tune it for you. This will usually cost about $25 to $30.

You can even do it yourself. All you need is your bow, an arrow, and a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Of course, if you want to make your life easier, you can buy a paper tuning set.

I recommend this one from Amazon.

How Often Should I Get My Bow Tuned?

How often you should get your bow tuned depends on:

  • your bow’s draw weight
  • how often it’s maintained
  • conditions it’s stored in

Bowstrings usually last around 3 years, so it’s recommended that you should tune your bow at least this much. If your string gets broken or frayed within this period, replace it immediately and tune your bow accordingly.

Can You Paper Tune A Whisker Biscuit?

You can paper tune a bow with a whisker biscuit, but it is slightly more difficult. In this case, it helps to take off your rest and use a ripcord fall-away.

But, if this still doesn’t work, don’t worry. If your groupings are good and you’re using a bow with sufficient force — assuming you’re using quality broadheads and the necessary poundage — that’ll suffice.

How Long Does It Take To Tune A Bow?

Given the simplicity of paper tuning a bow, it should only take you about 15 minutes. At most, an hour, if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing or if your bow is insanely out of tune.

Final Thoughts

I hope that after reading this you’re more confident in your ability to paper tune a bow. If you need any more help, please be sure to check out my other articles.