How to Tune a Compound Bow: The Basics

As an archer, you may have heard someone ask the question “How to tune a compound bow?” You may have also looked at them in a bit of confusion as tuning is usually reserved for instruments. However, bow tuning is important because it helps you to shoot the target directly.

Nevertheless, you should never attempt to tune new bows because that would be a waste of your time and since bowstrings and cables need to be stretched or undergo the so-called break-in.

How to Tune a Compound Bow

If you love archery, tuning a bow will be a lot of fun for you, especially when you get to see the results of your efforts. Before you attempt to tune a compound bow, you should get some assistance first because every bow is different, and some bows may require that they get a specialized tune.

After the first professional lesson, then you can start tuning the bow on your own. The details below will provide some much-needed instructions that are intended to be a guide only. You should still have your local archery shop’s number on speed dial just in case the process doesn’t turn out as you intended.

  • The Right Equipment

Tuning a compound bow is only as good as the equipment that you use. If you want to get the most out of the process on how to tune a compound bow, you should get an arrow chart to help you choose the best arrow. The arrow selected will be affected by the material and strands on the bow and the cable materials.

Apart from the arrows to test the tuning, some people may require the use of a bow press. If you have a bow press for tuning, then you can also use it for restringing the bow. You may also require a bow square and powder.

  • The Techniques

Some archers like to do a powder test first before attempting anything else. This test checks to see if the arrow is released from the bow as cleanly as possible.

Use powder to spray the back, rest, and shelf of the arrow, and then, shoot the arrow towards a target. Inspect the arrow rest and shelf to see if any marks appear in the powder. If there are marks, you may need to rotate the nock or change out the spring tension on the arrow rest.

In addition, before tuning the compound bow, be sure to install all its accessories including balancing weights, silencers, arrow rests, and sights. To center the arrow rest to the nocking point, use a bow square.

The center point will be one arrow diameter above the bottom of the arrow rest and from the string. Using the correct arrows is once again important because using the wrong arrows can make it impossible to tune the bow accurately. Set up a paper target to shoot the arrow through. You should be positioned between five to ten feet away from the target and use two or three arrows to show the center of the target.

Examine the hole in the paper. A tuned bow will have neat tears with three vanes centered almost evenly. If the vane marks are unequal and sloppy, then you need to make some further adjustments to the nocking point.

The best thing about this type of tuning is that the tear gets worse when the tuning is off and will require that you make further adjustments. If the tear is horizontal, it means that you need to adjust the rest in and out. You may not easily remember all these steps, but usually, with paper tuning, the nocking point or rest needs to be adjusted.

How to Adjust the Timing of the Bow

The timing of the bow should also be adjusted. Before you do this, you should consult the owner’s manual for the timing marks. Some compound bows are outfitted with two cams at each limb tip. The cam attaches the strings and cables to the bow. The cam has a hole or mark to assist the archer in finding the timing.

To test the timing, you would require assistance from someone to monitor your bow’s cam when you draw the bow back. If there are two cam bows, the cams should be synchronized and hit the draw stop at the same time. In single cam bows, the timing mark should be close to where the manufacturer said it should be.

You will need a bow press to adjust the bow’s cables. If you have not used a bow press before, you should take the bow to a professional to have the cables adjusted. Attempting to use a bow press can cause bodily injury as well as damage to the bow.

If you have used it before, then use it to adjust the control cable by placing it in the press. Release the tension in the bow and remove one end of the cable. Give the cable half of a twist and reattach. If the timing is still off, then repeat the process. If the timing becomes worst, then you should do the half twist in the opposite direction.


Tuning a compound bow is, unfortunately, a lot harder than tuning a musical instrument. It will, of course, depend on the instrument. However, the process is intricate and requires that you have the right technique and that you are intimately familiar with the bow and its components.

If you are not familiar with them, then you ought to have your bow professionally tuned. Such can save you a lot of time and from stress. However, learning to tune the bow would be helpful and cost-effective.

There are several things you ought to check such as the draw length, bow specs, cam timing, rest, timing nocking point, and peep. Tuning may seem like a tedious exercise, but it will be worth it in the end, and you will be thoroughly satisfied with the results.

When tuning the bow, make sure you have a lot of time because the process may require a lot of iterations. It should get easier to do once you get over the initial tuning session.

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