Advanced Broadhead-Tuning Tips

Are you helping your customers maximize their broadhead accuracy? These advanced broadhead-tuning tips can help you help your customers more.

Advanced Broadhead-Tuning Tips

Nothing frustrates like a bow that produces poor broadhead accuracy, but many bowhunting consumers annually face this dilemma. Some adjust their sight pins. Others compensate when they aim in order to bridge the gap, and still others don’t even shoot their broadheads prior to hunting or know that they fly differently than their field points. Of course, these unethical approaches don’t fix the underlying problem: a poorly tuned setup.

Every bow that leaves your door must be tuned for optimal broadhead accuracy, and you also must educate your customers on the importance of it. Anything less makes you susceptible to poor reviews and a worse reputation. Plus, if you aren’t taking the steps to ensure your customers’ bows are properly tuned, what are you in business for?

Now, many steps are required in order for a bow to play nice with both field points and broadheads, and we certainly won’t cover all of them in this article. However, we’ll discuss some important ones and how to do them, plus some offbeat tips I’ve used to improve my own broadhead flight. Also be sure to check out the accompanying sidebar that outlines champion archer and accomplished bowhunter Chance Beaubouef’s tuning program.

Why Broadhead Flight Is Difficult to Achieve

It’s common sense that precision broadhead flight is difficult to achieve because broadheads have different aerodynamics and more exposed surfaces than basic bullet-shaped field points. This instigates changes in flight characteristics at even the slightest discrepancy in the bow’s tune. Even a trivial problem such as slightly unsynchronized cam timing can cause poor broadhead flight.

Of course, today’s high-velocity bows, especially when paired with lightweight arrows, also can make broadhead tuning more difficult, especially when slightly out of tune. The faster your arrow is traveling, the more susceptible it becomes to planing off course in flight with a broadhead on the business end. When shooting fixed-blade heads, I personally want a bow that’s shooting less than 300 feet per second with a mid-400-grain arrow. This seems to be a forgiving setup.  

It’s important to note that all broadheads aren’t created equal, and even noted bow-tuning expert John Dudley mentioned in one of his YouTube videos that some broadheads simply don’t fly the same as field points even from well-tuned bows. In general, the more surface area the broadhead has, the more difficult it will be to achieve consistently good flight. Plus, you get what you pay for, meaning that cheaper broadheads are typically more susceptible to problematic flight.

Another equally important consideration is the broadhead’s backbone. Those with aluminum ferrules, I’ve found, fly very inconsistently from one to the next. Aluminum ferrules generally have poor straightness tolerances, which is why we’re now seeing more heads being offered in stainless steel and even titanium.    

Blade security is also a factor to consider. If blades are loose and rattling in flight, it’s anyone’s guess where that arrow will impact. Tip design is important, too. The more bulleted the point shape, the better the head’s flight characteristics will generally be.

In summary, aerodynamics, coupled with a strong and straight ferrule and secure blades, will produce the best flight. However, if poor flight persists despite a broadhead with these qualities, there are other things to consider.

Arrows and Components

You’re well aware that arrows come in assorted grades. Straightness and grain-weight tolerances are an arrow’s greatest attributes for achieving consistent arrow flight. Despite that, even the tightest listed tolerances don’t automatically mean that every single arrow in a dozen will perform identically.

To build the best, most consistent arrows possible, I personally spin every shaft on a Pine Ridge Archery Arrow Inspector prior to fletching. I usually find multiple arrows that don’t make the cut, even when the manufacturer’s listed straightness is .001 inch. I fletch the shafts that don’t wobble, and they typically shoot consistently when I install broadheads. This isn’t something you must do for every customer, however. Let me explain.

A well-tuned bow will often shoot even fixed-blade heads quite consistently out to 25 to 30 yards, which is the farthest most average bowhunters shoot, at least for whitetail hunting. But, the more serious bowhunters who shoot out to and beyond 40 yards will notice the extra attention to detail and will gladly pay for the additional labor required to select the straightest arrows.

Inserts are another contributing factor to broadhead accuracy because they serve as the mating surface for the broadhead. If the insert itself isn’t perfectly square, the broadhead won’t properly align. This isn’t unidentifiable via eyesight, but spinning the arrow — with the broadhead installed — on a Pine Ridge Arrow Inspector can help you identify it. Study the tip of the broadhead as you spin the arrow. If the tip moves in a circular motion rather than remain stationary, it’s likely the insert and broadhead are poorly connected.

The problem could be the insert itself, or it could be that the arrow shaft was sawed poorly prior to inserting, causing the insert to mate poorly with the shaft. I recommend using G5 Outdoors’ A.S.D. (see sidebar) during the arrow-building process in order to produce optimal finished arrows.

Paper-tuning is best conducted using both a bare and fletched shaft in combination.
Paper-tuning is best conducted using both a bare and fletched shaft in combination.

String Loops

Another item that can magnify broadhead-flight problems is the string loop or D-loop. When the knots are too close together, the arrow nock becomes pinched, worsening as the string angle becomes more acute at full draw. This inhibits the arrow from departing the bowstring cleanly. I’ve found the best results by positioning the knots so that the arrow nock fits snugly but doesn’t resist as I snap it onto the bowstring.

Paper Tuning

Once a bow is outfitted with accessories and everything has been lasered and squared up, it’s time to paper tune the bow. There are numerous ways to do this, and each bow technician probably has his/her own preferred method.

Bare-shaft tuning is probably the most technical and also most difficult, as a bow with any minor problems will kick the arrow errantly from the bowstring due to lack of steering (vanes or feathers). But, if you can achieve a bullet hole with a bare shaft, the bow will probably require little or no further tuning.

While interviewing Chance Beaubouef, he mentioned that he stands about 6 yards from the paper when paper-tuning. He does both fletched and bare-shaft tuning, which we’ll discuss more in the sidebar. Beaubouef uses paper-tuning as a starting point for tuning his bows, but doesn’t end when he achieves a bullet hole.

Now, there are a gazillion tweaks and changes that can be made in order to correct a poor paper tear. The most common way folks try to correct the tear is moving the arrow rest. While this is sometimes all it takes, more often it is a deeper issue like cam lean, drop-away rest timing, cam-timing desynchronization or something of more complex nature.

Beyond that, here are some other less-considered methods I’ve used to achieve a great tear. Arrows one spine strength higher than the arrow manufacturer’s recommended spine typically work best from my setups, especially because I use heavier stainless-steel inserts which work to weaken the spine. I’ve also rotated the nock one third of a turn (3-fletch arrows; do one quarter of a turn with 4-fletch arrows) at a time and shooting through paper after each turn. I’ve also done this successfully with individual broadhead-tipped arrows when I find one that flies differently than the others.

Walk-Back Tuning

When your customer is using good quality equipment that you’ve tuned to produce a great paper tear, it doesn’t automatically mean that their broadheads will fly exactly the same as their field points. If there are discrepancies, I like to do walk-back tuning, and you can easily teach your customers how to do it at home.

I shoot a broadhead and field point from 20 yards at a cross that I’ve taped onto my target. Chances are that if my bow paper tunes well, these arrows will group satisfactorily close together. If so, I move back and do the same at 30 and then 40 yards. At this point, it’s highly possible that my broadhead will begin veering either right or left of the vertical tape, or possibly high or low of the horizontal tape.

When this happens, I make minute adjustments to my arrow rest, moving it in the direction of the field point (assuming my field point hit the intersection of the cross). In most cases, those minute adjustments move the broadhead impact point closer to or right with my field point. A side note is that an arrow rest with micro-adjustable windage simplifies this exponentially. After I adjust, I repeat the 30- and 40-yard shots. I continue making miniscule adjustments until I’m satisfied. Then, I shoot at the farthest distance I plan to shoot afield to make sure the broadhead accuracy replicates to that yardage. Then, I’m ready to go hunting. 

Be Square

One of the most indispensable tools in my archery arsenal is G5 Outdoors’ A.S.D. (Arrow Squaring Device). It allows me to square the arrow shaft on both the nock and insert ends once it has been cut to length. You can also square the insert once installed in the arrow with the A.S.D. This tool changes the game and corrects the nock-to-shaft, insert-to-shaft and broadhead-to-insert connections, therefore salvaging an arrow that otherwise wouldn’t produce acceptable broadhead flight.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to note that bows are like people in that no two are exactly the same. Many tuning experts agree with me that a bow must be tuned how it wants to be tuned. As an example, I own a Hoyt HyperForce; it’s one of the best-shooting bows I’ve ever owned. When I initially outfitted the bow with accessories and squared everything up, it produced a severe nock-right paper tear. It also shot fixed-blade broadheads poorly. And although my field-tipped arrows grouped well, I could see the fletching ends of my arrows fishtailing as they approached the target.

After some major buss-cable tweaks, I found the tear gradually improving, despite the fact that the top cam was now noticeably leaning. A few more twists in the buss and a tweak or two to the control cable landed me synchronized cam timing and a perfect paper tear. What’s more, my fixed-blade broadhead flight was on point with my field points. That individual bow shoots best with cam lean, so that’s the way I shoot it.

I hope the points I’ve addressed in this piece serve as food for thought. And to the ultra-skilled bow technicians, I understand that some or all of these points are preaching to the choir. This article is designed to get the newer pro shops thinking and to put importance on the fact that bow technicians must do their parts in equipping bowhunters to be the best they can be with their broadheads. I believe we all can agree that is the ethical thing to do.

Sidebar: Fixed-Blade Broadhead Tuning with Chance Beaubouef

DM: What approach do you take to paper tuning your bowhunting bows?

CB: I use paper tuning to get everything close to where it needs to be. I stand approximately 5 to 6 yards away from the paper. That distance usually reveals the arrow’s worst reaction as it departs from the bow.

I paper tune with both a fletched arrow and bare shaft. Folks often make the mistake of simply stripping vanes to get down to a bare shaft. Doing this changes the arrow’s spine. When you shoot the bare shaft next to a fletched arrow, you’ll likely obtain different results on the paper. For that reason, I add weight to the back end of the bare shaft equal to my fletching weight. That gives me the same reaction from both the fletched arrow and bare shaft.

Once I achieve a bullet-hole tear from both the fletched arrow and bare shaft, I shoot every hunting arrow through the paper to make sure they all produce the same reaction.

DM: Following your initial paper-tuning session, how do you go about tuning to get your field points and fixed-blade broadheads flying consistently?

CB: I move outdoors to 20 yards and shoot with a bare shaft and fletched arrow. Once I’m satisfied with my grouping — sometimes it takes a small rest tweak — I sight in out to my maximum bowhunting distance using fletched arrows with field points. Once my pins are set, I shoot a broadhead and field point from about 80 yards. If I find that my broadhead impacts too far away from my field point, I make a miniscule rest adjustment in the direction I need the broadhead to go, then I shoot again, repeating until the two arrows group together. With this approach, I’ve always been successful in grouping field points and broadheads together.

DM: When you’ve tuned a bow to shoot broadheads with field points, does that mean everything on the bow is perfectly aligned?

CB: Bows are designed and made by humans. That means there aren’t two bows that do everything identically. You must tune a bow the way it wants to be tuned. You could end up with some cam lean, or the rest could be right or left of center shot. Within reason, these aren’t reasons to be concerned as long as the bow tunes well.


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