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New Recurve Stabilization Trends

George Tekmitchov


Change in the wind?

In the past 12 months a number of top Western archers have changed over to stabilizer systems, with large amounts of weight system attachments, unusually long side rod configurations, and no rubber dampers between the weights and stabilizer rods.  Why are some of these shooters using this kind of system, and what is it doing for them?

One of the best examples of this trend is American archer Brady ELLISON.  Brady’s had a great 2010 and 2011 season, winning the World Cup stage in Turkey, the World Cup Grand Final in Scotland, and most recently, the Nimes European Indoor where he shot 41 consecutive 10’s with his Hoyt Formula recurve in the finals.

Brady is using 15” side rods, and no rubber dampers on the stabilizers, with several hundred grams of weight on each stabilizer rod. 

Naturally, as shooters look at what a top shooter like Brady is doing, there is a temptation to imitate his setup.  But, those looking to emulate Brady need to consider that this stabilizer setup is but one part of a much wider set of considerations.  These considerations stem from Brady’s involvement in the USA’s National Training Program, headed up by legendary Korean coach LEE, Ki-Sik.

I spoke to Coach Lee on this subject and the first thing he mentioned is that the inspiration for the use of an un-damped system came from observation of a compound shooter- World Compound champion Reo Wilde (USA).  Reo currently uses his FUSE Carbon Blade stabilizers with no rubber damping and, even by compound standards, a huge amount of weight on the front and side.  What impressed Coach Lee was how much the undamped system seemed to improve aiming for Reo.

And now the secret is out

Normally any discussion of “aiming” in the context of recurve is dismissed with the advice that motion is more important than aiming (I have long said this, myself).  And, for normal “continuous motion” push-pull shooting (as one sees among some top Korean competitors) this is still true.

But, over the past few years, Coach Lee has quietly been working with his students on increasing emphasis on the “holding” phase of the shot system he teaches.  That is not to say that the actual “holding” time is longer- but what’s being sought is more precise aiming during that portion of the shot program.  Coach Lee feels that by eliminating the rubber dampers on the stabilizer system, the archer can achieve a better, more steady aim during the 2-3 second “holding” period which is a critical part of the method he teaches. 

One reason for this is that the presence of the damper “decouples” the weight mass from the stabilizer rod and can cause long-period oscillation that is detected by the shooter as an unsteady feeling.  Eliminating the damper restores the higher-frequency resonance of the stabilizer and makes it feel as if it aims more steadily.

What’s quite interesting about this recent development is that, as with many other things in archery, the idea isn’t really new.  Back in the late 1980’s Easton Special Projects Manager Don Rabska developed the ACE stabilizer system, which was specifically designed to improve aiming and bow reaction by maintaining an ultra-high resonance.  This prevents the stabilizer from oscillating in response to the slower, natural vibrations created by muscle tremor while drawing and aiming.  However, this is only fully achieved with no rubber dampers in place.  Later, I developed an internal vibration reduction system (VRS) to improve the ACE stabilizer that helps absorb vibration after the shot without compromising the aiming properties.  And, around the same time, Yamaha developed the URS stabilizer system that worked on a similar principle (but with no vibration control).

The problem with these systems was that with the older type bows of their time, these stabilizers tended to ring like Sanjusangendo’s bell at New Year’s on every shot.   That’s why rubber dampers like the original Doinkers became popular in the first place.

So as we have seen, the principle of a highly resonant, un-damped stabilizer for improved aiming has come full circle over the more than 20 years since the first modern examples of such stabilizers were seen in tackle boxes.

Why have some top shooters who are not part of the USA National Training Program also returned to systems without rubber dampers?  Coach Lee says one thing that makes this possible is that improved bows react better to these types of stabilizers than older designs.  He points to Brady’s Hoyt Formula RX as an example.  Coach Lee told me, “Older bows needed dampers, but bows like the RX have no vibration problems without them.  The bow sounds OK without it and it feels good.”

In contrast, older bow designs were quite rattle-prone when using un-damped stabilizers.  Sometimes this led to undesirable vibrations, which could loosen sight screws, stress other bow parts, and even cause injuries to the archer.

That generates a cautionary message about experimenting with such systems.  Not all bows have correctly engineered vibration control- and some stabilizers generate different frequencies than others.

Not all shooters will like the feel or change in noise that comes with the use of an un-damped stabilizer.


Many advancements in our sport come out but are sometimes too early for the rest of the technology available.  For example, early bows designed for more elastic string materials often broke when used with advanced, relatively inelastic string materials, so the bows had to be improved.  When high-resonance stabilizers became available, they caused more noise and vibration on the bows of the time, so people started using dampers.  Now, the bows have improved and the use of un-damped, aim-enhancing stabilizers may be back in vogue.  Time will tell.


 (C) 2011 George Tekmitchov & Archery Japan Magazine (Leo Planning, Inc.)


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