If you are a walkabout bow hunter who keeps shots inside 40 yards, you might not need a stabilizer, and certainly not a long or heavy one.
Study indicates that unless you shoot in a heavy crosswind, an ultra-light bow, or stretch your shots out beyond 40 yards, a stabilizer is an optional accessory.
Stabilizers add forward weight to a bow, balancing it in hand and, because of the additional mass, absorbing some of the vibration that is produced by the power stroke of the bow.
Some claim that a stabilizer will also reduce noise. However, after experimenting the measured noise output of bows both with and without a stabilizer, results indicates only a minimal reduction in noise.
The real value of stabilizers is the weight they add to a bow. In this way, they are like barrel weight in a rifle. The heavier the barrel, the more the gun stays on target. This is why bench rest shooters use bull-barreled rifles, and it’s why Olympic archers shoot bows with long, heavy stabilizers. But neither group has to hump their gear over steep or difficult terrain.
Shooting three bows of different weights and dimensions with three different stabilizers and with no stabilizer at all at 10-yard increments from 20 to 60 yards and measured the size of three 10-arrow groups at each distance, for a total of 120 groups.
Some noteworthy conclusions:
Many test sessions were in crosswinds blowing in excess of 30 mph. In stiff winds and always shot more accurately with a stabilizer, and accuracy in wind was directly proportional to distance.
Stabilizers had the most effect on accuracy and noise reduction on a 3.5-pound Mathews Heli-M and the least effect on a 4.5-pound Prime Impact. In between was the 4.3-pound Bowtech.
There was no statistically significant difference in accuracy between stabilized and unstabilized bows inside 40 yards. From 40 to 60 yards, stabilized bows shot 10 percent more accurately than unstabilized bows.
The final conclusion is important. Accuracy is improved by a stabilizer, and if you’re hunting from a tree stand or a ground blind, or in a situation where weight isn’t a consideration, you should use a stabilizer to maximize your accuracy. But in highly mobile hunting situations, where weight can mean the difference between getting on game or not, then a stabilizer can be considered elective.
Test Notes: Field tips on 29 ½-inch, 350-grain arrows. Bows pulled 58 pounds at 29 inches and were shot with and without attached quivers.
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