When strung, bows are under considerable tension. So it’s surely not right to leave them that way when they’re not in use, right? Well, it depends.
I had my fair share of discussions over that topic, and I tried both ways. So I can safely say I have the answer you’re looking for.
You should unstring a bow when not in use if it’s a recurve and made of wood. Wooden recurve bows need unstringing because the tension can decrease their life expectancy. On the other hand, modern bows might not need unstringing because their materials likely won’t budge under the pressure.
Let’s further explore the topic by looking at when you should unstring the bow.
Should You Unstring a Bow When Not in Use?
It depends on the type and material of your bow. Most recurve bows need unstringing, especially the wooden ones because they’ll deform under the tension. Meanwhile, the ones made of carbon and fiberglass won’t budge, so you can leave those strung for as long as you want.
For example, longbows made from fiberglass often have a laminated layer for protection. These will be fine without unstringing. You can unstring them only when you’re sure you won’t use yours for a long time.
No matter if it’s a recurve or a longbow, any wooden bow needs unstringing when not in use. Otherwise, the limbs will start bending.
Why Do Some Bows Need Unstringing?
When a bow is strung, it’s constantly under tension. Eventually, the pressure will get the best of the limbs, and they’ll start to sit. When you start using the bow again, you’ll notice that the arms are stiffer and more rigid than they should. So, they won’t flex as they should when you’re making your aim.
The problem directly affects your ability to practice the sport.
Luckily for archers, manufacturers are constantly updating bows to fit modern standards. Now, most bows on the market are carbon, fiberglass, or synthetic foam. These materials don’t sit under tension. They only do so when subjected to heat, which is unlikely to happen.
If you leave your fiberglass bow strung for the whole year, chances are, nothing will happen to it.
Can Recurve Bows Be Damaged If You Keep Them Strung for a Long Time?
It depends on the material. If your bow is old, chances are it’s wooden. Wood tends to deform under pressure, so you may start noticing the limbs bending after a while.
Generally, it’s not recommended to leave the bow strung for a long time.
The bow will eventually be unable to flex, and it’ll be rendered useless. Some bows may survive, but only if stored in proper conditions.
If your bow is wooden, strung, and stored in a humid place, don’t wait for a long life expectancy out of it.
It’s better to unstring your recurve bow the moment you’re done shooting it.
When Should I Unstring a Bow?
Most people will suggest that you unstring your bow every time you’re done shooting it. However, that’s not convenient for a couple of reasons. First, any mistake while stringing the bow may ruin or twist the limbs, so there’s no need to do it repeatedly and increasing the chances of damage.
On top of that, stringing and unstringing the bow takes some time. You don’t want to go through that before and after each training session.
When you practice archery frequently during your active seasons, there’s no need to unstring your bow. However, when you’re on the off-season and only shoot your bow a couple of times a month, it’s better to unstring it.
How to Correctly Store Your Bow
Some people think their bows are ruined because of unstringing. What they don’t know is, the main issue might be their storage means. Bows need to be correctly stored to maximize their life expectancy, especially if they’re made of water-vulnerable materials like wood.
The best way to store your bow is to keep it in a protective case. Some bows already come with cases, but not all manufacturers provide this. Either way, you can buy your case somewhere else. If it’s hard, it’ll be even better because it won’t break or harm the bow if you drop it.
It’ll ensure the bow stays away from humidity and other weather conditions. Plus, you’ll be assured that nothing heavy will fall on your bow or something, causing it to deform.
If you don’t have a case, you can always use a bow rack to hang the bow. It’s the next best option because it keeps your equipment away from your other stored items. Besides, hanging the bow makes sure its limbs aren’t under any pressure.
Of course, needless to say, you shouldn’t hang your bow from its string.
Lastly, it’s better to keep your bow somewhere where it’s not too cold or too hot. Some materials can start bending out of shape under high heat, which brings us to the next tip: don’t store your bow somewhere with a machine’s engine that might be working close by.
Tips for Unstringing Your Bow
If you’re going to start unstringing your bow regularly, there are a couple of things to take care of. For starters, recurve bows may be confusing to string because the limbs look the same. The best way to string them is to use a stringer. Otherwise, you may put the string back in the wrong direction and risk breaking the bow in half.
At the very least, you’ll risk tearing the string off. It’s not a pleasant experience to have your string flying away during the training session; I’m telling you!
If your bow is still under manufacturer warranty, you won’t have an option except to use a stringer to avoid damage. So it’s better to use it from the start, especially if you didn’t unstring a bow before.
One last thing to take care of: dry-firing your bow. Many people would be tempted to try it when they have the string back on. However, I recommend against it because it may put unnecessary pressure on the limbs and cause them to bend, or worse, break.
So, should you unstring a bow when not in use?
If you’re going to keep it out of use for a long time, it’s better to unstring it to lift the tension of the limbs. However, you should string it back correctly to avoid tearing the string off.
If you want to know more about recurve bows and their strings, check our other article on the same topic.