Here's the fifth in our seven-part series of tests designed to prove or disprove some common conceptions about compound bows. These tests all appeared in the July issue of Field & Stream, but keep reading for more content exclusive to our website.
The Conventional Wisdom
Adding a bow stabilizer reduces vibration and noise and helps balance the bow in your hand, making it easier to hold steadily on target.
But Wait a Minute
Target shooters have told us that while the long, heavy stabilizers they use do indeed help, the little 6-inch versions hunters slap on as a matter of course don't do anything.
We shot three different bows, each with and without a small hunting-style stabilizer.
Total average group sizes for 6-inch hunting stabilizer, no stabilizer:
30 Yards: 2.59, 2.75
40 Yards: 3.66, 3.61
60 Yards: 5.07, 5.23
It depends. Our individual results were all over the map. I shot my test bow consistently better with a stabilizer. Brantley shot his better without one. And Bestul's groups were almost the same with or without one. In the end, it looks like this is a bow-to-bow thing.
The Inside Story:**
After seeing the inconclusiveness of the above test, we wanted to see if it would make a difference if we tried stabilizers that are longer and heavier than your average hunting model but still manageable in the field--you know, the roughly foot-long versions that are popular with long-range western hunters. So we did. Because of deadlines and space restrictions (the death and taxes of the magazine world), we had only a few lines in the print version to name a couple of the models we tested and briefly characterize the results: "We both shot markedly better with them."
True enough, but the full story is that these results were even more surprising than those of the original test. Damned-near astonishing, in fact.
Bestul wasn't available for one, so Brantley and I shot. Neither of us noticed a big difference out to 40. But at 60, the Earth teetered a little.
Shooting a Bowtech Insanity CPXL with your basic 5-inch hunting bow stabilizer, I shot 10 three-shot groups that averaged 4.82 inches--which was on par with most of my other 60-yard groups. Then I screwed on a 10-3/8-inch, 10.5-ounce, Doinker EFDF (doinker.com), and shot 10 more groups at 60. Average size: 2.97 inches. I figured that had to be a fluke, so I shot another 10 groups. They averaged 3.21 inches. I later got similar results with a 12-inch Doinker D.I.S.H. and a 10-inch Bee Stinger Pro Hunter, too (beestinger.com).
Meanwhile, Brantley cut his 60-yard groups nearly in half (from 6.12 to 3.50) when he went from no stabilizer to a 12-inch, 17-ounce Fuse Carbon Bowhunter Freestyle (fusearchery.com) on a Hoyt Spyder Turbo. He called the result "amazing." In the end, we agreed that it makes no sense to hang such a big, heavy model on a short-range woods bow, but on long-range western or 3D bow, we'd definitely carry the extra weight to get all that extra accuracy.