Often when the word barebow comes up we imagine a bow that is akin to the word. Meaning a bow that is bare. Many imagine a wooden bow with not a thing on it. Naked, you might say, or as the Italians say il arco nudo.
In competitive circles, particularly in Europe where shooting the barebow classes is more popular than here in the US, a dedicated barebow is more often than not an aluminum riser complete with elevated rest and plunger that resembles a modern Olympic bow.
What makes them different? Well to answer that we must first regress and get into rules and organizations a bit. Just a bit.. As getting into this deeply can be an exercise of frustration.
There are many governing archery bodies like FITA, IFAA, and NFAA, their rules for barebows differ but for the most part they revolve around some basic elements of this type of archery.
The most important, the one everyone agrees with and the distinguishing feature between this type of archery and others is that we don’t use sights. None, nada, zilch, no sights or anything that could be used as a reference to aim, no marks of any sort, or anything protruding into the sight window to act as a reference to help you hit the target.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t aiming methods it just means that the bow is in it’s birthday suit and can’t help you in that regard.
Another element of this type of archery, which we do share with other classes, is that this is a fingers deal. Releases of any sort are a no, no. It is fingers on the string, baby. Tabs, gloves or a chew strap if you are impaired are accepted.
That is the simple part, after that it can get confusing depending on class and organization. What the different classes tend to regulate beyond the above are the accessories we add to our bows, such as arrowrests, drawchecks, counterweights and stabilizers.
For the purposes of this blog entry what you need to know is that there are archery organizations which limit or don’t allow the use of stabilizers in the barebow classes and because of this barebow design differs from Olympic bow design.
An archer shooting a sighted Olympic bow in the appropriate class can add any number of stabilizers at various lengths, angles, directions and weight, because of this Olympic risers tend to be lighter, the expectation is that the archer will customize the bow getting to the weight and stabilizer arrangement that is optimum and usually most forgiving for them.
Olympic bows set up with sights and various stabilizers
Barebow shooters (depending on class & organization) don’t have this option. they can’t take advantage of the benefits of stabilizers so rely on design and weight to create a balanced and stable shooting platform that is more forgiving at release than a lighter Olympic bow shot bare would be.
Bernardini Nilo with integral riser weights added and a Spigarelli weight added to the lower stabilizer bushing. – Photo by Nathan W Lediard
Olympic bows shot without a stabilizer or counterbalance will typically have the upper limb tip back towards the archers head at release. Which is accepted by some but a bit annoying for most. To compensate for this, barebow design shifts the riser weight and usually allows you to add weight to the lower part of the riser body.
Spigarelli Barebow weight mounted on the lower riser, the Allen head fastener keeps it in place.
Another view of the weight system of this Spigarelli Barebow.
Innovative riser design has also changed the way mass/weight is distributed in barebows as well as how those elements affect stiffness and vibration reduction, the Green Horn Sirius and the Stolid Bull Black Thunder are good examples of this.
Green Horn Sirius riser
Stolid Bull – Black Thunder – Photo by Nathan W Leidard
Italian archery companies have created some of the world’s best known barebows such as Bernardini, Best and Spigarelli. Below are images of some of their excellent work.
Best Moon with integral riser weights, custom Jager grip, and a Spigarelli weight in the main stabilizer bushing.
Bernardini Nilo – Photo by Nathan W Lediard
Spigarelli Barebow- Photo by author
As far as competitive barebows made on this side of the pond the bow that comes to mind is the recently introduced TR-7 riser made by Sky Archery. I had a brief conversation with Jim Belcher, owner of Sky Archery, to get the skinny on it as the word on the street is that this very appealing riser could be configured as a barebow.
Sky TR-7 25 inch riser
Jim confirmed that in fact it could. You remove the Mathews harmonic damper at the bottom and insert a custom1/4 pound weight which balances the bow in hand.
If you’d like more weight he also has a 5/8ths pound weight that can be used. This coupled with Sky limbs should make for a heck of a competitive bow. Jim mentioned that many top shooters are lining up for one to include Michelle Frangilli, Italian Gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics.
I would finish by saying that if you want to shoot barebow competitively and what you already have at your disposal is an Olympic ILF riser and you’d like to balance it, you can experiment by adding weight to the stabilizer bushings or adding custom weights to the riser and be on your way. Many top barebow shooters prefer an Olympic bow and do just this.
Spigarelli weights which are popular with barebow shooters can be had from Arco Sport Spigarelli in Italy, Lancaster Archery in the US, and Alternative Sporting Services in the UK or go to your local shop which can order them in for you if they don’t have them on the shelf.