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Bow & Crossbow Inspection Standards

Inspection Procedures

  1. Bow Inspection
  2. Crossbow Inspections
  3. Quick Reference Guide PDF

 


 

Bow Inspection Standards

All CA Bows must meet the Equipment standards for combat archery use

About Bows and Bowstrings

  • When holding a bow by the handle in a shooting position, the upper limb is the part above the handle, and the lower limb is the part below the handle.
  • The serving is a small cord that wraps around the string in the area where the arrow nock touches the string. 
  • Bow strings are generally made of multiple strands.
  • A continuous loop string has a small cord (loop binding/serving) that wraps around the strands of the sting to form the end loop. 
  • The end loops of a Flemish Twist string are formed by splicing the end of the string back into itself.  (These do not usually have loop bindings.) 
  • The string and its design must be considered safe by the inspecting CA Marshal. 

Stringing the bow

  • Bows should be strung before they are presented for inspection. 
  • If an unstrung bow is presented for inspection, the CA Marshal will ask the archer to string it.  If the archer has a question about the safety of the bow, they may ask the marshal to check it before they string it. 

Bow String Length 

  • The string must be the correct length for the bow.  
  • If the string is too long, the bow isn't bent enough; if the string is too short, the bow is bent too much.  A string that is too short is more dangerous than one that is to long, but neither one is acceptable.
  • The manufacturer often marks the string length on the limb of the bow.  If the string length is not marked, then the “rule of thumb” may give a good approximation, especially on a recurve bow.
  • NOTE- The “rule of thumb” is not a precise or entirely 100 percent accurate way of measuring the string.   The "rule of thumb" is a field method for measuring brace height / proper string length. The brace height is the distance from the string to the belly of the bow. This can be checked by placing the side of your fist against the belly of the bow with your thumb extending towards the string. The string should be about at the tip of your thumb.
  • The string should not have much twist unless it is a Flemish twist string.  (The length of the string can be affected by how much it twists.)

Condition of the Bow String

  • End loops: Any loop binding must be securely wrapped and unbroken.  Strings without loop bindings must not have any broken strands.  If either end loop is in bad enough condition, then the bow fails inspection.
  • Broken strands: If only one strand of the bowstring is broken, the combat archer should be informed.  The bow does not automatically fail, but is of concern.  Other aspects (such as being a heavy bow) will help determine whether to fail the bow.  If two or more strands of the string are broken, then the bow fails inspection.
  • Frayed string or serving: If the string (at any location) or the serving (where the arrow nocks on the string) is only fuzzy or slightly frayed, the combat archer should be informed of the condition, but the bow does not automatically fail. If there is significant fraying of the string, or the string is exposed through the serving, or the serving hangs away from the string, then the bow fails inspection.
  • Dry String: A very dry bowstring is not a reason to fail the bow, but a dry string will deteriorate quicker than one that is kept waxed.  If the bowstring is dry, the combat archer should be informed of the condition and that they should consider waxing the string. 
  • Knots: If the bowstring has any knots, then the bow fails.  The only exception is a knot that has been used to create an end loop.  The knot making the end loop must remain tight and not move. 
  • Metal: Nocking points are the only metal parts allowed on a bowstring.  If the bowstring has any other metal (especially metal clips to form the end loops), then the bow fails.

Condition of the Bow

  • All surfaces of the bow must be free of cracks and gouges. 
  • Especially stress cracks in the limbs. 
  • Check the front, back, and both edges. 
  • Include the tips and handle. 
  • Wood Bows: Small chips or scrapes in the finish are not a problem if they do not affect the wood.  If a bow has any layers delaminating, the bow fails inspection. 
  • Fiberglass Bows: Very small chips or scrapes must be judged on a case-by-case basis.  Because fiberglass usually has no finish, any marks may affect the fiberglass.

NOTE- A good method is to start at the tip of the upper limb and work down to the handle, checking each surface. Look at the front side of the limb, and then repeat with the backside, and then each edge. Turn the bow over and repeat the process on the lower limb, working from tip to handle on each surface.  Then check the handle area. 

Limb Twist

  • The bow must be free of significant limb twist. 
  • Check for limb twist only after determining that the condition of the bow and the condition and length of the bowstring are safe
  • Ask the archer to pull the bow as if to shoot, then slowly return it to neutral.  Observe the bow from behind the archer, making sure that the string stays centered on the tips of the bow. 
  • If the string pulls off-center at either tip, then the limb has a twist.  It must be checked further to determine the severity of the limb twist. 
  • Sight down the back of each limb separately to determine the severity of the limb twist. 
  • When the string is aligned with the sight window (or center of the bow, as appropriate), the string should line up with the center of the limb all the way from tip to handle. 
  • If the string does not line up with the center of a limb, then there is a twist in that limb.
  • If the alignment is only slightly off, the bow can be used.  If the alignment is way off, the limb twist is significant, and the bow fails.
  • NOTE- It is possible to have a twist in only one limb. 

Bow Draw Length

  • Make sure the bow is designed to be drawn at least 28 inches. 
  • The bow specifications may be marked on a limb of the bow.  If the draw length is marked and the string length is correct, the bow is ready for a poundage check. 
  • If the bow specifications are not marked, a visual check must be done. 
  • Use a marked draw length gauge.  The bow should be pulled slowly to approximately 26 inches to see if it looks like the bow is at full draw.
  • If the bow looks like it IS at full draw at 26 inches (or less), the bow fails inspection.  
  • If the bow looks like it is NOT at full draw, then it can be pulled slowly back to 28 inches.  If that seems to be the proper draw length for the bow, then the poundage can be checked. 
  • NOTE- Using a bow that is not designed/constructed to be drawn to at least 28 inches is not only against the rules, it can be dangerous. For example, a bow with a 26 inch draw length could fail catastrophically if overdrawn to 28 inches.

Bow Poundage and Limb Marking

  • The poundage (draw weight) of CA bows must be measured at 28 inches. 
  • It must be measured with a calibrated bow scale and a 28 inch draw length gauge.  (see required CA Marshals tools) 
  • Light bows measure 20-30 pounds; heavy bows measure 31-50 pounds. 
  • Heavy bows must be marked with a 4-inch wide band of red material (tape, cloth, etc.) that goes completely around the upper limb of the bow. 
  • NOTE- Due to the possible variance in bow scales, some discretion is required. The poundage can be a little under, but not a little over. If the poundage is very close to 20, 30, or 50, it should be measured again.

Inspection Stickers

  • Inspection stickers may be required at some events.
  • Stickers indicate that the bow has passed inspection at that event.  Stickers may be required to have information such as poundage and owner. 
  • Stickers should be placed on the inside of the top limb of the bow (so it is facing the archer).

Crossbow Inspections

Check to see that it meets the Equipment standards for combat archery use

About Crossbows and strings

  • The prod is sometimes referred to as the bow. 
  • When a crossbow is held in a shooting position, the left part of the prod is to the left of the stock, and the right part of the prod is to the right of the stock.
  • The tips of the prod are the nock ends. 
  • A continuous loop string has multiple strands.
  • The loop binding is a small cord (serving) that wraps around the strands of the sting to form the end loop. 
  • The serving is a small cord that wraps around the string in the center where the bolt touches the string. 
  • Although strings may also be made from parachute cord or braided utility cord, it is highly recommended that a more conventional or traditional string be used.
  • The string and its design must be considered safe by the inspecting CA Marshal. 
  • Crossbows should always be strung when presented for inspection.
  • NOTE- Crossbows come in many different styles.  If an unfamiliar style is presented for inspection, assistance from another qualified Marshal with more knowledge of the crossbow style (if possible) is recommended.  If that is not possible, the combat archer should be able to describe/explain its features.

Condition of the Crossbow string

  • End loops: Any loop binding must be securely wrapped and unbroken.  Strings without loop bindings must not have any broken strands.  If either end loop is in bad enough condition, then the crossbow fails inspection. 
  • Broken strands: If any strands of a crossbow string are broken, then the bow fails inspection. 
  • Frayed string or serving: If the string (at any location) or the serving (where the bolt goes against the string) is fuzzy or slightly frayed, the combat archer should be informed of the condition, but the crossbow does not automatically fail. If there is significant fraying of the string, or the string is exposed through the serving, or the serving hangs away from the string, then the crossbow fails inspection. 
  • Dry String: A very dry string is not a reason to fail the crossbow, but a dry string will deteriorate quicker than one that is kept waxed.  If the string is dry, the combat archer should be informed of the condition and that they should consider waxing the string. 
  • Knots: If the bowstring has any knots, then the bow fails.  The only exception is a knot that has been used to create an end loop.  The knot making the end loop must remain tight and not move.
    • Metal: If the crossbow string has any metal, then the crossbow fails inspection. 

Condition of the Crossbow

  • Stock: The stock must be structurally sound.  No cracks, loose hardware, etc. are permitted, especially in the lock mechanism area. 
  • Lock Mechanism: Regardless of the type of lock, it must operate smoothly.  The design should not allow it to fire accidentally. 
  • Condition of the Prod: The entire prod must be free of cracks and other damage.  If the prod is wrapped, all visible parts (especially the nock ends) must be inspected carefully.  If there is any visible damage to the prod, then the crossbow fails.
  • Metal Prods: Metal prods should be checked for parallel cracks that may indicate possible metal fatigue.
  • NOTE- Aluminum prods normally just bend when they fail.  Steel prods may fly apart when they fail. 
  • Fiberglass Prods: Fiberglass prods should be checked for discoloration and cracks. When fiberglass separates just under the surface, the thinner top layer becomes more translucent (lighter in color). These conditions are cause for concern.
  • Laminated Prods: Inspect the same way as laminated bows. 
  • Security of the Prod: The prod must be centered and securely attached to the stock.  The prod as a whole should not slide back and forth, and should not move or wiggle much in its bindings. If the prod can be moved excessively, then the crossbow fails.
  • Prod Twist: Though very rare, it may happen on fiberglass prods.  NOTE- The false appearance of a prod twist may occur if the prod is off-center. 
  • String length: The string length must be appropriate for the prod.  It should not be too loose or too tight when at rest.  It should not pull the prod beyond a safe limit when the crossbow is fully cocked.  If any of these conditions occur, then the crossbow fails inspection. 

Crossbow Poundage and Limb Marking

  • CA crossbows are measured by inch-pounds. 
  • It must be measured with a calibrated bow scale and a tape measure. 
  • The distance from the front of the string at rest to where it would be when cocked is measured in inches.  A calibrated bow scale is used to determine the poundage at the cocked position.  These numbers are multiplied to calculate the inch-pounds. 
  • Light crossbows are 400-600 in-lbs; heavy crossbows are 601-1000 in-lbs. 
  • Heavy crossbows must be marked with a 4-inch wide band of red material (tape, cloth, etc.) that goes completely around the right limb of the prod. 
  • NOTE- Due to the possible variance in bow scales, some discretion is required. The in-lbs can be a little under, but not a little over. If the result is very close to 400, 600, or 1000 in-lbs, the distance and poundage should be measured again, and the in-lbs recalculated. 

Inspection Stickers

  • Inspection stickers may be required at some events.
  • Stickers indicate that the bow has passed inspection at that event.  Stickers may be required to have information such as poundage and owner. 
  • Stickers should be placed on the right side of the stock (as the archer is holding the crossbow).