Marginal Gains

When it comes to equipment, as athletes become better performers, their gear makes a difference. British Cycling has a team, the Secret Squirrel Club, that’s composed of engineers and designers. Their job is to make equipment best suited to provide marginal gains for elite cyclists.  Small gains at an elite level can make a difference when thousandths of a second can mean the gap between a first place and second.

Archery is no different. As we improve our groups become tighter. The accuracy of shots becomes more repeatable.  It is this way with all top archers.  Equipment in archery is generally quite good.  Searching for marginal gains through technologically superior equipment can provide the archer with marginal gains that can make the difference between a first place and second place.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve now lost a tournament by one point, a one point shoot off, the X count,  or the inner X count (I do recall that one).  Each of those close matches I know, whether or not the archer was simply one point better, that my opponent on that day used equipment at least more expense that mine.  At times, most times, the archer shooting to victory held gear that has a retail sticker price of more than double of mine.

I asked a coach/sales person, “How can I buy more points with improved gear?”  First off the bat were the arrows I was shooting for outdoor contests.

He suggested I switch to a more expensive arrow.  The price of the arrows I shoot is $150.15 vanes and nocks included from Amazon.  The tips are another $21.00 at Amazon.  Total price is $171.15.

The arrows the coach/sales person suggested aren’t available at Amazon; they are from Lancaster Archery Supply.  The shafts alone for those arrows are $239.99. Built and ready to shoot the price came to $407.99.  The coach/sales person said he’d gone to those arrows and his score had improved by 10 points.  Ten points is a lot.

Next he suggested a different arrow rest, the price for that suggestion is $248.00.  The arrow rest on my bow is $127.00 on Amazon.  His suggestion is not available on Amazon. He claimed his recommended arrow rest is the best on the market. He should know he is an ex-pro.

Sure, there are all sorts of “Pro” archers. He was a major professional and former “Cover Archer” among the marketing literature for one of the companies he represented.  His opinion is the expensive rest would add 5 more points to my scores.  I do believe he knows what his talking about.

At that point I was looking at an investment of $655.99 for an additional 15 points (potential). That’s a lot of cash. Then, there’s the bow.

Last year, I purchased a bona fide target bow. It shot great for a while.  Then it began doing something that spread the groups. What I noticed was the cable guard was becoming pitted.  The action of the slide on the cable guard appeared to be sticking and gouging small pits and creating ripples on the cable guard itself.

After nearly a year of complaining, calls, and bow tuning I finally got support from the manufacturer.  The bow was returned.  The bow remains AWOL but I do have a receipt.  You can’t shoot a receipt.  Even so, that bow remains among the least expensive target bows on the market.

There’s a point in all sport where excellent equipment can provide an advantage.  One thing I did change which was a huge success was my release. Aside from that my equipment is generally fine for a good time shooting.

Marginal gains are real. These gains can be found through better gear.  Considering the marginal gains projected around the $655.99 of upgraded gear, which I have not purchased, there might be as great as a 15-point gain.  I may never know. What I can say for certain is that the best bow is the bow that is in your hand.

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