Question: My bow is four years old, and the factory bowstrings are still going strong. However, I’ve been told that with modern bows, it’s wise to change out the strings every year or two. The strings look like they’re in pretty good condition to me, and I wax them frequently. Should I replace them? If so, is it worth the extra cost to buy custom strings? K. Wood, via e-mail
Answer: There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to replacing bowstrings. It largely depends on how much you shoot, how the bow is designed, and how heavy of an arrow you use. Your string’s appearance is certainly an important indicator, too. If the strings look ultra fuzzy, frayed, or dry and brittle, then it’s probably time to swap them out for a new set.
Some bow manufacturers suggest changing out strings every two to three years, but again, it all depends on your shooting routine. Where you shoot also makes a big difference. For example, if you shoot in humid or dusty conditions, then the strings will probably incur more wear and tear compared to shooting in a place that’s drier and more dirt-free.
The key to improving bowstring life is routine waxing. Those who shoot quite frequently should wax strings anytime they appear overly fuzzy and dry. You don’t want to over-wax a string; just enough to keep the fibers well lubricated and protected from dirt and moisture.
Waxing is easy. Simply rub a liberal amount of wax back and forth across the string using your fingers until it softens to a liquid-like form. This will allow the wax to seep in beyond the outer surface, permeating every strand in the bundle. Use a soft piece of leather, an old finger tab, or a chamois cloth to increase this warming effect. Also, if you subject your bow to a lot of ATV dust, clean the string with a soft rag prior to waxing. If grime is left on the string, it will work into the material and rub the string fibers like sandpaper.
Not every bowstring material is made the same. There are different types on the market, and each has its pros and cons. Fibers that use 100% HMWP-based material (i.e. Dyneema) tend to “give” or creep a little (allowing for permanent stretch) after repeated shooting, whereas “blended” fibers that use both HMWP plus Vectran material are more stable yet may not be as long-lasting or abrasion-resistant, or generate as much arrow speed.
Choose the best type of bowstring material for your shooting needs. For example, if you shoot intensely (multiple times a week, year-round), and you know a lot about tuning a bow, then a string made of ultra-strong but fairly creep-resistant HMWP material (such as BCY’s Mercury or 8125, or Brownell’s Rampage or Rhino) may prove ideal for you. However, if you shoot less frequently and you know little about bow-tuning or correcting minor string creep, then a blended material (such as BCY’s 452X or X99, or Brownell’s Vantage) may suit you better. Blended fibers are also preferred by serious bowhunters who want absolute bowstring stability in variable shooting climates, so they can “set it and forget it” and hunt with total confidence.
There’s no doubt, today’s factory bowstrings are becoming increasingly more advanced. They are often assembled using pre-stretched fibers and tight, durable servings. This creates a topnotch bowstring that will serve most archers well.
However, custom strings are much better. Each custom-string manufacturer has its own proprietary method for stretching fibers and applying end and center servings to improve serving dependability beyond what factory strings can deliver. For example, Vapor Trail uses a special system that keeps fibers under tension during the entire serving process. This company also uses a continuous end loop technique, where the tag end of the serving is wrapped around the end loop 40 times, to achieve unprecedented reliability. The result is an incredibly strong and stable bowstring that won’t creep or cause peep-rotation issues, despite intense shooting.
Also, with custom strings, you order it just the way you want. This means you can select the most vibrant colors and the right center-serving diameter for your specific arrow nocks. This is a critical element for improving accuracy, especially with broadheads. Yes, custom strings cost two to three times as much as ordinary factory strings, but most serious bowhunters will agree that the reliability and consistency are well worth it in the end. I hope this helps.