Equipment inspection guidelines

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The basic rule for inspecting equipment is: If you are not sure that it is safe, don't pass it.

Damage to bows

Have the archer string the bow before inspection.

Bows should be free of cracks and gouges.

  • Have the archer draw the bow and then slowly release the tension. Never dry fire a bow! Watch the back and sides of the bow for cracks that might show up under tension. Cracks are least serious in areas close to the handle of the bow and most dangerous in areas of high bending.
  • Bows that show major cracks or that have cracks that go across the limbs should be rejected as they can break.
  • Small cracks should be marked at the ends and watched. If they have grown after two or three test arrows, fail the bow. If they seem stable, pass the bow, but re-check it throughout the competition or practice.
  • Laminated bows sometimes have small cracks in the fiberglass running up and down the limbs. This condition is not serious, unless the crack goes through both the wood and fiberglass.

Bows shouldn't be excessively warped or twisted. Recurve bows can have this problem, especially when strung by bending the bow around a leg.

  • Look down the string to see if the bow limbs are parallel. If a limb is excessively twisted, then the bow is unsafe.
  • Have the archer draw the bow and then slowly release the tension twice and repeat the inspection. If the string is not in the grooves on the limbs, then the bow is warped.
  • If the warping is constant (and the string remains in the same position after each shot) the bow is usable. If the string keeps moving sideways with each shot, the bow should be failed.


Bowstrings shouldn't have many frayed or broken strands. If several strands of the string are broken or otherwise damaged, fail the bow.

The string should be the proper length for the bow. Pass a bow with an improper string unless it is so short that using it will overstress the bow.

The serving on the string should be secure and not unraveling.

If the string shows small hairs and looks fuzzy, it is dried out and needs some bow wax. Pass it, but tell the archer that the string will have a short life expectancy.

Arrows and bolts

The shaft should be free of cracks or deep gouges.

  • Bend the arrow a little while rotating it between your fingers. This will cause any invisible cracks to open up.

The tips, nocks and fletches must be securely fastened.

The nocks must not be cracked.

Thrown Weapons

An axe blade should be sharp enough to stick in the target, rather than bouncing off.

Check axes and spears for cracks and splinters in the handle. The head must be securely fastened.