One of the most asked questions we get in the custom bow string industry is “How often should I be replacing my bow string?” I get asked this question not only by customers but also by friends and family. I can be at my kid’s baseball game and as soon as someone hears what I do, they always seem to ask when to change their bow string.
In this article, I hope to share some information that we’ve gathered from years in the business and our experience working with customers and their crossbows. Like many things in archery, there’s no magic number where a certain number of shots or a determined amount of time will tell you when to change your bow string.
Crossbow String Replacement General Rule of Thumb
The general rule of thumb is to replace your bow string every 2 years to keep your crossbow performing at its peak. As long as the crossbow is maintained and used correctly, there is hardly ever an issue inside that timeframe.
After 2 years, the safety of the operator and performance loss can only be estimated by a hands-on inspection from a knowledgeable tech. While the every 2 years rule is the standard for knowing when to change your bow string and will work fine in most cases, there are some exceptions. I want to dive into some particulars that might help explain specific situations or brands/models that may not necessarily fall into that window.
Narrow, High-Performance Crossbows
Let’s start with today’s narrow, high-performance crossbows. This style was first made popular by Ravin. Other brands like TenPoint, CenterPoint, and Killer Instinct have followed suit with short axle to axle models. While this design gives a crazy performance, the downside is that they require extra maintenance. We compare these to a race car for that reason. The race car is so much faster than a minivan, but at the end of the day, extra care is required to keep it running. And that influences when to change the crossbow string.
Reasons For These Crossbow Failures
The short axle to axle on these crossbows is very tough on servings. The extreme angle causes string pinch and will result in quicker wear in the center serving area. To gain performance, this style uses thinner strings that are very similar in strand count to vertical compound bows.
Let’s think about this for a second. If the same string is used on a 70lb compound bow and a 200+ lb. crossbow, which one is going to wear quicker? As much as it pains me to say this, I feel like if you get 50 shots out of one of these bows, you have done well. I personally own a Ravin R9 and get around 30 shots before the factory bow string needs replacing. We have been able to increase this number with our Double Served Custom Ravin Crossbow String, but at the end of the day, it just delays the inevitable.
If you like to shoot your crossbow a lot, this can be an issue. But if you’re the average hunter that just fires a few bolts down range before the season, fills your tag, and then repeats next year, the every 2-year rule shouldn’t be a problem when changing your bow string.
On the other hand, if you shoot 25 arrows each week, the month before the season, there is a chance that the crossbow string will need attention. While it is great for people in the replacement crossbow string business, it is not ideal for owners that usually don’t know when to change their crossbow string going into their purchase.
Another style that we see A LOT of crossbow string failures on are the cheaper, low-end crossbows. These are the ones you will commonly see at big box stores for $300 and under. They are produced extremely cheaply to meet a specific price point with the goal of selling a large quantity of them. Many times, the buyer of these may not have much knowledge of crossbows, the proper use, or when to change the bow string, and it can lead to a blown crossbow string.
Reasons For These Crossbow Failures
The biggest issue we see with these, by far, is partial dry fires. This is where the bolt will jump the string because the energy is transferred into the string instead of the bolt, and it results in a blown end loop on the string.
Many of the cheaper bows will use a cheaper retention spring or substitute that doesn’t help this issue any. The most common cause of this is the bolt not being tight to the strings. The smallest of gaps will allow the string to jump the bolt. Other causes are incorrect bolts/nocks, broken/damaged nocks, and even an incorrectly indexed bolt. The crossbow owner rarely realizes what happened and always wants to blame it on a faulty string when, in reality, the string is just the weak point that gives way to protect the rest of the crossbow.
Check out this article for more information on Broken Crossbow String: Everything You Need to Know.
Replace Your Crossbow Cables at the Same Time You’re Replacing Your Bow String
Many people don’t even realize that their crossbow has cables. All too often we hear things like, “My crossbow doesn’t have cables; the string is all one piece.” There is rarely a time that the string gets replaced that the cables should not be replaced too. If the string has enough shots on it to need replacing, the crossbow cables should go with it. Likewise, if the string broke as a result of a dry fire or partial dry fire, the cables were under a large amount of force and should be replaced when changing your bow string.
I hope this article helps to educate you on how often and when to change a crossbow string. This is all firsthand information from being in this business for over 25 years and selling over 40,000 crossbow strings each year. The more the customer knows and understands the how and why of crossbows, the better off everyone is.
If you finished reading this and are in the market for a replacement crossbow string, we would be happy to assist you with any more questions about specific product recommendations, in addition to when to change your bow string.