A quick look at hunting demographics shows most of us are old enough to remember those campy Ronco TV ads. They hawked all sorts of gadgets designed to make our lives simpler, like Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman and the Chop-O-Matic, later lampooned by Saturday Night Live’s Dan Akroyd as the Bass-O-Matic. Then there was the Ronco Rotisserie and its famous tagline: “Just set it and forget it.”
Those infectious slogans are often re-purposed for all manner of applications, sometimes to our detriment. For instance, excellent many folks possibly think the rotisserie pitch also applies to crossbows; set them up and they’re indefinitely ready to shoot. After all, simplicity is part of their appeal. And while crossbows don’t require the same level of crossbow tuning maintenance and tweaking as compound bows, there are some basic steps you need to take to keep your crossbow performing its best.
Crossbow Tuning: Strings and Cables
Cables and strings are the weakest part of your crossbow, so we will start there. You need to inspect them on a regular basis. Because of the string- to-rail contact, crossbow strings experience far more friction and abrasion than strings on vertical bows. Barb Terry, principal of customer relations, training and education for Ten Point Crossbow Technologies, recommends you look carefully at the center serving. “If the string was improperly installed (without the required amount of twists) the serving may separate and the actual bowstring may be exposed, which could cause the string to break when the crossbow is fired,” Terry said. Even the frequent shock of normal use can cause serving to loosen and unravel over time.
You can reduce the probability of problems and lengthen the life of your strings and cables with little simple regular repairs. Bobby Vargas, product line manager for PSE Archery says, “Cables and strings should be kept fresh and good maintained after each practice hunting trip or session. The center servings and rails should be well lubed for best long-term performance.”
Barb Terry recommends grease the rail every 75-100 shots with light oil, or every 150-200 shots when with high-performance oil. Simply add a small drop to each side and rub it in. Don’t over-lubricate, as too much oil can saturate the serving and shorten its life. Also keep away from petroleum jelly or wax on the serving, as both will gather dirt and debris.
“But wait,” you say, “my bow came with a tube of string wax.” It did indeed; and that’s exactly what it’s for: your string. Apply it along the end to end of the string (except the serving) and polish it in with your fingers by rubbing fast to make heat. You should do this as often as you would with light oil on your serving, every 70-100 shots.
Even with the most meticulous repairs, your cables and string will eventually wear out and need to be a swap. When that will occur depends largely on the amount of use, but Terry suggests replacing the string, cables, and drawcords every other year with high use and every three to four years with occasional use. When you do, swap both your cables and string, as even steel cables will stretch over time.
Keep It Tight
You should also inspect and tighten all fasteners on a regular basis. While most of the energy is transferred to your bolt at the shot, a fair amount is also absorbed by your rig, which can loosen screws and/or nuts. Check all the stirrup set screws, main assembly bolts and set screws, stock screws, barrel (rail) screws and scope mounts.
Speaking of scopes, in addition to ensuring fasteners are secure, you’ll also want to check that sights are still zeroed on a regular basis — before every hunt. And you should keep the glass clean and clear with a lens pen or cloth. If you have an illuminated scope, replace the battery on a regular basis, at least annually. You might even want to carry a spare in your pack.
One of the most often overlooked components is the trigger assembly. Vargas advises a periodic inspection to make sure it’s clean, free of debris and in good working condition. Clean all moving parts with pressurized air or a dry brush then lubricate according to manufacturer’s specifications.
Recommendations may vary on the amount and type of lube. Synthetic, non-petroleum based lubes are naturally a better option as they’re less likely to gum up and collect debris or stiffen in extreme cold.
While doing your routine inspections, you should also check the limbs, stock and other synthetic parts for cracks or other signs of fatigue. You can also do a cursory check of your bow’s mechanics.
For anything beyond basic crossbow tuning and maintenance such as lubrication, cleaning, and tightening, considers seeking professional help from your local pro shop. They’re better equipped and experienced in everything from quick fixes to complete overhauls.
Video: Beginner Archery | Crossbow Tuning & Maintenance
Hunting Guide has another article about Bow Hunting Tips for beginners.