Image of a woman in a yellow jacket holding an umbrella with her hand feeling the rain.

Rain's Effect on Archery - How to Prepare

By: Mark Jeffreys

A couple of days ago when I was writing another article for this site, we had a storm pass through, and it got me to thinking about doing archery in the rain. I knew it was possible to do archery in the rain, but I wanted to dig deeper and see if rain is something that affects the sport in a significant way. I started out seeking to answer three questions: how will the rain affect your performance, how will the rain impact your equipment, and what equipment would be useful when you shoot in the rain.

You can do archery in the rain, although the rain can affect your performance, and there are some things you should do to keep yourself and your equipment dry and serviceable. Rain can change the way that you shoot, how your bow performs, and even how you approach your shot. The elements that you need to routinely contend with when its raining all have to be taken into consideration when you’re doing archery, too. With everything that you need to think of when going through your archery form, rain complicates the process forcing you to focus more to shoot with consistency. Just like when you’re shooting archery under any other condition, you need practice and repetition to get comfortable shooting in the rain. You don’t want your first time to be at a competition, but if it is I hope my suggestions will help you prepare for your experience in the rain.

Performance Impact

Things behave differently when they’re wet. Water saturates many different types of materials, and what it can’t soak into it will cover with drops of water. When you’re used to your arrows flying a certain way, any changes to your process or environment can affect the way your arrows fly and - consequentially - where they hit on the target. When things get wet, they get heavier, and a heavier arrow will take more energy to release with the same speed as when it is shot dry. Shooting quickly - strictly meaning going through your archery form more quickly - will give less time for your arrows to become wet and affect how much heavier they become. How much this affects the flight of your arrow may not be significant, but you may need to adjust your aim point to hit a bit higher than usual.

The rain can also affect your ability to see your target, especially if it’s pouring down. An obscured view will have a more significant impact at longer distances, but even at short distances, it can affect your ability to get a clear sight picture. You can also get water droplets on your sight ring, which will compound any vision problems the rain is giving you. I’ve seen times when a water droplet gets perfectly stuck in the sight ring and created a mirrored image, which can force you to reset your archery form to deal with it. You can try using my previous advice to shoot quickly, so there’s less time for the water to build up, and try to keep your sight dry.

Effects on Equipment

Most recurve and compound bows are made of either aluminum or plastic and rain won’t affect the performance of the materials. Longbows or wooden recurve bows are typically oiled or waxed to help increase their durability. Using this type of treatment will also make the bows waterproof, which means the rain has little impact on the performance of the bow itself. Strings are usually coated in wax, which helps prevent it from absorbing water. If your string isn’t waxed, this is something you can do yourself to stop it from becoming soaked.

One thing to consider is that the bow materials may become slippery, which can affect your handling of the bow. Using archery gloves can help with your grip on the bow. Additionally, it is considered a best practice to pluck your string 2-3 times before firing in the rain to remove water droplets. You pluck the bow by pulling the cord back about 4-5 inches before releasing, and this is not considered the same thing as dry-firing your bow.

You should do what you can to minimize the effects of the rain on your equipment. A bow stand is helpful, allowing you to put the bow down between rounds, and preventing it from slipping and falling in a mud puddle. You can also use plastic bags to help keep your equipment dry when it’s not in use. After shooting, you need to make sure that you dry off your gear before you store it. If you don’t dry your equipment before storing it, you run the risk of it growing mold or developing rust. Either way, that’s a good way to ruin your equipment needlessly. There are some things you can get that can help you have a better shooting experience in the rain, and some of them you may already have lying around your house.

Recommended Equipment

When you’re shooting in the rain, you should expect to get wet. I know it’s common sense, but I wanted to make sure that you know you will get wet, and it's ok. That being said, there are some things you can use to help make it easier to deal with the situation.

Trying to keep yourself dry is common sense, but when you’re choosing a rain jacket, be sure to select one that won’t get in the way of your string clearance. One suggestion is to look at golf gear as most of these are relatively form-fitting that still allow for plenty of movement. If you already have a rain jacket but have a problem with it getting in the way of your string, try using tape, velcro or rubber bands to tighten the material and keep it away from the line.

Boots are also a good idea, not only because they are often weatherproof, but because they give you added traction, too. It wouldn’t make for a good day if you slipped on your way to the line to shoot and got yourself or your bow wet or muddy. It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes for when you’re done shooting, or at the very least a change of socks. If you’re out in the rain, you’ll inevitably end up with wet socks, and that’s just a miserable way to finish your day.

It’s also a good idea to use an umbrella or shoot with a hat in the rain to keep the rain from hitting your face. Protecting your head from the precipitation is especially useful for those of you out there that wear glasses. When choosing a hat, pick one that has a wide enough brim to keep your face dry, but not so large that it interferes with your bowstring.

You should keep some items with you to keep your equipment dry and to dry your gear off after it’s gotten wet. Plastic bags are invaluable when you’re shooting in the rain. Garbage bags are large enough to hold your bow, or they can be used to cover your bow when it’s on a bow stand. You can use smaller plastic bags to keep things like your arrows or scorecards, use them to cover up the sight of your bow, or any other equipment that you happen to have with you.

Towels are useful for drying off your gear before putting it into a plastic bag between rounds, or before putting it in your bow bag when you're ready to pack up for the day. It’s also good to keep paper towels with you, which are useful for getting into smaller areas or nooks, so you don’t have unwanted moisture. Canned air is also effective at getting water out of tight spaces.

If you’re an archer that shoots with a finger tab, make sure you pack an extra one in case you drop yours, or it merely gets saturated with water. You don’t want to have to worry about compromising your grip on the string by using a wet tab.

Summary

Nothing is stopping you from being able to shoot in the rain, but you need to be mindful of what’s going on with you and your equipment. Keeping yourself dry can make your shooting experience more enjoyable, and it can help you focus on your archery form. You can expect the rain to affect your shot by making your gear slippery, adding weight to your arrows, and impacting your vision. Bring a change of clothes for when you’re done at the range, make sure your rain jacket doesn’t interfere with your draw and wear a hat to keep the rain out of your face.

Here’s a checklist you can use to make sure you’re prepared to shoot in the rain * Rain jacket * Umbrella * Tape, velcro, or rubber bands * Boots * Change of clothes (especially socks) * Plastic bags * Towels or paper towels * Canned air * Extra finger tab

What equipment do you use when you’re shooting in the rain? Is there anything I missed, or is there anything that you wouldn’t use for your rainy day archery session? Please comment below. I’d love to hear how other archers shoot in the rain.

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Thank you!


Mark Jeffreys

Mark has been interested in archery since he was 8 years old and tried to make a bow using a stick and a rubber band. Mark enjoys the challenge that archery provides and is constantly seeking to improve. His mission is to pass on what he’s learned to help other archers.