A stabilizer serves two main functions. The first is to hold the bow steady and more stable, hence its name. From this comes a secondary advantage with using a stabilizer and this is that it reduces hand shock and vibration. I’ll explain why this is important in just a moment.
Firstly we should examine what a stabilizer is made of so we can understand how it works. In the past they were metal tubes. Metal is a rather heavy material and although you want to add some weight, because this is what keeps the bow stable, you don’t want to make it too heavy. So these days the body of the stabilizer is made from carbon or AMS plastics. Carbon is ideal because it is a durable, lightweight material that is also rigid enough to perform properly.
A dampening device allows the stabilizer to perform its second function, that of reducing the vibration through the bow from the force of releasing the bowstring. The dampening device will most likely be made of rubber although other vibration absorbent materials may be used. By positioning the dampening material away from the end of the bow their effectiveness will be maximised.
The final device you will find on a stabilizer is a weight which will sit right on the end after the rubber material. The purpose of the weight is to counterbalance the bow and it is this that keeps the bow stable when it is being shot. With the weight sitting at the front of the bow consistency in aiming the bow is made easier.
When deciding on which stabilizer to use you will find that they come in a variety of lengths. The length of the stabilizer you need will depend considerably on the type of archery you plan on doing. In general, the longer the stabilizer you use the more steady your bow will be and consequently, the more accurate you are likely to be. Target archers use long stabilizers. Bowhunters, on the other hand, use shorter stabilizers because of the conditions under which they will be carrying and firing their bow.
The shorter frames of hunting bows mean that an overly long stabilizer is not required. Considering some of the terrain you may be covering, long pieces protruding from the bow would be more likely to snag and hinder progress as well as make more noise. Similarly, any extra weight on the bow would be accentuated the longer the bow has to be carried to the point where it would become extremely tiring.
Finally, we return to the importance of reducing vibration. Any vibration experienced by the bow is going to be expressed as noise and when you are bowhunting noise is one of your worst enemies. Vibration will also cause movement in other components on your bow which will inevitably affect accuracy.