Every archer you see shooting in the Olympic Games usually have a device on their bow called a plunger or cushion plunger. It is a small piece of gear/ device that kind of looks like a spark plug, which absolutely helps in improving your accuracy while aiming.
The plunger is mounted through a hole in the riser, just above the shelf. When an arrow is knocked on the string, the shaft will sit on the rest arm and press against the plunger tip.
This small item is vital to accuracy and bow tuning.
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1. Do You Really Need A Plunger/Pressure Button?
If you have a plastic arrow rest, you might notice that there is a little tab above the arrow shelf. This little tab is a built-in plunger.
Although this piece is not adjustable, it functions similarly to the plunger. If you have such an arrow rest, you do not necessarily need a button.
When you are just getting started, this might be sufficient, but most archers want to adjust the plunger when their groups improve.
Some archers might have clearance issues with the build-in plunger. Since the plunger is not adjustable, it might be too stiff or too flexible. This may mess up the flight of the arrow, which can cause major issues.
If you experience issues with clearance or the arrow flight, you should try using a dedicated plunger instead.
Nearly each competitive recurve bow archer will need a plunger after completing introductory lessons. The right plunger increases consistency and can last years, maybe even decades.
It helps make your bow more forgiving, but do not expect it to fix every problem of yours. You still must consistently execute good form while honing your technique.
2. What Does A Plunger Do
A plunger consists of a spring, and the plunger tip is in direct contact with the arrow shaft. Plungers have two main functions: They set the center shot(is a lateral position on the bow) and also absorbs the imperfections that might take place after the arrow takes flight.
While setting up a bow, the archer adjusts the plunger. It guides the arrow in line with the center of the bow. This setup requires using guides like a Beiter limb line gauge to find the centerline of the bow.
The technician then aligns the arrow by loosening the jam nut of the plunger and spinning it until the arrow shaft aligns with the center of the bow.
2.1 What A Plunger Can And Cannot Do
There is one combination of arrow spine, arrow length, draw weight, and draw length that will make a “good tune” depending on the consistency of the archer.
It is usually difficult to manage all these factors all at once and on your own, so this is where the plunger comes into the picture. It is used to compensate and lessen your worries.
For instance, if you need to cut the arrows slightly to make it stiffer, you can instead adjust the plunger position or spring tension to do so. Arrows that have a stiff spine require a weaker plunger to absorb the shaft flexing, but if the plunger is too weak, the plunger will be collapsed by the clicker, and the arrow could hit the riser upon the shot.
Arrows that have a soft spine require a stiffer plunger setting to counteract any excess flexing by the arrow. After setting the center shot, you must adjust the plunger tension by systematically adjusting the spring until you shoot groups at your desired distance.
Your shooting mechanics might be slightly inconsistent, but your arrows will still group tightly. That is important for competitive archers who make small errors while dealing with stress and nerves.
A properly adjusted plunger helps guide the arrow back to the middle, but it can not correct a horrible shot. Plunger tension can also help solve small tuning issues in arrows that are slightly stiff or weak.
Reducing plunger tension for stiff arrows, and vice versa, can help put your shots into the 10-ring consistently, but it can not fix badly tuned or improperly matched arrows.
3. Plunger Features
3.1 Absorbing Imperfections And Inconsistencies
The plunger absorbs imperfections and inconsistencies in the lateral flex of the arrow, which keeps the arrow on a straight path as it leaves the bow.
The spring tension of a plunger can be adjusted to make it stiffer or weaker based on the requirement of the archer.
Some plungers come with multiple springs for a wider adjustment range that helps archers fine-tune their arrow flight. After the bow is set up and has been tuned, you can experiment with the plunger tension.
Small adjustments in plunger tension can shrink groups and increase your score.
3.2 Countering Archer’s Paradox To Some Extent
When a recurve bow archer releases an arrow with their fingers (as opposed to a release aid), the arrow flexes horizontally because the bowstring goes around the fingers.
It is physically impossible to open your fingers fast enough to let the bowstring travel in a straight line.
This horizontal flex, called the “archer’s paradox”, turns the arrow into a self-contained vibrating system once it leaves the bowstring.
In such situations, the plunger ensures that the arrow leaves the bow in a straight line despite all of its bendings. As a result, it flies straight and more accurately.
Without a plunger, you are not able to set how much your arrow points towards the left or the right. You can use your limbs left or right to fix your positions, but this can be really bad for the bow (the average force of the string should be going through the center of the riser upon release).
3.3 Making A Bow More Forgiving
The plunger also allows fine adjustments to the spring pressure. When the arrow leaves the bow, it is pressed against the plunger button (spring).
How much force the arrow imparts on the spring, and spring on the arrow, depends on a combination of the release, lateral offset (left/right), draw weight, arrow weight, arrow length, draw length, etc.
By adjusting the spring tension and absorbing more or less lateral movement, the archer can tune the bow so that it flies straight. When arrows are released with fingers, they flex laterally and leave the bow.
The flexing is what enables the archer to clear the bow and stay centered as they come off the bowstring. Now think of the plunger as a shock absorber for your car. The shocks soften bumps as you drive over them and keep the car from bouncing off its line.
Usually, most expensive plungers use a tension rod instead of a tension screw. In the previous section, we already discussed what the mechanical difference is, but there is also an important benefit to both systems.
4. Parts Of A Plunger
4.1 Plunger Barrel
The plunger barrel is the biggest part of the plunger that holds the plunger head in place and retains the plunger spring. The outside of the barrel is threaded, allowing you to attach it to the riser.
If you have two threaded holes, you use the one that is closest to you when you are shooting. The second hole in the riser is for a screw-on arrow rest.
All manufacturers use the same threading for plungers; therefore, you do not have to worry about compatibility. Even very old plungers will work fine on any riser you buy.
4.2 Plunger Head
The head of the plunger is the very tip of the plunger that sticks through the riser when you attach it to your bow. Only this part contacts with the arrow when installed properly.
To prevent scratching, the plunger head is made out of soft materials, like plastics, to prevent the plunger heads from getting damaged. At times, some manufactures include replacements.
4.3 Plunger Spring
The plunger spring is not visible until you reassemble. It is being inside the plunger barrel and provides resistance to the plunger head. If you push the plunger head, you can feel the resistance of it.
A replacement spring is usually included as springs can get damaged after long use. Springs of different flexibility are widely available to make your performance more consistent.
4.4 Tension Screw/Rod
This device is placed in the plunger barrel and cap. The whole purpose of the screw is to apply and regulate the pressure on the other side of the spring.
Therefore, it allows you to configure the amount of pretension in the spring. When the tension screw is completely screwed inward, the spring will be under a lot of pretensions.
This, in turn, makes it harder to push the plunger tip inwards, which is important when you shoot a high draw weight.
4.5 Plunger Cap
The major task of the plunger cap is to retain the entire body of the plunger head, spring, and tension screw/rod within the plunger barrel. It consists of small grooves at the end of the plunger barrel, where it interacts with your device.
Plungers with a tension screw have two locking hex screws on the side. The hex screw closest to the tip of the cap is to lock the tensioning screw. The other hex screw is to lock the plunger head to the plunger barrel.
If these plungers do not have these screws, the cap and tension screw will loosen due to vibration of the bow. Plungers with a tensioning rod do not have these hex screws.
Since the rod is not adjustable, you do not need to lock it down. It provides resistance when you turn your plunger head.
The last part of the plunger is the locknut. This is the ring that is screwed halfway on the barrel of the plunger.
After you screw on the plunger and tighten the plunger until it gets caught by the locknut, it keeps the plunger in place and determines how much of the plunger head is sticking out.
All modern plungers have at least one hex screw in the side of the locknut. This locks the locknut in place, making sure that you do not lose the tuning of the plunger.
5. What To Look For While Buying A Plunger
Expensive plungers are more consistent and offer easy and repeatable adjustments. Less expensive plungers also work well, and it is always better to use this one than not using any.
An expert from an archery shop can help you choose the best plunger for your budget and archery goals. The plunger is one of the smallest yet most important pieces of equipment on recurve bows.
While buying the plunger, you need to be careful about what you are buying, whether it is a cheap or an expensive plunger.
5.1 Materials Difference
The biggest difference between cheap and expensive plungers are the materials and build quality. Expensive plungers are often made out of hard metals and are very durable.
Cheaper plungers, on the other hand, are often made out of cheaper alloys. Therefore the plunger is less durable and usually a bit lighter.
A plunger does not have to be very strong as not much stress is put on it. However, it needs to be reliable.
5.2 The Tightening Tool
Another common problem among archers is when the plunger comes loose from the riser. Since the plunger is screwed into the plunger bushing, it can come loose due to vibration.
Therefore, manufacturers usually include a special wrench that can be used to tighten the plunger to the riser. This will prevent the plunger from coming loose.
6. How To Setup
Firstly remove the stiff plunger and install the plunger with a spring to a medium tension setting. Adjust the plunger until the right edge of the tip of the arrow shaft is in line with the left side of the bowstring.
Do not use the right edge of the arrow point but rather the right edge at the end of the arrow shaft.
Our archery science has come a long way since we first started using the bow and arrow.
Materials used in the creation of bows, design, and accessories make our archery equipment of today vastly superior to what was used in the past.
The plunger is one such small, yet important equipment that makes an archer more proficient, consistent, and accurate.
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- OLYMPIC ARCHERY EXPLAINED: THE PLUNGER
- How to choose the right plunger/button – recurve archery
- How Does A Plunger Work On A Recurve Bow?
- What is a plunger button
Hi, I’m Vineet. Creator of DivinioWorld. I am an outdoor enthusiast and absolutely love researching, learning, and applying skills and knowledge in the real world. I started DivinioWorld to share everything I know so that even a beginner can follow the ropes and master the subtle art of outdoors adventure and survival.