A bowstring is one of the main components of the bow, next to the riser, limbs, and cams. A lot depends on the string, and therefore the material which the string is made of needs to be durable and resistant to withstand multiple draws and all weather conditions.
There are several materials that bowstrings are made of, and depending on what you are looking for from your bow, you can pick between custom and stock bowstrings.
Although it is rather confusing to know which one is best for you with all the available options, we have compiled a list of the best string materials for bowhunters.
Types of String Materials For Bows
In general, there are a few materials suitable for bows.
- Dacron – It’s a polyester material used on equipment for beginners or older bows. This material is durable, low-maintenance, and usually lasts a long time with a strength of 50 lbs per strand. It has a rather high stretch of 2.6%, which causes less shock to the limbs.
- Liquid crystal polymers – Those materials have a smaller diameter than Dacron and higher density. It makes them a little bit stronger, with 70 lbs per strand, but also lowers the stretch to 0.8%. In the end, it results in a faster arrow speed – 6.6 ft/s faster than Dacron strings.
The downfall of polymer strings is increased shock to the limbs, and they tend to fail after only 1000 shots. The most common polymers used for bowstrings are Kevlar and Vectran.
- Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylenes – The material is one of the strongest on the market, with strength per strand reaching 100 lbs. It can stretch slightly better than polymers – about 1%.
The material is often used in other industries, i.e., fishing lines, climbing equipment, and automotive winches. The brands using this material are Spectra and Dyneema.
- Traditional materials – A very unusual bowstrings for the compound bow are linen, hemp, sinew, silk, and rawhide. They are mostly used in traditional wooden bows, but in case of an emergency, they work in any type of bow.
Most modern bowstrings are made from a mixture of materials to gain the biggest advantage.
Characteristics of String Materials
While considering bowstring material, you need to consider the stretch of the string. Stretching of the bowstring material is perfectly normal and acceptable.
In fact, the material should have a little stretch. It prevents the string from creeping – getting longer over time from drawing.
While a little stretch is fine and makes for softer shooting, too much stretch will make the bowstring feel “buttery” in your hands.
The best bowstring material offers perfect stability. This means that when you set your string, adjust the twists, and add the peep sight and the D-loop, they remain unchanged after some time.
The peep sight and D-loop shouldn’t rotate, the string doesn’t get any longer, and you still have the same amount of twists as when you first set up your string. In short, a stable bowstring material is resistant to stretch.
Fewer strands in the bowstring usually mean faster arrow speed but might not be the most comfortable option due to vibrations. The strand count also depends on the bow weight – the more strands, the more weight you can draw.
Each string material provides different poundage per strand, and it is imperative to pick the right material to avoid snapped strings and consecutively an injury
If you prefer your strings to be thinner, with fewer strands, an option to consider would be adding string silencers and dampeners to your string.
Best Materials for Bowstrings
Out of the multiple choices on the market, some strings are more suitable for hunting than others.
The best strings for hunting need to produce fast arrows, be weather resistant, and, most importantly, be durable enough to withstand multiple draws without failing.
The biggest difference between bowstrings is the Dyneema/Vectran blend vs. pure Dyneema. In general, pure Dyneema tends to be faster than the Vectran blend, and they are also more stretchy and prone to creep over time.
However, due to the very low stretch of Vectran material, blend bowstrings are stiffer, offering higher power and, therefore, faster arrow speed. They also tend to settle in quicker than pure Dyneema material.
Although Dacron B50 is the preferred choice for recurve bows, it is also suitable for compounds. As one of the cheapest options on the market, Dacron is recommended for practice purposes, i.e., making your own bowstring.
Dacron B50 is often used in older models of compound bows, where the cables are steel.
An alternative for Dacron material would be BCY55, which offers a slightly improved durability and lower stretch.
An affordable Dyneema and Vectran blend (67% SK75 Dyneema and 33% Vectran). 452X is the most popular bowstring material for target shooters but is also widely recognized in the hunting world due to its exceptional stability.
BCY 452X earned its reputation as zero creep and a completely stable bowstring material thanks to a higher Vectran percentage.
The blend seems perfect: Vectran decreases the stretch, while Dyneema increases speed, reduces fuzz, and gives the shot a soft feel. However, this blend is not as durable as other materials.
The preferred count of strands with BCY 452X is 24.
This is one of the oldest pure Dyneema strings on the market (100% SK75 Dyneema) and, for many years, one of the strongest Dyneema grades available.
Strings made from this material produce very fast arrow speed and are very soft, but they need a longer period to settle in.
Even though it was proceeded by better Dyneema grades, BCY 8125 is still used by many bowstring brands as a standard string material. A recommended string count for compound bows is 18-20.
An alternative to BCY 8125 is BCY D97, which is made out of the same material but has a larger diameter.
Similar to BCY 8125, this material is also made from 100% Dyneema, but in this case, it is SK90 grade. It offers about 10-15% more strength in comparison with BCY 8125, retaining the same stretch and creep characteristics.
Pure Dyneema strings are stronger than the Dyneema/Vectran blend, but they also suffer from bigger creep under constant high load. The BCY 8190 is considered one of the best options for hunters.
The standard strand number is 28.
Compared with BCY 452X using Dyneema grade SK75, the BCY X99 is a slightly stronger blend, with 80% SK99 Dyneema, 20% Vectran, and offers better stability of the string.
Alongside the stability, this BCY X99 also offers better arrow speed, lower fuzz, and a softer feel. It is another good choice for hunters that prefer a blend over pure material for the bowstring.
Recommended strand count for a compound bow is 26-28.
Made with 100% SK99 Dyneema, the number 1 quality Dyneema fiber, the BCY Mercury offers stability much closer to that of a Vectran blend.
Mercury is a good choice if you want maximum speed and a softer feel. It has a relatively small diameter offering a smooth and round string, retaining high durability and strength.
This Dyneema grade is one of the youngest on the market but, at the moment, one of the most popular choices for competition shooters. At the same time, it offers a great performance for hunters using a compound bow offering 20% more strength than the SK75 grade.
The strand count recommended for a compound bow is 32-34.
Constructed from 83% Dyneema and 17% Vectran, the BCY X material has a combined performance of BCY 8190 and 452X.
Although it is preferred by hunters shooting with a recurve bow, the compound bow also benefits from the quiet shot with low vibration.
The material offers a lot of stability and consistency thanks to the balanced mix of high-performance materials.
Recommended strand count for a compound bow is 24.
Picking string material for your compound bow can be a daunting task with so many choices on the market. In fact, everything depends on the type of bow you have, the draw weight you expect to shoot, and personal preference.
There is also a price difference and the quality of the material to consider. Additionally, some bow materials even come in multiple colors allowing you to personalize your bow.