As in most sports that make heavy use of manufactured equipment, there are athletes of a certain level in archery that do not purchase their gear. Instead, they’re sponsored, representing companies in return for prize money and exposure.
Brady Ellison, the four-time Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion and three-time Olympic medallist, is one of those sponsored archers.
He has had access to quantities of gear that some archers only dream of.
“Generally, I only have two or three bows [each season] nowadays – but there’ve been years where it’s been maybe five or six,” he said. “In my older age I’m shooting one bow a little bit more.”
Swapping between equipment in a sport of repetition and precision takes experience and understanding of the gear.
“I change out risers more than anything and sometimes limbs. But my stabilisers, plungers and sights are all the same brand, same kit, although I might shoot a new plunger every now and again,” Ellison added.
“But one thing that definitely stays on every bow is a grip. I only have two grips that I like.”
Brady’s main grip was built in 2010, customised with copious amounts of epoxy and a drill. The other is a red grip he shot at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Neither look or feel how they did when they arrived in the box.
“This grip I got, I just love the way it feels. It is actually one of the first grips I ever successfully built. All the other ones I built, I just can’t get the angle right or something about just isn’t the same,” he explained.
Ellison wants a flat back, a lump to fill the cavity in his thumb and a grip that sits perfectly in his hand. And a feeling that seems unmatchable.
“The red one feels a lot different to this one. So, it depends on what I’m doing as to which grip I shoot but I have never gotten grips to feel like this one,” he added.
“This is like home, and I don’t wanna go away from my home.”
Finger tabs, too – at the time of this interview at stage two of the 2018 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya, Turkey – were something Brady felt strongly about. That might have changed now, and the reason why is explained below.
“You have two contact points on your bow. You have your grip and then you have your fingers on the string,” he said.
“My finger tab is also custom built, hacked out of a piece of brass with a… hacksaw. I don’t even know how old this tab is.”
A brass block nearly a centimetre thick, with leather taken from a welding glove – from “2009, 2010, maybe 2011” – and a left-handed shelf for a decidedly right-handed archer, Brady’s long-time tab is unique.
“Over the years, you just do things that make it work for you. I don’t even have a back-up tab. If I lost this I would probably cry or quit shooting. Prized possession right here,” he said.
“It’s seen a lot. All battle-scarred and wounded and it’s… pretty nasty.”
After all this, Brady went out and shot the mixed team gold medal match in Salt Lake City with an off-the-shelf tab made by Simon Fairweather, which you can see in the photo at the very top of this page, despite only having first shot it in practice that morning.
He and Mackenzie Brown won that match.
It just goes to show that there are simply no hard-and-fast rules for picking up more points in archery…
…And that it’s truly all about feel, confidence and what works for you on the shooting line.