Accuracy is all about consistency. If you do everything the same way for every shot, your arrows will hit the same spot. Archers aren’t robots, though, and need help releasing a bowstring consistently. That’s where release aids come into play. They make it easier to draw the bow and release each shot cleanly.
Release aids vary from refined pieces of machinery to simple pieces of leather. They’re available in two basic categories: mechanical releases and finger releases. In general, archers who shoot compound bows use mechanical releases. Archers who shoot recurve and longbows prefer more traditional finger releases.
Which works for you? The best way to find out is to visit an archery store and discuss your options with the shop pro or a pro-staffer. They can show you all the options and let you test-shoot them.
Mechanical Release Aids
A mechanical release aid uses a mechanical trigger system to release the bowstring. The release attaches to the bowstring with jaws or a clip. The bowstring on most compound bows has a D-loop, which is a short cord tied into a loop just below where the arrow’s nock grips the string. The archer’s release aid clips onto the D-loop.
Once the release is attached to the D-loop, the archer draws the bow, aims and squeezes the release aid’s trigger with the thumb or index finger. Once the archer applies the proper amount of pressure on the trigger, the release aid lets go of the string, and the arrow flies to the target. The release aid’s trigger mechanism can help deliver astonishing accuracy.
Mechanical releases come in two basic styles: wrist-strap and handheld. Wrist-strap releases attach to your wrist with a buckle system or Velcro strap. Wrist-strap releases use a trigger system that’s activated with the index finger. Most beginning compound archers start with this release style because it’s affordable and easy to use.
Handheld releases come in various sizes and configurations. You’ll have options of two-, three- or four-finger releases. The three-finger release is the most popular, and uses the index, middle and ring finger to support the release aid. Ultimately, your choice depends on comfort and personal preference.
The options for trigger mechanisms are the trigger style and hinge style. The trigger style uses the thumb to activate the trigger, while the hinge or back-tension release uses rotation to fire. Hinge-style releases don’t have a trigger. They fire when the archer rotates the release to a pre-set point.
With a finger release, archers use their index, middle and ring finger to grip the bowstring. The archer grips the bowstring at the first joint of these three fingers. Next, they draw the bow, aim and let their fingers relax to let the bowstring slip away.
Recurve and longbow archers use a glove or finger tab to shoot their bows comfortably. Gloves and finger tabs are made of leather, and come in several sizes to fit your hand. Try them on at the archery shop to get the right fit.
A finger tab is a piece of leather that fits between your fingers and the bowstring. The tab should cover your three fingers but not hang over your fingertips. For a custom fit, trim the finger tab with scissors.
A shooting glove looks like a leather work glove, but it only covers the tips of your three shooting fingers. The fingertip sections carry leather strips, and the glove itself secures around your wrist. Gloves come in many sizes, which you can test-shoot at an archery store.
Release aids come in various styles, sizes and colors; and one type isn’t better than the other. What matters most is fit and preference. The best way to buy a release aid is to visit an archery store and try them with help from store staff. After testing them and discussing the options, choose the one you like best.