If you have an injury or disability, you can adapt archery equipment with a little ingenuity and the help of an instructor or local archery shop. Let’s look at two common ways adaptive archers modify their equipment.
The Mouth Tab
A mouth tab allows archers with the use of one arm to pull back the bowstring with their mouth. Top shooter Jeff Fabry won the 2017 World Archery Para Championship using a mouth tab. He offers some tips on creating and shooting with them.
Mouth tabs are easy to make at home. Fabry uses a 3/8-inch-wide nylon dog leash that he cut to his desired length. “My mouth tab from the string back is an inch and a quarter,” he said.
Fabry folds the cut piece over the bowstring and sews it with a braided fishing line to secure it. He likes to position the mouth tab above the arrow to get better range on his shot. He also suggests sewing the tab very tight to the string and replacing the tab when it loosens.
Mouth tabs can also be attached to a d-loop, which is a piece of string that ties onto the bowstring and can be clipped onto a release aid. Bow technicians can help you add a d-loop and mouth tab to your bow.
Shooting a Mouth Tab
Your first shots with a new setup are all about building confidence. Start close to the target, and use a large backstop. Don’t worry about accuracy at first – simply get used to the feel and enjoy the shot.
To shoot with a mouth tab, twist it into a horizontal position. Twisting the tab in the same direction each time is important. Then bite down on the tab.
“Don’t bite down with your front teeth – that hurts,” Fabry said. “I use my right-side molars.”
Push the bow to the target until your arm is fully extended, but don’t lock your elbow. Position your head, and line up your sights.
“Relax your bottom jaw so the tab slides out of your mouth, and keep your head as still as possible until the arrow is gone,” Fabry said.
The Harness Release
A harness release – which is a shoulder harness that’s attached to a mechanical release aid – is another option for disabled archers. Harnesses come in various designs depending on the individual’s size and mobility.
Because the harness must be custom-fitted to the archer, they aren’t commercially available. “It’s up to the individual to build it themselves or have someone help them,” Fabry said. He recommends contacting the Paralympic coaches or athletes for advice on making a harness.
Athletes attach various release aids to the harnesses, but one popular design is the HT Fingerless made by T.R.U. Ball. This release aid features a bar that works as a trigger mechanism. The bar sits on the archer’s chin and fires when pressure is applied. Contact T.R.U. Ball Archery if you need more information or assistance setting up your release.
Ready to adapt a bow for shooting? Working with your local archery shop, an instructor or archery manufacturers is a good place to start. Take the first step and get ready to have fun!