The tab is an essential piece of equipment for all recurve archers. Not only provides it protection to your fingers from the abrasion of the string, but it also helps you anchor. Not only for starting archers can it be difficult to find the right tab, even experienced archers sometimes struggle to find just the perfect tab that suits their needs. Our hands vary in divergent shapes and sizes, we also all have different shooting techniques, therefore finding the right tab can be quite a challenge.
In this article, I will discuss how to find the right tab. I will explain the different components of the tab, answer some questions and give my recommendations.
When you want to buy a tab it’s very important that you can configure it to your liking. Therefore, it is a good idea to buy a tab that has all the common features such as the thumb rest and pinky hook. On more advanced tabs these features are adjustable and removable to configure it to your shooting style.
Watch the video below for a quick overview of the different things you should consider when buying a tab.
In the remainder of this article, I will discuss these different features in more detail!
The anatomy of the tab
Before I can recommend a tab, we first need to discuss the different components of the tab. Archers have different wishes, therefore you have to know what each component does. Below I will discuss each component in more detail.
The base plate is basically the motherboard of your tab. Like a motherboard on a computer, it connects to all your components. The base plate have treaded holes that allow you to add or remove the different parts of the tab. The threaded holes and screws also allow you to change the orientation and position of the different components. Therefore you should buy a tab that has enough options to fine tune the parts to your preference.
The tabs are the leather and cloth pieces that keep the fingers protected from abrasion of the string. Some tabs have just one layer, while other have 3 layers. Having multiple layers is not necessarily more comfortable than one layer, that depends on the materials. The front piece should be smooth in order to avoid abrasion with the tab. This could negatively influence you accuracy because the release will become less smooth. If the front layer has too much texture it can also decrease the lifespan of the tab.
The components of a tab
All the tabs together should be sufficiently thick to protect the fingers. If the layers are thin drawing the bow will be uncomfortable. The higher your poundage the thicker your tabs should be. There is also a big difference in materials. Some materials tend to compress more over time, which will make it uncomfortable. I however find it very hard to predict this before actually using it. This issue is both present in expensive and cheap tabs. Reviews and experiences from other archers can be very helpful in this regard.
When you are keeping the bow at full draw, you have to be careful to not interfere with the arrow. The finger spacer helps out with this issue. The finger spacer makes sure that your index finger and your middle finger are not pinching the arrow, which can result in lower accuracy. The finger spacer should divide the fingers wide enough to clear the arrow. Comfort is a very important factor of the finger spacer. The skin between your fingers is very sensitive, therefore the spacer should have soft edges. Finger spacers are therefore often made out of silicone or have a layer of soft cloth around it.
You could remove the elastic strap from the tab and still shoot fine. The only goal of the elastic strap is to make sure that you don’t drop the tab when you fired the arrow. How the elastic strap is adjusted differs between tabs. Most straps are adjustable with a clip but there are also other mechanisms.
Thumb rest/anchor shelf
I used to call this piece the thumb rest, because I rest my thumb on this piece. Many archers however call this the anchor shelf, because they use this piece to anchor. This piece can therefore be used in two ways:
- As a thumb rest: if you place the shelf at a lower position you can use it to place your thumb in this location. An advantage of the thumb rest is that you have a consistent spot for your thumb. If you keep your thumb inconsistently you can slightly differ the tension and position of your hand and fingers.
- As an anchor shelf: when I first learned archery I got a tab with an anchor shelf. The advantages of an anchor shelf it’s more easy to find a consistent spot. Because the metal of the anchor shelf is hard you will feel it more, than when you anchor with the top of your hand.
When you buy a tab, I wouldn’t worry about this choice. Just make sure that it has an adjustable shelf. When you start shooting you can always decide to use it as a shelf or as a thumb rest. This is mostly based on your own preference.
In the last section I discussed how the thumb rest gives you a place to put your thumb. The pinky hook is basically the same thing but for your pinky. Some archers don’t use the hook because they don’t like it. There is however good reason to use because the placement of your pinky can greatly influence the tension of your ring finger. You can easily demonstrate this by folding your pinky towards your palm. If you do this demonstration you will notice that your ring finger will automatically follow. It is very hard to keep your ring finger straight while folding your pinky. Therefore the pinky hook makes sure that you tension your pinky exactly the same every time you fire an arrow.
The palm plate is another feature that isn’t completely necessary. It can however really help you to make sure that you use proper technique. An often-made mistake people make is that they fold their draw hand while drawing their bow. This is something that happens automatically to some archers because this releases some stress from the fingers. The proper technique is to keep your hand flat, which increases consistency and avoids cramping. The palm plate basically acts as a correcting brace. If you start folding your hand the palm plate will get in the way.
Some people don’t like the palm plate for this exact reason. If you are folding your hand, the palm plate will start to feel uncomfortable, letting you know that your technique is incorrect. The best way to respond to this is to actively work on your technique. No hands and situations are the same though, so sometimes you might have to decide to choose a release without a palm plate. For the majority of the archers, the palm plate will be a helpful tool, but for some archers, it’s doing more harm than good. Some palm plates are removable, but I have also seen archers that sawed their palm plate off because they bought a fixed one.
I have the FIVICS Saker which is quite an expensive tab. Even though I am very satisfied with this tab, I wouldn’t recommend this tab for beginners, because I don’t really think you need an expensive tab. Back in the day I had little experience with archery equipment, so I bought this tab in an archery store. Nowadays I do more research myself and I find that there are many cheaper alternative that are just as good. As long as the tab has all the features that I mentioned and it’s correctly sized I think it will be a good purchase.
A tab that I would recommend is the SAS Elite Finger Tab. It is a lot cheaper than the FIVICS tab, but has the same features. All the components are adjustable and removable which gives you a lot of options.
I hope my article was helpful in your archery journey. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, I will respond as soon as possible.
Below I discuss the most common questions regarding tabs.
Do I need to get expensive tab?
There are really expensive tabs available, with the most prestigious materials, like expensive leathers and special steels. In general I don’t believe these tabs offer better performance. They just look nicer and feel more high quality. If they use high quality tabs, they probably will last longer and be more comfortable. In general, cheap tabs can also be very comfortable and offer great performance. It is, however, important that the tab offers all the features that you need to configure it to your shooting style. For starting archers I would recommend to buy a cheap tab that has all the components like: the shelf, pinky hook and finger spacer. If you don’t like any of the components you can always remove it or experiment with different configurations.
How to get the correct size?
If you want to buy a tab, you might wonder what size you need. This is especially difficult when you want to buy a tab online. Most tabs have 3 different sizes: small, medium and large. See the table below as a reference.
Women with small hands
|Medium||Women with average sized hands
Men with smaller sized hands
|Large||Women with large hands
Men with average and large sized hands
The exact size of course differs per tab, but this is based what I have seen in practice. In general having a tab that is a bit bigger isn’t too much of an issue, because you can always trim the tabs.
Is this a left or right handed tab?
Most archers draw the bow with their right hand. Therefore it might be more difficult for left-handed archers to find a good tab. Always check the pictures before you buy the tab, because you won’t be able to use it if it’s for the other hand. If no information is provided about it expect the tab to be right handed, because even some left-handed archers shoot with their right hand.
What is a good tab?
In my opinion a good tab is comfortable and provides you with all the features discussed in the anatomy section. I wouldn’t advice to buy a simple tab that doesn’t have a shelf or pinky rest. Although some archers don’t use these features, it is always a good idea to try it out. These features make it easier to keep consistent, thereby improving your accuracy. For a recommendation of a tab I would buy, see the ‘’my recommendation’’ section of this article.
Can I also use a glove?
Some archers prefer to use a finger glove, because it feels more natural. I get that, but I wouldn’t recommend to shoot recurve archery with a finger glove. If you are just shooting in your backyard and don’t really care about scores, than a finger glove is no problem. If you however have a full olympic recurve kit and want to shoot competition, I would strongly advice a tab.
I have never seen a recurve archer shoot with a glove at mayor competitions. It is with a good reason that many recurve archers prefer a tab. It provides you with a more distinctive anchor point and has different features that help you to keep your hand consistent, as discussed in the anatomy section. A tab is not much more expensive than a glove, so I would highly advice to try a tab first.