Is it really necessary to swing your bow?

The free fall swing, the swing, or the drop all refer to one thing: the swing the bow of most archers make when the arrow has left the bow. There is debate amongst both professional archers and hobbyists about whether the swing is really necessary. Some archers say that it is an absolutely essential technique, while others say that it is just for style points. Therefore, I want to thoroughly discuss whether this technique is really essential. You might just want a short answer without reading this entire article, so here you go:

It is a good habit to swing your bow after you shot your arrow. This makes sure that you don’t interfere with the arrow, thereby increasing your accuracy. You shouldn’t, however, obsess over it. There are a lot of other techniques to make sure that you don’t interfere with the arrow.

Sadly, I can’t fit all important information and nuances within 51 words (it would be awesome if I could). So if you want to know more about the free-fall swing technique, keep reading. I will not only discuss why archers swing their bow and why it isn’t absolutely necessary, but I will also explain why compound archers don’t use this technique. Later in the article, I will also discuss how to swing your bow and some alternatives if you don’t like to use a finger sling.

Why archers swing their bow

Before we can discuss whether the free-fall swing is really necessary we have to discuss the reasoning behind it. If you want a short answer, here it is:

Recurve archers swing their bow because they want to make sure that they don’t grip the bow tightly. The swing, therefore, happens automatically, since the bow gets caught in the finger sling. Since the bow is front-heavy, it will tumble over and start to swing.

If this answer satisfies you enough you can move on to the ‘’why you don’t have to swing your bow’’ heading. Below I will discuss this in more detail and I will also discuss some additional reasons why some archers prefer to swing their bow, so keep reading if you are interested.

If you let the bow fly forward, it will catch in the finger sling and drop down like you see in the picture.

Prevent having a tight grip

One of the major things that can cause inaccuracies between shots is different tensions in your bow hand. If you jerk the bow into one direction right after you shot the arrow, you will interfere with the arrow thereby causing inaccurate shots. When this happens, you probably notice it and will correct for it. But when this happens at a smaller scale it is more difficult to recognize the issue.

Even minor changes in your grip can make differences between shots. Especially when you are shooting high scores, you can dramatically decrease your scores just because you have an inconsistent grip. Therefore, most archers want to minimize their muscle tension in their bow hand, since this will cause you to jerk the bow.

When you completely relax your fingers, your fingers will be aiming forward to the target. So when we are drawing the bow, you relax your hand, causing it to open up. When you release the shot, most archers keep their hand relaxed, to avoid interference with the arrows. Thereby the bow drops down, which is promptly caught in the finger sling. The bow is top heavy, because of the stabilizer which will make the bow swing downwards. The bow can even swing further due to the momentum, if you don’t stop it before this time.

Analyze the swing

Although the relaxation of the fingers is the primary reason for the swing, there is an additional benefit, archery coaches often discuss. Archery is all about consistency; therefore both archers and coaches like to have cues that allow them to check whether they are using the techniques consistently. The free fall swing is one of these cues, which can be quite easily analyzed. When the bow swings to one side, you often are inconsistent with the tension in either your hand or back. For archery coaches it can be really difficult to train an archer, because minor unnoticeable changes can have a big impact on the target. Therefore, most archery coaches recommend to swing the bow, since it makes it easy to check the muscle tension.

The technique of the Olympians

Let’s face it, when we are looking for an example of good archery, we often look at professional archers. For Olympic recurve archers, we often look at archers that make it to the Olympics. It seems reasonable that what works for the professional should also work for hobbyists. But you have to know that there is a big difference between the two archers. Olympic archers train at least 5 days per week, shooting thousands of arrows per month. Hobbyist archers that only shoot one or two times per week will not have the same constancy and muscle strength as an Olympic archer.

Although I don’t say that the swing technique is only suitable for Olympic archers, I don’t believe every hobbyist archer should immediately adopt it. I will discuss this in a lot more detail in the next section, but for now it’s important to know that there is a lot of copying behavior in the archery community. Which will often results in slower progress, less enjoyment and lower scores.

Why you don’t have to swing your bow

Although you shouldn’t grip the bow tightly during the release, the actual swing after the arrow has left the bow isn’t necessary. When the arrow has completely cleared the bow, it doesn’t matter what you do with your bow. There are even a lot of archers that are quite cynical about the swing. An archer on the forum ArcheryTalk said:

‘’the free fall swing is just style points’’

I don’t really think that is the case, there are good reasons to swing your bow, but you shouldn’t obsess over it.

Do you have to use a finger sling?

Some archers don’t like the feeling of a finger sling and therefore can’t swing their bow in a traditional sense. Especially if your fingers getting hurt from the sling, you might want to consider some alternatives. Luckily you have two options.

The first alternative is to just catch the bow when the arrow has fully cleared the bow. This way you prevent the bow from falling and prevent the swing. Most archers don’t prefer to do it this way, since you can catch the bow to early, thereby interfering with the arrow.

The second alternative is to use your fingers as a sling. With a finger sling, you let the bow shoot completely out of your hand. With this technique, you let the bow roll over your fingers. Thereby you also create a swing, but it tends to be a bit more controllable than a swing with a finger sling. Although this technique is uncommon it’s the most preferred technique amongst archers that don’t like to use a finger sling

In the video below I show how you can swing your bow without using a finger sling

To swing or not to swing

If you are just starting with archery, I wouldn’t start using the swing technique. The first year, you basically have to get familiar with archery, build up the muscles and learn all the techniques. Swinging your bow will only make the shot process more complicated, without providing you a significant advantage. You should, however, train yourself to not grip the bow tightly. Try to keep your hand as relaxed as possible.

When you are into archery for a while, you might want to try the free fall swing technique. This technique is the best way to make sure that you don’t manipulate the bow just before the shot. If you are shooting quite accurate, you should even notice the slight improvement in accuracy.

If you really don’t like the feel of a finger sling, try one of the other techniques, discussed in the previous section. Your bow should shoot forward independently until the arrow has left the bow, otherwise you risk interfering with the arrow. What you do after the arrow has cleared the bow doesn’t matter. So there is no reason to do the full swing, if it doesn’t work for you.

How to swing your bow

I already discussed some different techniques if you don’t like to use a finger sling. When using a finger sling the process is quite straight forward. Essentially you don’t grip the bow but let it shoot forward until it catches in the finger sling. The finger sling will then act as a pivot point, where the bow swings around. When you first do this, you instinctively want to catch it since it feels like your bow will fall on the ground. Therefore, you might first want to try it out on grass. When your finger sling is configured correctly, it will catch the bow every time.

When the bow is caught in the finger sling, there will be a sudden tension on your arm. This might feel strange at first, but you will get used to it very fast. Depending on the length of your finger sling your grip might bump into your palm or wrist. This is absolutely normal and makes you able to limit and control the swing.

Some archers move their bow slightly forward; to make sure that the bow doesn’t hit their leg. Although it doesn’t matter for accuracy if the bow hits your leg, many archers find this uncomfortable. You should, however, make sure that you don’t damage the bow if this happens.

When you are just getting started with the swing, it would be wise to try different finger sling lengths. Although there are guidelines, some archers prefer a longer finger sling, while others want it as short as possible.

Why compound archers don’t swing their bow

Recurve is often compared to compound archery; therefore archers often wonder why some techniques are different. When you look at professional compound archers, you will see that almost none swing their bow after the shot. You might wonder why compound archers don’t use this technique.

Some archers say that compound archers don’t use the free fall swing technique, because compound bows tend to shoot faster. According to these archers there is therefore less time to interfere with the arrows flight path, since the arrow leaves the bow way faster. This is absolutely correct, but even in this short timeframe an archer can still interfere with the arrow. So I don’t believe this is the real reason.

The first major reason why I believe compound archers don’t use this technique is due to the arrow rest. Recurve archers use a fixed arrow rest and button and can therefore easily interfere with the arrow. Most compound archers use drop away arrow rest. This type of arrow rests drops away when the arrow is fired; therefore there is almost no chance to interfere with the arrow. You really have to jerk the bow to manipulate the arrow. Even launcher type arrow rests have a lot of space around the flight path of the arrow; therefore interference isn’t such a big deal.

Another reason is comfort. Recurve bows tend to be a lot lighter than compound bows. The cams, magnifying sight, string splitter, dampeners and string stopper all add weight to the bow. When you would fire your compound bow with a finger sling, the entire weight of the bow would fall on your two fingers. With a recurve bow this is manageable but with a heavier compound bow, this can become really uncomfortable.

Final words

In this article I tried to show both sides of the argument about the free fall swing technique. There seems to be a lot of controversy and discussions about this technique. I do believe the technique can be helpful, but some archers overemphasize it. I hope I helped you with the decision on whether you want to use this technique. If you have any questions, comments or opinions you would like to share, please leave them in the comment section down below. I will respond to your questions as soon as possible.

Tim van Rooijen

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by archery. First due to its historic significance but later because I like being outdoors. With this blog, I share my knowledge about Archery and how you can improve your shot. More about author…

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