Shooting a compound bow without a release

When you start with compound archery you might wonder whether you can shoot without a release. In most photos of compound archery, you see archers using a release. You might, therefore, think that you cannot use a tab or glove. You might prefer the feeling of the string or don’t want to buy a release. There are multiple reasons why some archery prefers to use a tab or glove. Therefore in this article, I will discuss this question in detail. I will discuss what’s the difference and give some general tips.

Summary

You can shoot a compound bow without a release under the following circumstances: you have a short draw length, long frame and you shoot with two fingers. You do this to work around the steep angle the string has when at full draw. A release, however, is recommended because its saver, more comfortable, and increases accuracy.

Can you shoot a compound bow without a release?

Yes, you can shoot a compound bow without a release if your bow allows it. The big difference between compound bows and recurve bows is that limbs of the bow are way shorter. In general compound bows, therefore, have the string at a steeper angle. This makes it easier for your fingers to slide up to the arrow and touch it upon release. This is a bad thing because you can unintentionally interfere with the flight of the arrow.

Another reason why many compound archers prefer a release is for comfort. Because of the steep angle, it can be really uncomfortable to shoot without a release. The draw weight of compound bows tends to be almost double the draw weight of recurve bow. This means that there is more tension on the fingers when drawing the bow, this also greatly reduces comfort. There is a way to circumvent these problems, I will discuss those in the ‘’how to shoot with a release’’ section.

Is a release more accurate?

Yes, in general I would say, that shooting with a release makes you more accurate. If you would train 200 archers, and you gave 100 archers a release and 100 archers a finger glove, I believe the 100 archers with the release would score significantly higher. Shooting with a release in competitions is only allowed in the compound class, according to the World Archery rules. This means that World Archery sees this as an performance enhancing aid.

You might now ask, why is shooting with a release more accurate. To say it simply you mechanize the release process, reducing the chance of inconsistency. You only have to pull the trigger and you fire the shot. With traditional archery you have to make sure that you consistently release. With a release you can’t really be inconsistent with the release, because you don’t directly hold the string. When you are not using a release your fingers will get tired by holding the string, which can increase these inconsistencies. Therefore shooting with a release is a major advantage over shooting with a tab or glove.

A very good reason to use a release instead

Compared to recurve bows, extra care should be taken how you grab the string. Since compound bows have cams, they can derail when you are not being cautious. If you twist the bowstring you can force the string outside the groves in the cams. When you release the bow will violently derail, which can result in major damage or injury. Therefore if you decide to shoot with your fingers, you should be aware on how you grab the string. The video below explains and demonstrates this further.

How to shoot without a release?

As you read previously, the angle of the string can make shooting without a release very hard. Therefore if we can reduce this angle, it will be much easier to shoot without a release. The only good way to reduce the angle of the string is buy buying a compound bow with a large frame. A small hunting bow will have a steeper angle than a large target bow.

Another way to reduce the angle is by reducing the draw length. In general this is not a good idea, your draw length should be based on your comfortable shooting position. Therefore I would not recommend doing this. You can note however, that it will be easier for a small person to shoot with their hands, because their draw length is shorter.

I would recommend to draw with two fingers. By placing the index finger above the arrow and the middle finger below the arrow. I wouldn’t recommend the three finger under the arrow technique, which is often used in traditional archery. The third finger will be quit far away from the arrow, which can result in your fingers getting squashed. I tried this and it feels really unpleasant.

When you are shooting with a compound bow with your fingers, you might have trouble finding a good anchor point. If you want some tips, I would recommend you to read this article: ‘’Finding and maintaining your anchor point: tips and tricks’’

Tips for shooting with your fingers

If you insist on using your fingers instead of a release here are some tips to do so:

  • Keep the bowstring vertical at all time: as we saw in the video if you twist the string you can derail the bow. If you slightly twist the string this is unlikely to happen but it still effects your accuracy.
  • Place the string deep in your fingers: don’t place the string on the tip of your fingers. Not only will it strain your fingers, but you can also let the string slip by accident. Placing the string deeper in the in your fingers also decreases potential variation by tension in the fingers.
  • Place the fingers as close to the arrow as possible: the further you place the fingers from the arrow the more uncomfortable it will be. You should however be wary that you don’t touch the arrow when at full draw.
  • Use the one finger above and one below the arrow technique: with this technique you will equally draw the string below and above the arrow. This more closely mimics how a compound bow would be drawn when a you use a release.

Find the right finger protection

Although I discussed both a tab and a finger glove in the example, I would highly advise a finger glove. This makes it easier to use the one-finger above and one below the arrow technique. You should note that you need quite a thick finger glove because compound bows will cut more in your fingers than traditional and recurve bows.

If you decide to shoot with a release instead

If  you want to shoot with a release you are probably overwhelmed by the amount of options and the huge price range. In this section I will give you some tips when you want to buy and use your first release.

Choose the right release

There are hundreds of different releases available, but they are roughly divided in the following categories:

  • Wrist release: you attach this release at your wrist and use a trigger to release the shot. You often use the trigger with you index finger, but there are also some available with a thumb release.
  • Thumb release: you hold this release with fingers and release the arrow with your thumb.
  • Back tension release: with this release you don’t use any of your fingers to fire. Instead you pull the bow string further backwards. When you draw back far enough the release will fire the shot at a certain poundage.
  • Canting release: the last type of release works fires by canting the release in a certain direction, which makes the release go off.

There are huge debates among compound archers about what type of release increases your accuracy. I would advice any starting archer to start with a wrist or thumb release. The back tension and canting release are more advanced an require more training. The decision between the thumb and wrist release is purely based on your own preference.

In general hunters use a wrist release, while target archers use a thumb release. A thumb release takes more time to set up, that’s why many hunters prefer a wrist release. With a thumb release you get a more solid anchor point, which makes it preferred by target archers. I shoot target archery with a wrist release because I prefer the feeling of a wrist release, so you shouldn’t necessarily base your decision on what’s common. It can be a good starting point though, if you have no preference.

Start with a cheap release

I wouldn’t recommend any starting archer to start with really expensive stuff. Sometimes other archers look down upon archers that use cheaper gear, but there is no good reason for it. Although the quality and finish of expensive gear tend to be better, I don’t see a big difference in performance. Therefore I would recommend buying a cheap release.

Don’t forget the D-loop

If you shot your compound bow with your fingers before you switched you probably don’t have a D-loop. You probably have standard nocking points instead. If you want to shoot with a release you need a D-loop. You can attach the release directly to the string, but this is a bad idea. Not only can you damage the serving and nocking points, but it can also cause inconsistencies. Instead install a D-loop and avoid these problems. If you have some decent string or paracord laying around, you can even use that do tie a D-loop. See this video for a step by step instruction.

Try different release

If you can’t get used to one type of release, you might want to switch to another one. You can’t know you preference before you tried, so if you don’t like the feeling of your release I would recommend to buy another one and experiment

Final thoughts

You have probably noticed that I don’t really see a point in shooting a compound bow with your fingers. I tend to be quite open-minded towards different shooting styles and ideas. Although if you take proper care you can safely fire a compound bow without a release there is basically no reason to do so. The only reason I can see to fire with your fingers is if you really dislike the feeling of a release and you can’t get used to it.

I have shot recurve 3 years before I switched to compound archery, so I was quite used to the feeling of the string on my fingers. But within a month I got used to shooting with a release. I have fired my compound bow a few times with my fingers, but it was really uncomfortable and I was constantly riding up to the arrow. Shooting with a release immediately solved these issues.

There is a good reason that almost all compound archers use a release, including hunters. It makes you more accurate, more comfortable, and is overall a lot safer.

2 Replies to “Shooting a compound bow without a release”

  1. Rick Elder says:

    Excellent info for a 66 yr old beginner trying to help his grandson.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Tim van Rooijen says:

      Thank you, great to hear that my article was helpful!

      Reply

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