When you are starting with archery you need good finger protection. Shooting without finger protection will be painful, especially when shooting a high draw weight. Although there are many devices that protect your fingers against abrasion from the string, the tab and glove are the most used options. Archers often mention that you should pick a tab or glove purely based on your own preference. I believe however that there are some clear guidelines on what you should pick, based on your shooting style. Let me start this article with a clear answer:
If you anchor below the chin and use a sight, it is recommended to use a tab. If you, however, anchor on your cheek and aim without a sight, a glove is recommended. A glove is more intuitive to use, but a tab provides you with a solid reference for your anchor point.
In this article, I will discuss the differences between a tab and a glove in more detail. I will also discuss why Olympic recurve archers use a tab and why traditional archers use a glove. In the end, I will discuss how to find the right tab or finger glove. So keep reading, if you want to know more!
The difference between recurve and Olympic recurve
Many archers use the word recurve and Olympic recurve interchangeable, but in theory there is a big difference between the two. A recurve bow is where the limbs of the bows are recurved, meaning that the limbs are bend away from the shooter when not under tension. This makes the bow shorter and provides a lot of other benefits.
Olympic recurve archery is a shooting style that specializes in the recurve category. The word Olympic refers to rules the Olympic Games apply to the archery category. These rules prohibit the use of a let-off and a release-aid, while allowing a sight and stabilizer. The rules originated from the Olympic Games are now being applied in all competitions that shoot with Olympic recurve bows.
Therefore Olympic recurve archery is one of the three major disciplines in archery: traditional, Olympic recurve and compound. The confusing thing, however, is that traditional archers sometimes also using recurve bow. Traditional archers don’t use a sight and other modern equipment, but use gear that was also used in ancient time. Recurve bows were invented around 1600 BC and are therefore quite old technology.
Although the name Olympic recurve and recurve seem very similar, the shooting style between recurve and Olympic recurve archers can differs a lot. To keep the distinction clear I will call both disciplines by their full name.
Why Olympic recurve archers use a tab
Olympic recurve archers use a tab because they anchor below the chin. Anchoring below the chin provides a clear anchor point, but it also clears your field of view. Anchoring on your cheek is often more vague, therefore some traditional archers anchor their index finger in the corner of the mouth. Anchoring below the chin is more straight forward. Because you anchor below the chin you won’t change the elevation between shots by accident. Together with your chin and the tip of your nose, you can get your anchor point very consistently.
Another advantage of anchoring below your chin is that you have more space to properly release. Because of this there is a bigger chance that you interfere with string and get a more inconsistent release. The tab also has a few advantages. The first advantage is the amount of adjustability. Decent tabs allow you to adjust the pinky hook, thumb shelf and finger spacer. These adjustments can make your draw more comfortable and help you keep consistent. If you want to know more about these features and how to buy the right tab, I would recommend the following article:
Why traditional archers use a glove
So, if a tab has so many advantages, why do traditional archers use a glove instead? Well, you can’t really use a tab if you want to anchor on the cheek. The metal and plastic parts of the tab will feel really uncomfortable when used on the cheek. There are special tabs that allow you to anchor on the cheek but they are quite different from the tabs Olympic recurve archers use.
Traditional archers prefer to anchor on the cheek, because this tends to feel more natural, but more importantly it allows you to aim with the arrow. Even for archers that shoot instinctively (having both eyes open), being able to look along the arrow helps with aiming. If you anchor below the cheek, you will probably not see the arrow while aiming; therefore you cannot use it while aiming. For archers that shoot with a sight this isn’t an issue, but for archers that don’t this is an absolute no go.
There are also a few more less important advantages of a glove. Shooting with a glove tends to feel more natural than shooting with a tab. Most traditional archers like to shoot the way that is the most natural; therefore a glove is by far the most preferred option. You also don’t have to remove the glove while retrieving the arrows, because your finger movement is not restricted. The last advantage of gloves is that they tend to be cheaper. Although really thick high quality gloves can get expensive, tabs with the same quality tend to be more expensive.
Can I also use a glove as a recurve archer?
Many archers like to shoot as naturally as possible. They like the feeling of the string in their fingers and like to keep it simple. A tab is admittedly more complex and may take more getting used to than a glove, there are however good reasons why Olympic recurve archers prefer a tab. Therefore:
Yes, you can use a glove if you are shooting with a sight. Although it’s very uncommon to do so, it is absolutely possible. You can use a glove both when anchoring on the cheek as anchoring below the chin. When anchoring below the chin, your anchor point will be less clear than when you use a tab.
So what would be my advice? If you are shooting the Olympic recurve style, my advice would be to first try a tab. If you really can’t get used to the tab, you might have to change the configurations of your tab. You might even have a tab that is not correctly fitted to your hand. I have never seen an archer that couldn’t get used to shooting with a tab; therefore I don’t think you should switch to a glove to lightly. If you really tried to shoot with a tab and still experience issues, you can always switch to the glove. Although it will be a disadvantage, you can also shoot consistently with a glove; it will just require more work.
Although tabs seem very similar there are very important differences. If you want to buy a tab that will be sufficient for a long time, the most important thing to consider is adjustability. A modern tab has many features that allow you to fit the tab to your hand and shooting style.
If you buy a budget tab, it will most likely not have some features which you might like. Therefore I always recommend buying a tab that has all important components like finger spacer, thumb rest, pinky hook, and palm plate. These features help you to shoot with the right technique; therefore it's beneficial to use them. Some archers notice, after using the tab that they don’t like certain features, but luckily you can always remove them.
If you are looking for a good deal, I recommend buying this SAS Elite tab. This tab has all the modern features we just discussed but it's much cheaper than the tabs of major archery brands.
I always recommend buying your tab or glove from a reputable seller. You want to make sure that you can send it back if you accidentally buy the wrong size. This is especially the case for gloves. Tabs are more adjustable and fit most hand sizes. Therefore, make sure that your seller has a good return policy!
A common issue with archery gloves is that they don't provide enough protection. This is especially the case with cheaper gloves. Therefore, I recommend this tab from ArcheryMax. This tab has extra thick padding on the fingers, which makes it very comfortable to hold the string even if you shoot with a heavy draw weight. The sizing guide will also help you to avoid any issues with the size.
Although I don’t believe that you should always copy what other archers are doing. I believe there are good reasons why most Olympic recurve archers shoot with a tab, while traditional archers shoot with a glove. Shooting an Olympic recurve bow with a glove is absolutely possible, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. In general I would advice to try out different options to find out what equipment works for you. Every archer has a different shooting style and therefore needs different equipment. The tab however is something that all recurve archers universally use. Although some recurve archers use all components of the tab. Others remove a lot of components because they like to keep it more barebones.
I hope this article was helpful. If you have any comments, corrections or questions, please leave them in the comment section down below. I will respond to any questions as soon as possible.