How Do Archery Releases Work? Should You Use One?

At my club, most archers shoot a recurve bow in a traditional way, just with their hands. When I first joined, I thought that was the only way to shoot a bow.

One day, the only compound archer of the club came to the shooting range, I got the chance to finally meet him and see a compound bow in action next to me. The first thing I noticed was the weird position his hand had – far behind the normal anchor point for an archer.

That when I realized he was using something new to me to shoot the arrow, he wasn’t using his fingers. I asked and it turned out he was using an archery release. That made me really curious

He told me it was a little trigger in the shooting hand. He explained to me how it works and allowed me to shoot for an entire round with his bow and the release. He also told me that, this small device which made him put his hand in an odd position for me as a new archer who had only seen recurve bows at that point, is important for compound archers to be in a good competitive position against the other archers. Let’s found out why.

What is a Release in archery?

A release, which is also called release aid or mechanical release, is a device that helps you fire your arrows. It is more precise, since it works as a trigger to release the bow string instead of using your fingers.

I tend to prefer using my fingers – as a traditional archer, but I can’t lie about something; it is pretty precise and accurate. One of the facts that complicates things in archery and never lets an archer shoot perfectly is the variability in releasing with your fingers.

They will always move a little, altering your shot. Or maybe, one of your fingers will step off the string just a quarter of a second too slow, then the shot is altered.

This is what archery releases help eliminate. There is no finger factor on your shot, since this mechanical system does the work of your fingers. It is placed in the same place where your fingers would be and you grab the release to pull it and draw the bow string.

I haven’t seen many recurve archers use one of these, but I have seen a lot of compound archers use releases, it’s mostly because of the accuracy needed to use compound bows, since their targets tend to be smaller in most competitions.

How does a release work?

There is not much science to a release, instead of drawing the bow with your fingers, you place the release in the string and pull it back.

As soon as you reach your knocking point, you aim and press the trigger to release the arrow. When using a release, you will need to put your hand a little further back to make the string reach your nose, and get the most strength from the bow. It’s not something difficult, but it is a strange feeling for people that are not used to it.

Before using a release I would recommend anyone to have an archer who is used to it with them. Their guidance will be useful if you don’t have experience with a release.

To summarize, using a release is not actually hard, but some help is always handy. Here is a video example so you can see how it works.

Are archery releases allowed in Olympic archery?

It depends on the competition. In the case of recurve archery, it’s not allowed.

Since World Archery and USA rules determined that recurve archery can’t have any kind of mechanical device helping the archers.

In this case, an archery release is considered a mechanical device that actually is meant to help archers in their release. To be honest, I must agree with this rule. I not only agree but I like it. I believe there’s a beauty in taking archery not that far from its roots. To release an arrow from your fingers takes a different form of skill, it makes every archer compete against their pure abilities and training.

On the other hand, compound archery is allowed to use archery releases. Of course, some of them are regulated since they must work entirely for just a release purpose. There can’t be any kind of electronic help or other than the mechanical system working as a release.

Compound competitions tend to have smaller targets, that’s why they need their bows to be extremely powerful. In compound archery, every inch or slight movement you make can be the difference between scoring a 10 or a 9, sometimes even getting you to an eight.

I would say that compound archery is a ‘modern’ form of archery, which is why aides are allowed and archers do not have any problem using different devices to improve their scores and shooting. I believe that recurve archery in the Olympics tries to stick as close as possible to the heritage of archery, or at least make it a competition as pure as possible on the archers’ abilities and strength.

Which one is the right for me?

It’s not about having the right one for you, I can’t tell you which release will be the best for you. What I can tell you is what to look in a release when buying one.

One of the most important things to consider is to look for an Index Finger release. As the name says, it is a release that is activated by your index finger, in other words, the trigger is there. This is a recommendation for anyone using releases for the first time and most of my fellow shooters at my club agree.

An alternative, just in case you don’t like the index finger release, are the thumb releases, it’s the same as the index release in function, but working with the thumb as the trigger finger. It’s up to you to try both and get to feel which one is the most comfortable for you.

As well as choosing the trigger location, you must look for a release that feels comfortable in your hand. A comfortable grip will ensure a nice practice routine and a good score in your competition.

Once again, my recommendation here is to borrow some from your friends or teammates at the club first. It’s best for you to try different releases rather than buying one and then getting disappointed because you don’t feel comfortable with it. Try different releases, then choose the best characteristics for you.

Index Finger – Adjustable Release

This is the index finger release I use when shooting compound. It’s fully adjustable, but be warned it’s quite sensitive but you get used to the sensitivity after a while.

Can I shoot a compound bow with a bow release?

Of course you can. As a matter of fact, I believe the archery release was entirely meant to work in compound archery. It’s the only competition within US rules and Olympic competitions which allow to use of a release.

Not only you can use a bow release for compound archery, but I and most blogs highly recommend it.

In fact, all compound archers I’ve met in either competition of indoor and outdoor have used a release.

To answer the question, not only you can use a bow release, but you should use it when shooting in the compound category. Trust me, you don’t want to be at a disadvantage when competing with other archers, I know this must not be the best situation for everyone, but it is a recommendation you should keep in mind before competing without a release.

Does your draw length change with a bow release?

Not necessarily, your hand will be further back than it will be when shooting with just your fingers. But, technically, you should take the string to the same anchor point on your chin. It is all about practicing with the release.

Now, if you decide to keep your hand in the same place as if you didn’t have a release, placing your thumb on the chin, then your draw length will be reduced significantly. This will result in a less powerful shot, and probably a miss.

Some people decide to use the release as a way to expand their draw length, since their hands are no longer a reference for the anchor point, they try to take it a bit further. This is possible since they don’t have the need to move back the arm for the release. They only have to press the trigger, then there is no problem taking the anchor point a bit further and the arm in a more uncomfortable position.

Placing the anchor point past the nose, will certainly increase the power of the shot, but in my opinion, it will reduce the chances of being perfectly consistent with your shots.

For people used to recurve archery, expanding their draw length is normal as you train, but there is no way to place the hand that far from your chin.

I strongly recommend archers to find a good reference for their anchor point and try to stick to it either with a release or their own fingers. There is no need to take your hand further to expand your draw length, you can keep the anchor point on your chin and try to expand your muscles on the back.

This is the result of training and better positioning when preparing the shot. Just train and stretch your back muscles, you’ll see the difference and gain a few inches.

Why should I use a bow release?

There are several benefits of using a bow release, at the end I’ll write down my comments on bow releases, but first let’s look at those reasons.

First of all, it is a great help against “Target panic”. This is what archers refer to as shaking hand or arm. For example, when you draw your bow until anchor point, if your arm or hand starts shaking and it begins to be really hard to stay focus on the dot at the sight, it means you’re experiencing target panic.

Another important point is that it prevents the arrow from moving a little bit when one of your fingers leaves the string with some delay.

It happened to me once, you have 3 fingers on the string, and suddenly you release the arrow, leaving 2 fingers and one stays partially on the string. It sounds ridiculous but it has happened to me before and it was horrible, a horrible shot because one of my fingers decided to fall sleep. With a bow release that can’t happen since you have a trigger, just pull it and keep the arm on the raiser steady.

On recurve bows it is more uncommon to see archers using bow releases, but those same benefits apply to it too.

The only thing to bear in mind is that competitions don’t allow mechanical releases in recurve categories, so if you get used to using a release as a recurve archer, it will be extremely difficult to adapt. If you’re thinking of competing, be sure to train under the same conditions you will compete.

Should I use one?

It depends on many things. If you’re a compound archer, yes, I believe it would be great for you to get used to the release.

That way you’ll be ready under the same conditions as any other archer in competitions.

If you’re a recurve archer, I don’t really recommend it because it will be a problem if later on you want to compete. Also, for recurve archers, if you’re like me and have any feelings for the traditional archery style or its roots, a release will take you a bit further from the traditional experience. It won’t be the same feeling. Nevertheless, if you’re not thinking of any kind of competition as a recurve archer and you like using a release, then be my guest, use it and enjoy your shooting day.

Closing thoughts

As we have seen, the archery release is most of the time a mechanical device, a trigger that is attached to the string, helping the archer improve accuracy when shooting.

A device mostly used in the compound category, and a forbidden instrument when competing in the recurve categories in any place that is regulated by USA rules and Olympic regulations.

Depending on your objectives and comfort, this gadget could be great or bad for you. As I said before, personally, I don’t use a release, but it is because I am inclined to recurve archery. You should try different things and see what works best for you and what takes you to your next level.

Hope you enjoyed the topic. Try the archery release and keep practicing.

Happy shooting!