Dan McCarthy on target archery with a thumb-button release
There are lots of thumb-button - or thumb-trigger - releases on the target lines these days.
After hinge-style releases, thumb buttons arguably are the second-most popular among indoor target archers.
Thumb-button releases have jaws or a hook that capture the bowstring for drawing. A trigger that’s activated by the thumb opens the jaws or releases the hook and the bowstring shoots forward.
It’s a favored release because it can be activated in a surprise manner like a hinge release, yet it allows the archer to maintain control of when the string is released.
How is that possible?
Well, two of the most popular ways target archers activate thumb buttons involve no movement by the thumb.
They will rest at least part of the thumb on the front of the trigger at anchor, and then pull back with their whole arm, which naturally pulls the button into the thumb, which trips the trigger.
Or they will rest the thumb on the front of the trigger and relax the other fingers in the hand holding the release. That causes the release to move forward, shoving the trigger into the thumb, which trips it.
Other archers employ a combination of both techniques, but all result in surprise releases because the archer isn't simply depressing the thumb, like you'd squeeze the trigger on a gun, to activate the release.
As for controlling when to shoot, let’s say a wind gust kicks up and an archer at full draw wants to wait for calm air. He or she can simply take the thumb off the button, and the release can’t be activated.
Mathews pro Dan McCarthy is well known for being one of the best in the 3D game, slaying 12 rings on the ASA and IBO circuits for the past two decades.
But he’s also a highly accomplished indoor target archer as well. At the 2017 Lancaster Archery Classic, McCarthy came out of qualifications in the Men’s Open Pro Division as the No. 4 seed, after shooting an incredible score of 657 out of a perfect 660.
He then shot his way through the elimination brackets to be among the top eight archers to advance to the finals, where he finished in seventh place.
Here’s McCarthy’s take on thumb-button releases.
LAS: Which release do you use?
DM: TRU Ball Absolute 360
LAS: Do you prefer 3-finger or 4? Why?
DM: I prefer a 3-finger. It's just personal preference to me, but I like to allow my pinky to relax behind the handle of the release while at full draw.
LAS: How do you activate your release? (Back tension, relaxation, etc.)
DM: I shoot mine through a combination of relaxation in my forearm, wrist, and hand—while simultaneously applying tension with my back. (Applying tension in the back squeezes the shoulder blade toward one another, which causes the release arm to move away from the string.)
LAS: How do you avoid “punching” your release?
DM: I made my mind up that punching isn't an option. I decided that I'd rather take a zero for running out of time or miss the bullseye than punch my trigger. Once you commit to that, you'll never even consider punching anymore.
LAS: Do you set your trigger heavy or light? Why?
DM: I set mine around 2 pounds. It's fairly light, considering how heavy you can adjust most thumb buttons. I've found that heavier triggers cause me slightly more anxiety, and I often have to preload the trigger with my thumb - which I'd prefer to never do - in order to get them to fire. (Preloading involves applying more pressure than normal to the trigger.)
LAS: How do you anchor?
DM: I usually anchor with my knuckles on the back of my jaw bone, then I roll my hand up toward my ear until I feel my hand by my ring finger barely touch my ear.
LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see archers making with a thumb button?
DM: Punching the release. Many people punch the release, which may be good for one or two bull’s-eyes. However, in the long run, punching will cause anxiety and ultimately target panic.
Also, rolling the release like it's a back tension- hinge style release. Many people fire a button like this, but I've found that I get too many left and rights with this technique. I try to pull as evenly as possible on all 3 fingers, and stay as relaxed as possible while slowly feeling pressure building on my thumb.
LAS: Why do you choose a thumb button over other types of releases?
DM: On level ground or indoors, I don't feel like there's any major advantages to thumb button releases. However, I do feel like I have better control of the shot during certain circumstances like wind, extreme uphill or downhill shots or extreme side-hill shots.