Here's your basic guide to archery release aids
A good clean release.
It's what happens when you correctly let go of the bowstring at full draw, allowing the energy stored in the limbs to be transferred to the arrow, which is propelled down range toward the spot where you're aiming.
A clean release is something every archer strives for on every shot. Achieve it, and the bull’s-eyes will rip.
Whether you shoot a compound, recurve or longbow, there are many release aids that go between your hand and the bowstring, which can help you deliver that perfect shot.
Four basic classes of release aids are made for compound shooters – index finger, thumb trigger, back tension and resistance activated. For recurve and longbow archers, there are finger tabs and gloves.
Here’s your guide to understanding the different types. When making a final selection, it’s a good idea to try what you want before you buy.
INDEX FINGER RELEASE
As the name suggests, these are mechanical release aids triggered by your index finger. Basically all of these releases are attached to wrist straps. The strap aids in drawing the string by joining the muscles of your arm and hand. Index finger releases are very popular among bowhunters, since the release is connected to the archer at all times. You can’t lose it in the woods or drop it from a tree stand if you’re wearing it.
Index finger releases connect to the string via one or two moving jaws that completely enclose the bowstring or D-loop, by an open hook or by a rope loop.
When you come to full draw with one of these releases, you want to curl the forefinger on your trigger hand around the trigger post. If you have to stretch your forefinger all the way out to reach the trigger, you’re going to have problems with punching the trigger. Shorten the release head to reduce the gap separating it from the wrist strap.
Don’t activate the trigger by squeezing your finger like you’re shooting a gun. Wrap that forefinger around the post, and then pull through the shot with your whole arm.
THUMB TRIGGER RELEASE
These releases are triggered by your thumb, obviously. Most are hand held, although some also can be attached to wrist straps to aid in drawing. They connect to the bowstring or D-loop either by enclosed jaw(s), an open hook or a rope loop.
Lots of bowhunters use thumb trigger releases, and so do many target archers – especially 3-D competitors. Most thumb trigger releases can be used like a back tension release – the favorite among target archers – yet you still have the control of the release provided by a trigger.
The best archery shot with a mechanical release is one that surprises you. If you don’t know when the release is going to trigger, then you can’t anticipate it with a flinch. This is the shot hinge releases are designed to deliver.
A hinge release is hand held, and has a pivoting head that connects to the string or D-loop by an open hook. The idea is, you hook the release to the string, come to full draw, and then slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, which pulls your bow hand and trigger hand farther apart. At some point, that squeezing motion is going to cause the release to rotate in your hand until it lets go of the string.
Another method for activating a hinge is to come to full draw and relax your release hand. That relaxation will cause your hand to stretch, which will rotate the release, and it will fire. A hinge release doesn’t have a trigger. It is a trigger.
You have to keep your sight pin or scope locked on the target the whole time you’re squeezing/relaxing, because you don’t really know when the release will go off. Target archers love the hinges because of the surprise factor, but it might not be the best choice for bowhunters, who need a little more control over when an arrow is released.
RESISTANCE ACTIVATED RELEASE
Another hand-held release, this is a triggerless release used mainly by target archers. It’s activated by a build-up in pressure at full draw. That pressure, again, is created by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
You clip this release’s open hook, closed jaw or rope loop to the string or D-loop, and then draw with your thumb wrapped around a safety mechanism, which prevents the release from triggering. At full draw, you release the safety and start squeezing your shoulder blades until the release triggers.
FINGER TABS AND GLOVES
It’s not that recurve and longbow archers can’t shoot one of the mechanical release aids we’ve already discussed. Rather, the style of archery associated with these bows calls for drawing and releasing with your fingers, as opposed to a mechanical trigger. Also, mechanical releases are not allowed for recurves and longbows in competitions.
Using a tab, you draw the bowstring with your index, middle and ring fingers, and the tab sits between your fingers and the string. It allows for a more consistent release, since the string is sliding off a single surface, rather than each of your three fingers. Tab surfaces come in a variety of materials – bare leather, hair-covered leather, plastic, etc. It’s up to you to determine which works best for you.
Tabs are designed to allow archers to shoot either with their index finger above the arrow nock and the two others below – that’s called split-finger shooting ‑ or with all three fingers below the nock.
Gloves are probably the simplest of the release aids. In a nutshell, they cover your three shooting fingers for protection against the string, and they provide a smooth surface for the string to glide across during the release. The gloves typically are made of leather or nylon.