If you watch archery at the Olympics on TV this summer, you’re going to notice the clicker.

Camera angles for archery competitions are usually the same, and so what you’ll see in closeup shots of archers drawing their bows is the arrow sitting on a rest through the draw cycle. There will be a thin blade of metal or carbon attached to the very end of the riser, above the rest.

The blade extends down and over the outside of the arrow shaft as the bow is drawn. The archer will come nearly to full draw, and this blade will sit against the very end of the point. As the archer aims, he or she will slowly increase the draw until the point slides past the blade, allowing it to snap back against a metal plate or rod.

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At that same instant, the archer will release the arrow. If you listen closely, you will actually hear two sounds at the shot. There will be a click, as the blade snaps back against the riser, and then the twang of the bowstring being released.

That click is caused – not surprisingly – by the clicker.

What is it for?

Well, unlike compound bows, recurve bows really don’t come to a point in the draw cycle where they can’t be drawn any farther. The limbs just keep on flexing, where a compound bow eventually reaches a point where the string can’t be pulled any farther. That’s called the “wall.”

As you can imagine, if an archer shooting an Olympic recurve bow were to draw the bow 27 inches one time, 28 inches the next time and then 26.5 inches the third, the arrows would most likely hit a 70-meter target in three different spots.

To get consistent arrow grouping from a recurve bow, the bow must be drawn and released at the same draw length every time.

A clicker allows that to happen.

When an archer loads the bow, he or she will pull the clicker to the outside of the arrow. Incidentally, all of the arrows an individual archer shoots will be the same length. Every archer’s draw length is unique, and so that length varies from archer to archer. Each archer will have arrows that are correctly cut to that person’s draw length.

When the bow is drawn, the archer knows to release the string as soon as the arrow is pulled all the way through the clicker, and it snaps against the clicker plate.

A clicker plate is a flat piece of metal or a round rod stick out from the riser, away from the archer. It serves as the surface the blade smacks against to produce the “click” sound.

In the Olympics, you can pretty much count on seeing every archer using a clicker. That’s how critical it is for maintaining consistency.