Wrist and finger slings: Do I need one?
Take a close look at an Olympic recurve archer, and you’ll likely notice a piece of cord tethering the forefinger to the thumb, around the back of the bow at the grip.
You might see the same thing on the hand of a compound archer, although you’re more likely to spot a cord attached to the bow that encircles the archer’s wrist.
The first is a finger sling; the second is a wrist sling. The purpose of both is to keep the bow from hitting the ground after a shot.
Do you need a sling? Some folks will say, “Yes,” others will say, “No.” Let’s talk about what they do, and then you can decide what’s right for you.
Recurve bows deliver more forward motion and hand shock than compounds, with a noticeable jump forward at the release of the bowstring. Traditional archers tend to wrap their fingers around their bows, so you don’t see many of them using finger or wrist slings, although they could benefit from them.
Olympic recurve archers, however, are going to have their bow hand positioned with knuckles at a 45-degree angle, and with an open grip and relaxed fingers that don't hold the riser. A finger sling will catch the bow when it leaps forward at the shot, which eliminates the need for the archer to try to catch it with his or her hand. This allows the archer to relax the bow hand, eliminating bow torque and inconsistencies in the shot.
Finger slings shouldn’t pin the bow tight against your hand. That’s just another form of torque. Finger slings should allow the bow to move forward toward the target. Some archers like a sling that allows the bow to move forward a little, while others wear slings that allow the bow to totally leave their hand. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
As we already mentioned, compound bows built in recent years don’t jump like recurves. So there are some compound archers who don’t use any kind of sling. Even with a relaxed, open grip, they’re not worried about dropping the bow.
Some will use a finger sling for the same reason as recurve archers. Many more are likely to have wrist slings.
A wrist sling should be loose around the archer’s wrist. You don’t want it tight, so it pulls your wrist in any direction. It’s simply there for safety. If the bow gets out of your hand, it won’t fall to the ground.
If bowhunters have a sling it’s almost always going to be an open, bow-mounted wrist sling. They can get a hand underneath it quickly when they pick up the bow to shoot, rather than have to fumble with a finger sling.
Also, if you’re hunting with broadhead-tipped arrows and you trip, you might want to be able to put some distance between you and your bow as you fall. With an open wrist sling, you can easily toss the bow to the side. That move might be impossible to pull off with a finger sling or a more confining style of wrist sling.
And if you hunt from a tree stand, you really ought to think about a wrist sling, because you’re always going to be pointing your bow hand down when you shoot. Besides the potential for the bow to jump out of your hand, you’ve also got gravity threatening to carry it past your grip. And a fall from 20 feet would hurt your bow way more than a fall from 5 or 6 feet, so the insurance of a wrist sling really makes sense up in a tree.