The Best Bow Release for Archery and Bowhunting: An In-Depth Guide
If you’re new to archery, or if you’re used to recurve bows and you’re making the jump to compound bows, you may be a little bit intimidated by bow releases. They can be a little complicated, and there’s a broad range of different styles you can choose from.
So in today’s post, we’ll provide a deep-dive into bow releases: we’ll discuss our picks for the best bow release and provide in-depth reviews of our favorites, and then after that, we’ll provide a full lesson on releases: what they are, how to use them, and how to select the right bow release for your needs. Let’s jump in.
Releases: Our Quick Picks
Here’s a list of our top picks, divided by type, followed by full reviews below.
Best Wrist Release:
- The TruFire Patriot Archery;
- The TruFire Edge Buckle Foldback; and
- The TruFire Hardcore Buckle Foldback
Best Thumb Release:
- The Hot Shot Vapor Release;
- The TruFire Edge Hand-Held;
- The Tru Ball Max Hunter Release 3; and
- The Tru-Fire Hardcore 4 Finger Revolution Archery Release
Best Hinge Release:
- The Scott 6003-PA Longhorn Pro;
- The Scott Archery Longhorn Hunter; and
- The Scott Archery Backspin Release.
The Best Bow Releases: Reviews
Alright! Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Below, we’ll break our reviews down into the main types of releases: we’ll start with wrist releases, then move on to thumb releases, and then hinge/tension releases. First up:
TruFire Patriot Archery Compound Bow Release
Pros of the TruFire Patriot:
- Easy to strap on to your wrist and use;
- Caliper mechanism releases arrow;
- Ambidextrous—good for righties and lefties; and
- Made in the USA.
Cons of the TruFire Patriot:
- No pin or buckle;
- Velcro wears down over time.
TruFire makes a lot of gear we like, and they focus a lot on bow releases—and they particularly stand out with their line of wrist releases (and that’s why most of the wrist releases we recommend are TruFires).
The TruFire Patriot is their “just the basics / get ‘er done” model, and it’s great for new archers: make sure the trigger is set to your preferred sensitivity, strap it to your wrist, and draw and shoot. Pretty simple.
The only less-than-perfect aspect of the TruFire Patriot is the Velcro. With Velcro, you’re never 100% you’re applying the wrist strap with the same degree of tightness, and that can mean your shot is a little less consistent. If you’re interested in the Patriot—and we truly do think this a great option for beginners—you may want to make a mark on the strap, to ensure you’re fastening it with the same tightness every time you use it.
Summary: The TruFire Patriot is a great “just the basics” wrist release that’s easy to set up and use—a fantastic choice for beginners.
TruFire Edge Buckle Compound Bow Release
Pros of the TruFire Edge:
- Buckle with pins on the wrist strap ensure exact fit;
- Caliper release is good for everyone from novices to experts;
- Strap is durable leather and comfortable fabric; and
- Trigger travel is adjustable.
Cons of the TruFire Edge:
- Some limits to adjustability; and
- The calipers can weaken (but only after a LOT of use).
The TruFire Edge is their first step into “deluxe” products, and it’s a step up in terms of adjustability: it’s also got a buckle with a pin and specifically set pin holes, so you can tighten it to the same degree of tightness every single time you put it on; it allows you to adjust the “trigger travel,” meaning you can set it so that it’ll release an arrow with a short pull or a long pull, depending on your preferences; and the trigger itself is fairly sensitive, so you don’t need to really jam on it to release an arrow.
All that adaptability makes it a great option for bowhunting, where you may be letting off odd shots at odd angles, and you need your draw to work for you. The head of the release—the part with the caliper—swivels around 360 degrees, so that, too, is pretty fluid, and it can be a little forgiving if you’ve got a funky-looking draw (and swivel head makes it good for righties and lefties, too).
Summary: The TruFire Edge is a sturdy wrist release, good for hunting and target practice, and our pick for “Best Release All-Around.”
TruFire Hardcore Buckle Foldback
Pros of the TruFire Hardcore:
- Extensive adjustability on many parts of the release;
- Extra padding—a good option for high-poundage bows;
- Adjustable trigger pressure, for heavy or light release;
- Hook design, instead of caliper;
- One full inch travel adjustment; and
- Reclined trigger for easy arrow release.
Cons of the TruFire Hardcore:
- Reclined trigger takes some getting used to;
- Limited swivel on the head (because it’s a hook!).
The TruFire Hardcore Release is, in our humble, a fantastic option, and our pick for best bow release overall, and best release for hunting.
Because so much of it is adjustable, you can change the settings to optimize it for your draw. You can make the trigger heavy or light, you can consistently strap it to a specific tightness, and it’s got a lot padding, so even if you apply a lot of pressure, it’s pretty comfortable.
That padding doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big deal if you’re hunting big game and using a high-poundage bow—a release without a lot of padding can really do a number on your wrists.
The sweep-back trigger option is nice, as well—if you want to be sure the bow release isn’t going to hit other objects as you move your hand around, you can fold it back so that it’s out of the way. Having a release that hits things as you move around is annoying, but even moreso, it can be loud—and that can scare away game. Obviously that’s a bad thing, so the fold-back feature gest a big thumbs up. Pretty clever, really.
So it’s a fantastic release—BUT, we don’t think it’s a great fit for beginners. All that adjustability isn’t great for someone who’s figuring out their draw, and the intricacies of the shot. Plus, the hook at the end of the release—which only offers 20 degrees of pivot, as opposed to the 360-degree swivel offered by most caliper releases—can be tricky for someone who doesn’t yet have a smooth draw.
So, if you know what you’re doing, this can be a really fantastic choice, and it gets our vote as the best release for bowhunting.
Summary: The TruFire Hardcore is a deluxe wrist release great for experienced bowhunters and target shooters, and offers great adjustability with a very helpful fold-back feature for hunting.
Now we’ll take a look at the next type of release: thumb releases.
Hot Shot Vapor Release
Pros of the Hot Shot Vapor:
- Quiet, and therefore a good choice for bowhunting;
- Thumb trigger can be adjusted to different sensitivity; and
- Smooth, sleek design.
Cons of the Hot Shot Vapor:
- Won’t stay on bow string for extended periods of time;
- Limited adjustability; and
- Non-swivel head.
Thumb releases are a lot simpler than wrist releases, and the Hot Shot Vapor Release is a good example: it’s basically just an ergonomic handle, an adjustable thumb barrel, and a release jaw. Pretty simple, really, but that’s all you need on a thumb release.
It’s got a few drawbacks—the head of the release doesn’t swivel, so it can be a little bit unforgiving—and it doesn’t have all the modifiable features that some higher-end models have.
The real advantage of the Hot Shot, though, is its sound qualities: it’s got an “internal actuating system” designed to product very little sound, and that makes it a great choice for bowhunting. Even despite all the advances in bow technology over the last couple of years, a compound bow can still generate a lot of sound and scare off game, and any sound muffling properties you can find are helpful.
Summary: The Hot Shot Vapor is a great “just the basics” multi-use thumb release.
TruFire Edge Hand-Held Bow Release
Pros of the TruFire Edge Hand-Held:
- 360-degree swivel head;
- Can fine-tune trigger to different settings;
- Four-finger design for solid grip; and
- Camo, good for hunting.
Cons of the TruFire Edge Hand-Held:
- Not terribly loud, but entirely silent upon release; and
- Falls off bow string when walking around.
If you’ve noticed that we’re reviewing a lot of TruFire products, you’re very perceptive! There’s a reason for that: they make great bow releases, and they seem to focus on that product.
The TruFire Edge Bow Release is the hand-held version of the TruFire Edge Buckle Release—which we discussed above—and it’s got a lot of the same strengths: it’s got a full-swivel head, meaning it can provide a little “give” if you’re letting off shots from odd angles (perhaps from a tree stand or hunting blind); it’s got a sleek, four-finger design, to help you hold it and aim for long periods of time; and it’s got some adjustability opportunities in the trigger and the thumb barrel.
Summary: The TruFire Edge is a versatile, all-around thumb release good for bowhunting.
The Tru Ball Max Hunter Release 3
Pros of the Tru Ball Max:
- Push-forward thumb release feels very natural;
- Very quiet when loading.;
Cons of the Tru Ball Max:
- A little on the small side—not great if you have huge hands
Here’s the factor that makes the Tru Ball Max Hunter 3 unique: the trigger mechanism requires a push-forward motion from your thumb, instead of a pull-backwards motion from your thumb.
That seems like a small deal, but it’s actually a very unique feature on hand-held thumb releases, and it totally transforms the “feel” of the release. If you’re in the camp that thing the pull-back on thumb releases feels awkward, this can be a great alternative.
The core features of the release—dual caliper 360-degree swivel head, near-silent function, and ergonomic design—are all solid.
Summary: The Tru Ball Max is our pick for top push-forward thumb release; if the pull-back feature on most thumb releases feels weird and drives you nuts, this can be a great alternative.
Tru-Fire Hardcore 4 Finger Revolution Archery Release
Pros of the TruFire Hardcore
- 360-degree swivel head;
- 16 different positions for thumb barrel trigger;
- Hook release is more accurate than calipers; and
- 4-finger design for comfort and secure draw.
Cons of the TruFire Hardcore
- Protective bar in front of hook keeps hook from being exposed;
- Can take a while to set up.
The TruFire Hardcore Release has a lot of features we look for in a thumb release. First and foremost:
It’s got a wide range of adjustability options. Bow releases require state-of-the-art manufacturing, and it’s got to be truly difficult to make sure a small device that’s adjustable in so many ways. The TruFire Hardcore has a trigger knob that can be move to 16 different positions, and the trigger tension and travel can be adjusted, as well. That, and a fully rotating head, are really all we could ask for, in terms of adjustability.
The hook mechanism is another great feature, and it’s a sort of “best of both worlds” scenario: hooks are thought to create less torque upon release and add a little more accuracy on the shot, but you can’t attach them to the d-loop on your string, because they’ll fall off. However, the TruFire Hardcore has a loop retainer—it’s that little strip of metal right behind the hook—that allows you to attach the release to your string, should you want to leave it there. That’s a nice option, and you can also simply remove it from the release entirely if you want to only use the hook.
We like this release a lot, and it gets our vote for best thumb release for both bowhunting and tournament shooting.
Summary: the TruFire Hardcore is our pick for best thumb release, and a good choice for both bowhunting and tournament target shooting.
Finally, let’s take a look at our favorite hinge releases:
Scott 6003-PA Longhorn Pro Adv Back
Pros of the Scott Longhorn:
- Simple to use;
- Clicker tells you when you're nearing release.
Cons of the Scott Longhorn:
- A little on the small side;
- A “basic” model.
It's odd to describe a back tension / hinge release as a "just the basics" model because they're SUPPOSED to be simple, but that's how we consider the Scott Longhorn Pro: it's got a simple three-finger design, a hinge, and a clicker feature that lets you know when you're juuuuuuust about to release an arrow. Nothing fancy, just all the elements you'd look for in a back-tension hinge release.
If you're new to back tension releases, this can be a good model to learn with. The clicker will help you know when you're near release (so be sure to listen to it, if you're new to back tension releases—when you hear it click, you're very close to releasing that arrow!).
Back tension releases require a lot of craftsmanship, and because the mechanisms inside the release are so small—and need to move is such incredibly small ways—it's difficult to make even a simple back tension release. We think that's what Scott has done here—made a back tension / hinge release that's sleek and simple.
Summary: The Scott 6003-PA Longhorn is a solid "just the basics" hinge release, good if you’re new to hinge releases.
Scott Archery Longhorn Hunter Three-Finger Release
Pros of the Scott Longhorn Hunter Release:
- Wrist strap; and
- Thumb barrel for safety.
Pros of the Scott Longhorn Hunter Release:
- Advanced; takes some getting used to;
- Adjusting sensitivity can be difficult.
There aren't many back tension releases specifically made for bowhunters, and that's why we like the Scott Archery Longhorn Hunter Release. It's got a lot of the features we, as bowhunters, would hope for in a back tension / hinge release, specifically: the rope connector, which is something of a rarity on hinge releases, and if you're shooting from a tree stand (or anywhere else, really), can provide peace of mind that you won't drop the release and lose it; the camo—can never have too much camo!; the thumb barrel, which can keep you from letting loose an arrow before you're ready.
Despite all those features (most of which you'd find in a wrist strap or thumb release), it's a back tension release, and releases arrows when tilted back to a certain degree—meaning that it can help with target panic, because it's designed to release arrows at a certain spot in your draw, instead of when you pull a trigger or push a thumb barrel. Having all those features—many of the characteristics of a wrist or thumb release, but on a back tension release—makes this one stand out.
Summary: The Scott Archery Longhorn Hunter is a great hinge release for bowhunters who are specifically looking for a back-tension release.
Scott Archery Backspin Release
Pros of the Backspin:
- High-end with a lot of adjustability;
- Manufactured in both 3- and 4-finger models; and
- Designed for groupings at greater distances.
Cons of the Backspin:
- Click feature hard to remove, and you may want to; and
- A little on the heavy side.
If you're interested in target shooting, we think the Scott Archery Backspin Release may be one of the best options out there. Each of its features are designed for a smooth draw and an easy release: the hole for your index finger rotates, making it easier to draw and easier to rotate the hinge backwards and let an arrow fly; the hook itself is a little shallow—and that may make it feel a little jumpy when you first use it—but that's a good thing after you're used to the release, and you have an idea of when it'll release; and finally, you can remove the clicker mechanism, making your arrow release a little more natural. If you're having trouble with target panic—even after you make the switch to back tension / hinge release releases—removing the clicker means one less decision you have to make, and one less thing to create that feeling of jumpiness when you feel target panic.
You could use this for bowhunting—it's designed to help with accuracy, and that's never a bad thing when you're out hunting game, and you can remove the click feature, which would make it silent—but just make sure you store it in a place where you can retrieve it easily. The only issue about the Backspin is that it's a little on the heavy side, compared to other hinge releases.
All in all, though, a hinge release we consider top of the line, and happily recommend for target shooting at tournaments or simply at the range.
Summary: the Scott Archery Backspin is our pick for best back tension release for tournament / target shooting.
Types of Bow Releases
So there you have it! Our list of the best bow releases. Now that we’ve covered our products, let’s get into the “lesson” part of the post.
Whether you've been using a bow for years or are a complete beginner, a bow release can be a very helpful piece of equipment, and in this section, we’ll go over the A to Z of bow releases, and fully introduce you to the tool. Let’s start at the very beginning, and provide you with a definition:
A bow release—sometimes called a mechanical release or a release aid—is a device that is used to pull the bow string back and releasing an arrow cleanly, so that the arrow has a straight and precise arrow path towards your target.
If you've shot a few arrows and used your fingers to draw the bow string, you may be wondering: why would you need a bow release, when you can just use your fingers? What's the benefit?
When you use your fingers to pull your bow string back and release an arrow, the bow string rolls off your fingers when you release it, and there's a fair amount of torque (rotational movement) put onto the bowstring. If you were to watch a slow-motion video of the bow string leaving your fingers when it's at full draw, you'd be surprised how much rotational movement affects the bow string and results in a left/right motion of the string as it moves forward and shoots the arrow. That left/right motion is a bad thing, because it can affect the flight of the arrow, and rob you of a lot of accuracy when you're shooting.
And that's where bow releases come in. They're mechanical devices that hold the bowstring for you, and when you want to release an arrow, you pull the bow release's trigger, and your arrow is let loose. The part of the release aid that holds the string is usually made from a polished metal and opens in a very precise fashion, drastically reducing the amount of rotational movement put on the string—and allowing your arrow to fly a lot more smoothly. If you've ever seen a compound bow archery tournament and see all the shooters use release aids, that's the reason why—release aids are designed to offer a big step forward in accuracy, and can permit to you take much "cleaner" shots.
There's one other way release aids are useful, though: they also offer you some physical protection. Repeatedly pulling back a bow string on a high-poundage bow would be incredibly painful, and using your fingers would make holding the bow string at full draw almost impossible. A good bow release should allow you to pull back the bowstring smoothly and accurately, time and time again.
Generally speaking, there are two types of bow releases: wrist-strap bow releases and hand-held bow releases. Within those categories, you will find multiple options based on the type of bow you use and your shooting preference, as well as different features and adjustments.
Let’s take a look at the various types of bow releases, and their strengths and weaknesses.
Wrist Strap Bow Releases
Wrist strap bow releases are the "classic" style of bow release, and they’re very simple to use. They look like this:
As you can see, it has a leather and reinforced fabric strap that fastens snugly around the wrist, a head at the end of the release that holds the d-loop on your bow string, and a trigger that releases the arrow when you pull it. With a wrist strap bow release, you use your index finger to pull the trigger.
Wrist strap releases can be very accurate and very reliable, but they generally not considered the most accurate type of bow release. Because you attach them to your wrist, and because they may not be on the same spot on your wrist every time you take a shot, they introduce a little variability in your shot—and accuracy is all about consistently shooting the same way over and over again.
So, why do people—usually bowhunters—use them to so much? Well, it’s a trade-off, and there are a number of reasons they’re worthwhile:
The wrist strap keeps your hands free. Because you wrap a strap release around your wrist and it stays there until you take it off, they’re easy to use in on a hunting trip, where you’ve got a lot of other hunting equipment to consider and need your hands to do other tasks. When bowhunters come across some game and they’re ready to take a shot, the bow release is right there, ready and waiting, at the end of their wrist—all they need to do is attach it to the d-loop on the bow string.
They’re easier to use with high-poundage bows. Bowhunters tend to use very powerful bows when they’re on the hunt, and those bows can be very difficult to draw. A wrist strap allows you to use all the different muscles in your arm—including your triceps—to pull the bowstring back, instead of just relying on your fingers, as you would do with a hand-held bow release. There’s also the issue of gloves—bowhunters out in very cold weather wearing gloves may not be able to grasp a hand-held release.
They’re accurate enough. They may not be the MOST accurate type of release—that would be the thumb or hinge release—but a properly adjusted wrist release can provide plenty enough accuracy for a bowhunter to put an animal down. Combined with all the other benefits, they can be a good option.
With all that said, there are plenty of folks who use a wrist-strap release for target shooting and 3D shooting. Bow releases are pretty user-friendly, and pulling the trigger is a very intuitive way to shoot (whereas some of the other types of releases take some getting used to).
There are a couple of small variations on this model—some wrist strap bow releases feature a hook, rather than a caliper—but that’s the gist of it.
In contrast, there are a number of different types of…
Hand-Held Bow Releases
Hand-held bow releases were once primarily used by competition shooters who needed to launch their arrows with the utmost accuracy, but they’ve gained a wider popularity in recent years, and you’ll see archers of all stripes—bowhunters, target archers, etc.—using them.
They’re easy to use consistently—because you can hold the release in your hand in exactly the same manner every time you shoot, you’re recreating the same draw, shot after shot, so accuracy can be a bit easier to obtain.
They usually look something like this:
<<< hand-held thumb release with thumb barrel >>>
There are three different types of hand-held bow releases:
Thumb Releases. The image above shows a thumb release. As you can see, there’s a handle where you grasp the release with your fingers, a head at the end that you attach to the d-loop on your bow string, and round knob (sometimes called a “thumb barrel”) that you place your thumb on. That thumb barrel is the trigger, and when you’re at full draw, you press the thumb barrel, and you release the arrow. Thumb releases have a wide range of uses, and there are plenty of bowhunters who use them, as well as a plenty of target shooters.
Hinge Releases. Hinge releases are a little more complicated, and while they look very similar to a thumb release, they’re very different: whereas with a thumb release, you press a trigger with your thumb to release an arrow, with a hinge release (aka a tension release), you rotate the bow release backwards to release an arrow. Hinge releases use a hook to grasp the d-loop on the bow string, so when you get to full draw and you rotate the hinge release backwards, the d-loop falls off the hook and the arrow is released.
Resistance Releases. These are not as popular as thumb releases and hinge releases, but we’re seeing a lot more of them than we used to. A resistance release is tuned so that when it meets a certain amount of resistance, it releases your arrow. There’s no trigger that releases the arrow—as you pull the bow string back and reach your holding weight at full draw, you pull back a little further—increasing the resistance against the bow release—and letting your arrow fly.
Resistance releases need to be tuned with great care, and you need to know your bow’s specifications so that you can set it properly. We don’t review any resistance releases above, but if you’re interested, you may want to check out the Stanislawski Stan PerfeX Resistance Release which has a very good reputation.
Back Tension Releases. You may hear a lot about tension releases or back tension releases, so we’ll discuss these before we finish up.
Back tension releases aren’t technically a type of release, but instead, and method of using releases, wherein you pull your draw string back, reach full draw, and then contract your back muscles as the last part of your draw cycle—the part that releases your arrow.
Typically, hinge releases are the most commonly-referred to types of back tension releases, because when you get to full draw, you can tense your back muscles by pulling together your shoulder blades, thereby rotating the hinge a little bit, and letting the arrow loose.
However, the truth is, you can use back tension to activate any kind of release, and many archers and bowhunters do. Place your index finger on the trigger, or your thumb on the thumb barrel, and then pull together your shoulder blades, and that gesture can pull the trigger for you.
There is, of course, some discussion in the archery community about what a back tension release actually is, but there you go—now you know the arguments!
Which Type of Bow Release is Right for Me?
There are a couple of factors you'll need to consider when selecting a bow release. First—and perhaps most important:
If You’re Using a Recurve…
In most cases, recurve archers use finger tabs or gloves, and compound archers (for both target shooting and bow hunting) use bow releases.
If you’re looking for a recurve tab, we recommend the Arizona Archery Leather Tab and if you’re looking for a recurve glove, we recommend the Damascus Shooting Glove. We have entire post about gloves here.
Bottom line: If you’re using a recurve, you should use a tab or a glove. If you’re looking for a bow release for a compound bow, keep reading!
If You’re a Beginner…
The easiest type of bow release to use—and the one that most beginner archers and bowhunters use—is the wrist-strap release with a trigger. They're easy to select, easy to strap on, and the trigger at the index finger is very easy to use (and, honestly, it feels pretty cool, too). They usually have an adjustable release mechanism, so you can adjust the torque or play around with the pressure when getting ready to shoot, and that's part of the learning curve. As a general rule, wrist releases are a better option for new or novice archers.
Bottom line: if you’re a new archer, wrist-strap releases with a trigger for your index finger are usually your best bet.
If You’re a Bowhunter…
Choice of bowhunting equipment is a highly personalized activity, and here's what it basically boils down to: whatever works for you is what you should do. We wish we had a more decisive answer than that, but it's simply the truth. The longer you’re a bowhunter, the more you know exactly what you like.
That said, hunters tend to say the following:
Wrist-releases are great because you never have to reach for them—they’re always on your wrist, so if you have an opportunity to shoot game, you just need to attach it to the string—BUT, it can be annoying to have something dangling off your arm, it can slap against your bow string and make a nose when you want to be quiet, and it can be tough to wear when you're in very cold weather and have a bunch of clothes on your arms wrists and hands. Some higher-end wrist straps have a “foldback” feature, where you can flip the end of the release back on itself, so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re climbing the ladder on a tree stand, looking through binoculars, etc., and that’s a great feature, but not all wrist release have that feature.
Hand-held releases are good because you can attach it directly to your bow string and leave it there, and that means your hands are totally free and you won't get your wrist caught in a branch / on part of your tree stand / on your clothing, BUT hand-held releases can slip out of your fingers if you're sweaty, can be difficult to use with gloves, and can sometimes be loud when you really need them to be quiet. And if you've ever been up in a tree stand and dropped your hand-held release all the way to the ground... man, that's the worst.
Bottom line: Most bowhunters use wrist-strap bow releases for bowhunting, because it allows them to use both hands for other activities, and they’re the best bet if you’re a new bowhunter. There are plenty of bowhunters who use thumb releases and even hinge releases, but those tend to be bowhunters who are a little bit more experienced.
If You’re into Target / Tournament Shooting…
The release aid of choice for most target shooters / tournament shooters who need as much accuracy as possible are hand-held releases, in particular thumb releases and hinge releases. These two releases usually have a high degree of adjustability, and being able to change the settings on your bow releases can be a tremendous help when it comes to accuracy. Target archers spend years perfecting their form, so that every time they draw the bow, they’re re-creating the same exact movements again and again. Every little micro-motion counts, and target archers can set their bow release to meet the exact specifications of their draw.
There’s another reason why thumb releases and hinge releases are popular for target archers seeking accuracy: hand-held bow releases tend to facilitate more consistent draws, and it's easier to bring them to the exact same anchor spot on your face, time after time, and re-create an accurate shot. On a wrist strap release, the wrist band can warp over time and can slide on your wrist if you're sweaty, and that can make it more difficult to re-create the exact draw over and over again. You may see a wrist-strap release in a competition here and there, but they’re much more rare.
Bottom line: Target archers and tournament shooters tend to use thumb releases and hinge releases, because those releases provide accuracy and consistency in controlled environments like a tournament setting.
If You're Experiencing Target Panic…
Target panic is an odd experience: it's a psychological (and maybe even neurological) experience where your mind makes it very hard to focus on a target. If you've never experienced it, consider yourself lucky—but keep in mind it's something that can affect anyone, and it's usually veteran archers and bowhunters that develop it: after all, you have to be able to consistently hit your target, before you can complain that you're not consistently hitting it.
Many archers who suffer from target panic say that hinge releases help them a great deal, and the reason may be a little bit surprising: with a hinge release, you’re never 100% certain when you’re going to release your arrow, so when you’re at full draw and aiming at the target, you rotate the hinge backwards, and the arrow is released at some point while you’re aiming. Because the arrow is released at some point while you rotate the hinge backwards, you don’t have to pull the trigger or press the thumb barrel, and you don’t experience that “panic” feeling of target panic—you simply rotate the hinge while you’re aiming, and at some point during that micro-movement, you let the arrow off.
Target archers in tournaments report the same thing—that they simply need to aim, and that the hinge release lets off an arrow for them. The hinge release relieves them of the duty of actually punching the trigger, and as long as they focus on aiming, the hinge release does their work for them.
Bottom line: Hinge releases are very hard to use, and we would not recommend them for beginners, but they’re very popular among experienced target archers and archers who suffer from target panic.
So, to sum up:
- If you’re shooting a recurve, use a tab or a glove;
- If you’re a beginner, a wrist strip will usually be a good option;
- If you’re a bowhunter, a wrist strip is a great option, although veteran bowhunters sometimes use thumb releases;
- If you’re a target archer / tournament archer looking for accurate, thumb releases and hinge releases are usually you’re go-to release; and
- If you’ve got target panic, a hinge release can help.
Release Features to Consider
Each type of release has different features, and those features actually make a big difference on how your bow release performs. Let's take a look at the two main types of bow releases, and the features associated with each.
Wrist-Strap Release Features to Look For
Here's what you need to consider:
Velcro vs. Buckle-and-Pin. Most wrist straps are offered in one of two versions: a strap that connects with Velcro, or a strap that has a buckle and a pin where you can put the pin into different holes, depending on how tight you want the wrist strap to be. In almost all cases, the buckle-and-pin will be a little more accurate, because it'll allow you to re-create the exact same tightness on your wrist every time you shoot. When you attach the Velcro strap, sometimes it's tighter or looser than other times, and that can mess with your draw and affect your consistency a little bit. Velcro works fine, but buckle-and-pin is usually just a bit better.
Single Caliper vs. Dual Caliper vs. Hook on the Release Head. The release head is the actual device that holds the d-loop on your bow string, and there are a couple different release heads available for wrist strap releases. The most common is a caliper, which are like "jaws" that come together and hold the bow string. On a single caliper, one side of the jaw is flat, the other side of the jaw opens; on a dual caliper, both sides look the same, and both open at the same rate. Other bow releases have a hook mechanism at the end, and pulling the trigger relaxes the hook so that the bow string can leap forward and shoot the arrow. Hooks have a reputation as being the most accurate, followed by dual calipers, and then single calipers.
Adjustability Settings. There a number of different settings on a wrist strap, but the most common one you'll find is "trigger travel," which is how far you need to pull the trigger with your index finger in order to release an arrow. If you're using a bow release with a light trigger, you'll only need to pull it a fraction of an inch and you'll release an arrow, whereas if you're using a bow release with a heavy trigger, you'll need to pull back the trigger a far ways to release an arrow. Many bow releases allow you to adjust the trigger so you can find what works for you.
Trigger Shape. Some of the triggers on wrist releases are curved to fit your finger, whereas others are totally straight. Most people seem to go for the curved trigger (and there are far more curved trigger bow releases made), but there are folks who use (and like) the straight trigger. Up to you; another personal preference thing.
Hand-Held Release Features to Look For
Because hand-held releases include both thumb releases and hinge releases, we'll provide the features for each:
These are extremely popular, and you'll want to look for:
Single Caliper vs. Dual Caliper vs. Hook on the Release Head. Just like with wrist straps, the actual release head comes in a couple of difference variations.
Calipers are a set of jaws that come together and hold the bow string, and they come in two varieties: single caliber and dual caliper. A single caliper has one jaw that lays flat while the other jaw lifts so that the bow string is released; a dual caliper has to identical jaws, and they both part at equal rates to open and release an arrow.
The other type of release head is a hook, which holds the bow string in place, and when you pull the trigger, it releases the arrow. As a general rule of thumb, bow releases with hooks provide the most accuracy, followed by bow releases with dual calipers, followed by bow releases with a single caliper.
Two Finger / Three Finger / Four Finger. Handheld releases are manufactured as two-finger hand-held releases, three-finger hand-held releases, and four-fingered hand-held releases. Three-finger releases being the most popular, with four-fingers being the second-most popular (and some higher-end models are sold as three-fingered versions that come with an add-on so you can convert it to a four-finger model if you so choose). There are no real advantages; it's another matter of personal preference.
Adjustability Options. Thumb-trigger releases have a lot of adjustability, and depending on the model, you can adjust the trigger travel (that is, how far you need to pull the trigger in order to let off an arrow), and you can adjust the location of the thumb trigger.
The Direction of the Thumb Trigger. On most thumb-trigger releases, you'll need to pull the trigger barrel backwards to release an arrow; on others, you can press it forward. There are far more thumb-trigger models where you need to pull the trigger barrel backwards.
Sound Quality. If you're using a thumb trigger for hunting, sound is a big issue, and you want them as quiet as possible. Models designed for bowhunting are usually pretty silent; models designed for target shooting or tournament shooting are usually loud, because sound isn't too important archers shooting at inanimate targets.
These are kind of a conundrum—they're the sleekest of the bow releases, but they have the fewest features, because they don't feature any kind of trigger, they all have hook releases, and they don't have much need for adjustability. Here are the features you want to look out for:
Number of Fingers. Most are three-finger, although some target archers use two-fingered releases. It's rare to see a four-finger hinge release, because that would make them difficult to turn backwards so that you can release an arrow.
A "clicker" Option. Some hinge releases product a "click" sound right before you let off an arrow, and some archers like knowing they're about to shoot an arrow, but others think it defeats the purpose of a hinge release, which is to introduce an element of surprise into when your arrow is let loose. Many models allow you turn that click on or off. And lastly...
A Rotating Finger Hole. The rotation provides a little flexibility when you're drawing the bow string back.
And there you have it! Now you know just about all the features you'll need to keep in mind if you're looking for a bow release.
Tips on How to Use Your Bow Release
Because the different types of bow release operate differently, we’ll offer two different sets of advice, given on the type of bow release you want to use.
If You’re Using a Wrist Strap Bow Release
We’ll start with the most important bit of advice first:
Keep Your Finger BEHIND the Trigger When You Draw. If you’re using a wrist release, MAKE SURE that your index finger is BEHIND the trigger when you’re drawing the bow. When you’re at full draw and you’ve found your anchor point, THEN you can put your index finger in front of the trigger and let an arrow lose.
There are two reasons why this tip is so important:
1) If you draw with your index finger on the trigger, you’re very likely to pull on the trigger during the draw, and you’ll let an arrow loose before you’ve aimed and are ready to let it go. That, obviously, is pretty dangerous.
2) If you do let an arrow go early, your draw hand will snap back and hit you in the face. It sounds kind of funny, but it’s 100% true and it happens—and when it happens, the consequences can be pretty severe: in the “best case” scenario, it just hurts, because you’ve punched yourself in the face; in the worst-case scenario, we’ve seen black eyes, broken teeth, and skin cuts.
So, seriously—keep that index finger BEHIND the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
The same thing goes if you’re using a thumb release—when you’re drawing the bow, you want to be absolutely certain that your thumb isn’t in a position where it can accidentally trip the trigger and send an arrow flying before you want it to.
Make Sure the Strap is Secure. If you’re using a wrist strap, make sure it’s properly fastened so that it won’t slip when you’re drawing. A wrist strap that slips is dangerous for the same reasons you need to keep your index finger behind the trigger—you can let loose an arrow before you mean to, and you can end up punching yourself in the face. Make sure it’s buckled in properly, and if there’s some Velcro on the strap, make sure that it’s attached properly—you don’t want the end of the strap dangling off your wrist, as that, too, can be a dangerous distraction.
Find the Right Notch in the Strap and Use It Every Time. The key to archery is a consistent shot, meaning that everything about your draw needs to be the same every time you shoot. When you use a wrist release, you’ll have different holes in the strap itself, so you can adjust it to be tighter or looser on your wrist. Obviously, you want it to be tight enough (but not so tight that it’s cutting off blood to your hand!), and once you find a comfortable setting, you want to put the pin in the same hole in the strap every time you shoot. If you find that the seventh hole feels best and helps you shoot accurately, always insert the pin into the seventh hole. Find which hole in your wrist strap works for you, and use that same hole every time.
Also, if your wrist release is tighter or looser on your wrist during different shooting sessions, that means you’re drawing your arrows back closer or further from your dedicated anchor point—and that will probably affect the consistency of your aim. Be observant, and make sure you use your wrist strap the same way every time you shoot.
Adjust the Tightness Settings of the Actual Release. The trigger on a wrist strap can be adjustable so that it’s “heavy,” meaning you really have to pull on it to let loose an arrow, or it can be adjusted so that it’s “light,” meaning you only need to lightly pull it to let loose an arrow. If you’re a novice archer, a heavy trigger may be safer, and you can make loosen it up once you gain some experience.
If You’re Using a Thumb/Tension Bow Release
Our tips for using a thumb or tension release are very similar to our tips for using a wrist strap release:
Be Careful on the Draw. That means keep your thumb away from the trigger, and not rotating the release, to ensure that you don’t release an arrow before you intend to. Not only is it dangerous to release an arrow before you’re ready—and you have no idea where that thing will go—but you’ll also end up punching yourself in the face.
Be Careful on Your First Shot. Very often, a new thumb release will have a VERY light trigger, and someone using it for the first time will let off an arrow before they were ready and end up punching themselves in the face. It can happen to anyone—even experienced archers!
The best thing to do before you use your thumb release on your actual bow is to get a piece of thick string (something about the thickness of your bow string), tie a knot in it so that it’s a closed loop, attach your hand-held release to it, pull it back so that it’s taught, and then press the thumb barrel. You’ll get an idea of how light or heavy the trigger is, and it can save you a punch in the face.
Don’t Strangle the Hand-Held. Most archers realize that holding the bow creates torque, and that a looser grip actually promotes aim and accuracy. The same is true for your hand-held bow release: you want to grip it tightly enough so that it’s not going to slip, but not so tight that your hand will shake it and decrease your accuracy.
Get the Release Setting Correct. Some archers prefer to set their releases “heavy,” meaning that it takes a lot of force to release an arrow, and others find they shoot better when their releases are a bit “lighter.” As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to use a heavy release when you’re new and developing skills and experience, and loosening things later.
Happy Shooting, Archers!
That about wraps it up for our bow release post! There’s a lot of info here, so hopefully the sections above will get you up to speed. If you have any questions, feel free to jump over to our “Contacts” page and drop us a line. Good luck, have fun, and happy shooting!