How to Hold an Archery Bow

Four Methods:Compound BowCrossbowBasic Recurve BowLongbow

The right way to hold a bow depends on the type of bow you are using. You hold a compound bow and a crossbow in two very different ways. While the correct hold for a basic recurve bow and longbow are similar to the hold you use for a compound bow, there are a few variations with these grips that you will need to keep in mind.

Method 1
Compound Bow

  1. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 1
    Approach the bow from an angle.[1] Hold your dominant hand out in a position that is perpendicular to the ground. Turn it clockwise by about 20 to 35 degrees. Your fingers should be loose and spread apart in a natural, relaxed manner. This is the position you will need to grasp the bow with.
    • If you are using your left hand, turn the bow counter-clockwise instead of clockwise.
    • You need to resist the temptation to "shake hands" with the bow. In other words, do not grasp it directly from a straight angle. Doing so can put your hand off-center with the grip, so the bow is more likely to twist as you use it. Moreover, you are also more likely to grab the bow too tightly in this position, which could also lead to unwanted twisting of the wrist while shooting.
  2. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 2
    Let the bow grip fall into the pocket of your hand. With your hand still in its previous position, note the pocket that forms inside the palm of your hand. Lift your fingers upward slightly and slide the grip into this natural pocket.
    • If you are unable to feel the pocket, you might be forcing your fingers open too much. Doing this can cause the muscles in your palm to stretch and become tense, which can cause this pocket to disappear.
    • This pocket is the only secure spot you can hold the bow with. If you grab the bow grip with any other part of your hand, your hand is likely to change position once you apply pressure.
    • A more precise location of this spot is where the radius bone meets the palm, directly at the base of your thumb. It also happens to coincide with your lifeline.
  3. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 3
    Relax your fingers around the grip. Let the fingers of your dominant hand naturally hang along the handle or grip of the bow. Your index finger should brush against your thumb, but the rest of your fingers should be relaxed and loosely curled around the handle.
    • Your index finger and thumb are the only two fingers that should catch the bow after you make a shot. The rest of your fingers should not press down on the bow grip at all. If you have difficulty keeping the bow steady like this, you may also use your middle finger to help hold the bow in place, but you should never use your entire hand.
    • You may even decide to fold the bottom two or three fingers into your palm to keep them from getting in the way.
    • This is the way you should hold the bow when you are preparing to shoot an arrow.

Method 2

  1. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 4
    Hold the crossbow like a rifle.[2] Hold the crossbow so that the back is butted against your shoulder. Support the barrel of the crossbow at its center of gravity using your non-dominant hand. Hold onto the back of the crossbow around the trigger using your dominant hand.
    • The back of the bow should be positioned above and just to the inside of your armpit.
    • Wrap your non-dominant hand firmly on the barrel, supporting it from the bottom.
    • Keep your fingers out of the way of the trigger mechanism. Your index finger should be the only finger not bent while firing the bow.
  2. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 5
    Alternatively, bring the crossbow up above your shoulder. The second basic way to hold a crossbow is similar, but instead of supporting the back of the bow with your shoulder, you rest the bottom back on top of your shoulder. Your non-dominant hand still supports the barrel at its center of gravity while your dominant hand rests near the trigger.
    • Securely grasp the barrel of the bow with your non-dominant hand.
    • Position your dominant hand so that it rests to the outside of the bow. Your fingers should be extended, and your thumb should rest just below the trigger. When you shoot the crossbow using this method, you will activate the trigger by pressing up on it with your thumb.

Method 3
Basic Recurve Bow

  1. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 6
    Hold the bow perpendicular to the ground. When you first grab the bow, do so while the bow is in a horizontal position. The bow should line up vertically with the strings, and the entire thing should face the ground at roughly a 90 degree angle.[3]
    • A well-made recurve bow will usually have a grip on it that naturally guides the and in place. Even so, it can be a good idea to know how to place your hand on the bow correctly, just in case the balance of the grip does not work for your strength and height or in case you must use a cheaper recurve bow.
  2. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 7
    Grab the bow with your non-dominant hand. The grip should rest inside the pocket of your non-dominant hand. This pocket is the natural gap that lies in between your palm and your thumb.
    • If you cannot find the pocket of your hand, try to relax the muscles in your hand more. Oftentimes, tense muscles can cause this pocket to disappear.
    • Note that if you fail to grab the bow with this portion of your hand, you may not have enough stability to control the bow as you draw it back to shoot.
    • Ideally, the force of your hand should be at the lateral center of the bow grip and just slightly below the vertical center of the grip. The grip usually lies at the center of the bow. If your bow does not have a grip built into it, grab it near the center and adjust your hand placement accordingly until you can get a firm enough grip to prevent the bow from swaying as you hold it.
    • You may need to test your hold on the bow by drawing the string back. The hand should feel comfortable, and the center of your hand should come into full contact with the center of the bow grip. There should also be no pressure or force on the wrist during a shot.
  3. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 8
    Bend your fingers around the grip. The thumb should rest on the back of the bow grip, and the index finger should wrap around the front and barely brush against your thumb from the other side, if at all. Ultimately, the index finger and thumb must both feel firm without feeling tense.[4]
    • The remaining three fingers of your hand should gently curl toward the front of the bow grip. You may notice that the middle and ring fingers can wrap around the grip while the pinky curls and presses against the grip. The important thing to remember is simply to prevent your fingers from getting stressed.
    • The position of your fist, including the index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, should move down diagonally at a 45 degree angle from the bow.
    • Note that the force of the bow should be placed on the thumb and index finger. These two fingers are the only ones that will really end up controlling to direction of the bow.
  4. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 9
    Keep your hand relaxed, yet steady. The placement of your fingers should not change as you draw or release the bow. Also note that the tension should only exist in your hand and nowhere else. In other words, keep your wrist, arm, and shoulder relaxed.
    • Also note that the left part of your palm should not be allowed to touch the actual grip part of the bow. Instead, it should face downward, toward the ground. If the palm touches the bow, you will be unable to turn the bow arm inward, which can lead to a bad shot.

Method 4

  1. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 10
    Hold the bow at a 90 degree angle. The entire bow should be perpendicular to the ground. The stick portion of the bow should appear horizontal, as well as perpendicular to your body, and the strings should line up with the stick on a vertical plane.
    • The longbow varies from the recurve and compound bow in that the wrist grip needs to be positioned a bit lower in order to maintain adequate balance. You will ultimately apply more pressure with the heel of your hand, and the pivot point will be further away from the arrow.
  2. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 11
    Bring the bow into contact with the ball of your thumb joint. Position the bow grip in your non-dominant hand so that the primary point of contact lies roughly on the the base of your thumb. More precisely, the bow should rest just outside of the thumb joint, at the fleshy part of your hand just below the pocket of your thumb.
    • The "pocket" refers to the portion of your hand in between your thumb and palm. As long as your hand is relaxed, you should easily find this natural space composed mostly of flesh.
    • Unlike a recurve or compound bow, the point of contact you have with a long bow should be at the lowest part of this pocket rather than at the center. The force must ultimately rest on the heel of the hand and below the thumb joint, so this should be where your primary point of contact is.[5]
    • Be careful as you grip your bow. If your grip is too near the thumb, you will have poor aim and will ultimately end up stressing your thumb joint. If your grip is too near the palm, the bow will be highly unstable.
  3. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 12
    Curve your fingers around the bow grip. You may need to play around with finger placement in order to find something both firm and comfortable, but as with other bow types, most of the control will come from the thumb and index finger.
    • The thumb should wrap around the back of the bow. The knuckle may end up resting toward the inside edge of the grip, but only slightly and not in a dramatic manner.
    • The index finger will usually wrap around the front of the bow and meet the thumb from the other side. Note, however, that you should only just barely allow these two fingers to meet. If they are pressed together, you are likely gripping the bow too tight or strangling it. This can cause serious pain to your hand, and it may also slow the flight of the arrow when you shoot.
    • The remaining three fingers should wrap around the front of the bow. Keep them relaxed and natural, but firm. The pinky finger can move around some and is not a crucial element of the grip, but usually, you will still want it to curve around the front of the bow.
  4. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Step 13
    Keep the force in your hand. The pressure should rest on the ball of your thumb as you shoot, and the wrist should remain as straight as possible.[6]
    • When you draw the bow string back, your elbow will need to be level with your shoulder in order to maintain this balance in your hand. Your wrist should never be forced to flex during the process, and you should keep as much pressure as possible out of your arm muscles.
  5. Image titled Hold an Archery Bow Final


  • Consider practicing the way you hold your bow in front of a mirror. Doing so can give you a more accurate picture of what you are doing, and you might be able to notice errors in your grip when viewed from multiple angles. Just make sure that you do not use an arrow when practicing your bow hold in front of a mirror.

Article Info

Categories: Archery