How to Use a Compound Bow Release

For much of history, bows were constructed as a slightly curved piece of flexible and springy wood with a string tied to either end. Such bows had to be fired by setting an arrow in the middle of the string and drawing the arrow back to build tension on the bow. The archer had to hold back the full tension of the bow while aiming, and let their fingertips roll off of the string to release the arrow.

The compound bow was a great improvement on this. Pulleys were added to each end of the wood, allowing the mechanical advantage of force amplification that pulleys provide to allow more string tension to be built up. Also, when drawn, the compound bow passes a point where the pulleys take much of the strain of holding the tension. This point on the draw of a compound bow is called breaking the bow over. Once broken over, the archer need hold only a small amount of force on the string while aiming.

A further improvement was to eliminate disturbances caused by the fingers of the archer rolling off of the strings. A mechanical holding device, called a release, was developed that held the string at 1 linear point and allowed the archer to fire the arrow by simply triggering the release. Use these tips to learn how to use a compound bow release.


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    Nock the arrow. Place the tail of the arrow firmly into the grip fingers on the string. Rest the body of the arrow on the ledge provided on the frame of the bow.
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    Attach the release mechanism. Make sure that the release mechanism wrist support is firmly and comfortably on the wrist of the bow arm. Clip the release mechanism to the thin loop of rope that extends back from the grip fingers on the string.
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    Break the bow over. Breaking the bow over will require a considerable pull which should be performed with the arrow pointing down.
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    Raise the bow to the firing position. With the help of the release mechanism, pull the string back until it is at the jaw of the archer.
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    Aim the arrow. Relax physically and mentally; then point the arrow at the target.
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    Begin the release. The release mechanism will have either a thumb trigger or a finger trigger. Thumb release mechanisms are preferred by target shooters. Thumb releases are designed not to push down with the thumb, but rather to squeeze the entire hand. Finger triggers are commonly used by hunters. Start squeezing slowly and steadily.
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    Execute a surprise release. Avoid the temptation to rapidly squeeze the hand or jab with the finger. This will cause the bow assembly to jerk. Concentrate on keeping the arrow trained at the target while gently and steadily squeezing. The arrow will fire when everything comes into place, rather than at the precise moment of deciding to shoot. This type of release is called the surprise release. It is the most effective way to make sure that the arrow is aimed properly at the time of release.


  • Remember that when the bow is being aimed, your back is doing the holding work, not your arm. Keep the bow arm as relaxed as possible while aiming.
  • Some archers will draw the arrow slowly back slightly further while squeezing the release and waiting for the surprise release. They feel that it helps them be steadier. This is a matter of personal preference.


  • Do not ever dry fire a bow, when you release a bow most of the energy generated goes to the arrow, if there is no arrow all the energy goes back to the bow and causes micro cracks in its construction which makes the bow unsafe for it's use in the future. Firing dry is VERY DANGEROUS.
  • Compound bows are powerful. An unintentional string release can cause injury. Take great care in keeping the bow under control, especially if the decision is made to lower the bow and release the tension on the string without shooting. Such a lowering may seem to be a casual act, but the bow is now a loaded weapon and must be handled as such.
  • Care must always be taken that an arrow that misses the target does not strike something else. Backstops behind the target are commonly used to guard against this. Most practice ranges do not permit the initial raise to point the arrow in such a way that it may overfly the backstop.

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Categories: Archery