One of the most important things in the sport of archery is consistency. Release aids were invented to help archers improve the consistency of their shots, but do they really improve the accuracy of the shot that much compared to just using your fingers?
Release aids are the most accurate release method for most archers. Fatigue and improper form make fingers an inconsistent release method compared to a mechanical trigger, which is not affected by these variables.
Of course, personal preference always plays a part in the selection of archery gear, but it’s tough to beat a device that was made to release strings with consistent accuracy.
What is an Archery Release?
Release aids are not unlike the trigger of a gun.
There are several different kinds of release aids, but they all have the same basic function: to release the bow’s string and send the arrow flying.
In the past, it was the archer’s fingers that did this job, and there are still some that prefer this more traditional release method.
However, release aids were invented for a reason, and most people agree that using a release aid improves the accuracy of their shots on a consistent basis.
The best way to explain why release aids are helpful is to explain how they work, so let’s get into the different forms of release aids how they operate.
Different Kinds of Release Aids
Basically, all release aids fall into two different categories: aids made for use with compound bows, and aids made for use with traditional bows (mainly recurve).
Traiditonal Bow Release Aids
We’ll begin with the recurve release aids since there are really only two to talk about.
Now, archers who choose to shoot with traditional bows typically prefer a more, well, traditional experience.
As a result, the release aids used by recurve archers are less mechanically advanced devices that help with consistency and accuracy while still preserving the tactile relationship between archer and bow.
The main type of release aid used with recurve bows is the finger tab.
With this device, you are still actually pulling back the string yourself, but the tab rests between your fingers and the string.
The purpose of this is to provide a smoother surface for the string to slide off of.
Finger tabs are available in a number of different materials. Most stores will offer tabs made of various types of leather or plastic.
Does this really help?
Well, yes. It actually saps a lot of energy for the string to have to travel across the uneven surface of your three release fingers.
The other release aid used by recurve archers is barely even a device at all, but can still help enhance an archer’s accuracy and consistency.
Gloves made of leather or nylon cover the three release fingers of the archer, providing a slightly more smooth service for the string to slide against.
Gloves also offer protection to the archer’s fingers, slowing down the onset of fatigue or pain from shooting frequently.
Compound Bow Release Aids
Those who use compound bows are no strangers to advanced mechanical devices.
Compound bows are basically made of mechanical devices designed to enhance the bow’s power and accuracy, so the addition of a release aid is natural.
There are four main types of release aids in this category, so let’s get into it.
The index finger release aid is one of the simpler designs of compound bow releases.
It is also the most like the trigger on a firearm.
The archer attaches the aid to his arm with a wrist strap and to the string with one or two moving jaws that clamp onto the D-loop on the bow’s string.
Then, the archer pulls the string back, reaches a finger out to the trigger, and pulls it by dragging the arm back a little further.
Another popular choice for compound archers is the thumb trigger release, which has a pretty self-explanatory name.
Like the index finger release aid, the thumb trigger release attaches to the string via D-loop and small mechanical draws, but instead of pulling the trigger with your index finger when you’re ready to release, you trigger the device by hitting it with your thumb.
Thumb releases can be used either with or without a wrist strap, though many archers do choose to add one for comfort.
For archers who enjoy challenging themselves, the hinge release is a fun device to use when shooting your compound bow.
Unlike the other two release aids, this device helps the user acheive a more accurate and consistent release by surprising them with the release.
Seem counterintuitive? I know. But hear me out.
Some pretty smart people in the archery community figured out through experience and observation that archers often anticipate their own release of the string with a small flinch or shiver.
Even if the flinch is indiscernible to human eyes, the slight movement affects the steadiness of the shot and, inevitably, the flight of the arrow.
The hinge release solves this issue by releasing the string of its own volition rather than that of the archer.
Of course, it depends on the archer to a certain extent.
The hinge won’t release the string until the archer comes to full draw and begins to either pull back his shoulder blades, hence extending the draw and releasing the trigger, or begins to relax his release hand, triggering the device.
If any of these release aids sound like they might be helpful to you (and even if they don’t), it’s a good idea to test some out at your local pro shop or archery range and determine if they might improve your shooting.
Using Your Fingers: Pros and Cons
If you’re still on the fence about the release method that’s best for you, it may be helpful to consider some pros and cons of both methods.
For the traditional finger release method, there’s really only one large pro: you have a better connection to the feel of the string and the bow before you release.
Some archers prize that connection more than anything, and distancing that connection with a release aid can feel alien to some.
The greatest con with using your bare fingers on the string, and this is the reason release aids were invented, is that it’s difficult to release the string the same exact way every time.
Even those archers with perfect form and spot-on anchor points can struggle with this, and even with intense training, your fingers are just not going to do the same thing on every shot.
There’s also finger fatigue to worry about and often callouses that can make it harder to hold onto the string.
Using a Release Aid: Pros and Cons
It goes without saying that your number one advantage in using a release aid is improved accuracy and consistency.
Release aids make it possible to have only one point of contact on the bow’s string rather than three, which reduces the chances of the string catching on something greatly.
Not only that, but a release aid could also extend the life of your string, which would no longer be constantly subject to the degrading oils on the skin of your fingers.
As mentioned, the con to a release aid can be interference between you and the bow.
And even though it isn’t common, the malfunction of a release aid could cause you to miss an important shot.
Again, personal preference will matter a great deal when considering whether or not the addition of a release aid is right for you.
Top Release Aids on the Market
If you are interested in making a release aid part of your shooting routine, here are a few suggestions for specific models to look into.
The TruFire Hardcore Buckle Foldback Adjustable Archery Compound Bow Release is a popular index finger release aid with nearly five stars on Amazon.
A best-selling thumb release is the Hot Shot Vapor 4 Release, which is available for $70-$75 on Amazon.
TruFire also makes a well-reviewed hinge release aid, which is called the Edge 4-Finger Aluminum Hand Held Camo Archery Bow Release and is available on Amazon.
Even if you don’t choose to use one of these devices, it’s important to know a little about release aids as they’re a major part of the sport and will most likely continue to evolve.