Choosing The Right Release

The options: finger, thumb, back tension or hinge releases

Most people start out shooting archery with a wrist-style release. These releases are the most economical and are mostly used by bowhunters, which is what the majority of people in our areas are buying bows for. The releases are designed to attach to the wrist, so hunters don’t lose them out in the field. People shoot them using their finger to activate and release the arrow. This is not the correct way to use them; however, that is how most people do it. If you watch hunting videos, you will watch bowhunters shoot with the movement of their finger.

There are many releases available on the market today. Find one that works for you.
There are many releases available on the market today. Find one that works for you.

Now, for hunting, this will still be good enough to hit an animal in one of the vital organs, which is the size of about a pie plate. Nowhere near the size to win any tournaments. This is where most tournament archers select handheld-style releases. In this category, these archers select a thumb-style release or one of two back tension-style releases. These handheld-style releases are becoming more popular with hunters lately; as the bows become more accurate, people want to shoot these highly technical bows to the best of their ability.

These handheld-style releases are going to be a bit more money, as they are more technical and have machined parts, and they require a lot of adjustments to personalize them to your liking. This is what pushes the price higher.

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With wrist-style releases you have lots of choices, but when selecting one it’s important to first select one that has an adjustable shaft or strap to fit your hand size; this is as important as fitting your draw length on your bow. Proper fit is when your trigger hits your second joint on your finger. Do not shoot with the trigger at the fingertip. The fingertip is way too sensitive, causing you to slap the trigger more violently. Your trigger should be at the second joint and your thumb and index finger should touch in order to shoot the release properly.

The second most important thing with your wrist release is to select a buckle closure, then you will adjust it to the same hole every time; unlike Velcro closures, which are different every time. Then select a release with a trigger that is back farther, called a sweptback trigger, which is farther back on the adjustable shaft to fit the second joint better. A lot of releases do not get short enough, so watch for that. If you see a rubber shaft with a nut on the end, make sure you cut the rubber out and adjust the nut to shorten the release. So many people buy a release and do not even know they are adjustable, so they shoot them with the shaft way too long. Remember, they have to make the release long in case you are six-feet tall, or more, and one can always cut length but never add length, so releases start very long.

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Now, thumb-style releases have many choices as well, and more nowadays than before as veteran shooters move towards this style. These do help you shoot more accurate. They vary in price from over $100 to over $400, so expect to spend a little more for one. I want to caution you though that, if you are going to buy one and you’re going to shoot it with your thumb, then do not spend the extra money. The release is better, but activating it with your thumb, just like activating with a finger on the wrist-style release, are both wrong and you are not getting the full benefit of this highly accurate instrument in your hand.

There are great training aids made to help you learn to shoot any release properly, before you put it on a bow. The proper way to shoot any release is to gently push your elbow back until the finger touches and sets your trigger off as a surprise. So aids like MD-50 Gear are elasticized aids to simulate a bow string and are used to practice this action with your new release. They are also good to take on the road to practice with if you do not have your bow and want to stay in shape.

Do some research and there are lots of good releases by Carter, Scott, T.R.U. Ball, etc. I prefer Carter because they are nicely machined and fit a hand comfortably; if it’s comfortable, it’s more repeatable. I sell a lot of Chocolate Addictions and Insatiable models by Carter for a thumb style. Trophy Ridge is making some new and economical ones too, these even have a swiveling head for easy transition from your wrist style. The key here, to shooting these correct, is to put it in your hand until your thumb touches your index finger and the trigger will sit at the bottom of your thumb (not the end of your thumb) and activate it by pushing your elbow back until it fires as a surprise, not a conscious movement of your finger or thumb.

Now the back tension-style releases. These fit in mostly two categories: the resistance-activated ones and the hinge-style ones. Resistance ones do not have a trigger at all, they have a post to put your thumb on while you pull the bow back or the trigger would fire and you would punch yourself in the face. So keep your thumb on the post to prevent that. Then after the bow is at anchor, take your thumb off the post and the release is alive, so to speak. Push your elbow back and the increase in pressure, which is adjustable, allows the trigger mechanism to let go at a certain amount of pressure. To set the release up, you set the release so that it will not fire until a bit more pressure than your holding weight is applied. So a common way is to find the holding weight, say 16 pounds at hold, and set the release to 20 pounds, meaning it takes four more pounds of pressure to make it open. The bottom line, they will fire as a surprise and not a conscious movement of your finger, but pressure applied by your back muscles.

There are lots of choices for this style and all the major brands have back tension-style releases. It’s great to practice on the training aid first to avoid scaring yourself. Remember: if it surprises you, you did it right.

The hinge style is much the same as the back tension style, but it operates on a sear and hinge, also it’s adjustable. When you pull the bowstring back with these, make sure you keep your thumb on the post to prevent the release from spinning and you punch yourself. Apply more pressure on your index finger when you pull back, and not the pinky finger, or it will fire on you by mistake. Then when you get settled in at anchor, let go of the thumb on the post and start pushing your elbow back until it fires as a surprise. Avoid triggering the hinge by letting the release spin in your hand from pressure with your baby finger. You may notice there are two-finger, three-finger and four-finger ones. The best are the ones with less fingers because more fingers allow you to trigger the release with pinky finger pressure. A good solution to having a current four-finger or even a three-finger hinge is place the pinky and the finger beside it behind, not in front, to avoid triggering. Most hinges have a clicker to warn you when you are getting close to it firing. The bad thing to avoid is shooting on the click. People panic sometimes when they hear the click. Instead, pull gently until you hear the click, then you know that it’s on the threshold of letting go. At this point and when you relax and get on the bullseye, a simple, gentle push of the elbow and it will let go as a surprise. Practice on a string bow or release aid before you try on a bow. A great first hinge is the TruBall Sweet Spot because it has a safety latch that you flip on before you pull it back, then with your thumb at draw you click it off. I use this release to teach a person how to shoot a back tension without any fear of punching yourself.

There are plenty of both hinges and resistance-activated releases to choose from, but a good pro shop will have different ones to feel and touch and they’ll help you in selecting a release that’s right for you.