Beginner’s Guide to Compound Archery Releases

Using a mechanical release aid to draw and shoot a compound bow is critical to consistent shooting. Look at a full selection of releases in a pro shop and you’re going to see a variety of styles. What’s the difference? And what’s right for me?

There are four main types of mechanical releases today. Let’s look at each type and what they’re commonly used for.

INDEX FINGER

Arguably the most popular release style on the market today is the index finger release. It’s like a gun trigger for your bow, since it’s activated by squeezing a trigger with your index finger.

Index finger releases typically are attached to wrist straps that assist the archer in drawing the bow. The weight of the bowstring is held by your entire arm, as compared to other releases held in your hand.

These are great releases for bowhunters and recreational and target archers who want the most control of when the bowstring is released. Bowhunters especially like them because, once they strap the release to their wrist, it’s always at the ready when the moment of truth arrives.

Scott Ghost

On the negative side, these releases are the easiest to anticipate, which can lead to flinching at the shot. Rather than slowly squeeze through a shot by pulling back with the release arm, archers will simply slam their index finger on the trigger when they want the release to fire.

When using an index finger release, try hooking your finger around the trigger and pull back with your whole arm to activate the release. This helps reduce anticipation.

THUMB BUTTON

The other most common release with a defined trigger is the thumb button. This is a release you hold in your hand, which has a trigger activated by your thumb. Thumb buttons are very commonly used by bowhunters and by target archers.

With a thumb button, it’s very easy to shoot it totally on command. That is, you squeeze your thumb on the trigger when you want it to fire. But they’re also easy to shoot by surprise.

The surprise shot eliminates flinching caused by anticipation, because the archer doesn’t know exactly when the release will fire. You simply keep pulling back on the string with your hand locked in place on the release. Keep aiming and the release fires when enough pressure has been put on the trigger by your continued pull.

TRU Ball Blade

You can find thumb button releases that you use with two fingers on the release, three fingers and four fingers.

HINGE or BACK TENSION

Hinge releases often are also called back-tension releases, because a common way to activate them is to use your back muscles to push your shoulder blades together, which drives your bow arm away from your release arm. When your arms expand, the head on a hinge release connected to the bowstring will rotate. That rotation releases the string hook and the bow fires.

Hinge releases are a favorite among target archers, and some bowhunters use them. These releases allow for a smooth, continuous-pull shot process that ends in a surprise shot. There is no trigger, so getting them to fire on command is much more difficult that index-finger or thumb button releases.

UltraView The Hinge

There is a steeper learning curve using a hinge than with trigger releases. Archers have to learn how to draw the bow without rotating the head of the release, causing it to fire prematurely.

Learning to draw with a hinge release takes some practice.

TENSION ACTIVATED

Tension-activated releases are the true “back-tension” releases because the only way they fire is by coming to full draw and then continuing to pull. When the tension increases to a certain level, the release fires. Most of these are hand-held releases, although a couple new wrist-strap versions have come on the market in recent years.

STAN Element

Archers set that firing tension to their specific bows. These releases have a safety that the archer holds to get past the peak draw weight. They are then set to fire at a weight above the bow’s holding weight.  The idea is that the archer continues aiming once full draw is achieved, and then they’ll just keep pulling until the release fires.

There is no trigger on these releases, so they also produce surprise shots. These are commonly used by target archers for training, although some will use them in competition. They’re great for getting over target panic and for learning to expand through a shot. Very few bowhunters use them for hunting.

Basic Guide to Buying Hunting Arrows

It can be daunting looking through a stockpile of arrows in a store or online to figure out which ones to buy for your first hunting arrows.

Don’t get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. The path to finding the right arrows for you is simple.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable with the task, find an archery pro shop near you and they will walk you through the process.

But if you want to take a crack at it on your own, start by determining if you are looking for arrows for a traditional bow or a compound bow. Modern arrows for the two really aren’t that different from one another in construction, but if you’re shooting a traditional bow, you’re probably going to want arrows fletched with feathers, rather than vanes. And vice versa for compound bow shooters.

Plastic vanes are weatherproof and more durable than feathers, but the feathers will fold up as they slide across the shelf of a recurve or longbow. Vanes are not so forgiving.

The most critical factor in choosing the correct arrow for your bow setup is spine. An arrow’s spine determines how much it flexes. You want one that flexes some, but not too much.

Correct arrow spine is determined by considering arrow length, point weight and peak draw weight of your bow. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do any calculations to determine correct arrow spine. Arrow manufacturers have that covered.

Be sure to choose the right spine for your setup

Every manufacturer will have an arrow spine chart that recommends various spines according to those three variables.

For example, Gold Tip recommends a 400 spine for an arrow that’s 27 inches long, fitted with a 100-grain point and is shot from a bow with a peak draw weight of 50-54 pounds. Cut that arrow to 26 inches, and the spine recommendation changes to 500.

How long should your arrow be? That’s an easy determination for compound bow shooters, whose bows have a defined draw length.

Put a full length, uncut arrow on your bow and draw it back. At full draw, mark the arrow for cutting anywhere you want in front of the rest.

If you plan to use a big fixed-blade broadhead, you might want to mark the shaft for cutting at the point where the arrow meets the front of the riser. That way, the broadhead will always stick out in front of the bow, eliminating any clearance issues that could be created by drawing it inside the shelf area.

At an archery pro shop, technicians will cut your arrows to the proper length and install arrow components.

But that’s all personal preference. What’s most important is that the arrow be long enough to stay on the rest at full draw.

With traditional bows, determining correct arrow length is a bit trickier because these bows don’t have a set draw length. There is no back wall beyond which you can draw the bow no further.

It’s best to be generous when you cut a traditional arrow. Leave plenty of room for inconsistencies in your draw length.

At an archery pro shop, technicians will help you determine the correct length for your arrows, cut them to that length and install the point inserts. That’s another advantage of buying from a pro shop.

Aside from specialty wood arrows that are for traditional archery only, hunting arrows essentially fall into three main construction categories – carbon, aluminum or carbon/aluminum combo.

Carbon arrows are the lightest and most indestructible of the three, and they’re primarily what you will see offered as bowhunting arrows.

Aluminum arrows were the standard before carbon came on the scene, and so many bowhunters choose them for nostalgic reasons. The are prone to bending.

The carbon/aluminum combo arrows generally are preferred for the extra punch they pack, since they feature a core of one material wrapped around a shell of the other.

A relatively new trend in the hunting-arrow market is having a variety of arrow diameters to choose from. Diameters among hunting arrows were much more uniform 20 years ago. Now, there are arrows with 4mm diameters, 5mm and 6.5 mm, among others.

Skinny or fat? What’s right for you?

Think of the 6.5mm carbon arrows as “standard.” You’ll find lots of arrows by lots of manufacturers that are about that measurement in diameter. These arrows will perform well from most bows under most conditions.

Arrow diameters – 4mm at top, 5mm in middle and 6.5mm at bottom

Consider 5mm or 4mm when you’re looking for a performance boost. These skinnier arrows are going to be more resistant to wind drift, so they might be a good choice for long-range Western hunters.

They’re also going to offer better penetration into game animals. So maybe an archer with a short draw length – 24-26 inches – or who is drawing lighter weight – 40-50 pounds – would do well with them. The thin diameter can offset some of the penetration problems caused by short draw lengths and/or lower draw weights.

Choosing the correct hunting arrow is critical to your hunting success. But finding that arrow is a simple task once you know what you’re looking for.

Every home archery shop needs a draw board

More and more archers and bowhunters today are learning to work on their own equipment and acquiring the specialty tools needed to do that.

As you’re growing your home archery shop, one piece of equipment that’s a must-have is a draw board. It might seem extraneous at first, but the deeper you dive into archery tech work, the more you’ll appreciate having one.

What is a draw board?

It’s a tool that allows you to attach your compound bow and then draw back the string using a crank. So you can have your own bow locked in at full or half draw right in front of you, without anyone holding it – including you. That’s going to spare your muscles and joints from unnecessary wear and tear.

There are a couple different kinds of draw boards. We make and sell a popular one here at Lancaster Archery Supply.

It’s a long aluminum “board” with a post on one end and a hand-cranked winch on. the other. A sticker on the face of the board has incremental measurements printed on it.

LAS Pro Shop Draw Board

The LAS draw board is intended to be attached to a table.

Another popular style of draw board is one that attaches to a bow press. These types don’t actually include a “board” as part of their construction.

Draw board mounted to bow press

You attach a receiver arm that holds the bow to one end of a bow press and the winch to the other end.

To imitate your own draw as closely as possible, the winch straps for all draw boards include a hook that attaches to your D-loop. That hook is like your release.

For safety though, it’s always best to add a safety loop, just in case your D-loop fails. A safety loop can be just as simple as a tied circle of D-loop material that connects to your winch hook and wraps around the bowstring.

Use an extra length of D-loop material as a safety

It should connect loose in that configuration so your hook pulls on the actual D-loop. The safety loop would only come into play if the D-loop fails to prevent dry-firing your bow.

What would you use a draw board for?

There are several tasks it can help you with, but arguably the most important is to check cam timing.

Making sure your cams roll over evenly and the draw stops hit the cables or limbs at the same time is critical to tuning your bow. Cams that aren’t timed properly will cause arrows to porpoise when shot.

This draw stop is short of the cable

With a draw board, you can crank back the string and closely inspect that cam timing to see if adjustments are needed.

You can also attach a bow scale to the winch hook so you can measure your bow’s peak draw and holding weights using the draw board.

It’s a great tool for checking draw length. Target archers often want their draw lengths to be very specific measurements to fractions of an inch. The draw board allows you to check that yourself, with your bow at full draw.

Other popular uses of draw boards include inspecting cam lean, setting the timing for drop away arrow rests, setting peep height relative to an arrow at full draw and watching peep rotation.

The draw board is definitely a handy tool with multiple uses that you’ll want to consider for your home bow shop.

Simple test to determine which way your arrows spin

Which way do my arrows naturally spin when they come off my compound bow?

That’s a common question archers ask before sitting down to fletch a fresh batch of arrows. If you plan to incorporate a right or left offset and/or helical into your fletchings to promote arrow spin, you might want the arrow to keep spinning in the direction it naturally spins anyway.

At left is an arrow fletched with left offset vanes. At right is an arrow fletched with right offset vanes.

This is called indexing your arrows. And there’s a super simple test you can do to figure out which way your arrows want to spin as they leave your bow.

The reason an arrow spins one way or the other has nothing to do with whether you shoot right or left handed. It is commonly considered to be related to the direction the bowstring is twisted, although there have been discrepancies observed with that theory.

But don’t worry about string twist. Here’s the simplest way to determine which way your arrows naturally spin when shot from your bow without any influence from fletchings.

Take an unfletched arrow and nock it on the bowstring. Draw a short line down the center of the top of the shaft, just behind the nock.

Stand about 10 feet from a target and shoot the arrow. When you inspect the arrow, you will see the line is now to the left or right of its centered position when it was on the bow. If it’s to the left, then your arrows spin counterclockwise. If it’s to the right, then your arrows spin clockwise.

Notice how this arrow is tilted left of its vertical position, indicating a counterclockwise spin.

Archers often ask at this point, “How do I know the arrow didn’t spin all the way in the other direction and stop there?” The simple answer is that it doesn’t have enough time to spin that far in such a short distance. But you can check to verify this further.

Take two more unfletched arrows and mark them just as you did the first. Now take three steps back from where you shot the first arrow and shoot a second. Take three more steps back from that spot and shoot your third arrow.

Shot from a greater distance, this arrow clearly spun a bit more counterclockwise than the first, confirming the rotation direction.

When you walk up to inspect all three arrows, you will see the graduated rotation. As you increased the shooting distance, you gave the arrows more room to spin.

So let’s say your first arrow spun a bit to the left. Your second should be a little more to the left and the third arrow even more to the left. If the arrows truly were spinning clockwise, then the graduated rotations would be the opposite.

Once you determine your arrows want to spin counterclockwise, then you know to fletch using a left offset and/or helical configuration, which will enhance that counterclockwise spin. If they spin clockwise, use right offset/helical.

An exception would be if these are hunting arrows, and you are shooting fixed-blade broadheads which have the blades set at an offset – which is almost always a right offset. Fletch to match the blade offset regardless of the results of your bareshaft test so your broadhead and your fletchings can work together to promote arrow spin.

Why an integrate arrow rest is best

It was 2018 when Mathews machined a dovetail mount into the risers of its bows and introduced the world to the integrate-style arrow rests.

Starting with its 2020 line, Hoyt became the second bow manufacturer to offer this unique rest-mounting feature on its bows.

PSE added it to its flagship bows in 2021.

Is it possible more bow manufacturers will jump on board the integrate train going forward?

It might be a good idea, when you consider the benefits integrate rests offer over traditionally-mounted rests.

“The simplicity of the dovetail mount and the increased security it offers are two really big benefits,” said John Scovil, a design engineer with Mathews.

For years, arrow rests have been mounted to compound bows via a bolt that threads through an arm on the rest and into the backside of the riser, just above the shelf. The threaded hole on the bow that receives the bolt is called the Berger hole.

Standard mount QAD HDX with arm and bolt

It’s a pretty secure connection point. But it relies on a single point of compression to hold the rest in place, and the possibility exists that something striking the rest could move it up or down if the compression isn’t tight enough.

“The mounting block and bolt method works, but the Integrate mounting system is a much better method,” said Kevin Fry, vice president of Quality Archery Designs (QAD) which created the integrate rests.

Integrate rest needs no arm and bolt

Some bows have two Berger holes side by side to allow rests to be connected by two bolts, which eliminates the possibility of the rest moving.

But that setup adds the weight of a second bolt, and, according to Scovil, it can affect the stability of the bow.

“If you’re adding a second hole to the riser in that location, it can weaken the riser,” he said.

Integrate rests attach to the dovetail mount via claws that clamp onto the dovetail rails. Just attaching an integrate rests eliminates one of the leading headaches of attaching a Berger hole rest. As you tighten that bolt, often times, the rest wants to move in the direction you are tightening the bolt, forcing you to pull down on the rest to keep it level.

The integrate rest is slim as it clamps the dovetail machined into the riser

When you tighten the claws on an integrate rest, the rest automatically levels itself as the claws lock into place.

According to Fry, when the rest is attached to a dovetail on the back of the riser, QAD is able to slim down the rest considerably. Fewer parts are needed, since the arm and side bolt are eliminated, and less left-right movement is needed since the rest body is in the middle of the riser, rather than outside.

“Eliminating all these parts and weight allowed us to design a rest for this system that has more features packed into it than any other rest – including the most precision click micro adjustments – and still be the lightest, sleekest-looking rest on the market,” he said.

Additionally, by eliminating rest parts sitting on the wide of the bow, Brian Gold, assistant product engineering manager for Hoyt, sees potential for quivers to be mounted closer to the riser.

“We can slim down bow accessories, now that we don’t have to work around the rest,” he said.

Because of all the weight cuts associated with an integrate, QAD was able to make an integrate drop-away rest with aluminum containment arms, rather than the less durable plastic arms, and still offer a rest that weighs less than competitors’ rests.

True enough, the weight cuts we’re talking about are measured in ounces or fractions of ounces. But to the weight-conscious bowhunter looking for the lightest rig possible, every little bit helps.

And so the question is: Will the dovetail integrate mount become the new standard for arrow rest connection on compound bows?

Fry thinks so.

“As of now, Mathews has had it on their bows for three years, Hoyt for two years and PSE launched with it this year,” he said.

“As you can see, it continues to gain momentum, and to answer your question – yes, there will be more bows launching with the system. There are more companies in the works as we speak for their future bows.

“This is the new standard and most likely you will eventually see this on all bows. You will also begin to see this technology used on other accessories as well. It’s because it is a better system and is what the industry is changing to.”

Gold expects to see some Hoyts continue to offer only the Berger-hole mount option in order to keep costs down, but flagship bows – hunting and target – are certain to have the dovetail mount going forward.

“We see it as a high-end feature, and archers are going to want to have that option available,” he said.

Top 3 Kids’ Bow and Arrow Sets to Give as Gifts

Looking for the perfect kids’ archery set to give as a gift to that special young archer in your life? We’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking for a compound or recurve bow for a beginner or someone with a little experience.

Bear Titan Youth Recurve Set

Bear Titan Kids' Bow Kit
For an archery beginner, this is a great first bow set at an affordable price that has nearly everything your archer will need to shoot. Recommended for kids age 12 and up, the kit comes with a 60-inch bow intended for draw lengths of 22-28 inches and draw weights of 20-29 pounds, depending on how far the bow is drawn. The bow can be shot either right- or left-handed. You’ll also get a sight pin, two arrows, a quiver, an armguard and a finger tab.

DIAMOND INFINITE EDGE PRO WITH R.A.K.

Diamond Infinite Edge Kids' Bow Kit
Here’s a compound bow setup that is perfect for beginners or advanced archers. And it’s suitable for slinging arrows in the backyard, on the target range or while bowhunting in the woods. Best of all, the bow is one your archer can grow with. It’s a 31-inch bow, with an adjustable draw length from 13-31 inches and adjustable draw weight from 5-70 pounds. With those specifications, the bow can be adjusted to take an archer from pre-teen through adulthood. And it will perform for a beginner or an advanced archer. Besides the bow, the R.A.K. set also includes a 3-pin sight, peep sight, a full-containment arrow rest, a five-arrow quiver and a wrist sling. All you need to start shooting are arrows a mechanical release and a target.

GALAXY BULLSEYE 54 RECREATIONAL RECURVE BOW PACKAGE

Galaxy Bullseye Kids' Bow Kit
Let’s say you want to establish a program focused on archery for kids. You need equipment that doesn’t cost a fortune, yet can take a beating. This is the perfect kids’ archery set for that scenario. Available in right or left hand, the 54-inch Galaxy Bullseye recurve bow is ideal for kids age 7-12. You can choose between limbs that pull 15 or 20 pounds. In addition to the bow, the set comes with an arrow rest, single-pin bow sight, armguard, rubber finger savers for protection while drawing the string, three arrows, a quiver a bow stringer, two target faces and a bow case. Each of the youth bow packages listed above will be great options for the youth archer in your life. Didn’t find these youth bow kits fitting for the archer in your life? Check out our full selection of kids’ bow kits here.

Hoyt 2021 Altus Compound Bow

Hoyt Archery introduced the Altus compound bow as part of its target lineup for 2021.

In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly runs through the specs and features of this 38-inch-long bow that’s going to be a great choice for all forms of target archery.

The Altus is available with two different cams – the DCX and SVX. The DCX version will be a little smoother to draw and hold, as compared to the SVX, which is built more for speed.

The most noticeable feature of the Altus to Hoyt target fans is the fact that it does not have a shoot-through riser. Dual bridges in the riser produce the bow’s rigidity, versus the shoot-through construction.

Hoyt is marketing the Altus as “another price option” in its target lineup because it’s not the most expensive, nor is it the least expensive bow.

Watch now to learn all about this new target bow from Hoyt.

2021 Mathews TRX 38 G2 and TRX 34

For 2021, Mathews introduced the TRX 38G2 and TRX 34 compound bows to its target lineup. In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly runs through the specs and features of both bows.

The TRX 34 is going to be an excellent choice for either bowhunters or for target archers – especially target archers with a shorter draw length.

The TRX 38 G2 is an updated version of the TRX 38, to include the CX-3 cam and new riser geometry. This is going to be a great choice for 3D, indoor and outdoor target archery.

Elite 2021 Enkore and Remedy Compound Bows

The 2021 flagship hunting bows from Elite Archery are the Enkore and the Remedy. In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly runs down the specs and features of these two great new compound bows.

The Enkore is a 33-inch long bow with a 6-inch brace height that’s got an IBO speed rating of 340 feet per second, ad a draw length range of 23-30 inches. This is going to be the speed bow for bowhunters who like flat arrow trajectories.

The Remedy measures 34 inches long, has about a 6.5-inch brace height and an IBO speed rating of 331 feet per second and a draw length range of 24-31 inches.. This bow has a smooth draw cycle that will be comfortable to hold at full draw while standing in the tree stand.

Both bows feature Elite’s SET technology, which allows for simple tuning without the need for bow press. They’ve also got Elite’s tri-track cam system, which houses cables in separate tracks on either side of the bowstring for cam stability.

Scope Size: What’s right for me?

A quick look through Lancaster Archery Supply’s lineup of 3-D and target scope offerings for compound bows shows scopes measuring 29, 30, 35, 39 and 41 mm, among some other sizes.

Recognizing there are different sizes of scope housings available begs the obvious question, “Which size is right for me?”

And the answer is, “That depends on what you want to see.”

Scopes and lenses are married to provide a certain view of the target. Some archers like to really zero in on the arrow’s exact point of impact, while others prefer a more distant view, so they can relax while aiming.

The smaller the scope housing, the smaller your field of view. That field shrinks even further the more you magnify it with a lens.

So let’s say you are shooting at a typical Vegas 3-spot target face for an 18-meter, indoor shoot. A small scope housing will enable you to really focus on each individual spot, while minimizing your view of everything surrounding each spot.

X-Spot 29mm scope

Some archers find it distracting to see much surrounding the intended aiming point. So maybe you start with a 29mm scope housing and then choose a magnifying lens that blows up the target enough to all but completely fill your view of it through the scope when you’re at full draw.

On the other hand, some archers feel “claustrophobic” when they can’t see anything but the target face in their scope. They like a little extra room around the bull’s-eye, which allows them to settle down and hold the bow steadier. So maybe a 35mm scope is a better choice for that archer.

Bowfinger 20/20 35mm scope

Moving outdoors, you’ll have to address the same issues for field archery, 50-meter rounds and other bull’s-eye target rounds. How much area around the target do you want to see? Find a scope and magnifying lens to create that view.

For 3-D, the larger scopes dominate because most archers want to see the whole target in the scope. And those targets might range from a tiny skunk to a life-size bull elk. Being able to see the whole target allows you to find reference spots to aim when scoring rings are not readily visible. Also, for those archers who shoot unknown distance, seeing the whole target allows them to better judge the distance to it. As a result, many archers choose the 40- and 41-mm scopes for their 3-D setups.

Shrewd Nomad 42mm scope

Lighting is another factor to consider for an outdoor scope. The smaller the scope, the less light will get through it to your eye. In an open field, that’s probably not a problem. But if you’re going to be shooting in the woods with a dense canopy, then going with a bigger scope to allow more light in might be the best choice.