A basic guide to the parts of a bow

A bow is pretty recognizable on sight. I mean, most people would probably know they’re looking at a bow as soon as they see it.

But can you name the different parts of a bow? Do you know what the limb bolt is? How about the arrow shelf?

We’ve got two basic diagrams here, where we’ve labeled some of the most common components of both compound and recurve bows.

There are bows of both types that are configured slightly different than our illustrations, but the parts we’ve identified are pretty universal.

Check out our illustrations, so you can know what you’re looking at when you’re handling a bow.

SINGLE-CAM COMPOUND BOW

 

final Compound-Illustration

RECURVE BOW

Recurve bow Illustration2

 

Here’s your basic guide to archery release aids

A good clean release.

It’s what happens when you correctly let go of the bowstring at full draw, allowing the energy stored in the limbs to be transferred to the arrow, which is propelled down range toward the spot where you’re aiming.

A clean release is something every archer strives for on every shot. Achieve it, and the bull’s-eyes will rip.

Whether you shoot a compound, recurve or longbow, there are many release aids that go between your hand and the bowstring, which can help you deliver that perfect shot.

Four basic classes of release aids are made for compound shooters – index finger, thumb trigger, back tension and resistance activated. For recurve and longbow archers, there are finger tabs and gloves.

finger-tab-release

 

back-tension-release

Here’s your guide to understanding the different types. When making a final selection, it’s a good idea to try what you want before you buy.

INDEX FINGER RELEASE

As the name suggests, these are mechanical release aids triggered by your index finger. Basically all of these releases are attached to wrist straps. The strap aids in drawing the string by joining the muscles of your arm and hand. Index finger releases are very popular among bowhunters, since the release is connected to the archer at all times. You can’t lose it in the woods or drop it from a tree stand if you’re wearing it.

TruFire Edge2

Index finger releases connect to the string via one or two moving jaws that completely enclose the bowstring or D-loop, by an open hook or by a rope loop.

When you come to full draw with one of these releases, you want to curl the forefinger on your trigger hand around the trigger post. If you have to stretch your forefinger all the way out to reach the trigger, you’re going to have problems with punching the trigger. Shorten the release head to reduce the gap separating it from the wrist strap.

Don’t activate the trigger by squeezing your finger like you’re shooting a gun. Wrap that forefinger around the post, and then pull through the shot with your whole arm.

THUMB TRIGGER RELEASE

These releases are triggered by your thumb, obviously. Most are hand held, although some also can be attached to wrist straps to aid in drawing. They connect to the bowstring or D-loop either by enclosed jaw(s), an open hook or a rope loop.

Stan SX3

Lots of bowhunters use thumb trigger releases, and so do many target archers – especially 3-D competitors. Most thumb trigger releases can be used like a back tension release – the favorite among target archers – yet you still have the control of the release provided by a trigger.

HINGE RELEASE

The best archery shot with a mechanical release is one that surprises you. If you don’t know when the release is going to trigger, then you can’t anticipate it with a flinch. This is the shot hinge releases are designed to deliver.

Scott Focus

A hinge release is hand held, and has a pivoting head that connects to the string or D-loop by an open hook. The idea is, you hook the release to the string, come to full draw, and then slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, which pulls your bow hand and trigger hand farther apart. At some point, that squeezing motion is going to cause the release to rotate in your hand until it lets go of the string.

Another method for activating a hinge is to come to full draw and relax your release hand. That relaxation will cause your hand to stretch, which will rotate the release, and it will fire. A hinge release doesn’t have a trigger. It is a trigger.

You have to keep your sight pin or scope locked on the target the whole time you’re squeezing/relaxing, because you don’t really know when the release will go off. Target archers love the hinges because of the surprise factor, but it might not be the best choice for bowhunters, who need a little more control over when an arrow is released.

 

RESISTANCE ACTIVATED RELEASE

Another hand-held release, this is a triggerless release used mainly by target archers. It’s activated by a build-up in pressure at full draw. That pressure, again, is created by squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Carter Evolution

You clip this release’s open hook, closed jaw or rope loop to the string or D-loop, and then draw with your thumb wrapped around a safety mechanism, which prevents the release from triggering. At full draw, you release the safety and start squeezing your shoulder blades until the release triggers.

FINGER TABS AND GLOVES

It’s not that recurve and longbow archers can’t shoot one of the mechanical release aids we’ve already discussed. Rather, the style of archery associated with these bows calls for drawing and releasing with your fingers, as opposed to a mechanical trigger. Also, mechanical releases are not allowed for recurves and longbows in competitions.

Using a tab, you draw the bowstring with your index, middle and ring fingers, and the tab sits between your fingers and the string. It allows for a more consistent release, since the string is sliding off a single surface, rather than each of your three fingers. Tab surfaces come in a variety of materials – bare leather, hair-covered leather, plastic, etc. It’s up to you to determine which works best for you.

Infitec Perfect

Tabs are designed to allow archers to shoot either with their index finger above the arrow nock and the two others below – that’s called split-finger shooting ‑ or with all three fingers below the nock.

Gloves are probably the simplest of the release aids. In a nutshell, they cover your three shooting fingers for protection against the string, and they provide a smooth surface for the string to glide across during the release. The gloves typically are made of leather or nylon.

Arrow spine vs. arrow weight: Don’t be confused

In the Lancaster Archery Supply Pro Shop, we hear it all the time.

“I want to switch to a lighter arrow to get more speed.”

That’s usually not a problem, as long as you don’t confuse arrow weight with arrow spine. Too often, that’s exactly what archers do. Someone shooting a bow with a 70-pound draw weight and a 29-inch draw length will grab a 400-spine arrow to replace the 340-spine arrow they’ve been shooting. They think that’s the right way to reduce arrow weight.

It’s not.

When we talk about an arrow’s spine, we’re talking about how much it flexes. We’re talking about its stiffness. Every arrow should flex when it leaves the bow. But it should only flex a certain amount. If it flexes too much – weak spine – then its flight will be erratic. If it doesn’t flex enough – stiff spine – then the arrow will have no forgiveness. Consistent accuracy usually suffers in either case.

Choosing the correct arrow spine for your setup depends on your draw length and draw weight. Draw length is important, because that determines how long of an arrow you need to shoot. And the longer a shaft is, the more it’s going to flex. Draw weight is factored in, because that determines the amount of force pushing the arrow.

Every arrow manufacturer has a spine-selection chart, so you know which shaft to choose for your draw weight and arrow length. (Some even factor in the bow’s speed rating, since faster bows exert more force on an arrow.) And every shaft bears its manufacturer’s spine rating.

Unfortunately, the numbering system for spine ratings is not uniform from manufacturer to manufacturer. So don’t assume the numbers you see on shafts across manufacturers are comparable.

Beside or below the spine rating, most shafts usually also are stamped with their weight in grains per inch. And this is where archers can get confused.

Let’s take the Easton Bowfire, for example. The 330 shaft weighs 9.6 grains per inch. The 400 shaft weighs 8.5 grains per inch. Logic might tell an archer that, in order to lighten their arrows, they should switch from a 330 to a 400. Bad move. The 400 arrow is lighter, but it’s also weaker, and so tuning could be a real problem.

If you want a lighter arrow, stick with the recommended spine rating, but switch to a lighter shaft. Again, that 330 Bowfire shaft weighs 9.6 grains per inch. A 330 Easton Hexx, however, weighs 7.9 grains per inch. Same spine – lighter shaft.

Just for comparison, take a look at these arrows. All measure 29 inches from the insert-end to the bottom of the nock throat. All include 100-grain points, and three Blazer, 2-inch vanes. And all are the correct spine for the archer shooting a 70-pound bow, according to the manufacturer’s chart.

Shaft                                Weight

340 Easton Full Metal Jacket     482.2 grains

330 Easton Bowfire              433.6 grains

330 Easton Hexx                 382.1 grains

So you can see here, there are opportunities to change the weight of the arrow, without deviating from the spine chart.