Michael Braden talks index finger releases for target archery

In the bowhunting world, the index finger release arguably is the champ. You’ll see hordes of bowhunters with this release strapped to their wrists.

For indoor target archery, however, the index finger release is uncommon, if not downright rare.

Carter Like Mike

Carter Like Mike

Index finger releases are activated by depressing your index finger on a trigger mechanism. Some feature jaws that are spring-loaded and pop open when the appropriate amount of pressure is applied to the trigger. Others employ springs that keep the jaws closed, and therefore require the trigger to be pulled until it travels far enough to allow the jaws to open wide enough to release the bowstring.

Some of these releases are hand-held, but the vast majority are attached to wrist straps, which aid the archers in drawing the string. With the release strapped to the wrist, the whole arm is engaged in the drawing process. With hand-held releases, much of the drawing pressure sits directly on the fingers holding the release.

Many target archers shy away from index-finger releases because they tend to be the easiest to anticipate, and therefore, to punch. That can lead to target panic.

Punching the release involves activating the trigger in a sudden, haphazard manner – usually when the archer sees the sight pin get close to the bull’s-eye.

There are some indoor archers who have learned to use index finger releases without anticipating the shot, and they’ve managed to do quite well in competition. Michael Braden is one such pro. He’s been competing with index finger releases for years, and he’s usually in the mix of tournament finalists.

Michael Braden2

While it’s not an indoor competition, Braden recently finished second in the Senior Open Pro Division of the ASA Hoyt Pro/Am 3D tournament in Foley Ala., Feb. 17-18, using an index finger release.

We asked him about using such a release for indoor target archery.

LAS: What release do you use?

MB: I am shooting the Carter Like Mike. It is a wrist strap/index finger release that I designed with Jerry Carter.

Carter Like Mike head

Carter Like Mike

LAS: Why do you use an index finger release instead of a hinge or thumb button?

MB: First, I find I can achieve a more consistent anchor. Specifically, I can bury the base knuckle of my index finger in the hole under my ear lobe and behind my jaw bone, extremely consistently every time.

Second, I believe the index finger release gives me better alignment between my bow hand grip, shoulders, and release arm elbow.

Lastly, and most importantly, I find that my direction of energy is better and more consistent.  Meaning that as I push my pin straight through the target, I can pull my elbow (and release) straight away from the target.

Michael Braden1

LAS: How do you activate your release?

MB: I guess the short answer is with my elbow.

The long answer, however, is with a process and not an action.  My process consists of a slow and steady, gradual increase of energy, with direction.

I slowly push my sight pin straight through the target, while pulling straight away from the target out the tip of my elbow.  For this process to fire the release, my elbow must be “attached” to the trigger.

Therefore, the trigger must be heavy enough that I can attach my index finger to it – 1.5-2 lbs. – without fear of it prematurely firing. It also must be heavy enough that I have to generate a little more energy to make it fire – another 1.5 lbs. So, my release is set around 3.5 lbs.

LAS: How do you avoid punching your release?

MB: I have developed a mindset where I refuse to control the release, no matter what.  But there is more to it than just that.

Learning to execute my shot with a process is a factor. Learning that I can hold the bow long enough and steady enough to wait for the process to execute the shot is another.

Learning to trust that the release will fire, while my elbow is attached to a heavy trigger, also helps to prevent me from having the urge to control or punch the trigger.

LAS: Do you set your trigger as light as possible? As heavy as possible? Somewhere in between?

MB: The Carter Like Mike is adjustable.  I can make it as light or heavy as I need to.  I always recommend starting close to a blank bail and making the trigger super heavy, so the archer learns the feel of attaching their elbow to the trigger, learns the feel of the direction of energy, and the rate of increased energy needed to make the release fire.  Then I begin to make the trigger lighter so that the release fires in a comfortable and steady window, while the archer executes a strong and steady shot.

LAS: How is your index finger touching the trigger when you are preparing to shoot?

MB: For me to shoot a heavier trigger with my elbow, the hook of my finger must be strong enough that it doesn’t collapse with the increased energy of my elbow.  Yet, it must not be so tense that it prevents the flow of energy from my elbow efficiently into the trigger.

Michael Braden3

LAS: What is the most common mistake you see archers making with an index finger release?

MB: Controlling a light release is the most common mistake new archers make. First, they are not taught properly how to execute a good shot.  Second, they do not have the stamina to hold the sight pin steady enough in the beginning to execute a proper shot.  Third, the release they are using wasn’t designed to be set heavy enough without trigger travel so they can attach without fear of a pre-fire.

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