Broadhead Selection Guide

As the fall archery hunting seasons close in, there’s one question on the lips of bowhunters that we hear time and again at Lancaster Archery Supply.

“Which broadhead is the best?”

That’s a question that has nearly as many answers as there are bowhunters. Everyone has their favorites.

What we like to do at LAS is provide information about the types of broadheads available today, and then let customers choose from there.

Essentially, there are four types of broadheads – fixed-blades, mechanicals, hybrids and traditionals.

And here’s what you need to know about each in making your selection this season.

  1. FIXED-BLADES – As their name suggests, these broadheads have razor-sharp blades that are set in place. Once it’s screwed into place at the end of an arrow, there are no moving parts on a fixed-blade head.

fixed scale

An advantage to having a head with fixed blades is that all of the energy behind the arrow is spent on pushing it through hide, tissue, bone, etc.

Combine that energy with the relatively stiff blades of a fixed head, and you get a cutting tool that is well-suited for slicing through bone – the toughest component of an animal’s anatomy. Fixed-blade heads tend to be the hardest-hitting and most durable broadheads.

Also, the blades on these heads are easy to sharpen, since the cutting surfaces are exposed. So if you miss a deer, and your arrow buries into the dirt, it’s possible to sharpen that head and put it back in the quiver, assuming the blades didn’t hit something hard and bend.

Or, many models have replaceable blades, so sharpening isn’t necessary. You can just change blades if you want.

If a bowhunter says his broadhead-tipped arrows aren’t hitting the target in the same spot as his field points, he’s almost always using a fixed-blade head. They tend to be the ones bowhunters struggle with when it comes to arrow flight.

The issue almost always is related to the bow’s tuning or the archer’s shooting form, but fixed-blade heads can require some tinkering to perfect your arrow’s flight.

Most any fixed-blade broadhead will work for hunters who use crossbows, although the short, compact heads tend to fly better at the end of a bolt.

  1. MECHANICALS – These heads have expandable blades that are deployed when the head strikes an animal.

mechanical scale

They are the most aerodynamic, and an arrow carrying a mechanical head will almost always hit a target exactly the same as your field-tipped arrows.

Because the blades fold up inside or against the head’s body, they can be very long, offering devastating cutting diameters up to a little over 3 inches. That’s going to cut a huge hole.

In most cases, however, expandable broadheads are one-shot wonders – whether you hit the animal or not. The blades on these heads tend to be pretty thin, which makes them susceptible to bending and chipping. You can buy replacement blades for most expandables, but don’t count on reusing a head more than once without replacing the blades.

Those thin, long blades also aren’t the best at cutting through bone, and some of the arrow’s energy will be spent on deploying the blades, as opposed to pushing the arrow through the animal.

Crossbow hunters will want to choose mechanicals that the manufacturer has approved for crossbow use. The tremendous force applied to the back of a bolt when a crossbow is shot can cause the blades on some mechanical heads not suited for crossbow use to open prematurely.

  1. HYBRIDS – These heads are a combination of the previous two types.

hybrid scale

They’re going to have two or more fixed blades, and they will also have expandable blades. So you get the ruggedness of fixed blades, matched with the wide cutting diameter of expandables.

Usually with the hybrids, both the fixed and expandable blades are not quite as wide as they’d be if the head simply featured one type or the other.

They can require some tinkering to get perfect arrow flight, and the expandable blades likely will have to be changed after each shot.

As with the mechanical heads, crossbow hunters will want to make sure the mechanical portion of a hybrid head is approved for crossbow use by the manufacturer.

  1. TRADITIONAL – These are broadheads intended for use by bowhunters shooting recurve bows and longbows.

traditional scale

Traditional bows generate less energy than modern compound bows. Most fixed-blade heads can be effective for traditional bowhunting, but traditional bowhunters often choose broadheads designed to maximize penetration for arrows carrying less energy.

To that end, traditional broadheads are often long and heavy, with a low cutting angle and a cut-on-contact design.

Traditional broadheads can be screw-in style heads or glue-on heads used with wooden shafts.  We recommend traditional archers not use expandable broadheads.

Indoor vs. outdoor arrows

So you’ve decided to take up tournament archery. Welcome to the party.

Although it’s been around for centuries, competitive archery is in the midst of a huge growth period. We’re seeing more tournaments, more competitors at those tournaments and bigger payouts for top finishers.

Some of the tournaments are outdoors. Others are indoors. As you assemble your tournament gear, it’s important to have a set of arrows for shooting indoors, and a set for outdoor competitions.

What’s the difference?

Generally speaking, many archers will shoot larger diameter arrows indoors and smaller diameter arrows outdoors. The “fat” arrows are built for cutting scoring lines, while the “skinny” ones are meant to cut through wind.

indoor outdoor arrows


That’s a simplistic generalization, and there are many exceptions. But here are the guiding factors.

At indoor tournaments you don’t have to worry about wind or rain, and shot distances are usually 18 meters or 20 yards.

Outdoors, you have to contend with whatever Mother Nature throws at you, and you might be shooting at targets up to 90 meters away.

When shooting indoors, many compound archers shoot arrows that are as large as legally allowed. (World Archery allows arrows up to 9.3mm (23/64”) diameter, while many other organizations allow up to 10.7mm (27/64”).)

Those fat arrows are commonly called “line-cutters,” because they cover more area of the target than skinny arrows. You can cut a scoring ring with a fat arrow that you’d miss with a skinny one. And as long as your arrow is touching a scoring ring, you get the higher point value.

line cutters

Archers who use fat arrows tend to fletch them with 4- or 5-inch feathers for maximum spin and stability. Long, tapered points as heavy as 150-300 grains further aid arrow guidance. Consistent arrow flight is what’s most important to archers at indoor events.

Olympic recurve archers don’t necessarily follow the fat-arrow trend indoors. If they’ve got an outdoor arrow that’s performing well, they might stick with it just to maintain consistency.

Some do switch to larger diameter arrows when they head indoors, however. They just won’t be quite as large as the ones the compound archers use, because those very stiff arrows don’t fly well out of an Olympic recurve. A 2312, aluminum shaft is popular for indoor recurve archers. Its diameter is 9.1mm.

Shooting outdoors at spot faces, many compound archers are going to shoot small diameter arrows fletched with shorter, low-profile or shield cut vanes. Here, the emphasis is on aerodynamics to slice through wind and rain at long distances.

indoor outdoor arrows

Outdoor arrow on the left; indoor on the right.

An exception is 3-D archery. You’ll still find compound archers shooting fat arrows to cut scoring rings on 3-D targets, but they generally will have short, low-profile vanes and lighter points to keep the arrows light and fast. Also, 3-D archers typically don’t shoot over 50 yards.

Olympic recurve archers shoot small diameter arrows outdoors. They’re usually fletched with lightweight, curled-style vanes designed to promote maximum spin, which is key to arrow flight in the wind.

spin wings


Paper tuning 101

Straight as an arrow.

It’s a saying that’s used beyond archery, but archery is its root.

Achieving perfect arrow flight, or, getting your arrows to fly as “straight as an arrow,” should be the goal of every archer. If your arrow flight is true, then the sky’s the limit for accuracy.

Paper tuning is one of the most common ways compound archers using mechanical releases determine whether their arrows are leaving their bows in a straight line.

(Shooting a compound bow with fingers is more like shooting a recurve bow, and Lancaster Archery Supply recommends bare-shaft tuning in such cases. That’s a topic for another day.)

Through paper tuning you can determine that your arrow rest, bowstring and nocking point are all perfectly aligned, and that you are shooting the proper arrows for your setup. It also lets you know if your hand position on the bow and your shooting form are both correct.

So what you’ll need to paper tune is your bow and some arrows, a frame that can hold paper for you to shoot through, a target backstop and a shooting range.

Your frame needs to hold the paper by all four corners, so it is rigid when you shoot through it. And the frame needs to be positioned high enough that you can shoot straight through it. You don’t want to shoot at a steep angle up or down.

There’s a do-it-yourself paper tuning kit made by .30-06 Outdoors that provides a frame and paper to shoot through. All you have to do is set it on a stand holding the paper at roughly chest height.

Place your target backstop 4-6 feet beyond the paper, so the arrow can pass all the way through the paper before it hits the target. You should stand about 6 feet away from the paper.


papertune5 scale

Before you shoot, you must make sure your hand position on the bow grip is correct. Check out this article for information on that subject.

If you are torqueing the bow at the shot, due to improper hand position, none of the bow settings will matter. You will have erratic arrow flight.

Also, you must get a smooth, clean release. Don’t slap the trigger or pull your release hand out to the side. Simply pull straight back through the shot with your release.

So you take a good shot through the paper. What you want to see is a round hole with three or four slices extending out from it – depending on the number of fletchings on your arrow.

If you see that, yell, “Bullet-hole!” and don’t change anything. Your setup is perfect.

papertune3 scale

Short of the bullet hole, what you’ll see is a tear that features a rounded end where the arrow point went through the paper, and a three- or four-slotted hole made by the fletched end of the arrow.

Think about the layout of your tear to figure out how your arrow is flying. If the rounded end is down and the fletched hole is above it, for example, then you know your arrow is flying nose down, with the point below the nock.

papertune2 scale

Nock left tear.

Here’s a list of tears, and the most common remedies for each.

  1. NOCK HIGH – Move your nocking point down, or your rest up.
  2. NOCK LOW – Move your nocking point up, or your rest down.
  3. NOCK RIGHT – Move rest away from the riser on a right-handed bow, toward the riser for a lefty. This tear also can mean your arrow’s spine is too stiff. Switch to an arrow with a weaker spine, or you can increase the point weight on your arrow, which will weaken its spine.
  4. NOCK LEFT – Move rest toward riser for right-handed shooter, away for a lefty. This tear also can mean the arrow’s spine is too weak. Switch to an arrow with a stiffer spine, or reduce your point weight.
To start, the arrow shaft should be level from the nocking point to the shaft.

To start, the arrow shaft should be level from the nocking point to the shaft.

If you’re scratching your head over the fixes to the rest for point-right and point-left tears, know that many archers struggle with solving horizontal tears, because the corrective action is counterintuitive.

Logic would seem to dictate that if the paper tear shows the nock is left of the point – commonly called a nock-left tear – then you should move the rest left, to push the point left. But that’s not the case.

What happens is, the arrow wants to fly in the direction of the string’s travel. So if your rest is too far to the left, the point will kick to the right as it leaves the rest to follow the string path, and your paper hole will show a nock-left tear. Move the rest right to solve the problem.

Now what we’ve listed are common fixes for imperfect tears. If you try the suggested fix and you still get a tear, there could be issues not involving the rest or the nocking point.

Unless you’re shooting a single-cam bow, check the timing of your cams. These cams will have timing marks that allow you to see how they’re rotating. If one is rotating faster than the other, you’ll get paper-tuning tears. To synchronize them, you’ll need a bow press, because you’ll have to twist the cables. Or you can take your bow to your local pro shop and let them fix the problem.

If your arrow is making contact with the rest, that can cause paper-tuning tears. Spray your fletchings with white, aerosol foot powder and then shoot that arrow. If it’s making contact, you’ll see lines in the powder. Rotating the nock often will eliminate the contact problem.

Take three shots through the paper each time you make a setting adjustment. If all three shots show the same paper tears, then you know they’re likely the result of issues with your bow, rather than your form.

papertune1 scale

Proper hand position is critical for a good shot

All good archery shots start with proper hand position on the bow.

OK. Maybe they start with having the proper stance.

But right behind that is proper hand position.

We work diligently to correct improper hand position in the Lancaster Archery Supply Pro Shop all the time. Archers come in with concerns about not being able to paper tune their bows, or about not being able to maintain tight groups, and one of the first things our Archery TechXPerts look at is how they are holding the bow.

We understand how an improper grip happens. That bow grip looks like something you should grab like a pistol.

Do that, however, and you’re going to have problems with hand torque. That’s when you pivot your bow hand as you release an arrow, causing the riser to twist. Hand torque causes bows that are set up perfectly to produce left-right tears during paper tuning, and it also makes it difficult to produce tight arrow groups.

With proper hand position, you can’t torque the bow. Plain and simple.

So here’s how you get into correct hand position.

Extend your bow arm like you’d hold a bow. Flex all of your fingers out, and turn your wrist slightly to make the letter V with your forefinger and thumb. It doesn’t matter if you are left- or right-handed. Just make that V, or almost the universal gesture for “STOP,” so that your palm’s lifeline is vertical.


Now set your bow in the middle of that V. Pull back a little on the bowstring with your other hand and the bow will stay in your bow hand. When you draw, of course, that tension will hold the bow in place.

At full draw, just relax your fingers. Don’t squeeze the bow. If you’re worried about dropping it, you can press your index finger on the riser. Most people, without even realizing it, grab the bow after the shot so it doesn’t fall, but you can add a wrist sling for insurance if you want.

pistol grip front2 scaled

Improper hand position viewed from the front. Notice the tight grip on the bow.

right grip front1 scaled

Proper hand position viewed from the front. Notice the relaxed fingers are not gripping the bow.

What you’ll notice holding the bow like this is the grip will sit more on the meaty part of your thumb than in the middle of your palm, like it would if you gripped it like a pistol.

You’ll also notice that your knuckles should extend away from the grip at a 45-degree angle, rather than sit vertical, parallel to the grip. This forces your elbow to turn out, which takes your forearm away from the bowstring.

pistol grip1 scaled

Improper pistol grip viewed from the rear. Notice how the knuckles sit in a vertical line.

right grip1 scaled

Proper position viewed form the rear. Notice how the knuckles sit at a 45-degree angle.

If you’re shooting a compound, and the string is frequently stinging your forearm, it’s probably because your hand position is incorrect. Since the string travels farther forward on a recurve bow, recurve archers can still have the bowstring hit their forearm with proper hand position, but it’s worse if they hold the grip like a pistol.

The most important thing about this hand position is that, when you release the string, the bow should only move forward, toward the target.

For you pistol-grippers, this hand position is going to feel awkward. Fight the urge to curl the pinky end of your hand in toward the riser. If you’re shooting a compound, turn down the weight a bit until you get used to it.

NEET makes a product invented by Randy Peck called the True Shot Coach Adjustable Training Aid which can help you develop proper hand position. It’s a pad that slides over the first three fingers of your bow hand. Sitting on the inside of your hand, the pad prevents you from grabbing the bow like a pistol, and forces your hand into the proper shooting position.

True Shot scaled

If you have to, take several days and just shoot into target butts at close range without aiming, but with proper hand position. Eventually, that position will feel comfortable, and you can start working targets into your practice sessions.

And watch your groups shrink.

What is brace height?

Brace height. It’s something every archer should know about, regardless of the bow they shoot, because it affects us all.

But what is brace height? And why should we care about it?

Brace height is the distance between the string and the deepest part of the bow grip.

measure brace height

For modern compound bows, the brace height is going to be set by the manufacturer, and you’ll want to stick to those settings to get peak performance out of your bow.

Manufacturers of recurves and longbows will recommend ideal brace heights for individual models, and it’s then up to the archer to twist or untwist the bowstring to achieve the ideal brace height. You add twists to the string to increase the brace height, and untwist the string to shorten it.

If you aren’t able to find the recommended brace height for your recurve, below is a chart of brace height measurements generally accepted within the industry for bows of the specified lengths.


Brace height is critical in two areas – arrow speed and bow forgiveness.

Generally speaking, a shorter brace height helps a bow generate more arrow speed. Let’s say you took two bows set at 70 pounds, with a 29-inch draw length, and one has a 6-inch brace height and the other 7 inches. If you shot the same arrow from both bows, the bow with the 6-inch brace height should shoot the arrow faster than the other.

brace height bows

Notice the left bow’s short brace height as compared to the one on the right.

The bow with the shorter brace height pushes the arrow longer than the other.

A bow’s forgiveness relates to accuracy. A forgiving bow minimizes an archer’s mistakes, while an unforgiving bow magnifies them.

Bows with shorter brace heights tend to be less forgiving than those with longer brace heights, because the string is in contact with the arrow for a longer period. An archer therefore has to maintain perfect form for a longer stretch, until the arrow is in the air.

Compound target bows intended primarily for precision, bull’s-eye target shooting, for example, rarely have brace heights under 7 inches. Eight-inch and 9-inch brace heights are not uncommon.

brace height long

Conversely, compound bows made for hunting and 3-D target shooting, where arrow speed is more important, typically have brace heights of 5-7 inches.

brace height short

Target bows are slower, but more forgiving, while hunting and 3-D bows are faster, but less forgiving.

And it’s all because of brace height.

Choosing a backyard target

There’s no question the local archery club or commercial shooting range has everything you need to practice with your bow and arrow. But there’s not always time to drive over there and spend a couple of hours. Maybe you just want to put in a quick 20 minutes behind the bow.

Well, as long as it’s legal where you live, and it’s safe to do so, the backyard is a great place to do a little shooting. Even if all you can safely do is shoot 10 feet, it’s always good to regularly release a few arrows. Choosing a backyard target will allow you to get the most out of your at-home practice sessions.

Before we take a look at those targets, though, let’s get something straight. Unless there’s nothing behind your target for as far as the eye can see, you need to have some type of backstop to corral errant arrows. No one ever plans on missing, but trust us, it happens to everyone. And a deflected arrow can sail a long way – probably farther than you might think. You owe it to your neighbors and family to protect them from your practice sessions.

backyard targets2a


At the very least, plant your target in front of a wood pile or a fence, at the base of a hill – somewhere you know that if you miss, the arrow is going to be stopped by something it won’t hurt. Even better, however, is to purposely create a backstop. Stack up a bunch of hay bales, or build a heavy-duty, wooden wall or earthen mound behind your target. Or hang some backstop netting. There are several types of backstop netting on the market made specifically for archery practice.

If your backstop is made of wood, rocks, brick, cinderblock or something similarly hard, know that you will most likely destroy your arrow if you hit it. And beware of flying shrapnel from your broken arrow upon impact.

Safety should always be a top priority when you’re shooting a bow and arrow. Besides that, you’ll shoot a lot better if you’re not worried about missing the target.


Not all targets are made for use with all kinds of bows. Some targets, for example, are made specifically for bows with low draw weights – 30 pounds or less. If you shoot a 70-pound compound into such a target, your arrow is likely to blow right through it. So no matter what kind of target you’re looking at, be sure it’s designed to handle the bow you’re shooting.


Get the biggest target you can afford. Simply put, the bigger the target, the more room you have for error.


As their name suggests, these targets essentially are bags filled with stuffing that stops arrows. They’re usually made so you can set them on the ground or hang them up. Many have built-in handles so you can easily haul them around.

bag target

If you go with a bag target, understand you’re limited to shooting arrows tipped with field points. Bag targets are not meant for shooting with broadheads.


The foam targets offer a variety of shooting opportunities. Some are meant only for field points, while others can handle field points and broadheads alike. Many are shaped like cubes, and allow you to shoot at all six faces of the cube. When one face starts to show wear, just flip the cube to another one.

foam target

Foam targets are usually light and easy to move around, so you can set them just about anywhere.

This category of targets includes foam “walls,” measuring up to 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, which you can tack paper targets to for practice.


These are life-like, foam animals, bugs, monsters and other interesting imitations. They’re great for hunters looking to practice shooting at their quarry. You can find a 3-D target that imitates nearly every species of North American big game, and many species of African game. A 3-D target allows you to pose the “animal” in a variety of positions, so you can shoot at it from different angles – just like you might encounter while hunting in the field.

deer target

Or, if you’re just looking for something fun to shoot at, you can take aim at 3-D zombies and dinosaurs.

zombie target

dinosaur target1


These are large round, or rounded, target butts to which you can attach a paper target, or which you can cover with a bag to make the whole matt a target. Most are foam, although some are made of grass and burlap material. The matts fit well under the description of “give yourself lots of room for error,” since most measure at least 3 feet across, while others stretch 4.5 feet across the face.

target matt

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.



final Compound-Illustration


Recurve bow Illustration2


Do you really need a stabilizer for your bow?

One of the questions we hear from new archers all the time is, “What is that thing sticking out from the front of the bow?

“A stabilizer,” we reply.

Inevitably, there’s the follow-up question, “Do I really need a stabilizer?”

That’s a personal choice. The simplest answer is, “No, you don’t need a stabilizer to shoot a bow. The bow is capable of releasing arrows without a stabilizer attached.”

However, there are tremendous advantages afforded by stabilizers. Look to the pros for proof. Professional archers can shoot with or without any equipment they want. They use what they need to win. That’s their job. Except for archers who compete in the classes that forbid them, you won’t find a professional target archer on the shooting line who doesn’t use a stabilizer. Most use more than one, in fact.

V bar stabilizer

Now you don’t have to rig your bow with stabilizers like the pros do just to punch targets in your backyard, or chase deer in the woods or even to shoot at local tournaments. But if you want to shoot tighter arrow groups, you might want to try a stabilizer of some stripe.


A stabilizer is mounted to the riser back, by screwing it into a threaded accessory hole located just below the grip. Nearly all compound and Olympic recurve bows come from the factory with this accessory hole in place.

Stabilizers perform a variety of functions. They absorb vibrations in the bow at the shot, which reduces the shock felt in your hand on the bow grip, and makes the bow quieter. They help keep the bow balanced, by adding weight below the grip. That weight down low encourages the bow to stand up straight, which is critical for consistent accuracy. It also helps settle your sight as you aim at the target.

Stabilizers combat bow torque. When an archer releases the bowstring, the riser torques as all that energy hits it. But a stabilizer, which adds weight out in front of the bow, resists that torque.

Think of it this way. Stand with your arms at your side and twist at the waist. There’s no resistance. Now hold a broom by the handle out in front of you, with the stick parallel to the ground, and twist at the waist. The broom will resist the twist.


The length of the stabilizer you choose, again, is up to you. If you’re a bowhunter sitting in a ground blind, shooting at game no more than 20 yards away, then you might prefer the light weight and maneuverability of a 6-inch stabilizer. But if you’re a tournament archer shooting at targets 70 meters out, you might prefer the steadying power of a 30-inch stabilizer.

stabilizer sizes2

Know this. The longer a stabilizer is, the more it’s going to resist bow torque, and the more it’s going to steady the bow as you aim. And the best place for the bulk of the weight is at the very end, away from the bow. That’s what gives the best stabilization.

So, maybe a bowhunter heading out West to chase elk, who might have to shoot 40 or 50 yards, would do better with a 12-inch stabilizer, rather than the 6-incher favored by the ground-blind hunter shooting no more than 20 yards. That extra length can help tighten arrow groups at longer distances.

In competition, there are limitations on stabilizer lengths for certain classes. The National Field Archery Association, for example, limits stabilizers to a maximum of 12 inches in its bowhunter classes. So that might dictate length for you.


Adding side rods, again, is a personal choice. Their purpose is to help balance the bow by adding weight behind the riser. A bowhunter, for example, can counteract the weight of a bow-mounted quiver by putting a side rod on the opposite side of the bow from the quiver. Target archers often use only one rod, too, to counteract the weight of their sight and rest. Or, they might put one rod on each side of the bow using a V-bar, which many feel makes the bow rock steady when they take aim.

side rod2

The best thing you can do when making a decision about stabilizers is to think about how and where you shoot – and what you shoot at – and then try different lengths and combinations to see what fits your needs.

Aperture, scope or pin: Which one for my sight?

So you’ve decided you want to shoot with a sight on your bow, and now you’re going to have to choose an aiming device. There are only three choices – aperture, scope or pin. You attach one of these to a sight body, and then use it to direct the bow so your arrow hits where you want.


Take note – not all sight bodies come with an aperture, pin or scope. You might have to buy one separately, but you need both parts for the sight to function. So if you’re looking at buying an HHA Pro Scope, for example, understand that you would still need a sight body to attach the scope to your bow.

The aperture, scope or pin extends out in front of the bow, above the arrow, perpendicular to the riser. It must be adjusted to reflect the flight path of the arrow at the distance you’re shooting. At full draw, the archer places the aperture, scope or pin on the target to take aim. It’s imperative the archer’s eye and aiming device are on the same plane for every shot, to promote consistent accuracy.


These are small circles or squares primarily used by Olympic-style, recurve archers. The aperture might have a pin or a dot in the center, which is pasted to the bull’s-eye as the archer aims.

Spigarelli Black Aperture


This is a large round housing that mounts to the sight body, and it’s used only by compound archers. The scope might have a lens in it, which can magnify the view of the target anywhere from 2-8 times its size. That lens might have a dot in the center, which is pasted to the bull’s-eye, or there could be a fiber-optic sight pin or set of crosshairs in the center of the scope housing.

CR Apex Scope


A pin is a simple piece of metal or plastic, with a rounded end that serves as your aiming point. These days, the tip usually is the very end of a fiber optic strand. The strand gathers light, so that the aiming point glows. Sight pins can be used by recurve or compound shooters. A sight body might have just one pin, or several, which can be set at different yardages. Pins are especially popular among bowhunters.

TruGlo Pro Dot Pin

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.




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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.