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.

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.

What is F.O.C.? And how does it affect my arrows?

F.O.C. is a hot topic in arrow-building discussions today.

What is F.O.C.?

It’s the acronym for “front of center.” What it refers to is the percentage of an arrow’s total weight – including the point – that is concentrated forward of the center of the arrow.

F.O.C. is something that mainly bowhunters are concerned with, and there’s no question that having a solid F.O.C. number is key to getting good arrow penetration on a big game animal.

But some bowhunters think F.O.C. is the only factor they should be concerned with in preparing hunting arrows, and they don’t understand the consequences of simply beefing up the front end of their arrows.

Let’s start with a minimum. Easton Archery recommends arrows have a minimum F.O.C. of 10-15 percent. That’s going to allow an arrow to fly accurately, especially at longer distances. If you go less than 10 percent, the arrow’s trajectory will be flatter, but its flight will be more erratic.

That 10-15 percent is what Easton recommends for target arrows and for hunting arrows. The amount of weight needed up front to hit that range will be sufficient for hunting, according to Easton.

A lot of bowhunters today try to get their F.O.C. to 20 percent and even a little higher. They can do that by adding weight to their inserts. A standard aluminum insert might weigh about 16 grains, where there are brass inserts that can weigh 100 grains. Also, some insert manufacturers allow weights to be screwed into the backs of their inserts, which is another way to add weight to the inserts.

Gold Tip 100-grain brass insert

Bowhunters also can add weight by shooting heavier broadheads. A standard broadhead weighs 100 grains. But there are common options for 125 and 150 grains. And there are special broadheads aimed primarily at the heavy F.O.C. fans that weigh 200 grains.

Strickland’s Archery 200-grain broadhead

So if a bowhunter swaps out that 16-grain aluminum insert for a 100-grain brass insert, and trades a 100-grain broadhead for a 150-grain model, that hunter just increased the front-end weight of that arrow by 134 grains. That’s sure to boost the arrow’s F.O.C. considerably.

No question that arrow now will have improved penetration capabilities. But it also could cause problems for the bowhunter.

For starters, with all that weight added to the front of the arrow, the arrow’s spine is considerably weakened, and accuracy problems are likely. According to Easton’s hunting arrow shaft selection chart, an archer shooting a 29-inch arrow from a 62-pound bow should choose an arrow with a 340 spine while using a 100-grain broadhead. If the archer only increases point weight by 50 grains, that archer should be shooting a 300-spine arrow. The more weight you add to the front of an arrow, the stiffer that arrow needs to be to support that extra weight.

A second issue could be trajectory. When you add weight to an arrow, you slow it down, which adds more curve to its trajectory arc. For the Eastern tree stand hunter who expects most shots to be under 20 yards, that’s probably not an issue. But it could be for the Western hunter who is spotting and stalking and might have to shoot out to 60 yards. With that much weight added, a 2-yard miscalculation in shooting distance could easily result in a miss.

No question there are benefits to boosting an arrow’s F.O.C. to increase its capability of punching through an animal. Some animal hides are notoriously tough, and if the arrow hits a bone, it would be nice if the arrow could punch through that bone.

But as with many things in archery, balance is important. Kinetic energy is the amount of energy a body has in motion. It’s calculated by a formula that relies on the weight and speed of a moving object.

To calculate KE in foot pounds you would take the arrow weight and multiple it by the velocity squared, and divide that number by 450,800. For hunting game animals like antelope and deer, Easton recommends an arrow have KE values of 25-41 foot pounds. For elk, black bear and boar, Easton recommends 42-65 foot pounds.

To illustrate what an arrow build would be to meet those minimums, let’s look at the popular Easton Axis 5mm. A 29-inch, 340-spine arrow weighing 9.5 grains per inch, with a standard insert and fletchings would weigh about 315 grains. Add a 100-grain point and you get a 415-grain arrow. Shoot that arrow from a 70-pound bow drawn to 29 inches, and a speed of about 290 feet-per-second is likely.

The KE value for that arrow is 77 foot pounds. That’s well above Easton’s recommendation for any of those animals. So it’s safe to say that arrow is sufficient for bowhunting all of them.

The F.O.C. for that arrow is 12 percent, which is also within Easton’s recommended range. If I add a bunch of weight to the front of that arrow to try to get to 20 percent F.O.C., I am increasing the penetration capability of an arrow that already is capable to killing a deer, elk or black bear.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But remember to consider arrow spine and performance, along with your hunting expectations as you are building arrows with an eye toward boosting F.O.C.

A simple, inexpensive way to test arrow performance with different F.O.C. values is to get screw-in field points of varying weights. Saunders makes field points as heavy as 250 grains. Shoot several arrows with points of different weights at whatever you consider to be your maximum effective range. By doing this, you should be able to determine what gives you the tightest, most consistent groups.

Saunders 250-grain field point

Don’t just look for the tightest groups. You also want to consider forgiveness. That is, which arrows hit closest to your aiming point when you make a bad shot. If you have an arrow setup that produces 2-inch groups at 50 yards, but a slight bobble on your part throws the arrow off 8 inches, versus an arrow setup that produces 4-inch groups, with imperfect shots only missing by 3 inches, you should consider going with the latter setup.

Know Your Archery Glues

Stick it, for the win!

Archery is a game that requires lots of glue.

We glue points, inserts and nock bushings inside arrow shafts. We glue vanes, feathers and certain nocks onto arrow shafts.

Sometimes you want bonds to be permanent. Sometimes, you want to be able to separate parts later.

To get the right parts to stick the right way, you’ve got to know your archery glues.

CYANOACRYLATES

This is a family of fast-setting gels and liquid glues commonly used for fletchings, point inserts and sometimes nock bushings and nocks.

You’d use a cyanoacrylate for anything you want to stick permanently and quickly. Let’s say you’re putting a point insert into a hunting arrow to receive screw-in field points and broadheads. You’d use a cyanoacrylate because these inserts typically are intended to be permanent.

Attaching fletchings to arrows is a common use for cyanoacrylates because the glue enables the fletchings to stick where you put them very quickly. Pay attention to the type of cyanoacrylate you choose for fletching. Not all work equally well on both plastic vanes and feathers. Likewise, if you’re working with wood arrows, some of these glues work better on wood than others.

HOT MELTS

These glues come in stick form. You apply a flame to the glue to melt it into whatever you want to stick to another surface.

Hot melts are great for products you might remove, such as points and nock bushings. Should the time come, you can heat the point or bushing, which will loosen the glue, and that component can then be easily removed.

Understand, however, that you should never subject carbon to high heat, like an open flame. That will cause the carbon to crack.

Another method for softening hot melt that’s already holding components in place is to use hot water. Let’s say you want to remove a point that’s glued in place inside a carbon arrow. Submerge the arrow end into a pot of hot water for a few seconds, and the glue will soften so you can remove the point with a pair of pliers. (Don’t use your hands or you’ll burn them.)

This is a safe way to remove components from carbon arrows without damaging the carbon.

COLD MELT

Cold melt glues also come in stick form, and are applied by heating them. They require less heat than hot melts to liquify the glue, however.

Cold melts are great for gluing components where you don’t want to use high heat – such as anything being inserted into a carbon arrow shaft. The lower melting temperature required to liquify these glues minimizes the risk of damaging carbon.

They’re great for nock bushings, since these bushings sit so close to arrow shafts. So let’s say you want to remove a bushing. You’ll have to heat it to liquify the glue holding it in place. Since the bushing is so close to the shaft, if it were held in place with hot melt, the amount of heat required to loosen the glue might be enough to damage the carbon, where the lesser amount of heat required to loosen a cold melt would be safer.

EPOXY

Epoxies used for archery purposes usually require a mix of two liquids at the time the glue is applied. Epoxies don’t set up fast, so you have time to work with your products to get them in position, before they stick. Once an epoxy cures, it usually forms one of the hardest bonds you’ll find. Epoxies are great for hidden inserts that can take some time to position correctly inside arrow shafts, and for bow grips.

Mathews VXR Series 2020 Compound Bows Review

Mathews Archery launched the VXR Series bows as its flagship hunting line for 2020.

Watch here as Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly runs through the features and technologies built into these bows, which are the VXR 28 and the VXR 31.

Mathews took a lot of the technology built into its 2019 Vertix line, such as the Switchweight Mods, and put it into the VXR line. The Switchweight Mods allow an archer to change the weight range of a particular bow simply by changing mods. Previously, changing the weight range required changing limbs.

The VXR 28 is sure to be a hit with bowhunters, while the VXR 31 will be a great choice for bowhunters or 3D archers as well.

2020 Bowtech Revolt Series Compound Bows Review

New for 2020, Bowtech introduced its Revolt Series of compound bows. The series includes the Revolt X and the Revolt.

Watch here as Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly reviews the features and technologies built into the 30-inch Revolt and the 33-inch Revolt X.

No question, the most significant feature of these bows is the Deadlock Cam system. This is a feature Bowtech introduced early in 2020 in the Reckoning target bows. It allows the archer to use an Allen key to move the cam left or right while tuning to get perfect arrow alignment.

The Revolt bows mark the first hunting bows by Bowtech to include this new technology.

Hoyt 2020 Alpha Series RX-4 and Axius Compound Bows Review

For 2020, Hoyt has introduced the Alpha Series compound bows, which include the carbon RX-4 and aluminum Axius models.

Watch here as Lancaster Archery Supply TechXpert P.J. Reilly runs through the features and technologies built into these 29.5-inch-long bows.

These are the shortest bows Hoyt has ever offered in their premium line. They are designed with the hardcore hunter in mind, who will use them in ground blinds, tree stands and in the deep backcountry.

Light and maneuverable are the calling cards of these bows.

2020 Prime Archery Black Series Compound Bows Review

For 2020, Prime Archery has introduced its Black Series of compound bows, which has offerings for both bowhunters and target archers.

Watch here, as Lancaster Archery Supply TechXpert Dustin Cimato runs through the features and technologies offered in this series of bows, which includes models that measure 31 inches, 33 inches and 35 inches long.

Arguably the most noted feature of these bows is the rotating module for adjusting draw length. Previously, Prime bows were cam specific, which meant that to change draw lengths, the cam had to be changed.

With the Black Series bows, changing draw length is as simple as rotating a module.

 

2020 Elite Kure Compound Bow Review

Elite Archery introduced the all-new Kure compound bow as its flagship hunting bow for 2020.

Lancaster Archery Supply’s P.J. Reilly talked to Elite engineer Josh Sidebottom and Elite pro archer Nathan Brooks about the technologies built into this new bow.

An all-new cam powers this bow, with beefier axles and a different configuration – both of which help to eliminate cam lean and provide for more stability at the end of the limb tips.

But the real advancement Elite brought to this bow is S.E.T. Technology. Brooks explains this system allows an archer to adjust the limb pocket while tuning, without needing a bow press.