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.

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.

Customizing your bow grip

“Man, I love this bow, but I just can’t get comfortable with this grip!”

Ever found yourself in this situation?

You’re not alone. And no, you don’t just “have to get used to it.”

If you find a bow that you like, but it’s got a grip that doesn’t suit you, there are lots of potential fixes on the market for both compound and recurve bows.

REMOVE THE GRIP

Perhaps the simplest fix is to remove the grip and shoot off the bare riser. This is going to be more for compound archers than recurve, but it’s a simple move that many target archers do when a grip doesn’t feel right.

Often times, the riser underneath a grip is flat and smooth and has a nice angle that fits how you like to position your wrist. Understand that when you remove a grip, you’re going to extend your draw length a bit.

AFTERMARKET GRIPS

There are many companies that make grips for different bows. Usually, these aftermarket grips are made to correct common complaints archers have about the stock grip on a particular bow. Too wide, too thin, too much angle, not enough angle, soft edge, hard edge. These are all issues that aftermarket grip manufacturers try to alleviate with their grips, and they might have just what you’re looking to put on your bow.

You will find many of these grips offered in low, medium and high varieties. These refer to the wrist position, with a low grip requiring the most bend in your wrist and the high grip requiring the least bend. The medium, is in between the two. Viewed from the side, a low grip will be the most vertical, while the high grip will have the greatest angle away from vertical, and the medium will be in the middle.

If you want a grip that fits your hand specifically, there are manufacturers who will make custom grips. These are popular among Olympic recurve and barebow recurve archers.

TAPE

Sometimes a grip issue can be fixed simply with grip tape. The most common tape is similar to what you’d find wrapped around a tennis racket or the handle of a baseball bat. It’s soft, warm and keeps your hand from sliding. Grip tape is what many archers put on their bows after they remove a grip to shoot off the riser.

Another common tape is traction tape, which has a gritty feel, kind of like sandpaper. This tape usually comes in strips, so you can put a single strip on the face of a grip, where your hand sits. It’s great for keeping your hand from sliding when it’s wet or hot and humid, but without the bulk that can be added by using the wrap-around grip tape mentioned previously.

MOLDABLE PRODUCTS

One way to customize any grip you have is to use moldable putty, rubber or glue. You can add this material to your grip to build it up in specific areas to fit your hand. Usually, the material is pliable when you apply it, then cures into the shape you want after some period.

For a full list of products that can help you get the grip you want, click here.

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.

Prime Black 9 2020 Compound Target Bow

Prime Archery for 2020 launched the Prime Black 9 compound bow, which is built mainly for target archers.

Watch Lancaster Archery Supply TechXpert Dustin Cimato as he walks through the features and technologies built into this 39-inch-long bow.

Arguably, the most noted feature of this bow is the Roto cam, which includes a rotating module for changing draw length. In the past, Prime bows employed draw-length-specific cams, which required changing the cams in order to change draw lengths.

With the Black 9, the draw length can be changed simply by rotating a module.