Using release aids to cure target panic

Can certain mechanical releases help compound archers squash target panic?

It worked for me. When target panic nearly ruined archery for me in early 2016, a mechanical release turned everything around and made the game fun again.


It’s been suggested that most archers will come down with target panic at some point during their shooting careers. The reasons why it happens vary from person to person. Same goes for its severity. The path to beating target panic has been fairly well charted through the years, although there is no quantifiable recovery time and there’s no guarantee it won’t return.

Since anticipation and the resulting anxiety are classic calling cards of target panic, one of the best ways to kill both is to be surprised when the string is released at full draw. To do that, you generally need to remove a traditional trigger.

The Stan PerfeX Resistance, Stan Element and Carter Evolution are three resistance-activated releases. They have no trigger, nor do they operate on a hinge. They fire as the result of an increase in tension between the release jaw and the bowstring.


Stan PerfeX Resistance

These releases feature a safety that is depressed during the draw cycle. At full draw, you release the safety, and the release’s tension should be set heavy enough to hold the string. At this point, you start squeezing your shoulder blades toward one another, which causes you to pull straight back on the release. That’s increasing the tension on the string, and eventually, the release fires. You can adjust the release tension so that it fires with only a slight increase in resistance or with a lot.


Stan Element

However the release is set, shots are always a surprise because there is no trigger. You can’t punch this release like a thumb button or index finger release, nor can you roll through it like a hinge. That’s why it’s favored for curing target panic. Only a steady pull – what you want to do with any release – will set it off.

Carter Evolution

Even after you’ve been using one of these releases for a while, shots still come as a surprise, because any slight changes in the pressure you put on the bow pushing forward, or on the string pulling backward at full draw, affect the release. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly when it will go off. That’s sure to help lower your anxiety.

These releases are not just tools for curing target panic. Many archers use them as their primary releases. Or, they’ll keep a resistance-activated release for training sessions when they feel like they’re anticipating shots using their normal release.

I used a Stan Element for several months after I came down with my case of target panic in 2016. I credit it for helping to ease my anxiety and for eliminating my shot anticipation. Eventually, I was able to use a hinge, thumb button or index finger release without anxiety and without punching the trigger.

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.

STAN releases review

STAN came out with new features for several of its releases in 2016. Most notable, perhaps, is the training lock. The STAN releases that end with “TL” let you know they inlcude the training lock device.

Basically, this is a pin that doesn’t allow the hook on the release to open. So you can practice shooting with your own bow, include the release, but the string will stay captured in the hook.

Also, STAN is making many of its releases available in the new heavy metal finish. It’s a copper-based finish that makes the release good and heavy for maximum feel in the archer’s hand.


Scott Halo hinge-style release review with Levi Morgan

The Scott Halo mechanical release is a new offering from Scott Archery that champion archer Levi Morgan discussed with Lancaster Archery Supply at the 2016 Archery Trade Association.

The Halo is a hinge-style release Morgan likes because it’s made of heavy brass, it’s got a large opening for the index finger and the groves for the other fingers are deep enough that each finger can seat comfortably on the release.

Morgan in 2015 became the first archer ever to win all three legs of the IBO Triple Crown, plus the IBO World Championship, which makes him the first to claim the IBO Grand Slam.

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

Scott Rhino XT Release With NCS Buckle Strap

Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert Wesley Benoit demonstrates the features and operation of the Scott Rhino XT Release with NCS buckle strap. This is an open-hook release which makes connecting the release to the bowstring possible without having to look down at the string. It’s activated by the archer’s forefinger pressing the trigger.

The NCS buckle strap features an adjustable nylon strap that connects the release head to the wrist strap. The length of the nylon connecting strap can be adjusted to fit just about anyone’s hand size.

Stan Shootoff! Release

Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert Randy Groff takes a close look at the Stan Shootoff! release in this video. Specifically, Groff checks out the Blackout and the Standard versions of the release.

In his review, Groff goes through all the adjustments available with this versatile release that can be shot by right- or left-handed archers, and which comes in three- or four-finger versions available in three sizes each.