Medieval archers used to draw 120 pounds on a bow in battle using only leather gloves. However, shooting with your fingers is not only painful, but it can also be clumsy. By using a mechanical release, you can improve accuracy and consistency without sacrificing your digits. When selecting the best release, consider the variables relevant to you -- type of shooting, shooting style and level of experience.
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Archer or Hunter
The type of release that is best for you depends on whether you’re a target shooter or a bow hunter. If you’re hiding behind a tree and waiting for a deer to scamper past, you’ll need a simple release that’s reliable and quiet. For archers in tournaments who are not bogged down by weather, terrain or timing, you can use a more complex release to gain accuracy. Because you shoot a large number of arrows, a release that doesn’t wear down your bow string is better.
Types of Releases
According to the Hunting Network, the different types of release aids are wrist or caliper, handheld or finger and automatic or hydraulic. For hunters, the caliper release is rapid-fire and easy to use. You attach the release to your wrist with a buckle or a Velcro strap. A rope connects the release to your bowstring. With a gentle tug of your forefinger, you activate the release. Because the head swivels 360 degrees, you can twist your hand without jarring your string release. T-shaped handheld releases are used by target shooters, in which you trigger the release with your thumb or little finger. The handheld automatic release has a trigger mechanism set to a timer. You can set the timer anywhere from zero to six seconds to achieve a delayed release. Serious archers favor these expensive releases.
The Use of Back Tension
Experienced target shooters often use back tension releases, which are basically triggerless, because they help you to overcome trigger panic as well as punching the trigger prematurely once you’ve locked on to your target. Punching the release can result in jerky movement. The advantage of using a back-tension release is not only greater accuracy but also consistency. The main feature of this device is a half-moon cam, according to “Archery: Steps to Success” by Kathleen Haywood and Catherine Lewis. When turned under pressure, the cam and the follow-up with your pull-through will trigger the bowstring release. Because these releases can be tricky to use well, they’re not recommended for novices.
The Key is the Trigger
A release aid is comparable to the trigger of a rifle. The quality of the trigger mechanism of a rifle determines whether the rifle is good or bad. Expensive release aids for archers have more refined trigger mechanisms, according to Steve Tentler, the owner of the archery accessories company TruFire. You can adjust the length and pressure of the trigger to suit your release style. A cheap release won’t have the extra features that enable the finer adjustments for a great shot.
The Best Release Fits You
A common problem is that the release aid doesn't fit the archer. Tentler says that many archers tend to use releases that are too long. When it comes to identifying the best release, visit an archery store and try out the gear before purchasing it. There should be a trained professional on hand who can advise you on releases that suit your style of hunting, experience level, personal preferences and budget. It's akin to buying a new pair of shoes -- you won't know if the release fits until you actually use it.