What is an Archery Release Aid?

archery release aid
Medieval longbowmen would pull around 120 lb's on a traditional English warbow without ANY release aid; just with a pair of leather gloves. Anyone who has shot with fingers knows that it is incredibly easy to pull the shot upon release. Releases allow for a crisp and clean release of the tense bowstring, increasing consistency of the shot and keeping your fringers from bleeding! Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Not long ago the bow was little more than a stick and string. Archers would pull the bowstring back using only their fingers and promptly releasing the string once the target was acquired. Today, however, with the modern invention and innovations of the compound bow, less and less archers and bowhunters are using their fingers to contact and pull the string. Today, archery release aids are the norm. These invaluable mechanisms allow the archer or bowhunter to pull back the bow with a mechanical device that is much more consistent in the releasing of the bow’s string, giving the arrow much greater consistency and allowing for much improved accuracy. Benefits can also include less torque on the string because of human tendencies to pull to the right or left when at full draw with a bow.

Which Release should I choose?

The greatest advice for determining which release is right for you would be for you to take a trip to your local archery pro shop. Nothing can compare to the hands-on feel and testing you could get from here. Ask questions and spend some time thoroughly looking at all the different choices that are in front of you. Keep in mind what kind of archer you wish to be, a bowhunter or a target shooter. This decision will ultimately play a role as you decide.

Bowhunters tend to lean to simpler release designs that are quiet and dependable in the woods where weather can play a larger contributing factor. And since you’ll be using or wearing one for several hours, comfort is among the qualities you’ll wish to look for.

Target and tournament shooters alike are looking for a release that not only will aid in their shooting consistency, but also one that won’t wear down the their bow string serving since they’ll be shooting greater numbers of arrows. For this type of archery a handheld rope release (instead of caliper styles) would fare better since it wears considerably less on the bow string.

These are just some of the things you’ll want to understand more as you explore further for the perfect release. Remember, you’ve taken the time and researched everything there is to know about your bow, don’t neglect to research your release as well. They are an important feature to the accuracy of your shooting, and if you choose to go that route, your hunting as well.

Below you will find the basic three types of archery release aids available today along with a brief description of what separates one style from another.

Wrist or Caliper Release Aids

This is a dual caliper release. A single caliper release has one moving pincer, and a dual has two. Product shown in Lost Camo. 

Perhaps the most common release aids used by hunters today, the wrist or caliper style release aids offer great benefits as they are often quickest and easiest to use. These release aids attach themselves to the user’s wrist with either a Velcro or buckle strap. They often come with one of two types of wrist straps, either a continuous round strap or a “V” shaped one. Because continuous straps are so quick to put on they are often preferred by hunters.

From the wrist strap, a rod or rope extends from the release mechanism attaching to the bowstring. These release aids are triggered by the user’s index finger, a soft movement is often all that is needed. Length adjustment options between the wrist strap and trigger help accommodate differences in hand sizes and lengths between different users.

Probably the most important feature of this style release is the 360 degree swiveling head, a huge benefit in reducing string torque by allowing the user’s hand to twist without effecting string release. The jaws or calipers used when pulling your bowstring can be single or double jaw mechanisms. These heads snap extremely quickly to your string making them ideal for hunters. In recent years some ball-bearing style mechanisms have become quite popular as well.

Handheld or Finger Releases

handheld release or fnger release
Three and four finger release aids are very popular among olympic shooters. They tend to stay closer to the old days when archers used to put food on the table with calloused fingers. Finger releases like this Tru-Fire Hunter's Finger Release are for those that prefer the "old way," but still want to reap the benefits of a crisp, clean release from an aid, and don't want to tear up their hands.

Often the favorite among target, 3-D, and tournament shooters, handheld releases have found their way into the bowhunters’ arsenal as well in recent years. Held in your hand while using just 2-4 of your fingers (depending on the manufacturer and style) these releases are often quickly recognized by their “T” shape. Recognized as often being both smaller in size and lighter in weight, the trigger of these releases can vary from your thumb or pinky finger, and even with only the use of back tension. Back tension designs are often most preferred by tournament shooters and not hunters because of their more responsive release which although “touchy” can usually be adjusted as desired.

Various models of these releases can feature a cocking bar and sear mechanism that work like a trigger and makes a soft “click” when preparing for a shot. This feature is very effective for target shooters, but due to the noise made by the “click” should be left at home when taking into the woods.

Handheld releases are often preferred by some hunters as it allows them to attach the release to their string and “out of the way” as they begin a rattling sequence or take a bite of lunch. However, the downside of this is they have no wrist strap and can be easy to forget before heading into the woods, and easily can be dropped from the treestand once there.

Back Tension releases are often regarded as one of archers’ greatest solutions to “trigger panic” and/or for those who tend to “punch” the trigger too quickly once a target is acquired. Because they are essentially triggerless, these releases often require a lot of training time in an effort to learn how to use them correctly. It is for this reason that these releases are often better suited for more experienced shooters.

Back tension releases often differ greatly in the triggering mechanism of their string release. Instead of the archer consciously pushing or pulling a trigger, a simple rotation of the device followed by the final pull-through of your back muscles results in an increased pressure on the bow string. The climax of which, causes the release to trigger. Although back tension release aides can significantly increase your shooting potential, they are usually not recommended for beginners.

Automatic or Hydraulic Releases

Automatic release aids are considered the least popular styles on the market. Reason being, simply, they can cost in excess of $300 or more. A heavy burden on any archer who may have just paid substantially more than that on a new bow purchase.

Offered in either a wrist or handheld style, these releases feature a trigger mechanism that is pre-set by the archer for delayed release typically anywhere from 0-6 seconds. This timer activates itself as you pull back your bow, releasing automatically once that set time is reached. Models are often equipped with a safety button which can stop the release from firing when needed.

Although very innovative in their design, these types of releases are not recommended for beginners still learning proper shooting fundamentals. They are however, often favored by serious target shooters.

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