Archery: How To Choose The Right Thumb Ring

by | Dec 28, 2022

If you’ve been considering Eastern archery or Asiatic archery for some time but have been a little perplexed as to how to choose the right thumb ring for you, then you’ve come to the right place.

Thumb rings have been a ubiquitous part of Asiatic and Eastern archery for centuries, but there seems to be a never-ending selection of styles and materials of these odd-looking devices, so it can boggle the mind as to how to know which one is the best choice.

There are three main factors to take into consideration when choosing the right thumb ring.

  1. Your Style of Archery
  2. Your Draw Weight
  3. The Level of String Connection

Selecting a thumb ring based on the above criteria should provide you with the best possible chance of matching the right thumb ring to your purpose.

The use of a thumb ring has been around for hundreds of years, but only recently have mainstream recreational archers discovered its many merits. In this article, we’ll cover how to choose the right type of thumb ring based on key defining factors.

How To Choose The Right Thumb Ring For You?

When you come to choose the right thumb ring, you really are spoilt for choice. Thumb rings come in all shapes, sizes, designs and materials, from stone rings to bone rings; antler rings to resin rings and ornate brass rings, to plain old leather rings.

It’s very much down to personal preference. You’ll need to try a variety of different materials and designs, but there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration before choosing one:

1. Your Style of Archery

If you’re a purist and are looking for authenticity with the style of archery you shoot, then the type of thumb ring you choose should ideally match the style of archery.

Are you a Turkish shooter? Japanese? What about Mongolian or Korean?

Each style or country of origin of that particular style will have its own design of a thumb ring.

Turkish thumb rings for example, typically have a shorter lip with no-string groove, while the Hungarian rings tend to have a longer lip to cover more of the pad of the thumb. On the other hand, Manchurian thumb rings are thicker and more cylindrical with a shallow hook.

Whatever style of Eastern archery you decide to shoot, you will most likely be encouraged to pick a thumb ring that at least matches the bow.

Manchurian thumb ring

For example, the Manchurian thumb ring should ideally be shot with a Manchu bow, or at the very least a bow with a long draw length. You wouldn’t be able to get away with shooting a shorter Turkish bow with a Manchurian thumb ring due to the design of the ring.

If you’re taking a more modern approach you can choose whatever bow and whatever style and draw you like, you’re going to have much more freedom when it comes to choosing a thumb ring.

Archers today are much more inclined to swap over styles and swap over rings until they find the best design and fit for them.

2. Heavy or Light?

How heavy a draw weight you shoot with will influence the material that your thumb ring should be made of.

If you like to shoot heavier draw weights of 50 lbs plus, then you will need to go for a thumb ring made out of metal or brass just to be able to deaden the pain and discomfort.

Shooting heavier draw weights with something like resin, or horn will likely lead to cracking of the ring under the strain.

3. Connection To The String

If you like to be able to feel the string on your thumb when you shoot, then choosing a lighter material like leather would be a better choice. The heavier materials such as horn, resin and brass will completely block the connection and sensitivity to the bowstring.

Leather has a soft, organic feel to it that will give you a great connection, but it’s still possible to experience some discomfort if you’re shooting for prolonged periods.

The thicker the thumb ring material, the more solid the contact with the string will be, so you’ll need to experiment with different materials to find what kind of connection to the string feels better for you.

What Is A Thumb Ring?

The thumb ring is a small piece of leather, wood, brass, horn or bone that has been shaped into a ring with an extended shelf that covers and protects the pad of the thumb.

It is typically associated with Eastern and Asiatic archery, Horseback archery and any other style of archery that utilises the thumb release technique.

The bowstring is placed against the edge of the ring so as to relieve the pressure of the string from the thumb itself.

The thumb ring can also be just a thick, oversized ring, as in the case of the Manchurian thumb rings.

How To Use A Thumb Ring

To put on the thumb ring, you should turn the ring horizontally so that the widest part of the thumb can easily be slipped through the ring.

Then once the ring has passed the knuckle turn it so that the shelf is snug against the pad of the thumb.

An archer drawing a bow with a thumb ring wraps their thumb around the string just beneath the arrow and holds onto the bowstring with the index finger The bowstring rests on the underside of the archer’s thumb using the ring to protect the skin.

When the bowstring is released, the pad of the thumb is protected by the extended shelf of the ring.

How Do You Measure Yourself For A Thumb Ring?

Sizing your thumb ring is probably the most important thing. The easiest way to measure your thumb accurately is to go to your local archery shop and ask for help. They should have a measuring device called a vernier.

The measurements should be taken at room temperature around the fattest part of your thumb, ie the knuckle.

Each thumb ring manufacturer will have a size chart that you will be able to compare your measurements to and that of the ring you want to purchase.

If you do get stuck with a ring that is slightly too big, then you could pad the thumb ring by wrapping tape around it to get that extra thickness.

Similarly, if you have a wooden or horn ring and you find that it’s too tight, you can sand away some of the material to increase the diameter.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Thumb Ring?

1. Protection

It almost goes without saying but the thumb draw is not some magical method that lets you pull the string so that your skin gets away scot-free from friction.

If you draw without a thumb ring, you may get away with it on lower draw weights, but if you shoot upwards of 35-30lbs, the skin of your thumb will not thank you for it.

In a Mediterranean draw, three fingers distribute the weight of the string, which isn’t too bad at higher draw weights. Even so, most shooters choose to use a finger tab or a glove.

With a thumb ring, you’re not only protecting the skin behind the knuckle but also the pad of your thumb from the friction of the string.

That’s why the thumb ring has an extended shelf that covers the vulnerable skin of your thumb.

2. Smoother Release

Whilst the design of the thumb ring gives the shooter protection for the thumb, that same design also provides the string with a smooth surface to glide over upon release.

This makes the release itself much smoother. The index finger and thumb just need to snap apart, which is more consistent than the Mediterranean draw where you have to worry about releasing three fingers at the same time.

3. You Can Handle A Heavier Draw Weight

If you shoot using a Mediterranean draw, going heavier can take its toll on the fingers. When you use a brass or metal thumb ring, you can significantly increase your draw weight as the thumb is protected. Your thumb is also the strongest digit on your hand making the extra weight much easier to control.

4. Better Grip

With the shelf that the thumb ring provides, you can rest the bowstring in a position that won’t fatigue your grip. This leaves you free to focus on the target, rather than on the pain in your fingers.

Different Types Of Thumb Rings

There are so many different rings to suit different styles of archery:


Goves a soft feel and a great connection to the string, but the thumb will ache after a while if you’re not used to it

Leather thumb ring


Very light and comfortable feel if you get the sizing right. One of the most popular varieties as it’s appropriate for most draw styles. Very solid contact and greatly mitigates some of the pain associated with the thumb draw.

Resin thumb ring


The densest material used for thumb rings. You be able to feel a connection with the string with this ring, but on the flip side, you’ll be able to shoot all day without any pain at all. Perfect for draw weights above 50 lbs.

Brass thumb ring


A good compromise between brass and resin rings. Good, solid contact and very little in the way of pain from the string. Best used for Korean-style archery.

Horn thumb ring

Manchurian (made for 8mm string)

The Manchurian rings require a different angle from the thumb as you draw. because the shelf on the ring is really deep, you can place the string behind it and keep the thumb pressed against the middle finger, rather than folding it under the index finger.

For a more in-depth look at the different designs of thumbs rings, check out the video below:

Can You Still Use Thumb Release Without A Thumb Ring?

It is possible to use a thumb release without a thumb ring. But you will have to undergo rigorous training to condition the skin and tendons of your thumb in order to withstand the wear and tear.

Many teachers will instruct their students to start practising a thumb release without the added protection. This is so that they can experience the connection and sensitivity first while getting their form correct. Making sure they choose the right thumb ring when the time comes.

Continuing this practice for a few weeks will help your skin adjust to the string’s weight. Increase the draw weight only when you’re confident that your thumb’s skin has sufficiently calloused over

If you shoot too high a draw weight for longer periods you will start to feel some pinching and pain in your thumb. But there’s no reason why you can’t use a thumb release without a thumb ring on lighter draw weights.

If you’d like to know how to use the thumb draw with a Recurve bow, you might like to read this article.

When You Shouldn’t Use A Thumb Ring

This comes down to defining what your purpose is with the thumb release. If speed shooting is your thing, then shooting with a thumb ring is going to impede how fast you can draw and release.

Horseback archers use the thumb release technique because they can lock in the arrow against the string. They could fire off multiple arrows this way in quick succession. A thumb ring would impede how fast they could nock the arrow.

Final Thoughts

The process of how to choose the right thumb ring really begins with which style of archery you want to shoot. If you want authenticity with a particular style, then pick a thumb ring that emulates that style best.

Sizing your thumb correctly is crucial if you want to enjoy shooting with a thumb ring. Remember that you will need to get yourself at least two rings. Your thumb will change in size depending on the temperature!

Experiment with different draw weights and materials to see what works best for you. You’ll find that most thumb shooters have amassed a significant collection of rings from different materials. This will give a better connection and provide more sensitivity to the string.

And finally, have fun!