Compound Bow Release Aids: An Essential Guide

by | Mar 25, 2023

If you’re a traditional archer and are thinking of making the switch to compound archery, you will have to get used to the idea of using a compound release aid. Compound bows are designed with release aids in mind, but with so much information available, it can be a little confusing.

A compound bow release aid is a trigger device that attaches to the archer’s bowstring via a d-loop. The archer uses it to draw the bowstring rather than using the fingers as in traditional archery. The release aid enables the archer to achieve more consistency and accuracy through the repetition of movement.

In this article, we’ll go over what compound release aids are in more detail, explain why you need them, and give you some advice on choosing the best release aid for you.

What Is A Compound Bow Release Aid?

Compound bow release aids are mechanical devices specifically designed for compound bows. They attach to the bowstring using a loop extension called a D-loop, which then allows the archer to pull back the bowstring and release the arrow.

Using a release aid has an advantage. It gives the archer just one point of contact on the string. Traditional finger shooters use three fingers.

This single point of contact reduces the chance of string torque from uneven finger pressure. It leads to a more consistent release

Why Do You Need To Use A Compound Bow Release?

A compound bow typically needs a release aid. The reason is its short limbs. These create a steep angle through the bowstring. It’s hard for the archer to hold this with just the fingers

Not using a release aid poses another risk. The string on a compound bow sits in the cam groove. Drawing the string back without a release could twist or torque the string. This can lead to a derailment, where the string comes off its track.

Using a release aid helps to keep the bowstring vertical all the way back to full draw.

How To Use a Compound Bow Release Aid

What Are The Best Types Of Compound Bow Release Aids?

Whether you’re hunting, or target shooting, there are plenty of compound bow release aids to suit every style. You just need to experiment with them all to find what works best for you.

Wrist Release

One of the most popular release aids is the wrist release, otherwise known as the index finger release.

This release gives the archer total control over the release and allows the archer to hold the bow’s draw weight in the back muscles instead of with the arm.

Making sure the release strap is the right length here is key, as you want the index finger to completely wrap around the trigger.

With the finger hooked over the trigger, you don’t even need to pull it to release. All you do is squeeze your shoulder blades together and that’s enough to trigger the release.

This is also one of the cheaper options out there, and perfect for people just starting out with release aids.

Thumb Release

The thumb release is a hand-held release that will give you a different feel from the wrist release. However, the mechanics of the release are exactly the same.

Compound Thumb Release

Rather than pulling on the trigger, you just wrap your thumb around the barrel and then squeeze the shoulders together to activate the trigger.

Tension Release

The tension release aid is a more advanced release with no identifiable trigger. In order to get the release to trigger, you need to set the release to your specific holding weight at the back wall.

Back Tension Release Aids

Then once you reach that weight, the release automatically triggers.

This type of release is great for archers with target panic, or who have any issues with anticipation and accuracy.

Hinge Release (Back Tension Release)

Similar to the tension-activated release, this type of hinge release is very popular with target archers and bow hunters.

A rotating head hooks onto the string and is automatically triggered when the archer reaches full draw and squeezes the shoulder blades together to create back tension.

How To Choose A Compound Bow Release Aid

Out of the thousands of different styles of compound release aids on the market, how do you even begin to choose one?!

You can start to narrow down the field by separating them into two major groups: Wrist Strap release aids, and hand-held release aids.

When considering which type of release aid to go for, don’t be tempted to go for a cheaper option.

Set aside at least $70-$100. While release aids can easily run you up to $200 and more, $70 will get you a basic release aid which will be enough to get you started.

The last thing you want is for your $30 release to fail as you’re pulling back a 70lb bow. Best to fork out the extra $40 and avoid the trip to A and E.

Wrist Straps

Pros

Easily accessible – You can keep the wrist strap on your wrist at all times so you don’t have to go searching for it before every shot.

Easily adjustable – You can adjust the length of the strap to accommodate different hand and finger lengths. You need to be able to wrap your index finger completely over the trigger, rather than plucking at it with your fingertip.

Wrist Release Aid

On some of the higher-end straps, you can also adjust the tension on the trigger by loosening or tightening the screw housed within the trigger based on how sensitive you want the release to be.

This is a particularly good feature if you experience target panic or anticipation before a shot.

Cons

There can be some variation when setting your anchor point while wearing a wrist strap. When pulling back to the face, you want to get the knuckles of your first two fingers under the chin but with a wrist strap, it can be difficult to find a solid reference point.

For this reason alone, you won’t find many target archers using a wrist strap release.

Price range – $70 – $200

Hand-Held

Hand-held releases comprise the hinge, thumb and tension releases. They are very popular with high-level target and world-champion archers and are beginning to be more so with bow hunters.

Pros

Easier to find your anchor point – When holding the release in the hand, the back of your hand is flat. The index and middle finger form a v-shape which is easy to place along the chin, making it easier to get a consistent anchor point.

Adjustability – Some models come with the option of adjusting from a three to a four-finger release.

Hinge releases or tension releases are also great choices for people with anticipation issues because it takes away the need to push a trigger.

Cons

Can be a bit pricey for the budget conscious.

Price range $200 $300

Can You Shoot A Compound Bow Without A Release Aid?

Using a release aid with a compound bow is generally recommended. Yet, there are times when you can shoot without one.

Most compound bows are designed for use with a release aid. However, some are made to be shot with a tab or a glove.

Compound archers often use a release because of the bow’s short limbs. This design creates a steep string angle. It’s not ideal, as the fingers can compress against the nock.

Man carrying a compound bow

Plus, the extra draw weight of the compound bow can be extremely uncomfortable when placed on the fingers

There are two ways that you can shoot a compound bow without a release aid.

The first is to use a compound bow that has longer limbs. This will decrease the angle of the string to make shooting more comfortable on the fingers.

The second way is to use reduce your draw length. This is not recommended, however, as your draw length is based on your frame and reducing its length can lead to your entire shot process being compromised.

If you choose to shoot a regular compound bow with shorter limbs, then you can try shooting with only two fingers on the string. This can help to avoid your fingers being squashed by the steeper string angle.

Related: What Is The Let-Off On A Compound Bow?

*When finger-shooting a compound bow, there’s one thing to note. As you draw the string back, use your shoulder and elbow. If you place too much emphasis on the fingers, it can create string torque. This torque can cause the string to de-rail from the cam track.

Do Compound Bow Release Aids Improve Accuracy?

Modern archery is a sport of consistency, precision and fine detail. When using the fingers to shoot in any kind of archery, fatigue will undoubtedly play a role at some point.

That fatigue can lead to inconsistencies in the draw and anchoring of the bowstring, and ultimately to the archer’s accuracy. The compound bow release has been shown to remove that fatigue from the equation.

Another important point to consider is that when a bowstring is drawn back using the fingers, a twisting or torquing motion can occur on the string which can interfere with the arrow’s trajectory.

Using a release aid can eliminate the torque and the fatigue leading to much better form, consistency and accuracy down range.

Can You Use Compound Release Aids On A Recurve Bow?

The use of a release aid on a recurve bow is a very rare sight. The main reason is that the cycle of drawing the recurve bow is very different from that of a compound bow.

When a recurve bow is pulled to full draw, the entire weight of the bow is then held by the fingers of the archer. If you add in a release aid, then that whole process can become somewhat tedious.

Recurve bow limbs are also longer than compound limbs which changes the angle of the limbs at full draw. Using a release aid would also have an effect on the draw length of the bow.

The other point that’s often brought up by recurve archers is the fact that using a release aid just isn’t traditional archery!

Final Thoughts

As with all things archery, personal preference is a big factor. If you like the traditional feel of fingers on strings, then maybe recurve or barebow could be the path that you stick to.

But if compound archery is your calling, then compound bow release aids are going to be your best friends. Choose one that your budget will allow, without compromising on safety and quality.

Experiment with a wrist strap release if it’s your first time, then after a couple of months, graduate to a hand-held hinge release if you feel comfortable.

Then as you become more confident, try out a back tension release. There are thousands of different releases available, you just need to take the time to find one that’s right for you.

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