Why Do Olympic Archers Swing Their Bow?

by | Nov 27, 2022

If you’re a fan of Olympic archery, you can’t avoid seeing the archers swing their bow after every shot they take. And you may even have thought that they are performing the swing as a little added flair just to look cool.

This misconception, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. But what is actually going on here? Why do Olympic archers drop the bow like that?

Olympic archers swing their bows as a result of the shot process. The bow is meant to swing because the archers are not actually gripping the bow. If they weren’t using a finger sling to secure the bow, then the bow would shoot forward as a consequence of the energy produced from the shot.

In this article, we’ll break down just what is going on when an Olympic archer releases the shot and why they need to drop the bow as a result. I mean, why don’t they just grab the bow?!

Why Do Olympic Archers Swing Their Bow?

Olympic archers are not alone in the bow drop. Barebow archers and target recurve archers also employ the bow drop, as do some compound archers. But why do they do it?

The short answer is that they are not gripping their bow in the first place. That’s why it drops.

Saying that the archer doesn’t grip the bow immediately begs the question, ‘How do they control the bow if they’re not gripping it?’

Control is the keyword here. Gripping and squeezing the bow actually gives the archer ‘less’ control over the shot.

Beginners sometimes have a habit of doing what’s called the ‘Death Grip’, where they squeeze and grip the life out of the bow. Their knuckles go white, and the tendons all stand out like they’re going to snap.

This is quite a normal occurrence, but what this does is cause the hand, and subsequently the bow, to shake uncontrollably producing an unstable base from which to shoot.

Why Olympic archers don’t grip their bow

They pull the string back, but at the same time, they are pushing forward against the grip with their bow hand, rather than gripping it. This opposing push and pull force prevents the bow from dropping during the shot process. What should happen is that the bow should sit naturally in the archer’s hand.

But this alone would cause a problem. Because if the archer released the arrow, then the bow would shoot forward with the energy of the shot and fall to the floor.

This is where the finger sling comes into play.

The job of the finger sling (or wrist sling) is to wrap around the riser and catches the bow when it drops. The bow is meant to drop because it shows that no pressure is being applied to the bow.

Olympic archers swing their bow

This is a crucial point to consider for the archer because there are only two points of contact with the bow. The bow hand on the riser and the draw hand on the string, and most mistakes only ever occur at those two points.

When people make the switch to freestyle archery, they can become a little apprehensive and tend to hold onto the grip during the entire shot process. It can be a habit that is hard to let go of, but you will never be able to shoot with the same consistency if you’re gripping onto the bow.

If you’re doing target archery then you really should practice letting the bow drop. When applied correctly, the finger sling ensures that the bow drops smoothly, eliminating any potential issues.

Click here to find out just what all that stuff is on an Olympic bow

Is There Only One Way To Drop The Bow?

There are a number of different ways that an archer can drop the bow, but mostly it comes down to personal preference.

Some archers prefer to drop the bow in front of their body, while others like to swing out and drop it to the side.

The most important thing to remember is that the bow swing should not be a conscious action. It isn’t something that’s performed for the cameras.

The bow drop is something that happens naturally because the archers aren’t gripping the bow.

Do I Need To Drop The Bow?

In a word, no. Unless you’re an Olympic archer of course. You don’t need to drop your bow. You need to work on gripping the bow with as little unwanted tension as possible.

Context is an important thing to consider here.

Dropping the bow is purely a sporting technique with pin-point accuracy in mind. In a competition where the difference in missing by millimetres means the difference between a gold medal and fifth place, you’ll take anything that can remove human variables that could affect the overall shot process.

If you were out hunting and aiming for the broad side of a deer, you wouldn’t need to worry about twirling the bow after every shot.

Can You Be Accurate Without Dropping The Bow?

The bow swing itself has no effect on the accuracy of the shot because the arrow has already left the bow before it happens. But what does affect accuracy is how hard you’re squeezing the grip.

Person Pulling Arrow out of target

As we mentioned earlier, choking the life out of the riser will cause your hand to shake, so if you’re having issues with your grip technique, you may find some benefit in using a finger sling.

If you’re not comfortable with that idea, just try to make sure that your grip is as relaxed as possible.

Can’t Olympic Archers Just Catch The Bow?

Probably, but again, we need to think about context. In a competitive environment, the archer’s focus is 100% on the shot process. The only thing that matters is the execution. Not on what happens after the arrow has been released.

The reason the archers are wearing finger slings is so they don’t have to worry about what the bow does after the shot.

There is absolutely nothing to gain from catching the bow after the shot.

Final Thoughts

Olympic archers swing their bow as a consequence of the overall shot process, and not to add visual flair for TV audiences.

When a tremendous amount of energy is pushed through it, the bow naturally responds in its characteristic way. Olympic archers, on the other hand, eliminate the need to hold onto the bow, allowing them to concentrate solely on the next shot

If you’re shooting barebow you may want to give a finger sling a try. You may not even realise it, but many form faults could be caused by your bow grip!