Breaking Down the Different Bow Release Aids

Posted by  Wednesday, May 08 2013 12:00 pm
expert

The sheer amount of choices available in mechanical releases can be just plain intimidating to beginners and even frustrating at times to seasoned shooters searching for a new model. While countless options are nice, it can also be mind boggling. But one thing is certain – using a release will undoubtedly improve your shooting. It will decrease or eliminate string torque altogether, create more stable arrow flight by design, and foster consistency.

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Wrist straps are popular because of their ease of use.

You want to shoot better? It doesn't matter if you've been shooting for years or just starting out. Use a release.

First narrow your search by seeking the features most beneficial for your type of shooting. Consider which release to use based on specific use. Will you likely use it for target shooting, 3-Ds and tournaments, or primarily for bowhunting? Some shooters use the same release for all uses, while other shooters will use a specific style for target or tournament shooting and change styles when heading out to bowhunt. The options you'll search for should fit how you'll be using it. Personal preferences for comfort and style are important, so be sure to sample a variety of releases to find out which you prefer. In some cases you'll be limited to available release styles based on your bow setup. If you use a D-loop or specialized nock, then you must choose a release advertised to work well with your setup.

Here's a quick run-down of the various release styles available and some of their key features:

Wrist Strap or Trigger Release

Wrist, caliper or trigger releases are easy to use, released with the index finger, and utilized by the vast majority of bowhunters. As the name implies, these releases attach to the wrist by either a Velcro or buckle strap, in either a continuous round strap or “V” strap. Look for a padded wrist strap for utmost comfort and seek out models that offer customization in both trigger and caliper adjustments.

Continuous straps are quicker to put on, a huge plus for hunters. Held to the wrist by either a rod or rope, the release mechanism is triggered by the index finger. A length adjustment option between the trigger and strap to accommodate different size hands is probably the most important feature to identify, but be sure to look for “360-degree rotating head”, which minimize string torque when shooting and a “foldback” feature which allows the rod to be tucked away when climbing your tree.

Trigger tension adjustments (from sensitive to heavy) and trigger position options are also key features for those who prefer to customize their release aid even more. The jaws or “calipers” may be single or dual ball-bearing mechanisms, and are used to pull and release your bowstring. These are the quickest and easiest to snap onto your string making them the best choice for hunting. You’ll also find the new “hook” or “fang” releases becoming popular; features include a light trigger setting and a single, open hook design which is best used with string loop setups.

Consider visiting an archery shop and shooting a variety of releases to see which you prefer for comfort and accuracy before purchasing.

Handle or Finger Releases

Favored and most popular among target, 3-D or tournament shooters, more and more bowhunters also find handheld releases work well in the field. Held in your hands by 2, 3 or 4 fingers, these devices often resemble a "T" shape. These models are much smaller in size, lighter in weight and triggered by using back tension, your thumb or your pinky finger. The trigger mechanisms tend to be more responsive and many feel “less punchy” than a trigger release with index finger activation. Tensions can be adjusted as desired. These releases attach to bowstrings with either a rope loop or calipers, which can be single or double jaws or ball bearings.

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Hand held releases are lightweight and clamp onto bowstrings, freeing hands for calling or rattling.

Various models for tournament shooting feature a cocking bar and sear or "trigger" mechanism that can make an audible "click" when preparing for a shot. This feature, while effective for targets, makes those models a bad choice for the field.

Some bowhunters prefer the handhelds because of their lightweight, which enables them to attach them to their bowstring and leave them attached while calling or rattling. The downside here is the chance that they can fall off...there's no wrist strap guaranteeing their safely attached and staying with you up in a tree.

The back tension releases are one of the newer designs to hit the market, and touted as the solution for "trigger-panic" or for those who tend to "punch" the trigger. The back tension releases require additional training time to learn how to use them effectively and correctly, since they are essentially "trigger-less." Requiring extra learning time and prior experience with release mechanics, these are best used by more savvy shooters.

These look like the regular handhelds, with similar options available, but differ greatly by the method of triggering the release. Instead of consciously pulling or pushing a trigger, the rotation of the device within your hand coupled with the final "pull-through" using your back muscles (resulting in increased pressure on the bow string) essentially triggers the release.

Automatic or Hydraulic Releases

Offered in wrist or handheld styles, their claim to fame is in their control and "surprise" triggering. Control of the trigger mechanism is pre-set through a set timer which offers delayed firing anywhere from 0 to 6 seconds. The timer activates as you pull your bow and releases automatically when it reaches the time you've chosen. Shooters can push a safety to stop the release from firing if needed.

While innovative and most beneficial for target or tournament shooters, beginning shooters would do best to start with a simple release mechanism first.

Other Things to Consider

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Some wrist strap releases feature a hook-style or "fang" design that has a single, open hook which is best used with string loop setups.

Keep in mind that you must look for release features that will enhance the specific use of your bow. In other words, if you're a bowhunter, be certain the release you choose is quiet above all else, and comfortable – since you may be using it all day, for days at a time. You need materials that will shoot smoothly and quietly in all weather conditions.

Target and tournament shooters fling a lot of arrows and need a release that won't wear down their serving. A handheld rope release wears considerably less on servings than calipers and may be a wise choice for these shooters.

Bowhunters should be cautious of serving wear as well, and may benefit from a "D" loop on their bowstring. With the newer, shorter length axle-to-axle bows, the D-loops will also minimize string pinch on your arrows. Look for release models designed specifically for "D" loop use.

For the best method in determining the correct release, head to the nearest archery pro shop or sporting goods store. Nothing can compare to hands-on testing to get a feel for what works for you. Ask them to let you shoot a variety of releases. Spend some time at the range until you're certain you've found the right features in a comfortable release. Once you've located a release you like, it's a good idea to buy a second back-up release right away to keep in either your archery tackle box or your fanny pack when hunting.

You've spent time and money researching and purchasing your bow; don't neglect to research your release as well to ensure a great shot. Choosing the perfect aid now will ensure years of consistent and successful shooting.

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Last modified on Tuesday, June 24 2014 12:17 pm
Alyssa Haukom
expert

After receiving her first bow in 1983, Alyssa Haukom has traveled the U.S. and Canada hunting and writing about everything from whitetails to elk, hog, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, antelope, turkey and pheasants. She also loves to bowfish and has traveled and filmed in several states pursuing various species of carp, redfish, sheephead, gator gar and shark. Haukum, who has degree in English, is currently the Pro Staff Coordinator for the WomenHunters Organization, where she previously served as vice president and president. Enjoying her work with the media, she continues her work as a freelance outdoor writer and radio show guest. She also has appeared in the TV Show “Outdoor Wisconsin” on several hunting and bowfishing episodes, as well as filming DVDs with AMS Bowfishing. Haukum is a current member of the National Wild Turkey Federatin, Wisconsin Bowhunters and Ducks Unlimited.

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