Hand-held release aids are becoming more and more popular in the archery world, and for good reason
The majority of bowhunters shoot using a mechanical release aid, and most of them here in the Southeast use a wrist-caliper design that secure around the wrist of the archer’s draw arm with a wide strap, allowing the archer to draw the bow by pulling from their wrist.
When used properly, the index finger is hooked around the trigger at the first or second crease from the tip. The archer then flexes his shoulder blades inward, using “back tension” to cause the release aid to fire unexpectedly.
In a perfect world, this is how it should work, but in my experience, a vast majority of bowhunters don’t use their release aid correctly. Most archers incorrectly pull the trigger of their wrist caliper with their index finger. In the worst cases, archers jerk or even slap the trigger, round-housing it and causing the bow to move at the shot. This malady commonly progresses into severe target panic, robbing the archer of accuracy, and leading to blown shot opportunities or even worse, wounded game.
I have suffered from target panic myself, and it is both extremely frustrating and de-motivating. One common treatment for target panic involves the use of a hand-held release aid, especially a hinge-style, back-tension model. These releases force the archer to pull through the shot and follow through properly. Bowhunters, however, often need to release the arrow in a shorter time frame, both to allow for the animal’s movement and narrow shooting lanes.
Although this often rules out the use of a hinge-style release while hunting, other hand-held release aids will help increase accuracy by promoting better form and can be fired using proper back tension more easily than wrist-caliper models.
The most popular and easiest hand-held releases to use are thumb releases. These hand-held releases are triggered by either back tension, thumb pressure or a combination of both methods. This allows the archer to practice good shooting habits by using back tension to trigger the release, but also to fire more quickly when necessary.
Hand-held releases are available in many configurations, and these are usually described by the number of fingers used to grasp the release. Also available are 2-, 3- and even 4-finger releases. Four-finger releases provide the most-secure grip but are notorious for allowing the shooter to torque the string more easily.
One notable exception is the Hardcore 4-Finger release by Tru-Fire. This model uses a fully swiveling head to eliminate string torque. I shoot this model personally and really like it. Three-finger releases are the most popular, but lately, 2-finger models have been quickly gaining ground. I recommend trying several different styles and models when possible before purchasing a hand-held release. Since these releases are actually held in your hand, the fit and design matters more than with a wrist release. Also, hand-held releases are generally much more expensive, so it helps to purchase the right one the first time.
One common mistake when switching from a wrist caliper to a hand-held release is a failure to make the necessary adjustments in order to guarantee success. In most cases, a draw-length adjustment of one-half inch longer draw is required. The peep sight needs to be raised both to adjust for both this new, longer draw length, and because hand-held releases usually call for a lower anchor point.
Many archers want to “try out” a hand-held release aid without making these adjustments that are necessary to ensure success. This transition is best made before beginning to practice for hunting season, because it not only requires the archer to modify his or her form, but requires the bow to be re-tuned — and often new arrows. Trying to change releases with only a short practice window is a recipe for disaster. It takes many practice shots to develop the muscle memory required to shoot consistently, and anything less is cheating yourself.
Because of their design and the fact that they help promote proper form and release, thereby increasing accuracy, hand-held releases are growing in popularity every day. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions at our bow counter is “Will a hand-held release help me shoot more accurately?” The answer is a resounding yes.
But like a lot of other things in this world, changing your release aid requires both practice and commitment to get the most benefit from it. As with any change to your bow setup, a good pro shop can make this process much easier. If you’ve ever considered switching releases, stop in your local pro shop and try out a hand-held release aid soon.