A Complete Beginner’s Guide To Archery Release Aids

A Complete Beginner’s Guide To Archery Release Aids

One of the most important aspects of achieving a proper accurate shot is having a clean release of the bowstring. A bad release might deflect the arrow from the direction you were aiming to, and lose a lot of the energy that you used for the shot. This is why most compound archers use release aids, which help them achieve this kind of clean shots.

A release aid is basically a small device archers use to hold and cleanly release the bowstring with. They are mainly used by compound archers and come in many different forms. They really help with having a more precise and consistent shot.

If you’re looking for specific release aid recommendations, check my detailed review of a few release aids on my recommendations page. I reviewed my favorite release aids and explained the main things you should think about when considering which release aid to buy.

In this short article, we’re going to go over the different types of release aids, discuss whether or not you should consider using one as a compound, recurve or traditional archer, go over the proper technique of using a bow release and consider the pro and cons of using one. I believe that any archer, especially a beginner, will find this resource helpful, so stick around.

What are the different types of bow releases

There are a lot of different release aids out there, each is used differently and has its own pros and cons. The main types of bow releases for compound archers are index finger release, thumb release, hinge release, resistance activated release. These releases are mostly used by compound archers, but can technically be used by traditional and recurve archers as well.

Index finger releaseThumb releaseHinge releaseresistance activated release
Trigger?+++ (for safety only)
Recommended forBowhuntersNo specificationTarget/3D archers Target/3D archers

We are going to discuss each of the major types of bow releases, how to use them, and what to consider if you think about using them.

Index finger release

An index finger release aid is a mechanical trigger, connected to your bowstring, which is triggered by your index finger. It’s usually mounted on a wrist wrap, which supports your movement. It’s very easy and intuitive to use, and is useful mainly for bowhunters, since it’s connected to your hand and will not be dropped.

This release aid is also useful for people who have a weaker grip since it allows the inclusion of more muscles into the bow string-pulling movement. It eliminates a lot of the usage of your forearms and joins your arm and hand muscles together.

You shouldn’t use your index finger release like you would use a gun trigger – if you just use your finger to pull the trigger, you will most definitely have a hard time shooting and hurt your arrow grouping. Instead, when you have aimed and are ready to shoot, wrap your index finger around the trigger, and use your back to pull your arm back by pulling your shoulder blades together. This will release the bowstring much easier and in a more precise fashion.

It’s also very common among bowhunter since it provides full control over the shot timing. All you have to do is place your sights pin on the target and pull the trigger. It’s also really similar in shape and size to the trigger of a rifle, so it feels intuitive to use (even if the technique is a bit different). Proper technique will eliminate the target panic that some people seem to encounter when using the index finger release aid.

Thumb release

The thumb release is a handheld device, built to be held by the archer and pulled with the thumb. It’s fairly easy to use and is very similar to the tension activated release, only that the bowstring is released immediately when the trigger is pulled. It’s mainly used by target archers, 3D archery competitors, but recently commonly used by bowhunters as well.

To use the thumb release aid, attach it to your bow and pull the string back to the correct position. Aim using your sight, and hover on the target. When you want to release the arrow, simply pull the trigger with your thumb.

Thumb releases are really great since they are comfortable to use, especially for beginners. With proper technique (which we’re going to discuss later) they allow for consistent shots that result in good arrow groupings. 

Hinge release

Hinge releases are designed to surprise the archer and avoid flinches that make their shots less accurate. It’s a handheld device, and looks very similar to the thumb release, only that it has no trigger. It’s triggered by a backward rotation of the release in the archer’s hand. Target archers will find it useful, but it’s not really a good choice for bowhunters since they need to control the timing of the shot.

The best technique to use a hinge release aid is to connect it to your bowstring and then to come to full draw. After aiming to the target, pull the string further using your shoulder blades. At some point, this motion will cause the release you rotate in your hand and it will let go of the string. 

Another useful technique is to relax your trigger hand instead of pulling further. It will cause a stretch in your hand, and similarly a rotation of the release that will cause the arrow to be shot. 

Since you don’t know when the trigger will go off, you have to keep your sight locked on the target throughout the whole motion until the shot is fired. This is why most bowhunters avoid the hinge release – moving targets make it hard to shot accurately since you can’t time the shot.

If you’re still confused, don’t worry, because I wrote a complete guide to how hinge releases work. It details how to set them up, use them, their mechanics, and more. I highly recommend reading it.

Using a hinge release aid is one of the ways archers use to solve their target panic. If you want to learn more about what that involves, read my post about beating archery target panic.

Resistance activated release

The resistance activated release is also a triggerless, handheld release aid. Unlike the hinge release, this one is activated by the pressure that is built in your bow at full draw. It is useful for target archers for similar reasons to the hinge release.

To use the resistance activated release, you should aim to build as much stress as possible when you are aiming to the target. To do so, keep your sight on the target, press the thumb safety, and by squeezing your shoulder blades back together put more tension on the bow that will cause the release aid to be triggered.

How to properly use release aids?

While using a release aid can be simple and easy, improper technique can result in poor arrow groups, bad competition results, and even injury. This is what differs a beginner archer from a real professional. So after making sure you have the basics down, read this part, in which we’re going to go over the steps of holding and using your release aid with perfect form.

The things you need to focus on is the position of your hand, your trigger finger and the orientation of the release aid. Aim to keep your hand flat, at an orientation that feels natural to you, and pull the trigger with your back – not your thumb. These tips will improve your comfort and even your results.

The first thing we’re going to discuss is how you hold the release aid. A handheld release aid (like most we’ve covered in the previous section) should be firmly held with the middle part of your fingers. This means you keep your first joint aligned with the rest of your hand while keeping your hand flat. This will enable you to peep through the sight more comfortably, without interfering with the string. It will also be easier to hold this position, and if you train properly – it becomes more consistent for optimal results.

If you are using a release aid with a trigger, avoid contact with the trigger itself until you actually take the shot. Doing this will decrease target panic and movement caused by flinching. You can incorporate this by engaging your back muscles into the shout without actually pulling the trigger with your thumb. Just keep your thumb straight, bring it to the trigger and pull with your shoulders. This will make the shot effortless.

The last thing we’re going to discuss is the orientation of the release aid. By tilting your hand up or down, you can influence how much stress is put over each of your fingers. Check which position feels most natural and comfortable to you and try to stay consistent with it. It will dramatically affect the time you can comfortably hold your bow and even the actual consistency of your shots.

Do you need a release aid for a compound bow?

Many beginner archers wonder if they should learn how to use a release aid, or learn how to shoot with their fingers instead. Are Release aids necessary for a compound archer?

Compound bows were made to be used with release aids, for better accuracy and comfort. They allow a faster learning curve, prevent target panic and can improve your grouping.  As a beginner, learning how to use a release aid from the start is a good idea. 

The reason most beginner archers choose to learn how to use a release aid is that it allows them to learn how to shoot with good accuracy faster. Learning proper shooting techniques can be a complex task, that requires a lot of attention to many different parts of your body. 

Using a release aid basically means that you don’t have to learn the complex way of properly shooting with your fingers. You get to focus on the position of your body instead of your fingers. Shooting with a release is much easier, which in turn means that you will be able to achieve good arrow grouping quicker.

Many archers also use release aids as a tool that helps with target panic. That is a phenomenon where an archer can’t seem to hold their sight pin on the target without shaking and fidgeting. Many archers experience this and find it really hard to overcome.

Trying out different types of release aids may help with that. Compound archers can do that until they find one that allows them to hold the sight pin steadily. 

Some compound archers still decide to use their fingers, but even the quickest of them are not able to release the bowstring as quickly as a release does. With that said, you can still learn to use your fingers to shoot a compound bow. If you do that, it’s a good idea to choose a compound bow that was designed to be shot without a release.

What you’re looking for is a bow that has wheels instead of the cams that most modern compound bows have. Usually, that means using an older compound bow, since release aids became popular only recently, or a new “finger bow”. Choosing a good model will make your overall experience of learning to shoot with your fingers much smoother.

Can you use a release aid with a recurve bow?

It’s pretty rare for a recurve archer to use a release aid. There are good finger shooting techniques that were developed for recurve archers, and using a release aid will put competitive archers in a different shooting group. Also, release aids were not designed to be used with a recurve bow. But if you still want to use a release aid with your recurve bow – it’s technically possible if you choose the right kind.

Recurve archery has been developed for hundreds of years now, and the proper technique of shooting with your fingers has been developed. This makes release aids unnecessary.

The main reason most competitive recurve archers don’t use release aids is that using one will put them in a different shooting group. They will have to compete with fully equipped compound archers, which could be a hard task.  If you think about going competitive, this is something you should definitely consider.

Another issue with using a release aid on a recurve bow is the way stress is deployed on them, in contrast with compound bows. The “fractional draw weight” on compound bows means that at full draw the draw weight that the archer is holding is significantly lower than the actual weight. With a recurve bow, the archer will hold the full draw weight of the bow.

Since release aids aren’t usually designed to hold this much stress for a long time, using one that wasn’t designed for a recurve bow could result in a broken release aid or an accidental arrow.  Think about that when purchasing a release aid for your recurve bow, and consider how much weight it can hold.

Many recurve archers choose to shoot with finger tabs or gloves instead of release aids. They can help protect your shooting hand from hurting after a long shoot.

Shooting with release aids on a longbow / traditional bow

Similarly to the case of a recurve bow, while using a release aid on a longbow is technically possible, it holds a lot of issues with it. Most traditional archers go to the longbow to get back to their roots, so an archer using a release aid on one is quite rare.

While using a release aid on a traditional bow is technically possible, it comes with some problems. A standard release aid is not designed to hold the draw weight of a longbow, and the advanced finger shooting techniques almost makes them obsolete. Competitive longbow archers don’t use a release aid because it puts them in a different shooting category.

The main reason people start using the longbow is to avoid advanced gear and to practice archery similarly to how it was traditionally done. Since release aids are considered modern gear, most traditional archers avoid them.

Similarly to the recurve bow, the longbow doesn’t work with fractional weight.  This means that unlike a compound bow, at full draw the force that you need to pull the bowstring with is the full draw weight of the bow.  Most release aids are not designed to hold this much weight, which means they can break and even cause accidental shots. If you decide to use a release aid on a longbow,  make sure to choose one that can withhold the full weight of the bow. 

If you decide to not use a release aid with your longbow, you can still try using finger tabs or archery gloves. These will protect your fingers from hurting after a long shoot and will enable you to practice safely. 


A release aid can be a great tool for a compound archer. It can allow a clean release, which in turn will result in faster and more accurate arrows. Choose one that fits your needs – a bowhunter should aim to have a lot of control over the aid, while a target archer should minimize flinching and target panic. Learn proper technique and remember that keeping yourself and the people around you safe should always be your first priority choose a proper release aid that can handle the draw weight of your bow without breaking. If you keep the things you learned while reading this article in mind, I’m sure you’ll have a blast learning how to use a release aid, and that you’ll improve your skills dramatically and quickly.