Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best bow releases

Every time you pull back the bowstring to let fly, you should be thinking about making another perfect shot. To do that, you need every advantage you can get — and a bow release is one of the best tools you can have.

A bow release offers a mechanical method of pulling then releasing a bowstring without directly pulling the string with your hand or fingers. You pull the bow release, which in turn pulls the bowstring. Using a bow release helps to prevent fatigue in your fingers and hands, and it avoids slippages and dry firing. There are several styles available, each with its advantages and disadvantages. To find the right model for your needs, you will need to consider the design, materials, color, and other features, as well as your personal preferences.

The number of options can get a bit confusing, especially if you’re new to archery. In our buying guide, we will walk you through the decision process to help you find the perfect bow release.

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Consistency is one of the main reasons serious archers all use bow releases.

Key considerations

Why use a bow release?

Pulling a longbow or recurve bow requires you to use the “pinch” or “Mediterranean” techniques that was first developed several thousand years ago. With these techniques, each time a person releases the bowstring, tiny differences in positioning, the way they roll their fingers, the sequence of muscles releasing, and more dictate that their shots won’t be consistent from one to the other. There are always minute differences that vastly affected the accuracy of each shot.

A bow release eliminates those problems, ensuring that the release point and power are the same for every shot.

Additionally, with the advent of compound bows and the extra power they made available, it became necessary to find a new way to pull and release the bowstring. Using the fingers increases the chance of the bowstring jumping off the cams if a bow release isn’t used with a compound bow. Many compound bows are specifically designed to only be fired with a bow release.

Prevent fatigue
With longbows and recurve bows, the further back you pull the string, the more tiring it becomes.

Using a bow release allows the archer to use the large muscle groups in their arm and back to pull the bowstring. This helps to prevent finger and hand fatigue, which in turn enables more accuracy.

Attachment or handheld

All bow releases fall into two basic categories: those that attach to your wrist with a strap and those that are handheld. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages.

An attachment bow release has a strap that goes around your wrist and closes with either a buckle or Velcro closure. The actual release itself protrudes forward from the wrist to attach to the D-loop on the bowstring. This arrangement removes your fingers from the equation entirely, allowing you to use the large muscle groups in your arm, upper body, and back to do all the work of pulling the bowstring.

The disadvantage is that the release is in the way of your hand when you’re not pulling the bowstring. They often are on hinges so they can be folded out of the way, but you will still have a short rod flopping around on your wrist. It often gets caught or tangled on things when you’re not actively lining up a shot.

A handheld release, also known as a T-handle, isn’t attached to your wrist, so you can put it down or stash it in your pocket when you’re not using it.

The downside is that you reintroduce your fingers to the equation of drawing the bowstring. Your fingers don’t have to pull the actual bowstring, but they have to grasp the handle of the release. It’s like grabbing a pull-up bar to do chin-ups — your fingers are going to get tired. The same principle holds true with handheld releases.



The metal parts of bow releases are typically made of powder-coated aluminum or stainless steel, while the straps are either canvas, nylon, or leather. The strap closures come in Velcro of metal buckles. The exact combination of materials depends on the manufacturer.

Aluminum is a bit lighter than stainless steel, although stainless steel is a bit stronger.  If weight is your primary concern, go with an aluminum release. If you’re pulling a heavy bow, a stainless steel release will last longer under the strain.

Every strap material has its disadvantages. Nylon straps can be degraded by UV rays, canvas straps can become moldy if they remain damp for too long, and if leather gets wet it can become rough and stiff. With proper care, however, any material should be fine.

Junior handheld releases for teenagers and younger ages are typically made from high-quality plastic.


The main color schemes for releases are black, various shades of gray, and camouflage. Camouflage patterns are popular, of course, since many archery enthusiasts are hunters. However, bow releases for younger users are available in bright orange, yellow, or red, often with black or dark blue contrasting stripes.

"Caliper releases are the quietest type of release, making them a popular choice among hunters."

Release mechanism

There are three types of mechanical releases. Some people count fingers as the first type, thereby raising the number to four, but here we’re only going to consider artificial releases. All three require the use of a D-loop on the bowstring — a short loop of cord attached to the bowstring at the point where the arrow is nocked.

Calipers are the most popular type of release mechanism. They come in both wrist attachment and handheld models. The jaws of the calipers can be closed on the D-loop on the bowstring, which is then pulled back to the maximum draw position. A trigger on the release opens the calipers and releases the bowstring to fire the arrow.

The trigger functions much the same way as a trigger on a rifle. It requires you to gradually increase the pressure until the bowstring is released.

Back tension
A back tension or hinge release doesn’t have a trigger. Instead, the hook holding the D-loop is on hinges. As you rotate your hand or relax the tension in the muscles in your back, the hinge rotates until it suddenly releases the bowstring.

Back tension releases feel the most natural when you’re using them because there is no “target panic” like there is with caliper releases. Target panic arises from anticipating the release of the bowstring and causes some archers to jerk the trigger on a caliper release, which can lead to loss of accuracy.

Thumb switch
Thumb switches are usually found on handheld or T-handle releases. Instead of a finger-operated trigger, they require the use of the thumb to push down on a button in order to release the bowstring. Thumb switches suffer the same target panic problems that calipers are subject to. A good archer can overcome their target panic with practice, but the possibility is always there.

Bow release prices

Bow releases start around $4 to $15. These are primarily bow releases for children and juniors, made of plastic with nylon straps and Velcro closures.

Mid-range releases run from $15 to $80. This is where most releases fall. They’ll have good quality construction, with pricier options featuring sturdier components.

High-end bow releases cost from $80 to $260. This is where you’ll find signature models as well as models that transform from trigger to hinge releases. These models are made for the serious hunter or archery enthusiast and are built to last.


  • Adjust the length of your release until you’re able to curl your finger around the trigger, otherwise, you’ll have a tendency to slap or jerk the trigger, reducing your accuracy.
  • The best bow release in the world won’t help you if your form is off. However, it can improve your accuracy even if you have perfect form.
  • Any new release needs to be broken in. No two are exactly the same, so practice with your release until you’re comfortable with it.
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Bow releases contain moving parts and are subject to stress and pressure when they are used. Check the parts every time before using your release.


Q. Why do I want the release of the bowstring to surprise me?
When you anticipate the shot, it’s very difficult to school your body not to flinch or tense up in anticipation. When it surprises you, it removes you from the equation. With “you” out of the way, the shot becomes very fluid and you can focus on accuracy rather than when the shot will take place.

Q. Why do releases use a D-loop?
The D-loop attaches above and below where the arrow connects to the bowstring. When the release pulls the D-loop, the section of the bowstring inside the loop is straight up and down. This improves the accuracy of the shot. If the release pulled on the bowstring, it would create the same kind of angle in the bowstring that pulling it by hand does.

Q. What is a “dry fire” and how does a bow release help?
A “dry fire” is when the bowstring is pulled back then released without an arrow in it. Dry firing a compound bow, with the vast amount of energy it stores, can severely damage it. Pulling the string by hand runs the risk of your fingers slipping. Using a bow release helps to prevent slippage from occurring.

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