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How you hold the bow in your hand — your “grip” — is one of the several factors that determine whether you consistently hit your intended target. Your grip is your primary point of contact with the bow. As a result, maintaining the proper grip has a significant effect on the stability of the bow and your accuracy.
Why Does Grip Matter?
Your bow is a precision hunting and target-shooting instrument. How you hold a bow, how you breathe, and how you stand all affect your shooting performance.
Proper grip is one of the fundamental principles of archery, which it shares with marksmanship. The word “grip” has two different meanings in this context. The first is a noun and refers to the part of the riser you hold with your hand. The grip, as a handle, is in the center of the bow and corresponds to the bow’s pivot point. The deepest part of the grip is called the throat.
The second meaning is a verb and refers to what you do with your hand — the act of gripping or holding the bow.
The grip you should acquire on the bow is the same regardless of whether you’re shooting a traditional recurve bow or longbow, or a modern compound bow. How you place your hand on the bow and how you hold it directly affects the stability of the bow when shooting. Therefore, it’s critical to use the proper grip when practicing, competing, or hunting.
How to Hold a Bow
The first thing every archer learns is how to hold a bow. You draw the bowstring with your dominant hand; therefore, you should place your non-dominant hand on the bow’s grip. If you’re a right-handed archer, your left hand should be on the bow, and your right hand should draw the bowstring. When you grip the bow, you need to ensure you place your hand in the same position every time.
You should also avoid applying a “death grip.” This is a common mistake among those new to archery. The novice assumes a firm grip on the bow is necessary to avoid mishaps. After all, a bow at full draw is a dangerous weapon. However, a particularly tight grip can cause trembling, causing a loss of control. This can interfere with the arrow on release, affecting its flight characteristics and accuracy.
Your hand should act as a cradle for the bow, not a clamp. The object is to minimize torque. If you apply an incorrect grip, you can cause the bow to rotate left to right or tilt forward and rearward.
Place your hand on the bow’s grip. The “grip” being the handle on the riser — i.e., the central part to which the limbs are attached. Position your hand on the grip as high as you can.
The bow should only contact your hand between your thumb and index finger. More specifically, the part between your thumb and your “lifeline.” Your knuckles should be at a 45° angle relative to the vertical axis of the bow. With your thumb pointed toward the target, you can either curl your fingers or allow them to rest in the forward position. What’s important is that your fingers remain relaxed and don’t apply pressure to the grip or riser.
You can test your grip by drawing the bowstring. Keeping your hand relaxed, you should be able to comfortably move your fingers when the bowstring is at full draw.
The Importance of Consistency
If you want to be accurate, regardless of whether you’re shooting a bow or a rifle, you must be consistent. That’s what accuracy relies on — doing the same thing every time. This is why inspecting your equipment and practicing the fundamentals regularly is so critical.
This also affects the sighting in/zeroing process. If you want to sight in your bow at 25 yards, for example, you should first ensure that everything about your bow is consistent and correctly installed. However, it doesn’t matter whether your arrows are straight and weigh within 10 grains of each other if you apply a different grip, assume a different stance, or change your anchor point from one arrow to another.
Principles of Archery
Grip is only one part of the fundamentals of archery. In addition to how to hold a bow, you should also familiarize yourself with proper stance, posture, bow arm, and anchor point.
Stance and Posture
To assume a proper stance, stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart or wider if you find that more stable. Don’t lean forward or to the rear. Your upper body, likewise, should be upright with your hips aligned with your legs.
This is related to your grip. Your non-dominant arm should be straight but not locked — you don’t want your arm to hyperextend. You want to rely on bone support rather than muscle. Bending your arm reduces rigidity.
The anchor point is the part of your face that the bowstring and your hand contact at full draw. The bowstring should contact the tip of your nose and the corner of your mouth, and your hand should contact your jaw.
The peep sight in the bowstring should align, at full draw, with the sight housing attached to the riser. Archers often find the anchor point is affected by the mechanical release when shooting compound bows. Experiment with different releases to find the one that best matches your preferred shooting style.
When you release the arrow, launching it toward the target, you should continue to observe the fundamentals of archery. This is called follow-through. Continue focusing on the target through the peep sight until you see or hear your arrow strike it. Your bow arm and release arms should be moving away from each other during release.
Consistently applying these principles will ensure you maintain a stable firing platform and don’t interfere with the bow’s position relative to the target until the arrow leaves.
You can seek professional instruction in the fundamentals of archery, including proper form, from an archery store. There are often archery instructors and enthusiasts who would be happy to provide you with guidance.
Practice Makes Perfect
How you hold the bow with your non-dominant hand is an essential part of archery. A relaxed grip at the proper position will reduce twisting motion during aiming, increasing stability. Master the proper grip and the other fundamentals, and you’ll establish a solid foundation.