When purchasing your release, be sure to sample a variety of releases to find out which you prefer.
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.
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-D's 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 or Caliper Release
Wrist-strap releases tend to be the most popular among 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 a "V" strap.
Continuous straps are quicker to put on, a huge plus for hunters. Held to the wrist by either a rod or a 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 first identify. Also look for "360-degree rotating head" or "swiveling head" features, which minimize string torque and a swing-away rod option for comfort (to tuck in your sleeve while climbing your tree). Trigger tension adjustments (from sensitive to heavy) and trigger position options are also key features for those who prefer to further customize their release aid. The jaws or "calipers" used to pull your bowstring can be single or double jaw or ball-bearing mechanisms. These are the quickest and easiest to snap onto your string making them the best choice for hunting.
A variation of the wrist release is the glove release, which is similar in function, but envelopes your hand in a wrap-around glove enabling your entire hand to bear the pull weight, instead of just your wrist.
Handhelds 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 or "touchy," although most feature tensions that 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.
Some bowhunters prefer the handhelds because they are lightweight and easy to use.
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.
A glove release envelopes your hand in a wrap-around glove enabling your entire hand to bear the pull weight, instead of just your wrist.
Other Things to Consider
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.