How to Grip Your Bow: Hint, Don’t Use The Open-Hand Style That’s So Popular on Social Media
Gripping your bow too tightly or too loosely can cause frustrating accuracy problems. Here's how to get it just right
Don’t grab the bow is solid advice, but it’s only a small part of a good bow grip. That’s why you don’t learn to shoot a bow from social media or people who aren’t coaches. It will cause you frustration, inconsistency, and can even cause injury.
Archery is a sport with room for individuality and adaptation, but there are right and wrong ways to do things too. We get to see this individuality posted all over social media and even among the world’s best archers. Many top pros have very different anchor points, alignments, stances, and shot executions. But, they all have very similar grips, and you won’t see any of them shooting with their knuckles vertical or fingers fully extended.
On social media, one of the most common (and easily remedied) errors you’ll see in archers is shooting with a completely open grip. Most archers are trying to do a good thing, but it’s likely hurting their accuracy in the long run. Here’s why.
Why Your Grip Matters
Most archers know a proper grip is critical to archery accuracy and consistency, and an improper one will cause nothing but frustration. One of only two points of contact with the bow, your grip plays a huge role in the result of your shot. If your hand placement or pressure is incorrect, you will have problems even if the rest of your form is perfect. On the flip side, an archer with a good grip can overcome numerous other errors simply by having a solid connection with the bow.
Why Would You Shoot with an Open Grip?
It’s easy to understand why many archers shoot with an open grip. They’re trying to minimize torque and improper input to the bow. Most archers who do this try to avoid two things: gripping the bow too tightly or instinctively grabbing the bow when the shot goes off—therefore disrupting the grip and throwing your shot.
A proper grip focuses a stable, consistent pressure on a single point in the middle of the bow’s grip, straight towards the middle of the target. If there’s too much tension in your hand, or if your hand placement is incorrect, it will impart torque or a twisting force on the grip. Most archers know that squeezing the grip will cause these problems, so a natural compensation is to relax the grip entirely.
Most archers who shoot with a wide-open grip have likely been told not to grab the bow and otherwise instinctively tighten their grip to keep the bow from falling when the string is released. You can’t grab the bow if your hand is wide open, right? Using a wrist sling, you can shoot your bow without even holding it, and the sling will prevent it from falling. Using an open, relaxed grip with only part of your hand touching the bow should be better, right? Not necessarily.
What Problems Can Shooting with an Open Grip Cause?
In short, shooting with a completely open grip can cause the same torque issues as shooting with a grip that’s too tight. With a relaxed or completely open hand, it’s difficult or impossible to position your hand in a way that optimizes stability and focuses pressure properly. Many archers shoot this way with their knuckles aligned almost vertically. This won’t allow the pressure to be applied in a manner that allows for a strong bone-on-bone connection through your bow arm and will usually cause the bow arm elbow to be pointed down.
You want the pressure of your grip focused through the pad at the base of your thumb, right about where the line from your index finger bisects your thumb. You can do pretty well at this with a relaxed grip, but the correct tension in your hand makes it much more stable.
Although an open grip can alleviate the tendency to grab the bow when the shot breaks, it often won’t eliminate it, and sometimes it gets even worse under pressure. The shooter will usually still instinctively grab for the bow handle, not letting it rock forward like Olympic recurve shooters do. Although you’ll see Olympic recurve and many barebow recurve archers letting their finger or wrist sling catch the bow, they aren’t shooting with an open grip. For most compound shooters, a wrist sling is completely unnecessary. They don’t spring forward like a recurve or long bow and can easily be held with a light grip.
A Proper Grip Has Focused Pressure
The entire goal of a proper grip is to focus pressure in a stable, consistent manner. Everything about the grip should help you focus the pressure from the base of your thumb through the center of your bow’s riser.
A good starting point is to place the web of your hand at the top of the grip, then roll your palm onto the grip, lining that pressure point up with the center of the riser. Your index finger should be pointing down, applying gentle pressure to the front of the riser if you’re not using a sling. Tuck the rest of your fingers along the side of the grip, and as you press forward with your bow arm, try to pull your pinkie knuckle back towards you.
Your thumb should be pointed forward, not sideways, not up, not down. While you apply backward pressure to your pinkie knuckle, push your thumb out like you’re hitchhiking. This tension will allow you to focus the pressure at the base of your thumb and minimize torque. When your grip is set, your knuckles should be rotated at least 45 degrees up from the grip, and you should have a strong connection with the bow.
Read Next: A Bow Is a Bow: 5 Ways That Shooting Compounds and Trad Bows Are the Same
Compounds typically have a low grip, which refers to how vertical the back surface of the grip is. Many recurve bows have a more sloped or “higher” grip. The low grip on a compound tempts many archers to relax their wrist as if pushing their palm up against a wall, which bends the wrist backward. If this works for you, that’s fine, but it’s important to maintain the tension in your wrist and hand that directs pressure through the base of your thumb. If you relax your wrist too much, it can spread the grip pressure out and cause torque as well.
Make it Work for You
Archery accuracy is a game of minimizing human error and input, and the grip is a major source of that. Each shooter is different, and there is room for individual optimization in many components of a good archery shot. When it comes to grip, you don’t have to fit the cookie-cutter definition of a good grip, but you should not be shooting with a completely open hand. If you adjust your grip to better focus pressure and reduce torque, you’re almost guaranteed to shoot more precisely.