Proper Grip

Article by: P.J. Riley of Lancaster Archery Supply

All good archery shots start with proper hand position on the bow. OK. Maybe they start with having the proper stance. But right behind that is proper hand position. We work diligently to correct improper hand position all the time.

We understand how an improper grip happens. That bow grip looks like something you should grab like a pistol.  Do that, however, and you’re going to have problems with hand torque. That’s when you pivot your bow hand as you release an arrow, causing the riser to twist. Hand torque causes bows that are set up perfectly to produce left-right tears during paper tuning, and it also makes it difficult to produce tight arrow groups.

With proper hand position, you can’t torque the bow. Plain and simple. So, here’s how you get into correct hand position. Extend your bow arm like you’d hold a bow. Flex all of your fingers out, and turn your wrist slightly to make the letter V with your forefinger and thumb.

It doesn’t matter if you are left- or right-handed. Just make that V, or almost the universal gesture for “STOP,” so that your palm’s lifeline is vertical.

Now set your bow in the middle of that V. Pull back a little on the bowstring with your other hand and the bow will stay in your bow hand. When you draw, of course, that tension will hold the bow in place.  At full draw, just relax your fingers. Don’t squeeze the bow. If you’re worried about dropping it, you can press your index finger on the riser. Most people, without even realizing it, grab the bow after the shot so it doesn’t fall, but you can add a wrist sling for insurance if you want.

 Improper hand position viewed from the front. Notice the tight grip on the bow.



Proper hand position viewed form the front. Notice the relaxed fingers are not gripping the bow.

What you’ll notice holding the bow like this is the grip will sit more on the meaty part of your thumb than in the middle of your palm, like it would if you gripped it like a pistol.  You’ll also notice that your knuckles should extend away from the grip at a 45-degree angle, rather than sit vertical, parallel to the grip. This forces your elbow to turn out, which takes your forearm away from the bowstring.

Improper pistol grip viewed from the rear. Notice how the knuckles sit in a vertical line.


Proper position viewed from the rear. Notice how the knuckles sit at a 45-degree angle.

If you’re shooting a compound, and the string is frequently stinging your forearm, it’s probably because your hand position is incorrect. Since the string travels farther forward on a recurve bow, recurve archers can still have the bowstring hit their forearm with proper hand position, but it’s worse if they hold the grip like a pistol.  The most important thing about this hand position is that, when you release the string, the bow should only move forward, toward the target.  For you pistol-grippers, this hand position is going to feel awkward. Fight the urge to curl the pinky end of your hand in toward the riser. If you’re shooting a compound, turn down the weight a bit until you get used to it.

NEET makes a product invented by Randy Peck called the True Shot Coach Adjustable Training Aid which can help you develop proper hand position. It’s a pad that slides over the first three fingers of your bow hand. Sitting on the inside of your hand, the pad prevents you from grabbing the bow like a pistol, and forces your hand into the proper shooting position.

If you have to, take several days and just shoot into target butts at close range without aiming, but with proper hand position. Eventually, that position will feel comfortable, and you can start working targets into your practice sessions.  And watch your groups shrink.