How to Hold a Bow the Right Way

Like any professional sport, learning to shoot an archery bow has its challenges. Though it initially seems like an easy task, slight variations in how you hold your bow can greatly affect your aim and, if not taken seriously, can lead to injury in the hand, wrist, and arm. Luckily, there are easy rules you can follow to ensure you have a smooth archery experience. To learn how to hold a bow the right way, just keep reading. 

Learn the Proper Words for Holding Your Bow

Before learning proper hand placement and grip, it’s useful to know specific parts of the bow and archery terms. Here’s a quick rundown of the most commonly used archery lingo that will help you learn to hold the bow the right way:

  • Bow: Tool used to release an arrow which consists of a frame and bowstring
  • Bowstring: The chord stretched between two parts of a frame used to notch or place an arrow 
  • Bow Limbs: Flexible extensions part of the bow’s frame that bends with the bowstring when an arrow is drawn
  • Riser: The solid part between the limbs that won’t bend when an arrow is drawn and released
  • Grip: Indented part on riser where the hand will hold the bow
  • Pivot Point: The curved in point on the bow’s grip where the space between the thumb and index finger rests
  • Pressure Point: The slightly curved up point below the pivot point
  • Torquing: When a bow easily moves side to side upon arrow release. 

Besides the parts of the bow, there are also pieces of equipment you can buy to help you have a more stable grip on your bow. As for holding your bow, it will be especially helpful to find a sling. 

Find a Sturdy Hand Sling

Any extra equipment you use when holding your bow has several variations you can choose from. While adjusting as an archer, you can check out multiple options to better your experience. For any archer, it is extraordinarily useful to find a sling for your gripping hand. Slings catch the bow at arrow discharge, so it doesn’t fling forward too much. It will also ensure you can keep your hand completely relaxed. Depending on your personal preference, there are three you can choose from. 

Types of Slings

  • Bow Sling: Part of it connects or ties to the riser below the grip, while the rest loops over the gripping hand. It is easy to adjust, but if not adjusted properly will let the bow swing
  • Wrist Sling: One loop is completely over the wrist like a bracelet while a clip or other loop connects around the grip. It is also easy to adjust and let go, however when you first start to use it, it can feel flimsy or awkward. 
  • Finger Sling: Slips one loop over the index finger and the other over the thumb. Using it, you’ll have free hand movement, and it is small and light. However, disadvantage unlike bow and wrist slings it is difficult to adjust.

Once you have your desired sling, you are equipped to properly hold your bow. If you don’t like any of the slings, there are simple ways to still have a proper grip on your bow without damaging your technique or body. 

Adjust and Attach Your Sling

It’s important to get the right length in your sling from the get-go. If it is too long, it will move around too much. On the other hand, if it is too short, it will stick in the hand and won’t follow through with the shot. To know for sure it is the right length, look at the gap between the hand and the sling have it be about 1 inch. 

Note: If you don’t use or like a bow sling, make sure your grip is loosely gripped with the thumb and index finger. Pay special attention so your hand doesn’t grasp too tightly, or your thumb doesn’t stay engaged on the grip. 

This is an area of archery posture where the incorrect form is often seen. Some shooters will lean forward aggressively into the shot while others, often novice archers, will lean back (Source).

Place Your Non-dominant Hand on the Grip

For the best hold on your bow, you’ll need to place the correct part of the hand on the grip. The gap between the thumb and forefinger rests on the pivot point, with the pad closest to the thumb resting directly on the pressure point. 

Note: An easy way to make sure you have the right part of the hand on the grip, put out your hand like you are telling someone to stop palm facing outward at a V shape. Find the pad on your hand between the thumb and your lifeline. Put that onto the bow. 

Definitely avoid placing the pinkie side of the hand on the bow because it causes your hand to roll, your arrow to misfire, and adds unneeded strain on your hand, wrist, and arm. 

Twist Knuckles so Your Fingers are at a 45-degree Angle

A common mistake beginner archers make is shooting with an open hand. By doing this, you won’t have a good hold of your bow at release. When this happens, you are more likely to dislocate your thumb or cause torquing. Not only do you need to have the right part of your hand resting on the grip, but you’ll have to slightly twist your knuckles at a 45-degree angle. Your thumb will directly press into the side of the grip while your knuckles face outward, relaxed at the proper angle. By doing this, you’ll be able to easily direct your shot without putting unnecessary strain on your wrist. 

Note: If you don’t have a sling, be sure to use the thumb and index finger to slightly grip the bow, so it doesn’t move out of your hands when you release your arrow. 

Relax Your Hand and Fingers

Relaxing your hand on the grip seems counterintuitive. However, it will make a huge difference in your shot and help you avoid unnecessary injury. Many archers have what is called a “death grip” on the bow. Holding the grip too tightly or even grip the fingers around the bow causes your arm and bow to shake. This can also lead to a string slap when the bowstring recoils and hits your arm when the arrow releases. 

Keep the hand gently resting in the correct position and angle, merely keeping the thumb engaged and the knuckles correctly aligned so you can gracefully draw your arrow and release smoothly. Be sure not to let the thumb rest loosely at the side of the grip. This will cause the hand to slide off the grip slightly and not letting the full arm become engaged in the arrow discharge upon release. Hang the grip of their thumb instead of the hand pad

Avoid string slap! (Source).

Wait for the Right Time to Pick Up the Bow

Another common mistake among archers is putting the hand on the grip too early. Generally, when waiting to shoot, you should keep the bottom corner of the bow on your foot. You don’t need to angle the grip too early because this will ruin the bow shoulder side. Over time this will cause unnecessary pain for your arm. Instead, only have the hand your V-shape with the grip nestled at the pivot point between the thumb and forefinger. In archery, this is called “Resting at the Pivot Point.” When you are ready to shoot, bring the bow up, place the hand pad fully on the pivot, and pressure point on the grip with the knuckles angled correctly. Find a consistent pattern to more smoothly shift your hand in the grip from your resting position. This will ensure you establish early on habits to avoid angling the grip too early and potential injury. 


Though mastering archery can seem like a daunting task, as long as you develop good habits like correctly holding your bow, you can greatly improve your aim and avoid injuries.


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Kevin was born and raised in Texas and loves all things tactical. His hobbies include shooting, hunting, rock climbing, and hiking with his dog Jax.

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