July 24, 2023
How you grip the bow is paramount to shooting consistency. If you position your hand one way for a shot and a slightly different way the next shot, your arrow’s impact will vary.
The logic is simple: Once the position of the hand changes, the distribution of pressure across the palm area changes as well, causing the handle to torque differently as the arrow cycles through the bow. To be deadly consistent as an archer, you must learn to place your hand on the grip exactly the same way for every shot.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Even with a good pre-shot checklist where you put a lot of emphasis on gripping the bow correctly, subtle variances in bow-hand pressure can still occur. The culprit could be you, or it could actually be the design of the grip. Let’s examine different grip designs and what qualities tend to enhance or degrade accuracy.
To be accurate, you must remove as much muscle tension as possible from the shooting process. To maintain a tension-free hold on the bow, your hand must be relaxed, with no muscle exertion across the hand and forearm. The only way to produce this type of comfort is to align the bow grip so it bisects the end of the radius bone on your hand. This point of contact places the base of the thumb square with the center of the grip. To achieve this, your hand will have to be turned approximately 45 degrees to the side, with the center of the grip on the thumb side of your lifeline. This will eliminate contact with the palm region, which collapses easily upon pressure from the handle, forcing the use of hand and forearm muscles to hold the bow steady.
The thickness of the bow grip can detract from the proper positioning of the hand. With too much surface width, you can be quick to place the hand a certain way, but once the bow is drawn and full pressure is being applied, it’s easy for the hand (or base of the thumb) to slide around, creating a different pressure point and a loss of consistency.
With a narrower bow grip, if your holding pressure isn’t perfectly centered, you’ll feel it quickly. The thumb base will actually press against the edge of the grip, and you’ll want to recenter it naturally. In this case, there’s less chance to grip it wrong. This makes it more repeatable.
This is why you see tournament archers removing the grip from their bows (if it’s the replaceable type) and shooting directly from the riser. This is in an attempt to improve shooting performance. With my hunting bows, I almost always remove the grip if it has one, then wrap the grip area with athletic tape. This keeps the grip thin, comfortable, and slightly insulated for hunting purposes.
Some grips are completely flat along the face, rounded, or a little bit of both. In my opinion, to equalize the pressure against the base of the thumb, a flat surface face is best. However, if it’s just flat with no rounded contours along the edges, it’ll be uncomfortable. For this reason, a flat surface with short contours seems to accentuate the best combination for comfort and consistency.
Some bows with “riser grips” have this type of holding surface built in. For example, I removed the grip on my Hoyt Ventum Pro, and I find its under-grip very comfortable and accurate. It’s flat with small radiuses along the edges.
But other bows with removable grips don’t have the same quality. Some under-grips are simply too thin or have sharp edges. In this case, you’ll have to upgrade to an aftermarket grip with better geometry. I’ve used Shrewd grips for more than a decade, due to their exceptional ergonomics. However, Torqueless, Total Peep, Ultraview, and others make superb grips as well. I urge you to test out as many aftermarket grips as you can in search of the right one. You may have to order several grips online, see how they feel, and then return those that don’t’ fit your fancy.
Some custom grips come with a textured surface to reduce hand slip and to guide the hand into a consistent spot. A great example is the Ultraview BeeReal grip, which uses a honeycomb textured surface. With this grip, you set the base of the thumb so it rests in one of the honeycomb circles or on the centerline between two of them. The hand will settle into a specific spot each time, promoting consistency. I sometimes add a small indent or scratch to the grip’s surface so I can “feel” where the pressure point needs to be. My friend Mike Slinkard, the originator of Winner’s Choice Bowstrings, often threaded a small screw to the grip’s surface so he could feel it pressed against the heel of his thumb on every shot. Of course, adding a screw to the riser will void your warranty for sure and is certainly not recommended, but it emphasizes the importance of a repeatable bow grip.
This pertains to the positioning of the wrist at full draw. Some grips promote a low or medium-style wrist position. A low grip will distribute the pressure point lower into the heel area of the grip, whereas a medium grip will keep the pressure more centerline with the wrist. What is best for accuracy depends on the archer. I personally prefer a medium or standard-angled grip. Shrewd offers low and standard-angled grips, and I’ve found the standard grip the most comfortable and accurate.
This could also be because I acquired tennis elbow years ago, and with low-angled grips my forearm gets cranky after long shooting bouts. But with standard or medium-angled grips, my forearm stays more relaxed, particularly during the initial drawing of the bow.
For this reason, when shooting directly off the bow handle, I sometimes glue in or double tape a thin wooden or rubber spacer to the heel of the handle, then wrap it with athletic tape. This increases the angle slightly, while improving feel and shooting consistency.
The angle of the grip can be a crucial point. The key is to figure out what keeps your hand in the most relaxed position, so it follows the force of the bow during the shot. When the shot breaks, the bowhand should jump naturally in the direction of the arrow then slightly to the left (for a right-handed archer) due to back-tension built up in the release and draw arm.
Tips For Better Shooting
Perhaps the most important step in all of this is to set the bow hand prior to drawing the bow. When using a grip with good ergonomics, in due time you’ll establish the sweet spot for where to place the base of your thumb on the grip’s surface. Lock this sensation in your mind, so you can “feel it” on every shooting cycle.
A good shooting routine should go like this: 1) Clip the arrow to the string; 2) establish your stance; 3) attach the release to the string loop; 4) take up about an inch or so of tension on the release hand while the bow’s cam is propped against your upper leg; 5) set the bow hand on the grip in the right place; 6) lift up the bow and point it slightly to the target; 7) center the grip perfectly by finding the right feel at the base of the thumb; 8) draw the bowstring to full anchor, 9) relax the bow hand and forearm completely; 10) acquire the target smoothly, and then aim, aim, aim until the shot breaks.
Remember, once you draw the bow back, the hand must stay relaxed, without shifting anything into place. If you realign the hand on the grip at this point, you’ll surely induce torque and ruin the shot. Keep the hand relaxed and motionless until the arrow strikes the target. Do it this way until the step becomes automatic.
Don’t take how you grip the bow lightly. Remember, it’s your only real contact with the bow. In other words, it’s the foundation for everything you do in the shooting process. With the right bow grip in place, it’ll be easier to find the sweet spot and to keep it there, improving your accuracy and confidence as a bowhunter.