Thumb Button vs. Back Tension

For as long as I’ve shot archery, there has always been a debate over which release is “better”; a hinge-style back tension release or a thumb button or even an index finger activated one. Each release has its own pros and cons and I’d like to walk you through them and provide my own thoughts about which is best under which scenarios.

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Let’s start with the hinge-style release.  A hinge-release is your standard “back tension” release.  It is activated through rotation and fires when the head of the release rotates along and slides off of the half-moon. There are different schools of thought on how a person should activate a hinge release as well. Some people, we’ll call them “back tension purists,” believe that the only real way to activate these releases is through “pulling” and that the added tension will cause the release to rotate and ultimately fire. The goal is to produce a “surprise” shot to limit the potential for bad habits. 

I don’t like this style of execution. With a compound, there is no place for you to “expand” or “pull harder” without having a negative affect on your ability to aim. This added tension can cause increased stress on your cables and limbs which can cause arrow flight and impact inconsistencies in addition to an unsteady aim. Instead, I would suggest using enough force to keep the bow firmly pulled apart against the stops (either limb or cable) and allow a relaxed hand to rotate through the release. During my shot, I consciously focus on being firm with my overall pull and allow my fingers to subconsciously rotate until the release fires. There is no right or wrong way to do it, the only goals for me are consistency in method and allowing for the best aim.

I recommend the Scott Archery Ascent as simply the most adjustable back tension release available on the market today.

When trying to achieve the best aim, there is no substitute for a thumb or index-finger activated release. There’s no way around it – body movement in your shot causes sight picture movement.  So, obviously a release with zero rotational movement will have a steadier aim than a release with finger manipulation.

For execution of a thumb button release, I firmly press my thumb to the barrel of the release and focus on building tension in my draw arm and use my thumb as the “point of contact” for the added pressure. As I pull, the tension increases on my thumb and I’m able to achieve a non-anticipated execution. I do the exact same thing for an index finger release but with my index finger. 

Shop the Sigma thumb button release, or Pursuit wrist-strap thumb button.

For me, nothing beats the crisp feel of a “surprise” shot with a thumb button. It’s easy, there isn’t much sight movement, and I’m able to achieve my tightest group patterns. A back tension release provides me with the most consistent groupings since there is so much going on – it seems to provide a really solid “average” shot.

So, you might be asking, if you’re able to achieve better groups and scores with a thumb button, why do you even bother with a back tension. The short answer is: anticipation. The long answer, stay tuned for the next blog!

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