I’ve only ever heard this subject talked about a few times over the years, but I feel it’s something important that can be overlooked. I’ve ran into issues with it when I was learning how to shoot a hand held release and if anyone else may be going through the same problems, maybe this will help them along. What I will be going over is how the release fits in the hand and how different pressure points affect the back of the arrow differently.
What you do with your release hand directly affects the rear of the arrow. This portion of the arrow is the lightest and because of that can be influenced the easiest, causing flight problems. So what does this have to do with your release and the pressure points on the fingers? The release is connected directly to your d-loop and if your fingers put any upwards, downwards, or inflicting torque into the release, it will pull at that loop accordingly. This can cause the string to move during your execution and pull the back of the arrow out of alignment, causing it to come out of the bow at an angle.
To establish how you want to hold the release, you’ll want to look at a couple of different factors. One of which being how you execute with the release. Do you make a fist with the fingers and rotate the release, do you let the hand relax and allow the fingers to open up at different intervals, do you pull straight through, ect. The other factor is more of a personal feel on how you want to hold the release. For illustrative purposes, I’m going to briefly go over the most common ways of using a release and a common way of holding the release as well.
Generally, you’ll want to start out with the finger beds of the release on the pads of the fingers between the 2nd and 3rd knuckles. I put the edge of the release just against the creases of the second knuckles for myself. Now, you’ll want to curl your fingers around the release to where the “U” they form craddles the handle without pinching against your fingers at any point. This will be the position you start from when finding the optimal position to hold the release for your shot execution style. So let’s say you add tension to your fingers and create rotation into the release to execute. In doing this, you may notice that the release wants to move up or down at an angle as you increase pressure. Depending on the angle it’s moving at, you’ll want to adjust where it sets in the finger beds accordingly. You’ll also want to look at how you’re adding pressure. If you’re just curingling up the fingers more and more and creating a ball, this can lead to torque. What you will want to do is evenly depress down onto the finger beds of the release handle as you increase pressure. To do this, you may have to start with the fingers in a slightly more open position, so that when you reach the end point where the release is firing, there’s no torque from over curling of the fingers. In just the opposite way, if you allow the hand to extend during the shot, you may want to start with the fingers closed more, so that when you hit the end of the shot sequence, the release isn’t tilting up from your fingers being too open and straight.
During all of this, keep a mental inspection going of how the release is feeling on the finger pads. You want to feel a steady pressure that is even across the entire handle. However, if you are not able to feel the pressure differences, you can look at how the release hand acts during the follow through after the release has gone off. Look for patterns in what the arrow did and where the hand ended up. If you notice the arrow landing high on the target and the release hand coming straight down towards the top of the shoulder, this is an indicator you were pulling downwards with the fingers and hand during execution. The same can be said for the arrow going down and the release hand popping up. This would mean the pressure was pulling upwards on the fingers and hand during execution. This leads directly into a different topic as well about how you are pulling through the shot. I will go deeper into this on my next article, but for now what you want to focus on is pulling straight back in line with the arrow. This allows you to use even pressure across the fingers and hand to get a cleaner release. You’ll want to look for the hand to come straight back and in a level manner, with the hinge point at the wrist as the elbow goes back and down.
Of course the biggest thing in archery will always be repeatablility, and if you are able to repeat what you are doing then pressure points being exactly even aren’t as important. But, there’s always good guildelines that can be followed, especially during the learning phases and if there are problems with arrow flight that you can’t work out. Also, my examples were very basic. Most everyone holds a handheld release at some sort of an angle to allow the fingers to anchor against the face. Keep this in mind as you’re looking at reactions on the target and follow through. They may have a side to side motion to them as well.