Bow Dry Fire: Everything You Need To Know

Mar 22, 2021Archery Basics

Have you ever heard of a bow dry fire? You’ll need to understand what dry firing means before you shoot. Why? Because dry firing a bow can cause serious damage to a bow. It can also cause serious injury to the shooter or anyone who happens to be in close vicinity. Choosing to take part in the sport of archery means following all rules. Especially safety rules, as these rules are in place to help ensure that no one gets hurt.

What are the general safety rules for archery? Examples include only pointing a bow in a safe direction, only nocking an arrow once it’s safe to shoot, and never shooting a bow without an arrow.

What Is A Bow Dry Fire?

Also known as dry loosing, dry firing a bow is an archery term that refers to a shooter pulling back the string and then letting go without having an arrow properly nocked in place. Many new archers don’t realize that the seemingly simple act of not properly placing an arrow can potentially destroy a bow. Using arrows that are too light can also cause a dry fire reaction. This is why it’s important to find arrows with the right amount of weight so they can better absorb any stored power, allowing them to be more efficient.

While most archers experience a dry fire by accident, ignorance, or foolishness, equipment malfunction can also cause archers to dry fire a bow.

What Happens When You Dry Fire A Bow?

So what happens in a dry fire? First, it’s necessary to understand the procedure of shooting a bow. When a shooter draws their bowstring, it bends the limbs of the bow. When a shooter releases their bowstring, the limbs return to their original position. In doing so, the stored power from the draw weight allows the arrow to fly. If there’s no arrow in place to absorb the stored power, it’s absorbed back into the bow. The associated vibrations are so strong that this preventable act can potentially destroy a bow.

Note: The heavier the draw weight, the more potential for serious damage.

Possible Consequences Of A Bow Dry Fire

Bows are not built to absorb a lot of power. Thus, a dry fire can easily ruin a bow. The act of dry firing can harm many different parts of a bow, including the limbs, cams, screws, and bowstring. Even though professionally crafted bows are both strong and sturdy, cams and limbs still often bend and break when experiencing a dry fire. Wondering what factors play a part in the amount of damage sustained? The bows draw weight, the draw length, and the type of bow used.

  • Compound Bows: Dry firing a compound bow has the potential for serious damage as this bow type has more power and moving parts when compared to other bow types. The release of stored-up power tends to affect all of the structural components of a compound bow. It’s even possible for a compound bow to literally explode!
  • Recurve Bows: Dry firing a recurve bow tends to be less serious as a compound bow. Why? Because compound bows are more powerful and have more moving parts. Understand that even though recurve bows are more likely to withstand a dry fire, they can still suffer minor to major damages.

Safety Concerns Of A Bow Dry Fire

Bow dry fire can be a startling and even scary experience for any beginner archer. The consequence of a dry fire shooting may not only damage the bow, it can also cause injury to the shooter and/or those nearby. This is why it’s essential for every archer to never dry fire a bow on purpose. It’s also important to use the right type of arrow for a chosen bow, as choosing the wrong arrow type can also create a dry fire like scenario.

Why Is Dry Firing A Bow Dangerous?

  • Broken bow parts and strings/cables can fly through the air and potentially cause lacerations and/or serious eye damage.
  • A dry fire can release its stored power directly into an archer’s hand, causing various levels of pain and even bruising.

What To Do If You Dry Fire A Bow

What happens if you accidentally dry fire a bow? Understand that dry firing a bow can happen so quickly that most archers are genuinely surprised once it does happen. Since it’s possible for your bow to be completely destroyed after dry firing, you may need to purchase a new bow. How can you tell if a bow includes damages beyond repair? Know that obvious structural damage may or may not be fixable. If you’re not sure if your bow is repairable, don’t try to fix it and instead take it to a professional for a full evaluation.

When you dry fire by accident, don’t shoot again until you’ve had your bow professionally evaluated. This means you should avoid shooting after the fact even if the bow looks like it hasn’t sustained any damage. Assessment by an archery tech is always recommended to ensure it’s once again safe to shoot using the bow, as unseen internal bow damages are possible.

Also be sure to test your bow after having it inspected/repaired. It’s best to test your bow before leaving the bow shop in case there are any problems. Any issues can be addressed right then and there. Testing your bow after repair is easy… simply draw the bow slowly and listen for any new sounds, like creaking, grinding, and cracking.

Preventing a Bow Dry Fire

So how do you prevent dry firing? All you need to do is know why and how a dry fire happens. This allows you to take any necessary precautions, making it the best way to prevent bow dry fire. You’ll also need to be diligent when it comes to practicing archery safety. This means inspecting your bow, arrows, and accessories before practicing to make sure all is in tip-top shape. Taking care of your archery gear is one of the more important things you can do to prevent experiencing any type of archery accident, including dry firing.

Another way to avoid a dry fire is to pay close attention to what you are doing. Many archers become distracted and fire their bow, thinking they already placed an arrow on the string. The social environment of a shooting range makes this easier than you may think, so pay close attention and you’ll likely avoid a dry fire.

Practice Shooting

You should never dry fire a bow to practice shooting. Instead, there are plenty of other methods in place that will allow you to be the best shooter possible. Remember, the more you practice, the more consistent your shooting. Where can you practice archery safely? Search for “archery ranges near” me to find local archery ranges. Depending on where you live you can choose from a climate-controlled indoor range, an outdoor 3D archery course, or a backyard range.

Improve Your Shooting By:

  • Shooting between 200 and 300 arrows on practice days (divided into 100 shot sessions)
  • Signing up for beginner archery competitions (many new archers excel when under the pressure of competition shooting)
  • Using exercise stretch bands (to simulate muscle movements)
  • Shooting at short-range targets that have no specific target (this is called blank bale and allows shooters to focus on their technique)
  • Shooting at longer distances (this allows shooters to focus on aiming and follow-through)

Common Questions

See the answers to some of the more commonly asked questions about dry firing a bow below.

How To Tell If A Bow Is Damaged After A Dry Fire?
Carefully inspect the bow for any obvious signs of damage. The most common types of damages include broken strings/cables, splintered limbs, and bent cams. Additional damages may include warped cam tracks and a broken cable guard. If there are obvious signs of damage present, your next step is taking the bow in for professional repair. No signs of obvious damage? It’s still recommended to have your bow checked out to make sure there is no damage such as hairline fractures.

Can A Bow Survive A Dry Fire?
Yes, it’s possible for a bow to survive a dry fire with no damage. Many archers wonder is a bow ruined if dry fired, and the answer is maybe. It simply depends on the extent of damage when it comes to whether a bow is repairable after dry firing. Understand that even if there’s no obvious damage it’s important that the bow still be thoroughly checked by a professional.

Cost To Fix Dry Fired Bow?
The cost of fixing a dry fired bow depends on bow type as well as the extent of the damage. This means you may only have to pay $15 or it could mean that you need to pay upwards of $500+ to fix your damaged bow. The cost of repair will help you determine whether you want to fix or buy a new bow.

Does a Bow Warranty Cover Dry Fires?
No. Unless there were structural issues with the bow, warranties do not cover any damages caused by dry firing. Be sure to check your bow warranty closely as many warranties will no longer cover a bow after it’s been dry fired.


While beginner archers are more likely to experience a bow dry fire, it can happen to anyone. Since preventing this from happening is mostly in your control, use the above information to make sure you never have to experience this potentially dangerous situation. Remember that dry firing places excessive stress on a bow, which could destroy it. Personally, I have seen and experienced a dry fire before with little to no consequence, but do your best to avoid it. Dry firing a bow is always a wildcard, you never know what will happen. So, pay attention, keep an eye on your equipment, and stay safe!


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