A back tension release, aka a hinge release, is a popular solution for archers who experience any level of target panic. Hinge releases are one of the more common tools archers use to address a loss of control when shooting, whether it’s for practice, competition, or hunting. Since many archers experience some form of anxiety when anticipating a shot, know that you’re definitely not alone. In fact, while beginner archers sometimes use back tension releases, experienced archers commonly use them to improve form and accuracy.
Other types of bow releases include thumb-activated releases, index finger releases (caliper release), and tension-activated releases.
What Is A Back Tension Release?
A back tension release is a piece of archery equipment that gives archers the ability to shoot without knowing exactly when the release will fire. This surprise release is a proven way to prevent unwanted movements while shooting, like jerking, pulling, and/or “punching” the trigger. Surprise releases thus help prevent any unwanted reactions archers tend to make right before their shot, which often leads to various shooting issues.
Consistency is key and a hinge release allows you to focus on proper form, instead of anticipating the shot. Since the release is a surprise, your sole focus becomes proper form and execution.
If you’re wondering how a hinge style release works, they fire once the edge of the release hook pivots to a point where the hook opens up, allowing the string to slide off. The fact that this release style specifically works off rotation and movement sets it apart from other archery release options.
The Benefits Of A Back Tension Release
Archery requires participants to use basic pieces of equipment and gear, i.e. bow, string, arrows, arrow rest, sight, target. There are also numerous archery accessories shooters can choose to use with the goal of improving their comfort and abilities, i.e. armguard, quiver, release. The hinge release is one of these accessories and a popular choice among compound archers, presenting a number of benefits such as:
Back Tension Release Benefits:
- Decreases shot anticipation with a surprise release
- Offers an overall reduction of target panic
- Encourages proper back tension
- Places focus on form & aiming instead of the trigger
- Helps reduce user error
- Helps new archers understand what a perfect shot feels like
Potential Issues With A Hinge Release
As with most archery gear and accessories, you must use your chosen release correctly or there’s a possibility for injury. Even though the majority of archery-related injuries are minor, some archery-related injuries are quite serious.
1. Premature Fire
It’s possible for archers to hit themselves in the face or lose their arrows if they don’t use a hinge release correctly. In this situation, the archer is generally pulling the bow back with pressure on the wrong fingers.
2. Loss Of Control
Since there’s no trigger, archers don’t know exactly when their bow will fire. While most archers adapt to this loss of control, some may have a hard time without total control of the shot.
3. Click Setting
Some back tension releases produce an audible click, warning you that release is imminent. Since this clicking sound can increase anxiety, you need to decide if this warning option is something you want or not.
4. Back Tension Release For Hunting
Generally, hunters need control of shot timing, so a hinge release is not ideal in this scenario. Shooting a caliper or thumb release would be a better choice for hunting situations. This does not mean you can’t use a back tension release for hunting, it just isn’t very common.
How A Hinge Release Works
Hinge releases have three main components that all work together – a handle, a head, and a hook. The metal hook attaches to the head of the release and locks into place using a special pin. Archers can adjust the handle by moving it around the second pin, which is what keeps the handle and head of the release connected. When the second pin rotates past a certain point, it triggers the hook to release the bowstring.
Archers who feel they would benefit from using this shooting accessory simply need to choose the right one and then attach it to their bow. Attaching is a fairly simple process and requires archers to hook it to their “D loop”. When you start using back tension at full draw, the release naturally starts to rotate and the string eventually slips off the hook. Since there are a few different styles of hinge releases, be sure to carefully read the instructions so you know what to expect.
Two Methods To Fire
There are two different methods of shooting a hinge release:
1. Back Tension
A hinge release is called a “back tension release” for a reason. Back tension in itself produces a natural hinging motion. You can fire a hinge release by simply pulling against the back wall of the cam using back tension. Eventually, this natural rotation will cause the release to fire, creating an unanticipated shot.
2. Manual Rotation
Another option is to purposefully rotate the release in your hand. This is achieved by using back tension while shifting stress away from your index finger, towards your middle and ring finger. This creates the hinging motion necessary to fire the release.
For archers who are afraid to lose control of shot timing, know that once you start using a hinge release, you just may be surprised at all the benefits you may find.
Using A Back Tension Release
Now that you understand how this type of release works, it’s time to understand how to make the necessary adjustments. Learning the proper steps of using the release along with all the options available is essential to using it safely and effectively.
While not all back tension releases include a click mechanism, many do. A click setting adjustment allows you to modify the amount of rotation you require before hearing the click. For instance, you can adjust it so there’s a click early in the rotation cycle or right before it’s about to fire. You may also have the option to remove the click sound, as many archers believe it defeats the purpose of using a hinge release. Personally, audible clicks produce anxiety for me, so I prefer not to hear one…but do what works best for you!
The next adjustment is the release setting, which changes how quickly the release fires. When starting out, it’s best to make the release more difficult to fire while you become used to it. Once comfortable, start dialing things back, making it more sensitive and quicker to fire.
Hinge Release Options To Consider
Since back tension releases are triggerless mechanisms, they’re a great choice for compound target shooters. When purchasing your first hinge release, there are a number of options to take into consideration.
Click vs. No Click
Will hearing a click right before release help or hinder you? Know that many archers use the clicking mechanism when first using a back tension release. Once they get used to using the release, they’ll often start shooting without the click. When you purchase your first hinge release, you might try both options to find out which one works best for them.
Wrist Strap vs. Handheld
Handheld releases are just what they sound like – releases that archers hold in their hand while shooting. Handhelds tend to be most common, but other options are available. Wrist strap hinge releases are less common, but may be helpful when transitioning from other release styles. For example, the Longhorn Hex release is a hinge style release with a wrist strap. This helps alleviate any concern about firing prematurely and makes it easier to pull back using your wrist.
Back Tension Release With Safety
Safety mechanisms are an option that helps prevent the release from firing too soon. When drawing your bow, hold down the safety so it won’t fire. Once you’re anchored and ready, you take your finger off of the safety and start the release process. Personally, I use the Carter Honey 2, which uses a safety mechanism. I simply depress the safety while I pull back, anchor, let off of the safety when I’m ready, and use back tension through the shot.
Now that you have an understanding of how a back tension release works, is this the right archery release for you? If you often experience target panic while shooting, a hinge release is definitely worth a shot. Whether your issue is with pin float, rushing the shot, and/or jerking when shooting, using this simple release can be a game changer. Get out on the range, give it a try, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.