Bow and arrow: How to hold properly

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Whether you plan to start target archery or bow hunting, you need to practice your basic techniques to improve your bow handle. With the methods, it helps enhance your aiming skills while improving your overall performance.

A fact is that it can take up to 200 shots before you automatically do the technique without thinking. The skill is not difficult, but you need to pay attention when practicing your skills. So to help you to maintain your archery bow correctly, there are several things to look at.

Here we will discuss different important things from how to hold your arrows in your hand with a bow to gripping your bow and more.

First, You Need to Make a Proper Stance

This step is the first and most important part you need to practice to help with the perfect aim with bowsights, although you can certainly use sights to help. It means that you need to stand correctly in front of the target—to perfect it, your feet need to be in line with the target.

Make sure the distance between the feet is shoulder-width apart. Always keep a relaxed posture by pushing the shoulders downward. With these steps, you can maintain a proper stance and needs practising until you get it perfect.

The next step is how to hold the bow with your bow hand while keeping a proper posture and discussed next.

Holding Your Bow Hand with a Proper Posture

After mastering a proper posture skill, it is time to take your bow in hand and practice your stance. The foundation of good shooting is your foot position, as mentioned previously. There are a few variations, but your feet need to be shoulder-width apart with the knees slightly bent.

The position keeps your feet even with one another and perpendicular to the arrow. While parallel with the hips and arrow for a full draw, also known as a neutral stance. Another technique is the closed stance by placing your front foot ahead of your rear one with the hips closed to your target.

You can decide which one works best for you when shooting your bow.

man holding a compound bow

Other Factors to Consider With Your Bow Grip

While the placing of the feet is essential, other things need to be correct as well before you can even shoot your bow, as seen here:

Torso position – keep your torso straight up with your collarbone parallel to the arrow. Do not bend left/right as it will cause you to lean into/away from the bow. If you find yourself doing this, visit an archery shop as the bow may have a too long draw.

Head position – once finding your stance and torso position, you need to hold your head up straight with your chin level to the ground. Once fixed in this position, turn your face downrange while holding the bow.

Shoulder position – make sure that your release arm and shoulder falls into a natural place when placing your elbow and lower arm correctly. Make sure that your hand position on the arm gripping the bow and the front shoulder is in a natural position. If you find an extended front shoulder, it may be that your bow has a too long draw.

Elbow/Lower arm position – your elbow on the release arm needs to point straight away from the target and the forearm parallel to the ground. Simultaneously, the bow arm elbow must point outward and downward at a slight angle away from your bow. When done correctly, your bow arm has a slight bend at the elbow with a relaxed bow grip. Furthermore, your bow hand will position itself properly with your thumb at a 45 degree angle if done correctly.

The anchor point can vary from one archer to another and depend on your face shape with release type. If you shoot a recurve bow, a recurve bowstring is anchored along or behind your jawbone. The important thing is to find your natural anchor point with consistent holding and hand position for a full draw when making shot after shot.

By using these simple guidelines, it will help get your posture right before making a shot.

Handling Arrows

Now that you know how to maintain your posture with the bow, the next step is to nock the arrow. It simply means placing the arrow in your compound bows rest or the bowstring. You can hold the arrows on your bow’s outer or inner side, causing the arrowhead to point up/down.

You can also hold it in your fits together with your bow or carry it between your fingers. The easiest method is in the inner and outer sides of the bow. Furthermore, it would help if you held it on the other side where you nock your arrow when shooting.

It is simpler because it is easier to grab the arrow held on your outer side as nothing is standing in the way of your fingers when using your bowstring hand.  The next method is where the arrowheads up/down, comes down to preference and comfort to draw the arrows.

When grabbing an arrow, you do it with two or three fingers and place your hand at the nock. If the nocks at the bottom, you need to raise your hand before grabbing the arrow, and if at the top, you need to lower it.

The last technique is between your fingers or fist and allows you to hold more arrows separated into groups.

Getting the Hand Position Right for Grasping the Bowstring and Drawing the Arrow

Now that you placed the arrow, you need to grasp the string using the correct hand position with your fingers. Most archers use two fingers grasp or a three-finger grasp with one at the top and two at the arrow’s bottom. To help with a safe release, you can use a release aid to prevent hurting your thumb and fingers.

When drawing the string, your bowstring hand needs to be slightly above the nose. It should end at your face side that is opposite to your bow hand. If you hold your bow with the left hand, the string draw needs to be on your right face side and vice versa for holding in the right hand.

When you pull the string, make sure that you grip the bow comfortably with your hand pointing directly at the target. Once completing the pulling of the line, you need to transfer the bow weight to your shoulders. With the weight on the back, it helps with aim accuracy to make a perfect shot.

Aiming For the Target

Now you need to stay still and focus on your aim, and if you are new to archery, you always have the bow sight, or you can look through the arrow shaft towards the aim. Make sure you balance perfectly and keep your body relaxed.

While we are on the topic of relaxing many archers, want to know, “Do you hold your breath when shooting a bow?” Yes, you do, but it happens before you raise your bow. Please take a deep breath from within the belly and release it to relax the mind.

Keep breathing calmly even when making your shot to help keep you focused on the move and not your score. Furthermore, do not use a death grip on your bow and rather use a relaxed grip.

Time to Release the Arrow

Open your fingers wide open and let go of the arrow. Make sure not to move the string after the release as it can hurt you, and best to wear an armguard for safety. Another crucial thing during the release is that any slight movement can affect the aim.

Some First Shot Tips

By following the above steps, you can make your first shot a success. Here are some safe archery rules to follow:

  • Always keep yourself in a still position and remain standing on the target’s line with a relaxed grip.
  • Find out your dominant eye by looking at the target with your eyes when making your first cycle of shots.
  • As a beginner archer, use added equipment from the index finger release aid, arm guard, and bow sight to make a safe shot.
  • At the release, rethink your stance and remain relaxed to prevent moving when releasing the arrow.

Frequently Asked Questions

While the above guidelines help you to hold your bow correctly, there are other questions related to maintaining your archery bow as seen here:

Which hand to use – right handed or left handed?

Before you decide which hand to grip on the bow in archery, you need to determine your dominant eye. After choosing the latter, you need to assess your bow hand, whether left or right, which you should now know.

Choose your hand and determine eye dominance

If you are a left-handed archer, your dominant eye is the left one and vice versa for right-handed. There are cases where people have a left eye dominant and are right-handed or the opposite, also known as cross dominant.

When choosing a right-handed bow, you grip it in your left hand with the bowstring drawn, back using the right hand. The opposite is done when using a left-handed bow. Now, you may wonder if you can shoot a left-handed bow with the right hand?

Yes, you can, but your arrow rest will be on the wrong side, and you need to compensate for it when aiming. So how do you tell if the bow is left/right-handed? Look just above the grip on the handle where the rest is placing the arrow.

When you grip it in your hand left/right by the grip stretched out in front of you, the rest will be on your left side if it is a right-hand bow or on the right for a left-handed bow.

Proper Grip for Better Accuracy

For the best grip, the bow needs to rest on your thumb pad (thenar eminence), which is the area to the left of your lifeline crease when looking at your left/right hand. It would help if you made sure the grip does not cross the lifeline.

With the thumb technique, you use the least amount of muscles and prevent fatigue in the hands. Furthermore, always keep in mind to grip in a relaxed position on the thumb pad as it helps point the thumb towards the target with a shot execution.

What is the correct finger placement on a recurve or compound bow?

For the best archery shots, it all starts with proper hand position and arrangement on your bow. Here you can get the correct hand position for the best bow grip and to draw the bowstring.

Start by extending your bow arm as if you are holding the bow and flex all your fingers out. Now turn your wrist to form a letter V with the forefinger and thumb as this is the best hand position. Doing this leaves your palm’s lifeline vertical.

Place the archery bow in the center of the V pull back a little on the string with the other hand. You will notice the compound bow or recurve bow remains in your bow hand as the draw tension holds it in place. When reaching the full draw, relax the fingers and do not squeeze the bow.

If you are concerned about dropping it, use your index finger and press it on the riser. Furthermore, you will notice your knuckles extending away from your grip at a 45 degree angle, and do not sit parallel or vertical to the grip. It also allows your elbow to turn out, removing the forearm out of the way of the bowstring.

What is an Index Finger Release Aid?

When you do archery, you activate the release, similar to pulling the trigger like a gun. With the release aid, it holds most of the draw weight with the wrist sling, leaving your index finger relaxed to squeeze the trigger.

Final Thoughts

We have come to an end on how to grip your bow the best way to improve your shots. By following the techniques, you can enhance your stance, aim, shot, and archers skills to perfection. Furthermore, we hope the guidelines help you determine if you need to buy a left or right-handed bow when starting with archery. Happy targeting, bow hunting, and take care.


I'm Isaac Murphy and at the moment I am a student. I took up archery as a hobby about 3 years ago and built this blog to share some of the things I have learned and to help those starting out in this sport. Check out my bio here

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