How to shoot a compound bow

If you are new to archery you should also read Basic Archery before you read this article.

About this manual

The instructions described here are based on my own experience as an archer. I started with archery over 30 years ago when I was a kid. The tips in this guide are not invented by me and are in no way revolutionary. I have learned about archery from many skilled archers and committed leaders over the years, so you can be assured that this document is based on sound principles that work in reality and also is quite easy to adopt.

Compound bow characteristics

Shooting a compound bow is different from shooting a recurve or longbow especially in one aspect, and that is the holding weight at full draw. A compound bow has what is called Let-Off which means that the holding weight decrease dramatically at full draw. Typically the let off lays in the range of 65-80%, i.e. the holding weight for a 60# bow with 65% Let-Off only has 60 X 0.35 = 21 lbs holding weight! Yet there are several similarities in the shooting technique among all types of bows. The stance and preparation for a shot is almost the same as described earlier in Basic Archery, the only difference here is the positioning of the arrow on the rest, and it must be rotated so that the fletching doesn't touch the rest at release. The principle of backtension is the same for all types of bows.

Compound bow shooting sequence


Open your stance slightly for good clearance.

Square Stance Open Stance

        Square Stance                Open Stance

Prepare for the shot

Nock the arrow.

Nock the arrow

Attach the release to the string under the nocking point, or to the loop if you have one.

Attach the release to the loop

Set the hand in the grip. The pressure point should be on the thick part of the thumb muscle, the force from the bow should go straight into your bow arm. You should be able to have your bow hand wrist perfectly relaxed without any tendencies to twist in any direction. Your bow hand fingers must not grip the bow; use a bow sling or a finger sling to catch it at release.

Bow Hand in Grip Pressure point

         Bow Hand                     Pressure Point

Lift the bow and draw arm

Point the bow roughly at the target - you are not allowed to raise the bow over the target as many recurve archers do to get some extra leverage when they draw the string. An eventual misfire when you draw the string must stay within the shooting field.
Your bow arm shoulder should have a natural position. Don't rotate it up or back, just lift the bow arm and let the shoulder find its natural position.
Predraw your bow as a preparation for your muscles to take the full weight of the draw.


Draw the string

In one smooth motion draw the string to your anchor. Use your back muscles as much as you can when you draw the string. Your draw length should be determined with help from an experienced archer or coach, and a good line should be sought after, i.e. the arrow and the draw under arm should be in line seen from behind.
Make sure that you draw the bow against the stop and keep it there through the shot.


The anchor point is an individual preference. Try to get the string to your nose tip, and then you will have an extra reference point to keep your head in the same position every shot. An anchor on or under the jaw bone is called a low anchor. An anchor above the jaw bone is considered to be high. A low anchor can be an advantage for the longer competition distances since the sight gets a higher position with this anchor.
Adjust your anchor and relax completely in the draw arm and hold the string only with backtension. In the same time apply some pressure against the target with the bow arm.


Your brain will automatically try to focus in the middle of the target. Don't worry if you aren't perfectly still. This will improve with practice. The key to attain a calm sight-image is relaxation. It's impossible to hold the bow still with a high tension in the draw arm. Remember that it is your muscles on your back that have to be used to hold the string. Check your vertical alignment.



Fire your release in a very gentle manner, a feeling of a surprising release is desired. A very successful method to accomplish this is to apply some more backtension with the draw arm shoulder blade and use that force to fire the release. There are some releases that are designed with backtension in mind and they don't have any regular trigger. Never "punch" your release, this will almost always result in undesired movement in the shot moment. Punching the release is the most common mistake amongst compound archers. Target panic might be an underlying cause to that. See the separate article about Target Panic.
Keep the pressure against the target during the release.

Follow through

At release, keep your focus on the target and if you have the right pressure against the target your bow arm will be still in the release moment and then move right forward. If your bow arm drops in the release moment there is a risk that it does so before the arrow leaves the rest and thereby influence the arrow. If this is the case, increase the pressure against the target.
If you are using your back muscles as you should, the draw hand will move backwards at release.

Follow Through


After the shot, relax and go thru it in your mind. Can you make any improvements to the next shot? If it was a good shot, try to remember the feeling and try to apply that feeling to all your shots.

Shooting Compound Video

Putting it all together with a film

Compound video

Click on picture to play video

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