How to Choose the Best Release for Bowhunting

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Not all bowhunting caliper releases are the same, and choosing one model over another often comes down to personal preferences and budget.

With just a quick glance, it’s easy to assume all caliper releases are the same. But this simply isn’t the case. Some differences are obvious on closer inspection, others buried deep within but representing huge differences in performance.

The most obvious difference in caliper-release design is dual- (two opposing jaws; such as Tru-Fire’s Smoke) or single-jaw (one opening jaw set against a stationary body; such as Scott’s Mongoose XT). Some archers claim one or the other offers faster loading, but I’ve observed no advantages either way.

If you’re looking for the best release for bowhunting, it pays to shop around and test some of the different styles at your local shop or with friends. You may find one that works better than what you’re using now.

The same holds for accuracy. Both styles, if poorly designed, can negatively affect accuracy, pushing bowstrings off center during separation — dual jaws not opening evenly, or single jaw pushing bowstrings against the stationary portion of the mechanism during release. T.R.U. Ball designs, for instance, include a steel ball bearing within a socket, allowing jaws to float and open in perfect synchronization, even when the release is torqued. Tru-Fire releases include a hardened roller that “spear-heads” into hardened jaw mechanisms to assure even triggering. In short, there’s no advantage between dual- or single-jaw releases — at least when quality remains equal.

Another difference between caliper designs is how jaws are engaged. Basic designs include direct linkage, jaws that are biased to continually spring closed and levered open by squeezing the trigger, and those biased to spring open and “unlocked” during triggering (which also close only when the trigger is clicked forward, open when clicked back- ward). The latter are normally found in cheaper release models, and can cause accuracy issues, because spring action alone is responsible for clearing jaws from the path of whisking bowstrings/string-loops.

Top-quality products include precise, smooth-operating mechanisms mechanically forcing jaws open during trigger- ing, so even opening and bowstring/string-loop clearance is assured and accuracy maximized. Otherwise, no single design holds an accuracy advantage, the choice coming down to personal preference.

The connection between the release head and wrist strap also affects accuracy potential and shooting convenience. The more rigid the connecting system, the more torque potential is introduced. Conversely, a limp connector eliminates torque, but some control over the release head is sacrificed. A rigid release connector (Scott Little Goose) is always ready for action, but shooters must consciously avoid applying torque at full draw, though swivel heads and connectors help here. Rope connectors (T.R.U. Ball Shooter) automatically eradicate torque, but might require deliberately holding the release head to remain prepared for sudden shot opportunities.

A happy medium is found in nylon webbing (Jim Fletcher .44-Caliper) or something including soft rubber tubing (for control) over forgiving rope (T.R.U. Ball Fang RC or Tru-Fire Patriot Flex).

STRAPPED OR HANDHELD
Another difference is found between wrist straps and handheld designs. Wrist straps remain top sellers due to convenience (and tradition), because your release is always handy. That said, hand-held, thumb-activated releases such as Tru-Fire’s Edge 4, offer an accuracy advantage, allowing a more natural application of a back-tensioned, surprise release.

The Tru-Fire Hardcore Revolution 4 release doesn’t have a wrist strap or buckle, which some bowhunters prefer because it feels more comfortable.

Before adopting T-handles almost exclusively, I preferred mitt- or glove-style releases, because after adopting a string loop I found this style helped maintain an accustomed draw length, and also made pulling a given draw weight much easier. The design has now become quite limited (Winn Free Flight releases) or largely discontinued by major release companies.

Bowhunters are generally pretty set in their ways and slow to adopt anything different. Which is why, in my opinion, caliper-style releases have remained archery’s No. 1 seller in the age of nearly universal string loops. The average string-loop shooter would be much better served by a hook or open-sear release design, allowing nearly instant, no-look loading — a subject for another time.

Like any other archery accessory, you get what you pay for. Milled, evenly hardened parts, special coatings and adjustability cost more than sloppy, stamped-metal parts with fixed triggering tension, but provide crisp, clean cutaways even following tens of thousands of shots. Buy a cheap release and it might perform well while brand new, but depending on how much you shoot, a year or two down the road you’ll begin to notice an erosion in operational smoothness and crispness.

In the end, buy the best release you can afford, because it, after all, is the last contact between shooter and bowstring, and ultimately what bowhunting success hinges on.

smokeys