The high speed bows favored by hunters today require the use of a good mechanical bow release. Using your fingers to shoot a 60 or 70 pound bow is unrealistic. The mechanics and string angles also dictate the use of a release aid. Think of them as the critical link between a crisp and accurate shot, to one that jumps off the string, missing the target.
There are dozens of models to choose from, and it can be easy to get muddled down in the options. To help, we’ve compiled reviews from multiple websites and forums to create a list of the best bow release aids available. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned shooter, this guide will be helpful in finding the right bow release for your style of shooting.
|Bow Release:||Our Score*||Type:||Price:|
|Tru-Fire Hardcore Buckle Max Black||(4.7 / 5)||Wrist||$$$$|
|Scott Archery Little Goose||(4.7 / 5)||Wrist||$$$|
|Spot-Hogg Wiseguy||(4.6 / 5)||Wrist||$$$$|
|Cabela’s Marksman||(4.6 / 5)||Wrist||$$|
|Scott Archery Shark Buckle||(4.6 / 5)||Wrist||$$$|
|Tru-Fire Revolution||(4.6 / 5)||Thumb||$$$$$|
|Scott Archery Caliper Grip||(4.5 / 5)||Thumb||$$|
|Tru-Fire Edge 4 Camo||(4.4 / 5)||Thumb||$$$|
|T.R.U. Ball Max Hunter3||(4.3 / 5)||Thumb||$$$|
|T.R.U. Ball Max Pro 4||(4 / 5)||Thumb||$$$|
*Our Score is a composite score created by compiling review data from multiple sources and forums, with some input from our experience.
Best Wrist Release (Finger Trigger)
Wrist releases are the most popular form of bow release among hunters. They are easy to set up and adjust, reliable, and most important easy to use. The wrist release style has several sub-types of release mechanisms. There are the single and dual ball bearing caliper jaws, and the hook or “fang” style jaws that work great with string loop setups.
Consider the strap type when looking at a wrist release. Some will be hook and loop “Velcro” straps, and others will be buckle style. Straps tend to be cheaper, but can cause a “creaky” noise when flexed and under tension. Look for a wrist release with a fold away head, allowing the mechanism to tuck away while you get setup in your stand.
Tru-Fire Hardcore Max – Best Hook Style Wrist Release
The Hardcore Max is one of the more expensive bow releases you can buy, but this is another example where you get what you pay for. The Hardcore is built with excellent materials all around.
The buckle strap is thick, quiet, and comfortable, and even easy to remove thanks to the strap interface. Considering the thicker wrist strap, it will require a little bit of a break in period. It also isn’t the best bow release for women with smaller hands and wrists.
The release mechanism is well designed, with lots of possible adjustments. Firstly, the trigger pressure can be adjusted from a stout 16oz all the way down to a fine 3oz trigger. At that point bow hunters can actually shoot by using a back pressure technique. Second, there is a full 1 inch of length adjustment, and the head folds back when not needed.
Many archers have commented on how well the pivoting head (up to 20 degrees) works to reduce torque on their shots. The hook style attachment is one of the smoothest ways to engage the d-loop, especially when a quality shot presents itself and the pressure is on.
Scott Archery Little Goose
There’s really nothing little about the Little Goose. It’s a regular sized single caliper release, and a dang good at that. It’s only little when compared to the beefed up version of the same release, the Mongoose XT. This is a 5-hole buckle strap design, with lots of room for adjustment, from the wrist down to the trigger.
The wrist strap is built from genuine leather with some padding, earning it high marks for comfort. While it lacks the side to side swiveling of the Tru-Fire Hardcore Max, the head does have a solid swivel that helps reduce torsion on the bowstring.
The adjustment screws don’t appear to be high grade stainless steel, so be sure to clean your Little Goose after exposure to moisture. The trigger weight is adjustable via the small screw on the head. It’s sensitive enough to achieve a back tension release point, which can be a bonus for your accuracy. Overall the Little Goose is a high quality release that is adjustable for a wide range of bow hunters.
The Spot-Hogg Wiseguy may be the best bow release for those who prefer a very light trigger. While there is adjustable trigger set screw, it is still on the lighter side of release weights. That’s fine for a lot of shooters, but is something to be aware of if you like a heavier trigger.
There is a lot to like about the build of the Wiseguy. The head folds into the wrist and out of the way when not in use. The buckle strap is made from quality materials with padding for comfort. The string jaw attachment is a lot like the Little Goose, with an open design that makes hooking up to a d-loop easier.
Also similar to the Little Goose is the forward pointing trigger with zero travel design. Besides the buckle adjustment, I like the simplicity of the length adjustment on the releases head. It uses notched metal pieces and a screw for precise but secure positioning.
Best Handheld Release
More bow hunters are switching to the handheld style release every year. Hunting models typically are of the T-handle shape. If you want something more responsive, without the need to pull on a trigger, then a hand release may be worth trying. Another benefit of this style release is the small size and light weight. Since they are not attached to your arm they can be stowed in pockets or locked onto the bowstring.
Tru-Fire Hardcore Revolution – Best Thumb Release
Once again, Tru-Fire earns the top honor in the handheld release category with its Hardcore 4 Finger Revolution release. It has a bunch of new features that improve upon nearly everything that made the original Hardcore 4 finger release so great.
Firstly, the head is now free to rotate a complete 360 Revolution (see what they did there) on the handle. The rotation is silky smooth thanks to a ball bearing. What’s cool about the Revolution is that it can actually be locked in place once your rotation hits the right spot. While the Hardcore Revolution is highly adjustable, it is a fairly large release that may not be a good choice for hunters with smaller hands.
The thumb trigger has a whopping 16 possible positions. You would be hard pressed to not be able to tune this release to your bow. The wheel on the trigger has a very rough knurled finish, so beware that it may rough up your thumbs at first. Some archers have taken to putting a single wrap of tape over it to minimize the scratching.
Overall, the Tru-Fire Hardcore Revolution is likely the best thumb release for the money today. The quality build, high amount of adjustments, and the convenient lanyard and string clips make this model an excellent choice for bow hunters looking to move from a wrist to handheld release.
Scott Archery Caliper Grip – Best Handheld Finger Release
The Caliper Grip release is a hybrid type of bow release. It has a finger trigger like you’d find on a wrist strap release, but a handheld grip like you’d get in a T-handle release. The difference is how the handheld is oriented, just as it is on a wrist release. So if learning to reliably use a thumb release has been a challenge, then the hybrid Scott Archery Caliper Grip is a good release to try next.
So yes, the Caliper Grip is different, but is it any good? Having been on the market for a decade plus, it has absolutely proven itself to be one of the top bow release you can buy. The pistol grip style handle is machined from aluminum, and has great handling thanks to the overmolded rubber grip. There is a loop for a lanyard, or you can clip the caliper jaws to your d-loop.
The head is simple but effective. The length is adjusted by the small screw at the base of the grip, and rotates 360 degrees on a swivel connector. The jaws are the dual caliper configuration, and trigger itself has light knurling on it to impart instant tactile control when you go to shoot. If you prefer a finger trigger, but dislike the bulk of a wrist strap, the Scott Archery Caliper Grip is an excellent choice for a bow release.
Tru-Fire Edge 4
The Edge 4 is another nice thumb release from Tru-Fire. It’s not as fancy as the Hardcore Revolution release, but it’s a solid shooter that comes at a lower price. The main differences you’ll see with this release is the trigger mechanism and the jaws. The Revolution has a hook that holds the string, where Edge 4 has the caliper style jaws that many hunters seem to prefer.
Like the Revolution, the head swivels a full 360, but without the ball bearing. The trigger stroke and tension can both be adjusted using the set screws in the handle. Like other Tru-Fire releases, the trigger barrel has an aggressive knurl that some people seem to like, but for other is very hard on the hands.
Another positive point is the slim handle shape. Where some will find the Hardcore Revolution to be too bulky, others will find the Edge 4 to lay perfectly in the fingers. If you want to invest in a really good handheld caliper release, but want simpler range of adjustments, then the Edge 4 is a smart option.
Wrist vs Hand Release – What you need to Know
Release Mechanism – The popular wrist release has an index finger trigger. They are small mechanical calipers where the d-loop is released by squeezing the trigger. A hand release utilizes your thumb or back tension to release the shot.
It sounds strange, but on many hand release aids your thumb won’t actually squeeze the trigger on this type of release. As you pull, the tension in the muscles between your shoulders builds and naturally causes your release hand to trigger the release. The hand release is becoming more popular because hunters feel like its smoother, without the “jumpiness” of an index finger release.
Anchor Point – Your anchor is the position of your hand at the point of release. With a wrist strap style release, you can make adjustments in the strap length, change the angle of your hand, or change the reference point where you put your hand on your cheek. With a handheld release, you may find it to improve the consistency of your anchor point as well as your accuracy.
Attachment – The wrist release is worn on your arm, pretty much at all times. While that’s pretty convenient a lot of times, it can also get in the way. Even if it can fold away, the metal head is always dangling off your arm. If you’re not careful, it will clatter and rattle off your gear, and snag on your camo. A handheld release can be stored in a hip pocket, or in your day pack until you need it. Some models have a locking jaw that allows you to clip it to your d-loop.
Amount of Adjustment – Besides the straps and buckles, a wrist release usually offers several methods of adjustment; the angle the trigger sits at, the trigger tension, and the amount of travel to activate the trigger. Hand releases are much more adjustable and customizable. You can tweak the trigger pull force and travel, as well as the angles and sizes that dictate the release position. With some work and practice, a hand release can be fully customized to you and your setup.
String Compatibility – The release must be compatible with the serving on your bow. Whether you use string d-loops, metal tabs, or string fasteners, it’s critical that your release is designed for use with that type of attachment point
Noise – For target practice and competitions, a release that makes a clicking noise is not important. Obviously as hunters, we don’t want that. All of our best bow release picks are designed for hunting, and shoot silently.
Target Panic Cure? – Of the two main types of release aids, those with a manual trigger (finger or thumb) tend to lead to target panic. Some common signs of target panic are an inability to hold aim on the center of a target, an overwhelming urge to shoot quicker than you’d like, or jumpiness at the moment of release.
The handheld release that uses back tension can help alleviate target panic for some bow hunters. The reason is simple. Since the mechanism doesn’t rely on a trigger being pulled, it forces the archer to execute a proper shot. The trigger is only tripped when the tension pulls your thumb into the button, releasing the arrow.
Choose What’s Best for You
Just remember that your bow release is a critical component of your setup. It may be tempting to cheap out on the other components when you’ve dropped big bucks on a compound bow. Investing in a top bow release will ensure you get the best performance from your bow.
If you are newer to bow hunting a good wrist release will be a great choice as you gain experience. They are reliable and offer the most control. Look into handhelds when you desire more adjustment options, sensitive triggers, and a more natural release mechanism.
Photo Credit: SnipeCoN, Product photos courtesy Cabela’s.com.