Archery tech explained: How a hinge release works

Q: Can you explain how a hinge release works?

A: The last decade of competitive compound archery has undoubtedly seen a significant trend away from the thumb-trigger release to the hinge or back tension model.  One could argue that the thumb trigger is still the majority choice at elite level, but the switch to the hinge, especially among the major podium contenders, cannot be denied. 

It would be fair to say, that early on, the back tension style release was viewed predominantly as a training aid, especially useful for those experiencing anticipation and aiming problems with the thumb trigger.  Those who favour its use, will argue that it is the most efficient and “purest” method of shot processing, with very few cons, to oppose a considerable majority of pros.  Manufacturers today have brought all sorts of clever refinements to enhance the basic principles of the hinge, with the advent of the ‘click’, to fine-tune the timing of the shot, and safety mechanisms, to avoid the concern of drawing to anchor, without premature firing.

Basically, the release utilises a half-moon shape pivoting around a pin that dictates the release sensitivity.  The hinge simply moves freely on a second pin often referred to as a gate.  Holding the bow string maintains gate contact with the half moon.  Now as the archers manipulates rotation, the gate moves around the half moon, until it reaches the edge.  Once it passes the edge, the release will fire. 

To cause a hinge release to activate requires rotation, and there are a cross-section of methods employed by leading archers. The most popular involves scapula engagement and a pulling motion to bring the shot to fruition.  Many employ the click mechanism which can be set to signal that the release is close to firing, and very little motion is then needed to cause the shot to break. The top American 3D and indoor competitor Levi Morgan, however, uses finger tension transfer, rather than actual scapula motion, to process execution. 

The exceptional professional achiever Jesse Broadwater shoots with what he describes as a relaxing of the holding finger, but this can create a weak shot for the average compounder if not perfected. Reo Wilde developed a highly publicised product with T.R.U. Ball called the HBX.  This release actually pivots, and opens up, which allows the first finger to be less of an impediment to the pull and consequently permits a variety of pulling and finger tension methods to activate it.

In the very simplest terms, the hinge release is drawn to anchor with the thumb and forefinger, the remaining fingers inactive.  At anchor, the thumb disengages from the post, and the second, third, and fourth fingers, either singularly, or in harmony, overpower the index finger, causing the rotation needed for the release to fire.

This transfer of tension from the forefinger to the remaining fingers then becomes the method of choice for the compound exponent.  If increased finger tension is deliberate, it will be obvious to the observer, if a lessening of forefinger hold is the primary action, the rotation will be less noticeable, and if scapula motion or back tension, is the option past a click, then little or no activity will be obvious by even a careful observer.

Practice very close to attain that expertise on a blank bale at the outset. Like all other releases, the archer needs to settle on a method of execution quickly which provides most comfortable feeling, and resist the human urge to seek assessment and ongoing change, which defeats the primary prerequisite for ongoing accuracy, duplicative form and execution.

It’s not for every archer, but if  you’ve never experienced execution with a back tension hinge release, it may well give you the feel, trust, and confidence you need, to be the best you can be. Roy Rose

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