Release aids aren’t the flashiest archery accessories. But unless you’ve mastered shooting fingers, you’re going to need a reliable release to arrow any animal.
Between hooks, calipers, triggers, wrist straps, and handhelds, you’ll find dozens of different combinations in the archery aisle. So while the best bow release aid ultimately comes down to personal preference, it doesn’t hurt to have some avid bowhunters weigh in on the decision.
We’ve pulled the trigger on just about every style of release aid, and these are our favorites.
Jump to: The Bow Releases We Use
There’s no one set of criteria to find the best release aid.
A good release will boast a crisp trigger and minimize torque at the shot. But the best option will depend on what type of hunting you plan to do, your experience and skill level, any bad habits you’ve picked up along the way, and—most importantly—that subjective “feel” that makes a release your Goldilocks fit.
Some whitetail hunters love the option to leave their bow hanging from a tree with a thumb release hooked onto the D-loop until a buck strolls by. Many western hunters want a release that will stay secure on their wrist as they trek miles across tough terrain.
If you’re prone to losing gear in the backcountry or dropping essentials from your treestand, a release that features a wrist strap might be a good idea.
Struggle with target panic? You might want to try a back tension release.
And if you’re not getting the right fit or performance from factory settings, a release that allows for adjusting trigger tension, travel, size, and other is probably in order.
Generally, you want a bow release that fits you just right, feels comfortable in your hand, reinforces good form, and offers the settings you need to consistently hit the bullseye.
But don’t just take our word for it—test a few out at your local pro shop.
Jump to: Field Notes
We’ve swapped out hand-helds for wrist straps and toyed with index finger or thumb triggers over the years. After testing the water on all different types, we narrowed down the list to our four favorite bow releases.
Hot Shot Nano
B3 Hawk Flex
Mark and Janis’s Pick
STAN PerfeX Heavy Metal Long Neck Thumb Release
TruFire Edge Buckle Foldback
|Highlight||Best Budget||Best Index Finger||Best Thumb Trigger||Most Comfortable|
|Style||Wrist Strap||Wrist Strap||Hand-Held||Wrist Strap|
|String Connect||Cat’s Eye Hook||Open Hook||Open Hook||Dual Caliper|
|Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes|
At $60, the Hot Shot Nano is affordable enough that you can invest in a couple back-ups for when you inevitably drop one en route to your stand or forget the other at home. But that doesn’t mean this index finger release skimps on performance.
"I'm a little OCD about my releases, so if I find one that works, I stick with it," Tony said. "My favorite for the last decade has been the Hot Shot Nano. It's as adjustable as any wrist-strap release on the market but also offers such a crisp trigger."
The high-strength tether ribbon prevents torque, while multiple wrist-strap designs provide plenty of options to find the right fit.
"It's hard to describe, but it's so easy for me to get the surprise release I want with the Nano, that I just can't bring myself to switch to something else," Tony said. "Plus, this is one of the most affordable releases on the market, yet it'll last you for many, many seasons."
Mark loves the B3 Archery Hawk Flex so much, he got Janis hooked on the index finger release too.
"When my archery coach recommended I switch away from a back tension release and use an index finger model again, in an effort to reclaim control of my shot, this is the model he recommended," said Mark. "It's worked great, and I haven't looked back since switching."
B3’s flex connector allows for moving a single screw in and out to fit the release to any hand size, so it’s a versatile option for bowhunters of just about any age or build.
"This index finger release is simple and easy to adjust, and it features a crisp, clean-breaking trigger" Mark said.
When Jason decided to correct course by changing up his release, he reached for this thumb trigger style.
"I had developed some bad habits with the typical wrist strap releases and needed to fix them to make myself a better archer and be more successful while hunting," Jason said. "The STAN PerfeX Heavy Metal Long Neck Thumb Release has a lot of adjustment to set the trigger heavy and force me to pull through the shot, but in hunting situations, I’m still able to force the shot if needed."
The PerfeX helps produce smooth, consistent shots and comes with a variety of interchangeable parts for every archer to find the right fit and feel.
"I found this STAN model was a perfect fit for a guy with a large hand, and I liked the weight of the release," Jason said. "Not to mention I love not hiking around the mountains without a wrist release all the time."
I bought a TruFire Edge Buckle Foldback when I started bowhunting 15 years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. I’ve tried testing out other styles and models, but I hated using anything that wasn’t my ol’ reliable.
This release has enough adjustability to stay secure on my tiny wrists, the compact head folds back out of the way when I’m climbing into my stand, and the leather strap is incredibly comfortable. It shoots crisp and smooth.
This thing has survived 15 years, and it’s still going strong.