The importance of a quality release aid.
However, before I tell you how I answered him, I'd like to take you back a ways and talk about my transition from shooting with fingers to shooting with a release aid.
Ignorance Isn't Bliss
When I first started shooting a release aid, I was still in school and was extremely short on funds. So, I bought the cheapest release I could find. I shot that release for years--and I thought it was great. And it was great--compared to shooting with my fingers.
Well, I didn't figure out just how bad that release aid was until years later. The year I got out of college, I joined an archery league and another shooter let me use his expensive, well-made release aid. I was amazed at how well it worked. I was hooked!
I still have my first release aid. I pulled it out and used it recently, and I cringed when I shot it. The trigger traveled a good eighth of an inch, and it had a barely perceptible, grinding sensation along the way. Then it hung up and got hard to pull just before it fired. I'm surprised I didn't develop all sorts of mental afflictions from shooting this release aid for so long.
It's not just the old-style release aids that are bad. I get periodic reminders of just how bad some of the currently available release aids are when I help friends or kids tune their bows. I'll shoot their bows through paper, and when I do, I always use their release aids to recreate their shot. Some of the release aids I come across are terrible! I find myself aghast that someone would even consider using this junk.
Unfortunately, most of these shooters just don't know any better. They've become used to the release aid they're shooting because they've been using it for years.
As I said before, I too was "just a bowhunter" for a lot of years and quite content with my low-quality release aid. It was only when I began shooting competitive archery that I became a stickler for precision and consistency. I quickly learned just how important a quality release aid is to shooting well.
The most prevalent accuracy/ consistency problem we bowhunters have today is the nervous anticipation we experience just before the explosion of the shot. This anticipation is a form of target panic. We're afraid of missing. So, we devel4 all sorts of bizarre behavior we exhibit at the critical moment of the shot. The most common manifestation of this behavior is punching the trigger, but shaking, freezing under the spot, grabbing the bow and dropping the bow arm are also common. This is a tough malady to avoid, and it's even harder to cure once you've got it.
It seems counter-intuitive that we would create our own self-induced problems while we are trying to shoot better, but some type of accuracy self-destruction seems hard wired into most of us.
I believe one of the fastest ways to develop these anticipation problems is to use a release aid that gives signals that things are happening. Trigger travel, friction or any other signal that the release is getting close to going off sends our nervous system into hyper-drive. You're much better off using a release aid that has absolutely no movement and then breaks instantly and crisply--like a high-quality rifle trigger.
Back when I bought my first release aid, there were quite a few questionable release aids on the market. As a matter of fact, it was very difficult to fine a good one. That's not the case nowadays. If you stick with basic, tried-and-true designs made by leading manufacturers and if you lean toward the higher-end release aids, you should end up with a quality product.
As with nearly all products, just spending more money will not guarantee you a better release aid. But most of the time, price is commensurate with quality. There are many great manufacturers out there. Like any tool, you have to maintain your release aids and keep them clean. However, they are fairly simple machines and failures are rare.
Well, back to the beginning of this piece, when my buddy asked me if he should spend the money necessary to buy a quality release aid. I told my friend, who happens to be a construction worker, "A release aid is a tool. Every day, you work with tools. When you're framing a house, do you use a $100 framing hammer or do you use an $8, wooden-handled hammer like the one my wife keeps in her utility drawer? Both will get the job done. But I've seen you at work, and I know which one you use. The same logic applies to your release aid."
Next month, I'll expand on this theme and explain how to properly use a well-made release aid.