9 Beginner archery mistakes (and how to fix them)

When we start doing any activity, we are full of beginner mistakes, and, archery is not the exception. There are even intermediate or advanced shooters (which are the least) who still have some bad habits hard to remove.

When you start, there are more beginner mistakes in archery than hits (pun intended, sorry but I’m a kind of a joker, a really, really bad one). But don’t worry, I’m not here to start nagging at you, making mistakes is one of the most common things in the world. Moreover, it would be odd if a beginner doesn’t do any of these things. 

To avoid letting those mistakes settle down in your technique, I made a research and collected 9 of the most common beginner mistakes in archery or bad habits and, luckily, I’ll share with you tips on how you can fix them.

One of the worst beginner mistakes in archery: Don’t do a dry firing 

Dry fire a bow is, probably, the most common (and worse) beginner mistake in archery. We call dry firing when you draw a bow up to a full draw without and arrow and release the string. We know that people don’t do it on purpose. Maybe they want to test the arrow draw weight or to feel the bow and the string on your hands. But dry firing is very dangerous, both for you and the bow. When you draw a bow it bends, accumulating a lot of potential energy on the string. When you release the string, the potential energy accumulated is transferred to the arrow as kinetic energy, making it leave the bow at a huge speed.

If you do it without an arrow, all that potential energy is abruptly distributed throughout the bow, mainly to the limbs. All that energy-releasing will stress the bow, and there’s a possibility the is harms it. This possibility might not be too high but, with successive dry firings, it will increase over time, and so the probability of the bow to break during a draw, resulting in hurting the shooter (a.k.a. you). So, avoid dry firing. And, if you buy your bow and invite some friends to show it to them, please be very clear and warn them not to do it.

If you do it without an arrow, all that potential energy is abruptly distributed throughout the bow, mainly to the limbs. All that energy-releasing will stress the bow, and there’s a possibility the is harms it. This possibility might not be too high but, with successive dry firings, it will increase over time, and so the probability of the bow to break during a draw, resulting in hurting the shooter (a.k.a. you). So, avoid dry firing. And, if you buy your bow and invite some friends to show it to them, please be very clear and warn them not to do it.

Test syndrome

Although this is one of the beginner mistakes in archery, it often happens in other disciplines as well. This kind of problem happens mostly with people that take classes with an instructor. When people are learning for their first time at an archery club, they listen from their instructor all the indication to make a good shot (the stance, the feet, grabbing the arrow, drawing, forming a T with their torso, aiming, etc., etc.). Then, when it’s their turn to shot, they feel like they’re being evaluated by their instructor, and they’ll mentally grade their shot, and try to do exactly all he/she said … and do half of those things. The problem is that they try to incorporate all that stuff at once, and they mess up. They may grab the arrow but forgot the stance, or try setting the anchor point and forget to straighten their bow arm. Don’t be so worried, you are there to learn. If you managed to do some of them, then the instructor will let you shoot a couple of times so you get used to those things you grasped. Then, you shoot, the instructor will start correcting them, one by one, so they don’t overwhelm you with all that information. And you’ll easily and quickly incorporate them unconsciously.

Fear of the string

As I mentioned in the previous subject, when you draw an arrow, I recommend you to get used to set the anchor point in the same spot consistently, and (at least for me) the best spot is touching the corner of my mouth with the index finger’s nail. By doing this, you will be touching your face with the string when aiming. One of the most common things people do when they start archery training is having an excessive fear of the string. I don’t know if they are afraid that, when they release the string, it will bounce and hit them in the face, or when it’s released it will cut their ears. Consequently, this fear will make them unable to aim properly, or even will make the arrow leave the bow in any direction. So, my recommendation for this is don’t be afraid of the string. It won’t face-slap you, it won’t cut your cheek with its speed. When you start shooting and shot a couple of rounds, you’ll see that nothing happens and you’ll start losing your fears. However, it is true that, sometimes, it’s possible that the string slaps in your forearm. Because of this, it’s advisable to wear arm protection whenever you are practicing. It will protect your forearm from a string slap, although occasionally you might return home with a little bruise (don’t worry, it won’t hurt, take it as a souvenir).


This one is closely related to the fear of the string. Sometimes people aim and shoot with fear, and unconsciously flinch when they release. This flinch can cause your steadiness to fail, and your shot can be altered. An easy way to avoid it is to inhale when you draw and hold your breath while you aim. Focus on the target, count to three and release. Holding your breath will help to concentrate on the shot, and reduce the chances of flinching. Then, with time and practice, you’ll do it automatically, and the flinching will disappear (only when shooting).

Using too many fingers (you only need 3)

This is one of the least frequent beginner mistakes in archery. Drawing a bow should be an instinctive movement. So, if you feel that naturally, you want to draw it with, let’s say, two, three or even four fingers it’s ok, as long as you feel comfortable with it. However, most commonly, all instructors recommend using exactly three fingers for the drawing, and I’ll explain to you why. There are usually two ways of putting the three fingers. One way, more suitable for beginners, is putting the three fingers right below the nock of the arrow, nearly touching it. The other way, called the split-finger technique and is mostly used by intermediate and advanced archers, is putting the arrow nock between the index and middle finger, leaving one above and two below. If we use more than three fingers (i.e. four, it would be odd to see someone using also the thumb to draw), then the angle that the string forms when we are at full draw will stack the fingers, making it uncomfortable to shoot. On the contrary, if we use one or two fingers, all the force that the string is doing to our fingers during the draw will be distributed on fewer points. This means that, imagine you are drawing a 30 pounds bow with just one finger, then all the 30 pounds will be done by just one finger. In the case we do it with three fingers, it will be 10 pounds on each finger. To give an example, fill a plastic shopping bag with several things (put it 30 pounds of goods) and grab it with one of your hands. Then, remove the fingers one by one and feel the weight of the bag on them. You’ll notice that, as long as you keep removing fingers, the pain in those that remain is much bigger. The same happens when pulling the string of the bow.

Dropping the arrow

This problem appears mostly when you do the “split-finger” draw. As you know, when you are ready to draw, the arrow is resting in the nocking point and the arrow rest. It can happen that, when you are now, due to tension or anxiety you may tight your index and middle finger too much, squeezing the nock of the arrow with them. By doing this, you’ll be touching the arrow, and any movement you make with your draw hand may knock the arrow of the rest. To fix this, it’s better to either use the “three fingers below” technique, or open both fingers a bit, and leave a space for the arrow, just enough to not touch it.

Some beginner shooters also tend to grip the string too tightly. By doing this, when you close your hand, your fingers curl inwards, and you’ll be applying a twist to the string. This twist will make the arrow drop. The correct position of the hand is forming a straight line between the back of the hand and the forearm. This way you won’t be twisting the string.

Taking too much to aim

It’s correct to take your time and aim before releasing the arrow, but sometimes, some people just take too much time to do it. Theoretically, there’s nothing bad about taking some extra time aiming. But, in practice, the longer the time you take to aim, the longer you’ll have your bow at full draw. So, paradoxically, if you take too much time aiming, your arms are going to tire and you’ll start shaking, losing aim. So, usually, you should spend between 3 to 5 seconds to aim. That time is more than enough to aim. If for any reason, you were unable to aim properly at that time, it’s preferable to let the bow down, and start the process again. For some people, mostly hunters, letting down is just nonsense, and they think that a good archer should aim until they have a clear shot. Well, that’s partially true but, if you can’t aim for whatever reason it is and you don’t let down, you’ll be tiring your arms and handicapping your shot. For people who like hunting with bows, either recurve or composite, letting down is key. If you don’t do it properly, you risk making too much noise and scaring the prey. So, they prefer to wait for the perfect shot instead of taking the risk of making noise, which is perfectly understandable. But, if you are more like a target shooter, it’s ok to let down to retry the shot.

Moving the feet

We already mentioned in our post about how to start archery the importance of the stance, and now I’m going to explain to you why. It’s very common among beginner shooters to lift their feet after a shot, balancing their weight from one foot to another, like stretching and relaxing muscles. But, as soon as they do that, they lose their position. 

We know that archery is about precision, but it’s not just precision as is. Archery is about finesse and consistency. Of course, it’s important to go hit in the gold, but most importantly is being able to do it as many times as we can. For instance, in a tournament, during the three shots, if the archer hit the first arrow in the gold, it’s wonderful, but completely useless if the other two hit on the edges of the target. Avoiding this is only done through consistency and, to achieve it, we have to be able to repeat as exactly as possible the same conditions of the previous shots. One of these conditions is the stance. If you move your feet after each shot, you’ll probably be standing in a spot different from the one you were before the shot. You can be as close as possible, but it’s nearly impossible to be the same. Even half an inch makes a difference. Imagine if you shift the tip of your arrow half an inch, magnified by the distance it has to fly, and it’ll most likely hit way far from the target’s center.

It’s true that when you go to pick the arrows from the target you’ll lose the stance but, as long as you can avoid it during the round, the better.

Focusing too much on equipment

This one isn’t particularly a beginner mistake in archery or a bad habit, but generates a wrong idea in the student’s mind and makes him/her focus on other things. They start to grow the idea that to be a better archer you need better and, thus, expensive equipment. This often happens when those students are around old students who were exactly like them when they started, and that mindset tries to proliferate. Advanced shooters tend to need better equipment to achieve a level of finesse that is more difficult without them, like a good sight in case they are practicing Olympic archery or a string release. Better quality risers and limbs also offer better quality shots but, unless you master the technique (and practice a lot, of course), that expensive equipment can do little for you. Imagine starting learning to drive a car using Schumacher’s Ferrari or James Bond’s Aston Martin. If you don’t learn to master the controls, the cars won’t “drive well” for you. So, if you are starting, get some beginner’s equipment which is not expensive at all and then, when you start to improve your shooting, then you can move to more expensive gear. Sometimes, there are beginner shooters that have a small budget or aren’t sure if they like archery that much and search for used, in good condition, equipment (if you want to know the life expectancy of a bow, check this post). So, there’s even a used market on eBay, Amazon or your local shooting club to sell your old beginner’s gear.  


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