You need to protect yourself when doing arhery (although not like this samurai)

Archery protective gear: don’t shoot without these

When we start any activity we are eager to get into it right away. However, it is important to be protected and archery is no exception (although we don’t need to dress like a full armored samurai). We will review here all the archery protective gear you need.

Better safe than sorry

Every sport, or job, has its risks and, if we follow all safety measures, we won’t have any problem with it. In archery, there are two types of security measures. On the one hand, in my opinion, the most important set of measures, we have what I call behavioral measures or social measures. This type of security measures has to do with our behavior in the shooting range, mainly concerning other shooters.

For example, do not shoot if there is someone beyond the firing line, or if there is someone who has not yet returned from removing their arrows from the target, just to name a few. If you are interested in security measures at the shooting range, you can follow this post, where I list the main things you have to keep in mind when you are at a shooting range (they are inspired by the regulations that are hanging at the entrance of the shooting range in the club I attend). In other less regulated places (such as an open field in case you go hunting), it is essential to be careful that there are no other hunters in the area that may be injured.

Archery protective equipment

The other category of archery safety is related to the protection of the shooter himself, that is, you. For your safety, it is not enough to follow the rules, but we also need to have special equipment for it.

Luckily, archery is not a dangerous discipline per se. If we follow all the safety rules of a shooting range there should be no problem. Moreover, archery protective gear is more related to preventing minor injuries, although not less bothersome.

I want to clarify that the protective equipment that I mention in this article is mainly oriented to recurve bows and longbows, although some compound archers also use some of this equipment. In the case of compound bows, the only protective accessory that is often used is the arm guard (read below). Please note that I don’t include the release on this post, mainly because it’s (as its name suggests) to aid the release, and not for protecting the fingers.

The most important of all protective gear: the finger tab

For me, the most important archery protective gear is the finger tab or simply tab. It is possible to draw the bow and shoot an arrow without a finger tab. This is even easier if we are talking about low poundage bows (<30 lbs). We will feel, at most, a little discomfort at the fingertips.

However, during an archery session, we shoot an average of at least 100 arrows. Therefore, with successive shots, that discomfort will increase up to the point of starting to hurt. Even more, this pain may continue for several days. To avoid this discomfort/pain, it is necessary to use a finger tab. 

There are several models and shapes, especially for different types of archery. In the case of the recurve bow, whether your shooting style is instinctive, barebow or Olympic, this accessory is a kind of leather pad that fits the size of the hand, particularly the three fingers used to take the string. In the most professional variants, the protector comes with a metal base that rests on the palm, giving the shooter a better anchoring consistency. Some even come with an appendix to rest the little finger, or also an accessory to support under the jaw (in case you are anchoring there).

Barebow finger tab protector

In the practice of the barebow style, it is very common to use the three-under finger technique, so you are easily able to walk the string. If you are a barebow shooter (or want to be), I recommend this useful article to know how to walk the string easily and quickly.

These finger protectors have the whole leather pad, without any cut, as do those used with the two-one technique (two fingers below the nock and one above). This design is useful to be able to take the string with all three fingers together.

Moreover, to have a better precision on how much we walk the string, some models have a graduation in the metallic part that rests on the palm. This aggregate is very useful, as it allows us to know, for a given distance, how many marks we should walk. Also, it is important to always carry a small pocket notebook to write down these quantities, to know in the future how much you have to walk the string at different distances, and in different conditions (indoors, outdoors, different wind speeds, etc.).

Decut has a good model of barebow style finger tab, the Decut Barbi. You can check its price on Amazon here (affiliate link).

Olympic finger tab

Unlike the barebow style, Olympic style includes other accessories (such as the sight, or stabilizer bars). Not only this, but it also changes the way of anchoring our hand, mainly due to the inclusion of the sight. In this style, the string is usually taken with the two-one technique as we saw above. As the arrow nock is between our index and middle fingers, the leather part of our finger tab must have a cut, so as it doesn’t alter the natural trajectory of the string and the arrow. Most archery accessories brands make this type of tabs, such as Cartel, Avalon or Fivics, among others. A good tab from Avalon, is the Avalon Classic. An excellent finger tab model, more professional, is the Fivics Saker 1. Here you can see a review of this model.

Traditional style finger tab

For those that practice a more traditional style of archery, they use a glove instead of a finger tab, like those seen in the previous section. They’re made of hard fabric, with cow leather in their fingertips for better finger protection. Most of them are a whole glove (except the pinky finger and the thumb) with a strap for the wrist, like this model from ArcheryMax (affiliate link).

The gloves are symmetric, so they can be used either by left or right-handed shooters.

Protective gear for the forearm

Taken from mimbles Flikr account

If you ever shot without any protective gear, it surely happened to you that the string hit like a whip in the forearm. Generally, that happens (among other things), because you have the elbow of the bow arm turned inward and, therefore, the forearm gets in the way of the string.

Rotating the elbow outwards is enough to avoid being hit by the string. However, by mistake, we can inadvertently turn the elbow, or tighten the string slightly outwards and bam! a bruise on the forearm.

To prevent this from happening it is advisable to use protective gear on the forearm. The arm protector (or forearm protector) is exactly that. It is an accessory (for those who like soccer, it is similar to a shin-guard), with elastic straps that are placed on the forearm of the arm that holds the bow. It is placed on the side of the arm that is opposite the elbow. Then, if the string hits, it will do so on the guard, taking care of our arm.

What happens if I don’t use a forearm protector?

Rigorously speaking, nothing bad will happen. As I mentioned above, in the case where the string hits the arm, it will produce a small bruise, although small is relative. Some people only suffer a small bruise or even nothing visible, and some people have bruises that seem to have fallen from the tenth floor.

It is very common, too, for bruises to appear by the end of the day, several hours after the accident, or even the next day. And, whether bruises appear or not, it can leave a nuisance or small pain for a few hours. However, it is not considered a serious injury in archery.

If you want to know a little more about the most common injuries in archery, I recommend you to read this article.

What forearm protector should I choose?

Like the finger tab, depending on the style of archery you practice, the forearm protectors suggested are different. Luckily, unlike finger tabs (or chest guards), forearms are ambidextrous and one size fits all, so here you have one less problem to worry about. This is particularly helpful for lefties (like me) because, sometimes, left-handed equipment is a bit more difficult to find than right-handed ones.

For recurve and compound bow

Whether to compete or when hunting, it is always advisable to use the protector. Particularly in these two cases, mainly recurve and compound bows are used. The ideal protector for this should be thin and not very bulky, so as not to hinder the movement and, therefore, the shot. The cheapest models are usually plastic, like this one (affiliate link). Others, more expensive, are made of aluminum/epoxy, like the Cartel Infitec (check its price).

For traditional archery

This style, as the name implies, is more related to the traditional, more in touch with the use of the bow in medieval times. And, as in this era, protective accessories used to be made of leather. Today, there are several models, from those that protect only the front part of the forearm to those that cover everything, like a leather sleeve. They also usually come engraved with motifs and drawings, to give it a more handmade style. Here you can check a black leather arm guard. You can also check this other, made by ArcheryMax.

Chest protector

This last accessory is somewhat problematic to classify. Some consider it’s protection and others do not. Both are right and I will explain why.

When we release the string, it can brush our clothes, altering its trajectory and that of the arrow. Therefore, the chest guard is placed on the pectoral of the arm that takes the bow. For instance, for right-handed shooters, the chest guard goes on the left shoulder and the right shoulder for left-handed archers.

In this way, the main function of the chest guard is to keep the clothes as close to our bodies as possible. Also, it provides a more uniform surface so that, if the string rubs, it does so against the protector, reducing the alteration of the shot. Moreover, for this reason, it is recommended not to wear very loose clothing. If you want to know a little more about the type of clothing suitable for archery, you can check this article, which is one of the most visited in this blog.

As we can see, the chest guard is not fulfilling the function of protecting us, but rather of helping not to alter the shot. However, some people say that sometimes these rubs are not such, and they feel that the string hits their chest. Although the chest guards are rather soft, it is sufficient if you want to use them with the double function of being also protection.

Which chest guard do I choose?

Just like the finger tab, as the chest guard goes around the shoulder, you should choose one according to your dominant eye. If you don’t know how to determine your dominant eye, you can see this post. You also have to pay attention to the size. 

In my case, I use an Easton model (like the one in the picture) for lefties, and it works wonders for me. If you like it, you can look for it here.


For your convenience, I’ll list below all the options seen in the article.

Finger tabs and gloves

Arm guards

Chest guards


Throughout this article, we saw different accessories that serve as protection at the moment of shooting. We also saw that they come in versions for left and right-handed shooters, as well as different sizes

I hope this article has been helpful to know what to need to protect you from harm. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below.

Before ending let me suggest a couple of things more. If you are starting archery (or planning to), I invite you to go through our step-by-step guide on how to get started. Here you will find everything you need to start throwing arrows in a few minutes. You should also check if you have all the archery essential equipment to start, together with the archery protective gear.

If you already started practicing, you may find our list of the most common beginner mistakes a really helpful resource. In this article, you will see the most common things we usually do when we start practicing archery. And I remark the WE, since I also made some of them in my beginning. You can also check these tips to improve your form in a few steps.

Good arrows!


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