Oh, the all important armguard. With all the available archery accessories out there, the armguard is often overlooked. In fact many advanced archers don’t even use them. But for the beginning archer, the armguard is absolutely necessary. It’s just a matter of time before you hit your forearm with the string and break all the blood vessels in a three-inch swathe. It’ll take a couple days for the swelling goes down, but the bruise will linger for a week.
Armguards are worn on the inside of your bow arm, somewhere between your elbow and wrist. It should be worn snug enough to not slip around. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials and attach around your arm with straps, buckles, Velcro, or string. In ancient times they were fashioned out of leather. Nowadays, it’s mostly stiff plastics, fabric, and cushioned material. You could easily make one out of duct tape if you were so inclined. The important factor is that you have something to protect your arm while you’re learning proper form and techniques.
Obviously the armguard serves to avoid hitting your forearm and wrist with the bowstring, but it also holds bulky clothing out of the string’s path. If the string contacts anything during the shot, then the arrow will be thrown off trajectory.
The most important reason to wear an armguard is so you don’t develop target panic. Target panic is caused by flinching. If you have a very painful experience in the beginning, then you’ll anticipate the shot and lose your focus. You’ll jerk the string loose instead of letting it release on its own. Remember, the release of the arrow should always be a surprise; the result of your back muscles squeezing together, not your fingers letting go. If you develop target panic early on, it could take months to fix it. So it’s best to avoid it by wearing an armguard.
Hitting yourself with a string (string slap) is easily avoided by holding the bow correctly. Remember to hold the bow with your elbow bent slightly outward. If you lock your elbow inward—a common newbie mistake—then you’ll inevitably hit your arm. At the same time, don’t bend your elbow too much or it will force your arm muscles to do the work instead of your arm bones.
If you still have problems with the string hitting your arm, then it’s likely caused by two other factors:
- Short brace height. Brace height is the distance between the bowstring and the bow grip when the bow is at rest. Most bows are somewhere between seven and ten inches. If the string is too long for your bow (traditional bows only), then you’ll have a short brace height. Upon release, the bow will pull the string into your wrist. You can easily remedy this problem by buying a slightly shorter string.
- Over-gripping your bow. This happens when you rotate your wrist too far around the grip and let the bow settle in the center of your hand. Remember, the bow should settle at the base of your palm and in-line with your forearm. Over-gripping pulls your wrist into the bowstring’s path.
So much for the basics! I’ve touched on a lot of information here, but in the end just remember to wear an armguard. If you practice with proper form, then soon you won’t even have to wear one.