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Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
Archery is a great sport that is enjoyed by many people across the world. Because archery has a history dating back hundreds of years, there is a lot of gear to consider for beginners.
One of the most common questions from beginners is, “do you need gloves for archery?”
The answer varies depending on what your goal is. Whether you are hunting, hobby target shooting or competing. No matter what, you will want some kind of protection on your drawing/string hand. This protection might be a glove, a tab, or another form of hand protection.
So, let’s get into the various forms of protection, their pros and cons, and which one is best suited to you.
In the end, I will also discuss some other archery gear.
Why You Need Protection
Archery gloves and tabs intend to protect the fingers of the archer from injury. Repeatedly firing a bow without some kind of protection on your fingers can lead to damage or, at the very least, tough callouses on your fingers.
Bowstrings are made from highly durable materials that are placed under high tension when in use. Your hands are not nearly as durable and will need protection to prevent injury from the bowstring.
Yes, before modern advancements, archers would shoot without protection. However, their bowstrings were less durable, and their bows less powerful.
Archers of the past also relied on archery to provide for themselves, whether that be through food or protection. So, they often began practice as kids and would shoot until their hands went numb from nerve damage, and they developed large callouses on their fingers.
Most people today have jobs that require manual dexterity, which can reduce from shooting without protection.
Without any protection, you are putting hands at risk for damage that can vary in severity. Common injuries include:
- Open wounds
- Nerve damage in your hand
To avoid these injuries, you will want to have some form of protection. The three main types are archery tabs, gloves, and finger savers.
Another reason to use protection is accuracy. Gloves and tabs, especially, help archers with their release. The release is the point where you let go of the bowstring.
Your release should be well-practiced and repeatable. Without protection, your fingers will become injured or fatigued, and you will not be able to repeat the same method of release.
Tab or Glove
Now that you know you need some kind of protection, you need to choose the one that suits you. The two most common are gloves and tabs. However, finger savers are also an option worth considering for some archers.
Which option you choose is mainly up to personal preference. Let discuss some of the common considerations when selecting your finger protection.
Archery gloves go over your draw hand. You will generally put the glove on when you begin shooting and take it off when you are done.
Archery glove pros:
- Thick and durable
- Provides maximum protection
- Can grab arrows or do other tasks other than shooting
Archery glove cons:
- Loss of sensitivity
An archery glove is an excellent choice for anyone except competitors. They are not suited to competition due to the decreased sensation that results from the thickness of the glove.
However, that thickness provides maximum protection, which is fantastic for beginners who may be a bit more hesitant with their bow use in the beginning.
Finger tabs are threaded over your three draw fingers and must be taken off when performing other tasks.
Finger tab pros:
- Increased sensitivity
- a smoother surface gives greater accuracy
Finger tab cons:
- Only protects three fingers
- Must be removed to perform tasks other than shooting
- Can easily be lost due to small size
Generally, the best option for those in competition because they offer maximum feedback from the bowstring.
Still need some help picking? Check out this super handy guide.
Archery gloves are well-suited to beginners because they offer the most protection of any of the available options. This added protection will help new archers feel confident with their draw as they feel less risk of injury.
Gloves are made of thick material, usually leather.
Because they are worn for the entire time you are shooting, they may wear out quicker. This is because the gloves receive wear from not just shooting but from other tasks such as grabbing arrows.
The thickness of the material also means a loss in finger sensitivity.
Gloves range in price from $9 to $20.
Tabs are great for competitive archers because they offer the most feedback from the string. The trade-off is that they do not provide as much protection and must be taken off when performing other tasks.
Tabs are also usually made of leather, but the material is thinner, which provides the archer with higher sensitivity to the bowstring. Maximum responsiveness is really only necessary for those who want to begin competing.
Tabs that are intended to be used in competition must be broken in first. Similar to a baseball glove, the leather must be worn to provide the best performance. If you are not yet competing, you can just begin to shoot with your tab.
Tabs are an excellent option for competitors. They start at $10 and go up from there.
There are two other standard protective options in archery, the finger stall, and the finger saver.
The finger stall protects just the three draw fingers. Like a tab, it does not cover the entire hand but instead covers the top palm side of the finger. Like a glove, you can wear them while doing things other than shooting the bow, such as grabbing arrows.
Finger savers are applied to the bowstring and do not go on your hand at all. Finger Savers are made from soft foam, similar to earplugs. They are a fantastic option for kids as they can easily see their finger placement. It is also great for anyone who needs to be able to put down their bow and perform other tasks that require dexterity, such as bow fishers.
Essential Gear for Beginners
Now that you’ve got your finger protection sorted, you want to consider what other gear might be essential as a beginner archer.
Another piece of protective gear is the arm guard. They go over the forearm on your bow arm and protect you from injury when the bowstring is released and speeds past your arm. Without an armguard, you can get a lot of bruising or even open wounds from the string as it hits your forearm. They start at $5.
Sights help increase your aim. A pretty straightforward piece of kit, but there are a lot of options. If you are just beginning, go simple, you can get a simple sight for $20.
Quivers hold your arrows, and there are several different styles. The classic back quiver hangs over your shoulder on your back but can be hard to access. Several different styles hang at your hip. Some are better at the range while others are best out in the field.
All archers should have some kind of hand protection on their draw hand. With several different options, you can find just the right solution for you. Here is a quick summary of the most common options and who they are appropriate for:
- Gloves are great for beginners due to increased protection.
- Tabs are great for competitive archers because of their increased feel on the string.
- Finger savers are great for those who do not want gear that they have to attach to their hands.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. He has been hunting and fishing since a child, and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.