Why You Must Never Draw A Bow Without An Arrow

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Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.

One of the most common pieces of archery advice is that you should never dry fire your bow. It can cause severe damage to the bow or yourself. But why must you never fire a bow without an arrow?

When you dry fire a bow, you could be exposing yourself to several potential risks. For example, you might shake parts loose or have them fall off entirely. It can also cause the limbs to fracture or break. In some cases, these parts can fly into your eyes or body, causing severe injury.

The process of shooting a bow without an arrow is called dry firing. Let’s take a closer look at why this is so dangerous and how you can minimize the damage to your bow.

Why Is Dry Firing Dangerous?

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the dry firing process and why it can cause so much damage.

Damage To The Bow

When you draw the string back, you are storing energy. Typically, this would be transferred into the arrow, allowing it to fly towards the target. However, when you dry fire the bow, the energy has nowhere to go.

For this reason, it gets sent through the bow. This causes severe vibrations, which can be very damaging to the bow. This has the potential to shake components loose or even break pieces of the bow off.

Generally, the bigger the bow, the more dangerous dry firing will be, as you will be releasing more energy.

The amount of damage you face can also depend on the type of bow that you are using. For example, compound bows tend to be more vulnerable to wreckage than recurve bows when you dry fire them.

This is because these bows use levers, which amplify the amount of power that you can place on the string. This increases the amount of energy that will vibrate through the bow. Also, they tend to have tiny components that can shake off.

Causing Injury

However, the problems caused by dry firing the bow aren’t limited to damaging the bow. You also have the potential to have a severe injury. There are a few ways this can happen.

First, when you are dry firing the bow, small parts can get sheared off and fly through the air. These parts tend to be very sharp. If they hit you, they can scratch you or get embedded in your skin.

However, the most significant risk posed is to your eyes. When you are holding the bow and aiming, you need to keep it close to your face. If small parts come flying off, they can go into your eyes. This can result in blindness.

Will Dry Firing A Bow Once Hurt It?

As we’ve seen, dry firing the bow has the potential to cause a lot of harm to the bow.

Even if it’s the first time that you’ve dry fired the bow, you can still do severe damage. The vibrations will travel through the bow, with the potential to render it unusable.

For this reason, you should be careful every time that you dry fire the bow. This is especially true if you don’t know the history of the bow or the type of condition that it was in previously.

How To Prevent Dry Firing A Bow

As we’ve seen, dry firing the bow, even once, can cause severe damage to the bow. For this reason, you should take precautions to prevent dry firing a bow.

Build Your Strength

One of the biggest reasons why a dry fire might occur is because the person draws back on the string when testing the bow, only to struggle with the force required to hold the line in place.

When trying to return the string to the right position, they can lose control, causing the bow to dry fire. For this reason, you should avoid lending out your bow, unless you are sure that the person you are giving it to can control it properly.

The best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you is by building your strength and conditioning. This will present other benefits, like allowing you to improve your aim and draw weight.

Inspect The Nocks

Interestingly, some dry fires occur when an arrow was in the bow. Because of a poor nock, the arrow might have fallen out before you could take a shot.

To prevent this, you should make sure that you’ve put the arrow into the nock securely.

You should also make sure to inspect the nock and string regularly. If you spot any fraying or loose hair, you might need to apply wax to the line.

Experts recommend that you replace the string every three years.

You should also check the weight of your arrows. If you’re using ones that are too light, you could also be damaging the bow, as the excess energy will transfer into vibrations.

Pay Attention

Finally, you should always pay attention when handling a bow, mainly if you are drawing the string back.

A brief lapse in concentration can cause you to let go of the string accidentally. This can cause the bow to dry fire. For this reason, you should never fire the bow unless you mentally and physically prepare.

This is the most common reason why people dry fire their bows.

What To Do When You Dry A Bow

You should always take precautions against dry firing a bow. However, accidents can happen. What should you do after you dry fire the bow?

Don’t Use It Again

In some cases, you might inspect the bow and not see any visible damage. This doesn’t mean it’s safe to use the bow again.

The most commonplace for the bow to be damaged is the cam. This is the part of the bow where the string ends are attached. The force that ripples through the bow when dry fired could often cause the cam to bend or twist out of alignment.

The problem is you might not be able to spot these small changes, giving you the impression that the bow is safe to use.

But if you continue to use the bow after you dry fired it, the damage will get worse.

Take It To An Archery Store

After you dry fire a bow, you should take it to an archery store. Their professionals will be able to look over the bow for you.

They will be able to inspect it, helping you spot any damage. If necessary, the professionals will be able to perform the repairs. This will ensure that your bow is safe to take back to the range.

In Summary

You should never draw a bow without an arrow; this is called dry firing. The force placed on the string would generally travel through the arrow. If there is no arrow, it will go through the bow instead. This can cause the components to fall off the bow. This can render the bow unusable and has the potential to cause serious injury; in some cases, this has led to shrapnel going into the eye, causing blindness.

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Why You Must Never Draw A Bow Without An Arrow

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.


Hi, I'm Sam, and I love archery! I used to work as a caregiver, and I'm in medical school now. I started this blog to help people like my parents get healthier in fun and exciting ways, more than just going to the gym. If you like one of my articles, I'd appreciate it if you share it with your folks and help them get healthier too!

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