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I read that one should never shoot a compound bow without an arrow in it or it'll break, often beyond repair.

But is it safe to draw it without an arrow, and then to slowly relax it again?

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  • I've removed the first paragraph as it didn't help the question (while motivation can be helpful, in this case it stands alone without that).
    – Nij
    Jul 29 '16 at 1:21
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When I tried archery many years ago, I was taught the same, for recurve bows as well as compound.

The explanation is that drawing the bow stores energy in the limbs of the bow (flexing them). When released with an arrow, that energy is ideally transferred to the arrow, but without an arrow the energy has nowhere to go; the result is vibration in the string and limbs which damages the limbs.

Relaxing the bow slowly is safe because the stored energy is being transferred, essentially, back to the arm of the person who drew it.

(I'm less confident in this part because I may be mis-remembering it: some bows may actually advise flexing the bow gently a few times in just this manner before shooting, to "warm it up".)

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tl;dr: It's safe to draw back and then return without firing. It's one of the ways you check your draw length, check peep hole alignment, and more.You should never "dry fire" a compound bow, and avoid it with traditional bows as well.


My sons and I are relatively new to the sport, but are fairly excited about (and active in) it now. Yes, you should never "dry fire" a compound bow. It's less of a problem with traditional (longbow or recurve bows) but still a good habit to not have.

As an example, a friend of mine dry fired my compound 3 times in a row, and this was the result (picture attached). $60 cam, $30 each for string and cable, and $75 for the tech at the bow shop to put it all back together. And honestly, that was getting off both cheap and lucky because the limbs didn't have any cracks in them from the strain.

picture of broken cam

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