What is dry firing a bow

Dry firing a bow (also called ‘dry loosing’) means that you shoot it without an arrow in place. Compound bows are particularly prone to getting lots of damage after dry firing due to constant high tension and a lot of moving parts. When you pull the string back energy is stored within the bow. Normally, this stored energy is released into the arrow while shooting. In case there is no arrow the stored energy goes right back into the bow where it can do some severe damage to limbs, axles, cams and string. In some cases the whole compound literally exploded. The results of dry firing a compound bow can be costly or – in the worst case – dangerous for the shooter as such a model is under a lot of pressure all the time. If the string breaks that pressure is released. Why dry firing a bow is bad should be clear by now. But how can this happen at all?
Most of the time dry firing a bow happens accidentially. Imagine you are bowhunting following game and stumbling while aiming. Or one of your arrows hit something hard the last time it was shot resulting in a loosened nock. When you shoot it again without recognizing this it can happen that the nock gets out of the shaft completely resulting in a dry fire when released (happened to me already twice!). That’s also a reason why you should check your equipment from time to time – especially arrows that hit something hard (trees, tree stumps, walls, rocks etc.).
Another reason for dry loosing can be if you choose arrows that are too light for your compound. Why? Because an arrow that is too light has the same effect as dry firing a bow. Which means that the stored energy is just too much to be released in that arrow. Heavier arrows store the energy more efficiently which is the reason why bowhunters often times prefer those for getting a higher Kinetic Energy for penetration (Check out our guide concerning Kinetic Energy here => Kinetic Energy For Bowhunting). Ususally manufacturers demand a minimum weight for their products concerning arrows. You should find this information in the manual or on the box that your model came with. If you want to learn more feel free to read our guide for choosing the right arrows here => Choosing The Right Arrows For A Compound Bow.

Results Of Dry Firing A Compound Bow

Number one: exitus. The whole thing can literally explode, meaning the string breaks, limbs break, axles get bent, debri’s flying around etc. etc. In this case it is obviously that the effects of dry firing a compound bow are pretty bad so if that happens please make a picture that you can show to the next person asking ‘ How does dry firing hurt a bow ?‘. There are a lot of people out there who can’t or won’t understand that shooting compounds without an arrow can result in a big bad mess. I have no idea why but it is like it is.
Number two: string break. In this case the only thing that breaks is the string – at first sight. A broken string is at least a clear sign that something was damaged. So there seems to be a reason to check the whole compound for cracks and splinters and for making sure that there are no other parts damaged that could mean a danger to yourself while shooting the next time.
Number Three: nothing seems to have happened. Which is the worst case in my opinion because as we tend to be lazy we now have no reason to check our compound for cracks and splinters and other damages. Instead we just keep on shooting with it forgetting about the little accident rather sooner than later. And then, when we expect it the least, the whole thing explodes in our face. Ouch! So really, especially with a compound bow, after you dry fired it for whatever reason please check it throroughly. Some models have draw weights up to 70 lbs plus. You don’t want be the one who overlooked a damaged part of such a beast.

What To Do After Dry Firing A Bow

First of all get a magnifying glass and a bright light. Then check the limbs in particular. Look for cracks and splinters around cam axles and where the cams or pulleys fit in (slots) because those tend to tilt sideways after a dry fire. The area around the wheels is usually the weakest part of a compound concerning dry firing. Check limb pockets and if the wheels are still in place and not bent. Also take a look at the string and look for frayed or torn portions especially near the axles. Check cables, bus cable to string joiners and string and look out for possible serving breakages. Test all clips and fasteners. Are they still tight? Also check the cable guard and if it is still positioned correctly. If everything seems to be okay draw the bow with an arrow in place and check if there are weird noises or vibrations while drawing. If you are in doubt about the whole check-it-yourself-thing you can bring your compound to a bow shop for checking.
You can also use a cotton ball for looking after cracks and splinters. Just wipe it over the limbs etc. If there are cracks the cotton will snag on it.
The question ‘ how does dry firing damage a compound bow ?‘ should be answered by now. Anything left to mention? Maybe one last important point: the warranties of the manufacturers usually do not include things like dry-firing or mistreatment. Which means they won’t refund in such a case – some will nonetheless because they care for their customers so much that they don’t want to risk losing one. But always remember: if you damage your compound because of dry firing it’s your fault and your fault only! Don’t blame manufactureres or materials or anything else. I always find lots of bad reviews on the internet where people claim all kinds of things but when they explain the damages it more often than not sounds like the effects of dry firing to me. Most of them don’t ask ‘ does dry firing a compound bow ruin it ?‘ before they do it, because they are too lazy to invest a little bit of time learning about what you can do with those models and what you can’t and most of them have never heard the term ‘dry firing‘ at all before it happens.
Archery is not rocket science but expect to invest a little bit of your time to learn it properly – then you will get the most out of it! And you will avoid seeing your new Diamond Infinite Edge Pro explode right in front of your eyes, which is not a pretty thing so see at all. Just believe me: benn there, done that!
Just one last word: with all those high tech materials nowadays a lot of compounds and recurves will withstand a dry fire here or there without breaking apart. But don’t forget to check’ em nonetheless after that happens just to make sure and to prevent yourself or your loved ones from the chance of getting hurt. At least for me that’s always motivation enough to take a closer look.
Thanks for reading!

Dry Firing Videos




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