Knowing the dangers of it, no experienced archer will dry fire their bow. Many times, beginners dry fire because they “wanted to see what the bow felt like on their fingers.”
Can a bow survive a dry fire? Dry firing a bow will often damage the limbs and other components of the bow. At its extreme, the bow will explode, but this doesn’t always happen. In many cases, you get lucky, but you still shouldn’t dry fire a bow because of the dangers.
If you’d like to learn more about dry firing a bow and the damage to the bow, keep reading to better learn if your bow will survive a dry fire.
What Kind of Bow Do You Have?
The type of bow that you have will determine how well it survives a dry fire. Compound bows struggle the most with dry fires because they have the most components.
Whether you have a compound, recurve or longbow, dry fires can damage the bow because the energy from the bowstring doesn’t transfer to the arrow. When the string releases, the motion sends strong vibrations throughout the bow. This can damage the limbs and other components.
Along with the type of bow, the material determines the damage done to the bow from dry firing.
Wooden bows suffer the worst damage from dry fires because this material splinters and cracks easier than plastic or fiberglass.
Beware of Subtle Damage
Even if a bow looks fine after you have dry fired it, check it over for damages. In some cases, you may want to take it into an archery shop and tell them you dry fired it (or say a friend dry fired it!).
Archery pros know what to look for with signs of damage. Even if it doesn’t look damaged to the untrained eye, it could still have micro fractures invisible to the naked eye. You may go to fire the bow only to have it explode on you.
Bows Tested to Withstand Dry Fires
You have some bows like Hoyt that claim to have had testing and reinforcement that helps them withstand a dry fire. Even with that claim, you would be wise not to test it. Dry firing a bow is extremely dangerous because the parts will explode next to your face if the bow does break.
Still, a bow like this might prove that it can withstand it better than with other bows.
How to Tell if a Bow has Been Dry Fired
Look for signs of damage to tell if the bow was dry fired. Examine the limbs carefully with a magnifying glass to check for damage. In particular, check the cams and wheels of the compound bow with special care because these areas tend to have the most vulnerability.
Check the limbs and the bowstring for damage. Take a magnifying glass and look for frayed or broken strands. This indicates damage. Replace the bowstring. A damaged bowstring poses an equal level of danger, and you can suffer a severe injury from not replacing it.
Don’t Let a First-Timer Handle Expensive Bows
Let’s say that you bought a Diamond Archery 2016 Edge SB-1 Compound Bow Package. Expensive bows shouldn’t be handled by a first-timer because they could dry fire it by accident. Not only will it damage an expensive bow, but it could hurt your friend as well.
You want to make it clear right from the beginning that your friend shouldn’t dry fire the bow for any reason. Many times, someone new to archery will grab the bow and pull it back without thinking. Warn them before they even grab the bow.
What Bow Material Survives Best?
If you want a bow material that makes things safer, modern carbon composites can usually take the damage better than other materials. You still shouldn’t dry fire it, but it provides you with insurance if you accidentally did dry fire it. Even some of the pros have mistakenly thought that they had the arrow notched when they didn’t.
Dry Fire: Not Impending Death for a Bow
To be clear, drying firing if done continually guarantees you have a broken bow at some point. Accidentally dry firing a bow once doesn’t spell instant death in all cases.
That said, don’t do it on purpose. Ever. Don’t do it at all if you can help it.
Dry firing a bow once won’t ruin it in most cases, but this depends on the bow. It may still cause some cracks that can get worse over time. Usually, the damage suffered from a dry fire is obvious. Never fire a damaged bow.
Many bow companies will test the strength of their bows through dry fires, and in some cases, they have dry fired the bow up to 400 times before it sustained damage. That should show you that a bow can withstand a dry fire, but you still shouldn’t do it.
Use an Anti-Dry Fire Bow Release
You have an anti-dry fire bow release that can be used for dry fires. For someone who wants to practice their release, it works well.
Lower Draw Weight—Less Risk
Lower draw weight reduces the risk of damage to the bow. Anything below 45 pounds will typically lower the risk of damage from a dry fire. The risk goes up the more draw weight that you have because this increases the vibration and energy from the bow.
Even with low draw weight, you should still check for cracks on the bow if you accidentally dry fired it. You never know.
Dry Firing and Why It Damages the Bow
When you dry fire a bow it damages it from the stored kinetic energy in the bowstring. Pulling back the bowstring builds up kinetic energy that when released, has to exit somewhere. Usually, you have an arrow notched, which directs the energy into the arrow.
Someone who doesn’t have an arrow notched to the string, however, keeps the energy trapped within the bow. This sends strong vibrations throughout the bow, which can damage it. In some cases, a dry fire happens when an archer didn’t notch the arrow well enough to the bowstring. This can have an equally dangerous effect. Always check to see that you have notched the arrow correctly.
How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Dry-Fired Bow?
How much it costs will depend on the price of the bow and the extent of the damage from the dry fire. Don’t let anyone charge you $175 to $200 to repair a dry fired bow. If they tell you that price, tell them to jump in a cold lake.
Get a second opinion from an experienced archery shop. Strings and cable sets will usually cost less than $100.
To get an accurate price, check with multiple shops to understand the price range. Cheaper isn’t always better, but if the price seems wildly above the others, you likely have a con artist trying to take advantage.
Usually, a single dry fire won’t hurt your bow, but you still shouldn’t dry fire it. It can blind you, knock you out, chip a tooth or cut your face if the bow explodes. You should stop immediately after a dry fire and inspect the bow for damage. Never fire a damaged bow for any reason. Archers must take dry firing seriously because the bow sits right next to their face when they fire it. If the bow breaks for any reason, it will hit them in the face.