Archery uses a variety of accessories with some having a greater need than others, and some accessories can improve your shooting abilities. That may make you wonder if you need gloves for the sport of archery.
Do you need gloves for archery? If you plan to shoot for hours, gloves are a must as they protect your hands. However, archery gloves are only one of a few ways to protect your hands. Besides archery gloves, you can protect your hands with finger tabs, finger savers or release aids. Try each to see which you prefer.
In the coming article, we will explore why you need to protect your hands and how archery gloves differ from the other finger protectors. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about it.
Why Does Finger Protection Matter?
Without gloves, your fingers can suffer nerve damage from the repeated harshness of the bowstring. Bows will often use 40 to 70-pound draw weight, and that will bear down on your fingers. Over time, you experience numbness in your hands to where you can’t feel them. Take that as a sure sign of developing nerve damage. More than a couple of archers have reported their fingers going numb, and they stayed that way for a few days and up to three months. You don’t want this to happen, so it would be best to take precautions.
Granted, many reported it as temporary, the prospect of nerve damage to your fingers should scare anyone into wearing gloves or some kind of finger protection. I wouldn’t take it lightly. Some argue that it annoys them when they shoot, but why risk nerve damage for a solution so simple? The higher the poundage of the bow, the greater the need for gloves.
Without gloves, you risk the following injuries in archery:
- Sharp pain
- Nerve damage
Not protecting your fingers can eventually end your archery career, which makes it worth protecting them. Not only that, but it will affect your everyday lifestyle.
Not All Gloves Were Created Equal
Don’t think that just because you bought archery gloves that it will protect your hands. I’ve heard of archers who bought a cheap glove that wasn’t thick enough, and it still caused nerve damage. Luckily, the feeling in their hands returned after a while, but you don’t want to risk this injury becoming permanent. A thick glove that protects your fingers will go a long way.
You also need to be aware of when you need to replace your gloves. You can tell that you need to replace your archery gloves when a deep groove forms in the finger stalls. Many times, it affects your release and accuracy making it important to replace for that reason.
If you wanted something that lasts the longest, you may want to buy archery tabs instead because it lasts longer. One person said that they replace their gloves when they lose them. However, this completely misses the point of archery gloves, which is to protect your fingers. If you use it past its prime, you might as well have not worn gloves.
Hand Protection: Guitar vs Archery
You wear gloves in archery for the same reason that you use a pick with the guitar. Nerve damage in archery is far more serious than with the guitar, however, sometimes lasting for a couple of months. In rare cases, the feeling in your fingers may never return, but if it does return, you would be wise to protect your hands at all costs. Repetitive contact with the strings can damage your fingers whether with the guitar or with a bowstring because of repeated blunt force trauma to the fingers.
Should I Use a Glove or Finger Tabs?
The glove was better suited to the beginner because of the most protection. Especially when you first start, your fingers will have the most sensitivity and be the most susceptible to nerve damage. They will always be susceptible, but you want to protect them as much as you can. In most cases, archery gloves consist of leather. It can take some getting used to using because of how it puts a barrier between your fingers and the bowstring, but the extra protection is worth it.
If you’re looking for a good pair of archery gloves, I would recommend the ArcheryMax Handmade Brown Leather Three Finger Archery Gloves. Its hand orientation is ambidextrous and offers good protection.
Most archers use finger tabs for protection. A simple piece of leather, the finger tab is thinner than an archery glove, which allows them to adjust themselves accordingly for accuracy. Finger tabs can take some practice before learning how to shoot with them.
You can buy a basic finger tab, or you can buy a more advanced one with greater customization. For example, some will have a plastic or metal backing for finger support.
The Hide & Drink, Rustic Leather Archery Finger Tab is a good option here. Choose from six colors, and it comes with a 101-year warranty—honestly, I think they’re being cheeky here.
|Pros of Gloves||Pros of Tabs|
|Offers better protection||Lasts longer than gloves|
|Comfortable to use||Better accuracy|
|Intuitive to use||More affordable than gloves|
|Good for heavier draw weight||Increased sensitivity|
|Less intrusive||Can adjust release easier|
|Cons of Gloves||Cons of Tabs|
|Don’t last as long||Requires practice|
|Less feedback on the release||Takes getting used to|
|Harder to grip the bowstring||Less protection|
|Can’t feel things exactly||Must remove to do other things|
When Does Wearing Gloves Make Less Sense?
It makes less sense to wear archery gloves with the compound bow. In fact, you may want to avoid it unless you have a bow of 38 inches axle to axle. A release aid tends to do the best with compound bows because it gives you more control of the bow. The risk of derailing the cams, otherwise, is too great, and it’s better to avoid that altogether.
Some compound bows won’t allow you to shoot without a release. Read the instruction manual to learn the specifics. Also, the other issue that may force you to use a release is the steep angle. It feels uncomfortable to shoot without a release. Keep in mind, you need some kind of finger protection with a compound bow because the draw weight usually sits at double to that of a recurve.
Will Gloves Affect My Shooting?
Gloves or finger tabs will impact your shooting in the beginning, but as you adjust to them, your shooting accuracy will go back to normal.
When people say that they don’t wear gloves, they excuse not wearing them because of how it affects their shooting. It would be sorely mistaken, however, if you were to choose nerve damage over some form of finger protection. Everyone—even archers in the Olympics—wear finger protection to protect their hands. Don’t shoot a bow without protection. It makes no sense, especially with such a simple solution.
Other people don’t wear gloves because they don’t realize the dangers. They may think they’re building calluses, but in fact, they’re only damaging their hands. Your hands won’t get used to it like with the guitar. This damage lasts if not addressed.
Did Ancient Archers Use Finger Protection?
Ancient English archers often shot with two fingers and a tab. It resembled a glove or more like a real glove over the archery glove of today, which was invented in 1936/1937. African archers would use a special knife that they held in their downward hand similar to a dagger. They would hook the string to pull it back.
Native American archers used no glove or any form of protection, generally speaking. However, some tribes did use a modified pinch grip. As you can see, most archers have used protection in some form, so you hopefully understand the importance of protecting your hands.
Beware of the “No Gloves” Guy
Most archers wear gloves, but if you have practiced archery on ranges for any amount of time, you may encounter the type of archery tough guy who lurks there and says, “Gloves are for wimps!” He will pretend that gloves don’t matter, and he usually does this out of ignorance of the damage he causes to his hands. Don’t let this guy fool you. You can hurt your hands badly from not wearing gloves. While the nerve damage usually won’t last, it worsens if you ignore it.
Some people may say that they haven’t worn gloves for years and practiced archery without a problem. You have some people who will be luckier this way than others, but I wouldn’t call it worth it even if you happen to be one of them. If you suffer nerve damage, you may not feel anything in your hand for a month or longer.
Beware of archery teachers who don’t provide gloves or finger protection of some kind. Make no mistake: This is bad, and some students have suffered nerve damage in their hands from just one two-hour practice session with the “teacher.”
Can you shoot a bow without a glove? Finger protection is a must in archery to prevent nerve damage, especially if you will shoot frequently. A higher draw weight also requires you to wear protection to keep your hands safe. With such a simple solution, it makes no sense to not wear some form of protection.
Why do archers wear gloves? Putting on gloves before practicing archery protects the hands from nerve damage. You want some kind of barrier between your hands and the bowstring to keep from numbness or tingling in the hands. It may not happen right away, but this can develop over time.
You don’t necessarily need to wear gloves, but finger protection is a must, not a want. Shooting for long periods without protection will eventually damage the nerves in your hands. You might use a release aid or tabs in replacement of gloves, but you will need protection in one form or another. Throughout history, archers have worn protection of some kind to keep their hands safe from the damage that can result from the bowstring.