Why Dry Firing a Bow is Bad? (Everything You Need To Know)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
woman aiming her bow

When you draw a bow and release the bowstring without an arrow nocked in it, it’s known as dry fire. Dry firing a bow is bad because it causes the bow to vibrate excessively, resulting in destroying the cams, limbs, string, and other components of the bow.  It can also be dangerous to the archer. Here’s what you should know about the causes and consequences of dry firing, as well as how to prevent it.


What Happens in a Dry-Fire?


To understand the danger of dry-firing a bow, you must understand its mechanics. A bowstring pulls cables through cams, which, in turn, bend the limbs of the bow to fire an arrow. The weight of the bowstring determines the force stored in the limbs.

Release of the bowstring causes the limbs to spring back into place, converting stored power into kinetic energy that propels the arrow. Your arrow will zip downrange when everything works smoothly, and you will hear a gentle twang as the bowstring releases.

If an arrow isn’t present to absorb all that energy there is nowhere for it to go but back into the bow, which isn’t designed to absorb such power. Shock waves are sent through every inch of the bow’s moving parts if the energy stays in the bow. Shock waves can be dangerous if they are released. Cams and limbs can be damaged, screws can loosen up, and the bowstring can be snapped.


How Does Dry Firing Harm your Bow?



According to Bow technicians, dry-fires are types of blasts. It is more common for compound bows to break after dry firing since their moving parts are greater than those of recurves and longbows. A bow’s potential for damage increases as its draw weight increases.

Curved cams, cam tracks with warping, broken or derailed bowstrings, amputations of fragmented limbs, defected cable guards are the results of dry-firing a bow.

The bow usually erupts when it suffers severe damage. You’ll be terrified half to death as the limbs fly off, the string snaps, and the string snaps. Broken bowstrings, splintered limbs, and bent cams are the most common type of bow damage, though a dry fire can damage any part of your bow, and that’s not the worst part: there are some safety concerns related to this process.


What are the Safety Concerns?



Bow-dry-firing can be a scary experience. The powerful energy release roars through the bow and into the archer’s muscles, causing bruising and aches. The bow is also close to the archer’s eyes when at full draw. If the bowstring snaps or broken pieces break off the bow, this can cause an eye to be injured or even blinded. It is even possible for the broken pieces to hurt your arms and the projectiles can injure nearby people.


What to Do Next


Until a professional inspect a dry-fired bow, don’t shoot it again. Take it to a professional. They possess the tools and expertise to fix it. Dry-fires usually don’t result in parts flying off and harming you, but if you draw the bow after it has been damaged, you are asking for trouble. Check here how to draw a bow properly.

It’s probably not fine even if it looks fine. In some bows, there’s a thin piece of material attached to the cam where the string hooks onto and feeds through. That’s referred to as the crumple zone. This is where a cam bends. There are times when it is so slight that you will not notice it unless you are trained to notice it.

You should take the bow to an archery shop. Tell the technician exactly what happened so the technician can make repairs. Alternatively, the tech can check with the manufacturer to see whether the damage is covered by the warranty. Regardless of where you bought the bow, the manufacturer will determine whether it’s covered for repairs.


Preventing a Dry-Fire



Anyone can experience a dry fire, but most occur when inexperienced people handle a bow.

Your bow shouldn’t be able to draw it back. When you draw a bow, you use muscles you don’t use unless you are an archer. People who have no idea how to shoot a bow will pull it extremely hard, but lack the muscle control to control it. They dry fire because the string slips out of their fingers.

It is not a good idea to leave archery equipment lying around. It is likely that those who have never shot a bow may be tempted to dry-fire it. But dry-fires can occur in other ways as well, such as using arrows that are too short or too light, or with loose or damaged nocks. If you don’t know how to inspect your nocks as you load your arrows, have a pro shop cut your arrows for you to ensure they’re the right length.

Derailments, which resemble dry-fires, are also possible with bows. Usually, that happens when an object, such as a twig, gets caught in the bowstring or cable, shredding it or making it fall off. Dry fires and derailments can both cause significant damage. (1)

Practicing safety and staying vigilant is the best way to prevent dry fires. While practicing, make sure your bow, arrows, and accessories are in good working order. Be sure to keep an eye on your shooting technique. Also, make sure you treat your equipment with respect and caution, such as not letting friends or family touch your gear.




What to Do if you Accidentally Dry Fire your Bow?


An accidental dry fire can happen if you fail to knock the arrow properly or if the arrow nock is loosened or damaged. In addition, your fingers can slip while holding the string. The outcome will be similar to that of a dry fire.

Immediately following a dry firing, make sure that neither you nor anyone else is hurt. You may check dry firing a bow, in case you needed more information.

The next step is to see if there is any obvious damage with a visual inspection. Damage is usually painfully evident. (2)

You should repair the bow even if it does not appear to be extensive. Such a high amount of pressure on bows causing the slightest damage could lead to more damage or cracking in your face.

Because of its location, some damage is harder to notice or is too small to notice. A bow’s structural integrity can be undermined by microscopic damage that is not readily apparent at first.

While you can inspect the bow yourself, a professional archery shop will be able to examine it much more thoroughly than you can, especially if you do not own a bow press.


(1) Derailments – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/derailments
(2) visual inspection – https://www.slideshare.net/ManiVannanM14/visual-inspection-and-its-types