Whether you’re a beginning archer or an Olympic gold medalist, you need one small but essential piece of archery gear: a finger tab. Disclaimer: Some archers still prefer a shooting glove, but most top archers we follow use a tab to protect their fingers and ensure a smooth bowstring release with every shot.
A finger tab is simply a piece of leather that fits between your draw-hand fingers (the hand pulling the bowstring) and the bowstring. The tab part that contacts the bowstring is available in various leather options, including leather with animal hair. Recurve archers tend to favor leather because it’s more forgiving than a glove for releasing the bowstring. In fact, Canadian Olympian Crispin Duenas explains it perfectly in this video from World Archery:
Finger tabs can be as simple as one layer of leather, but some have additional components:
- a piece or two of “backing” adds extra cushion between the fingers and bowstring,
- a spacer between the index and middle fingers prevents nock pinch for archers using a split-finger hook,
- a “shelf” or “ledge” on the tab’s top edge, which gives archers firmer contact when anchoring beneath their chin,
- elastic or other materials that help secure the tab to the draw hand’s fingers.
Choosing the right finger tab is simple. First, consider your archery experience. Is this your first time shooting a bow? If so, keep things simple with a tab geared toward beginners.
When coaching, I like to start students on a double-layered leather tab with a little extra finger protection. I also preferred they use a spacer to prevent nock pinch, if they shot with one finger above the nock and two below (split-finger hook). For more advanced students, we evaluate tabs together, and try to find the right tab and fit for their particular hand and shooting technique. That’s more important than choosing tabs based on brand or looks.
Once you get your new finger tab, start shooting with it right away. If you’re a beginner, no “break-in” period is needed. Just nock your arrow, hook the bowstring, and enjoy! If you’re focused on tournaments, however, break in the leather much as you would a baseball glove. Click through the gallery below for break-in tips from experienced archers. Ready to choose your new finger tab? Find an archery store near you.