Dry firing is shooting your bow without an arrow. It is also known as dry loosing.
Every type of bow can be negatively affected by dry firing but some, like the compound bow, may suffer more damage than others.
In every lesson about archery or in every piece of advice, you are always warned about dry firing your bow. Manufacturers make this warning loud and clear.
However, nobody says why it is bad.
If you tell someone not to do something and then not tell them the consequences, their curiosity is likely to get the best of them. They will want to know what will happen; it may be a big mistake but you cannot blame them.
If you are this close (fingers-almost-pinched close) to dry-firing your bow just to see what happens, please do not. Unless you can turn back time and undo the action. Dry fires can also be accidental— but that will not make incident any less dangerous.
This article explains why it is a bad idea and the damages that may arise when a bow is dry fired.
The Effects of Dry Firing a Bow
Modern bows are very powerful. When you draw and release your string, a lot of energy is produced and transferred to the arrow, propelling it towards your target at a high speed. This energy, in most cases, is enough to take down a whole animal (the size of the animal depends on the poundage of your bow).
Now imagine what would happen if you drew your string and released it without an arrow nocked. The energy will have nowhere to go, it remains in the bow and that is what causes damage. The dry firing event is accompanied by a terrifying noise and parts of the bow may fly off—harming the archer and/or anyone in the vicinity.
Which Parts Could Be Affected?
- The string
- The limbs
- The cams
- The axle
- The cable guard
These are the damages that you can see. Sometimes, everything will seem just fine after a dry fire. Contrary to what you are thinking, this may be the worst thing that can happen. When all seems okay, you will let out a sigh of relief, thankful that your bow is still intact. You will not think to check carefully for small damages that may cause a bad accident for you later.
The dry fire incident can damage one or two of the parts mentioned above or the entire bow can literally explode in your face as many videos on YouTube show.
After Dry Firing Your Bow, What Next?
If your bow suddenly falls apart and gives off a terrifying sound, fear will be your most likely reaction. The next thing you may do is see if you anyone is hurt (if there were people around you). You think about your bow when you have recollected yourself; unless it is expensive, then it will be the first thing you think about.
When there is no visible damage on your bow, you need to check carefully. Try using a bright light. This will need a little more keenness if you have a compound bow. It has many moving parts, most of which are vulnerable when in a dry fire, and it is easy to miss signs of damage. See if there are splinters and cracks (rub it with a cotton ball to catch any small splinters). Make sure everything is fine and that nothing is loose, bent or broken. If everything seems fine, try shooting with it—this is not recommended. It is advisable to have a pro look at it just to be safe.
Do All Bows Get Damaged by Dry Fires?
It is not easy to get away with a dry fire. If your bow is very powerful then your chances are even slimmer. Strong bows can barely withstand a dry fire. Most bows will be affected, the most susceptible being compound bows and wooden recurve bows.
Some people tend to be lucky but it often has everything to do with the brand you are using. There are bows designed to take this horrible incident very well— not to say that you should test them though. They cost tons of money and you do not want to be playing around with an expensive piece.
Dry Fires Are Not Always Intentional
At this point, you are convinced that it is not wise to dry fire your bow, but here is something you might not know: dry fires are not usually intentional. Archers are smart and obedient people, yet, dry firing incidents are common.
Why is that? Here are instances that may cause an accidental dry fire.
Not nocking the bow properly. In the video linked above, you see how the bow comes apart even though the shooter clearly had an arrow. Always make sure that your arrow is properly nocked.
Using an arrow that is too light for your bow. You have read what causes the damage when a bow is dry fired. The energy produced has no outlet when an arrow is absent. When the arrow is too light, it will not absorb all the energy.
The string can slip. You may get startled, sneeze or something sudden can happen, causing you to dry fire.
How to Avoid Accidental Dry Fires
- Do not let people who know nothing about bows handle yours. If you do, warn them not to dry fire and explain it to them.
- Use the right arrows. Ask the manufacturer or a pro when you are not sure what arrows are suitable for use with your bow.
- Be aware. A bow is a weapon and there is no telling the amount of damage it can cause when you are careless with it. Be alert whenever you are holding one.
That’s it! That is all there is to know about dry firing. A bow produces so much energy when drawn. If an arrow is not there to absorb the energy something bad can happen. Some parts will break, others will snap, others may bend or every part may go its own way. Even if you do not see any damage, you should still check the bow carefully or take it to a pro. Accidental dry fires happen to the best of archers, but being vigilant will reduce the chances of it happening to you. Do not be ashamed when you dry fire your bow; you would be surprised to know how many people have done it. Be careful and take all the necessary precautions.