It is usually a tiny piece of leather to stop the bow from falling on the ground. It is a simple, yet indispensable part of an archer's equipment: the sling. Unfortunately, the sling is not always used properly so that its full potential is not reached.
This article deals with the three most used types of sling and their use. Hand positioning is closely related to the sling, so this will also be discussed.
A sling is used to be able to shoot with a relaxed bow hand thus increasing the accuracy of the shot.
When shooting without a sling, it goes without saying that one will hold on to the bow during and after the shot. In this way, the bow is held slightly different each time. As we are not machines, it is difficult, not to say impossible, to move every muscle in exactly the same way every shot. A very simple solution to this problem is: just do not hold the bow. In this way the bow moves freely after every shot while hand and wrist can relax. This technique can be reproduced more consistently. The sling only stops the bow from falling and prevents damage.
There are three types of slings: The finger sling, the wrist sling and the bow sling. They are shown in figure 1.
The wrist sling is a piece of rope that attaches to the wrist and wraps around the bow. A hook is used to secure the line. It is very easy to adjust.
The finger sling is attached by loops to thumb and index or middle finger. This sling is harder to adjust. If it is too long, the only way to shorten it is by tying a knot in it.
The bow sling is attached to the bow. You slip your hand through a strap when taking hold of the bow. After release the strap will press on the top of the hand and the bow will be supported by the strap only. This sling is easy to adjust.
All types of sling work well. Under normal circumstances and with a properly adjusted sling a bow will never end up on the floor.
The difference is in the psychological impact of the sling. Every type of sling has certain aspects that, perhaps unconsciously, influence the execution of the shot. If you are not absolutely convinced that the bow will not drop on the floor, you will react to the bow jumping out of your hand as soon as you release, while the arrow still makes contact with the bow and disturb the arrow flight.
The bow sling is attached to the bow handle on a point below the grip. This setup causes the bow to rotate around that point after the shot. The result is a large swing movement after the shot. The natural reaction to this is grabbing the bow, although this is really not necessary. Because this violent movement is expected, you are inclined to grab the bow during the shot, thus disturbing arrow flight. For archers, where the lower limb hits their thigh, the described problems will be not as severe. It will be easier for them to use this sling, but not everybody has the right posture to get the bow to fall right. When the bow flips in front or behind the body, it is possible for a limb or stabiliser tip to come near your face. Just try not to react when this happens.
As seen, it requires much training to be able to use this sling properly. Because of the large chance of grabbing reactions, I would really not recommend this sling. Unfortunately, many bows are sold with a bow sling. It may look very good on the bow, but beginning archers would be better off if they traded this sling immediately for another one.
If you do decide to use this sling, make sure the strap does not press on the hand during the shot.
The wrist sling is a sound sling. The archer gets the feeling that the bow is firmly attached to his or her hand because the piece of rope is around the wrist and bow. Now the archer will have less fear of letting the bow go. Sometimes the sling can feel a little bit tight and seems to interfere with the shot. This is usually just a matter of adjusting it a little bit. Some archers find the hook a bit flimsy and awkward, but it just takes a little time to get used to.
The finger sling has the advantage that it gives you the feeling that it practically does not interfere with the shot because of its small dimensions. The bow seems to move more 'freely' in your hand. This is more in the mind than that it really has real effect: the bow will leave the hand in precisely the same way as with the other slings when shooting with a relaxed bow hand.
What can have an influence is fear that the loops will slip from the fingers. There is no need for this when using a well-made sling that fits well. A good sling is made of thin, flexible leather. There are also plastic finger slings. With these slings it is important that the loops give a tight yet comfortable fit around the fingers.
When you are afraid that the loops will come loose, the reaction is to spread thumb and index finger and raise the thumb a bit. This leads to tension in the hand and increased pressure on the lower part of the grip, disturbing arrow flight. Its simple design, makes the finger sling to feel less 'flimsy' than the wrist sling.
The finger sling is an excellent sling. When considering a sling, this one is highly recommended.