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At Zenith Archery, we're frequently asked some common questions about back tension releases at trade shows and on the range.  We'd like to take the opportunity to answer some of these questions, as well as address some common misconceptions about back tension releases.  If you don't see your question on this page, please feel free to e-mail us with your question and we'll get back to you in short order.  Who knows, your question might even be added to the list.


Table of Contents

  1. Why use a back tension release?
  2. I've heard a lot of horror stories about back tension releases, such as lost arrows, fat lips and sore fingers.  Are these stories true?
  3. Who can use a back tension release?
  4. What is "target panic" and how can a Zenith release help overcome it?
  5. I don't have anyone in my area to help me learn to shoot a back tension release. Can I learn it safely by myself?
  6. What is unique about Zenith's wrist strap?
  7. What is the practice cam and how is it used?
  8. What is a "clicker cam" and how will it help me when using a back tension release?
  9. Won't the clicker defeat the surprise release by letting the archer know when the release is about to fire?
  10. Will the release come back out of the clicker notch if I have to let down?
  11. Is the clicker adjustable and will it wear out frequently?
  12. I've been using another brand of back tension release with some success, why should I switch to the Zenith Comfort Release?
  13. How can I decide which release is right for me?
  14. How does Zenith sell their products and what is their guarantee on them?

Why use a back tension release?

The back tension release affords the archer the surest way to develop a true surprise release due to its triggerless design. This is especially true for an archer first learning to use a release. The trigger releases offer the archer a quick way to a more accurate shot than is possible when shooting with fingers, but the conscious act of squeezing the trigger eventually can lead to flinching and other forms of target panic.

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I've heard a lot of horror stories about back tension releases, such as lost arrows, fat lips and sore fingers.  Are these stories true?

Unfortunately many of these stories are true, but recent developments such as ergonomically designed handles, the practice cam, the clicker cam (all of which were pioneered by Zenith Archery) and instructional videos have made these problems a thing of the past. It is now possible to learn to shoot one of these releases safely and with a minimum of finger problems caused by poorly designed handles.  Not all back tension releases have these features or have them properly designed into the release.  Most of our competitors have added them on in order to be competitive with our products.  All Zenith Back Tension Releases are a modern design and were developed to overcome the horror stories of old.

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Who can use a back tension release?

Anyone who is willing to take the time to get the proper instructions either from an experienced archer or from an instructional video can benefit from learning this type of release. When used properly, size or strength has little bearing on their successful use.  We have customers as young as twelve years old using our release to great advantage.

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What is "target panic" and how can a Zenith release help overcome it?

Target panic is generally defined as the inability of an archer to aim and execute a controlled shot at the moment he wishes to shoot. It can manifest itself in several ways, such as flinching, snap shooting, shooting on the move or freezing off the target. A true case of target panic is defined as an uncontrollable conditioned reflex and can be almost impossible to cure. A more common condition, also referred to by some as target panic, is a temporary loss of control caused by the nervousness and tension brought on by the stress of competition or the sight of a trophy animal while hunting. This is a far more treatable problem but it still requires a dedication by the archer to practice properly and learn the basics of a surprise shot from the ground up. There is really not enough space in this format to go into a detailed answer on how to cure target panic, but there are several people who write articles about curing it, although with somewhat different ideas, and we recommend reading all of them and picking out what works for you. The one common theme that runs through all of them though, is the use of a back tension type of release aid and the elimination of the target face during your initial practice sessions. Starting up close without a target and slowly introducing the target as you begin to get control of your shot, is the way that we here at Zenith believe is the way to go. If you are starting off a new archer or teaching some one to shoot a release, we believe that the back tension release is the one to start with. The trigger releases are much easier learn at first, but in most cases lead to problems with punching or flinching as the archer gets used to them. This can be the start of a problem that will be very difficult to overcome so we recommend putting the extra time and effort into learning the right way from the beginning.

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I don't have anyone in my area to help me learn to shoot a back tension release. Can I learn it safely by myself?

Yes you can.  Zenith Archery Products has developed a training kit which will allow you to teach yourself how to use a back tension release without the usual start up problems described above.  Most instructional articles on these releases deal with how to shoot the shot after you achieve full draw.  Most problems develop prior to full draw.  This kit starts you at the very beginning, so you'll get expert instruction from a nationally recognized champion and Senior Olympic gold medalist.  The kit comes with your choice of Zenith's 2, 3 or 4 finger configuration, with the 3 finger X-Cel being the standard. The other handle selections would incur an extra charge. Also, included are a full moon practice cam, a .008 clicker cam and a smooth cam without the click.  The handle is fitted with a wrist strap to prevent the archer from danger, should he inadvertently let go of the release while shooting.  The novel feature of this kit is the included VHS instructional video tape or CDROM. The tape takes you from assembly of the release, which is shipped unassembled, through the adjustment, cocking and loading procedures.  You'll then learn the basics of the shot without shooting any arrows by using the practice cam, and finally go though the steps of the actual shot using the smooth cam or the clicker cam.  Thatís all there is to it!  Best of all, the kit comes with a money back guarantee should you be dissatisfied with it.  You risk nothing.

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What is unique about your wrist strap?

The wrist strap that we have designed into our handles is placed at the same position on the handle as your index finger, therefore providing an assist in drawing the bow, rather than being merely a tether. The amount of assist gained is controlled by adjusting the length of the strap. Zenith feels it is important however, to still maintain control with the index finger. If the strap takes too much of the load, you will find yourself fighting against it when triggering the release. The strap may also help prevent the release from being dropped after the shot from a poor grip, or shooting the release through the bow, as can happen on rare occasion.

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What is the practice cam and how is it used?

The practice cam keeps the dump from being released and therefore keeps the bow from firing.  Instead of an edge as on the half moon which releases the dump, the practice cam has a small notch cut into it.  When the dump drops off the leading edge of the notch, a click is heard which indicates that the release would have fired at that point, but because the dump is held captive, the shot does not occur.  This allows the archer to practice actual shots with his bow without shooting an arrow.  You can now develop your whole shot pattern and gain confidence in it without ever shooting an arrow or worrying about prefires.  There are actually two notches in the Zenith practice cams, one with a smooth edge and one with a .008 clicker so that you can decide which mode of shooting you want to use.

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What is a "clicker cam" and how will it help me when using a back tension release?

Unlike the conventional half moon cam with its smooth edge, the clicker cam has a very fine notch cut into the shooting edge of the cam. This notch causes an audible click which tells the archer that the release is now ready to fire. Its purpose is to provide a new reference which allows the archer to position the release in the most comfortable position for his style. The only reference before the clicker was to rotate the release fully to one end and to pull with one finger in order to keep the release from pre-firing This caused many archers to develop a very sore index finger and prevented the use of heavier draw weights by many archers. With this new reference, the release can be set up with more pre-travel for safety, without having to slowly squeeze off this extra travel while trying to aim and execute the shot.  Also more of the draw weight can now be transferred to the other fingers allowing for greater comfort when shooting heavier bows.

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Won't the clicker defeat the surprise release by letting the archer know when the release is about to fire?

No.  When the archer completes his draw, he should advance to the click right away and then settle into his shot routine.  The click is part of your set up, not part of the shot.  Once the shot is started, the end result is still a surprise. A certain number of shots will still have to be let down because they failed to occur within the archers comfort zone.

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Will the release come back out of the clicker notch if I have to let down?

No. The edge of the dump will remain in the notch, but by putting the weight back on your index finger the let down can safely be made, just as it is without the clicker.

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Is the clicker adjustable and will it wear out frequently?

The adjustment of the time from the click to the release can only be changed by using a cam with a deeper or a shallower notch machined into it.  Zenith offers four different speed cams with .004, .006, .008 and .012 inches of travel.  The amount of travel to reach the click during set up is adjusted by the set screw, which allows the cam to be rotated as in previous models without the click.  The major difference is that this pre travel can be made much longer for an extra margin of safety with respect to prefires.  Both the cams and the dump are made of hardened tool steel and should last for several years.

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I've been using another brand of back tension release with some success, why should I switch to the Zenith Comfort Release?

As the name indicates, we feel our handle is the most comfortable and ergonomically designed in the industry.  We also produce a wider range of styles and sizes than any other manufacturer.  Our CNC machined handle product, the Comfort Release includes two, three and four finger models, both with and without an integral thumb hook.  This model comes in both medium and large index finger sizes; 3 and 4 finger extra small models and 2, 3 and 4 finger extra large models for people who have extra large hands and who like to hold the release in their fist.  All of our machined handles are cut using special form cutters, which provide an index finger hole with a fully radiused shape.  The entire handle is then hand finished eliminating any edges which may be uncomfortable.  The handles are bright dipped and anodized in a variety of single color finishes.

All of Zenith's releases are available with an optional wrist strap at no extra cost.  The strap is functional and can be used to assist the archer to draw and hold the bow weight, and also ensures that the release will not fly out of your hand should your grip slip. 

Zenith's fully machined head also has many features not offered by others.  The head shell is CNC machined from aircraft aluminum instead of being stamped from steel and bent into shape.  This allows for closer tolerances and better parts alignment, which lead to better accuracy.  The release rope is also kept out of the path of the moving parts so it won't cause any interference or be subject to excessive wear.  The hook-shaped peg which holds the release rope is hand trimmed to eliminate wear on the rope and is cut to the proper depth to allow the release to be shot using a "D" loop as well as the rope.  No extra parts are needed to switch from one style to the other, only a change in the adjustment of the cam.  The cams come in either smooth or clicker style and are trimmed on one side for better index finger clearance.  The clickers are offered in 4 different speeds and offer sharp sounding, but not jarring clicks due to the hand work done in their manufacture.
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How can I decide which release is right for me?

That's a very personal decision.  First decide if you want to use two, three or four fingers on the release.  For target shooting, we feel that he fewer fingers you use the less torque you can apply to the string, reducing unwanted elements into your shot.  For shooting the heavier 3D bows, four fingers can be a help with the heavier bow weights and also the thumb hook and wrist strap can help you there.  As far as size goes, the machined handles are generally roomier than the cast models, due to the shrinkage involved in the casting process.  If your hands are large or you hold the release in back in your fist, go with the larger machined model, maybe even in the large index finger size.  Problem size hands, either very large and thick or very tiny, such as women or children, should look at the two, three or four finger Big Guy or the three or four finger extra small sizes. In the end, it's best to try one from a friend if you know someone who owns, one or stop by the Zenith booth at the major shoots which we attend. (See the shoot calendar for the probable 2005 shoots where we'll be set up.) If you still can't get your hands on one to try, give us a call and order one anyway.  We always take them back, minus shipping costs if you don't like them, as long as they are not damaged.  We get very few back this way and get lots of reorders from archers who let their friends try their release and then canít get them to give it back!

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How does Zenith sell their products and what is their guarantee on them?

You can call Zenith directly to place an order and pay by any major credit card if you wish. Most releases are in stock and will ship within a day or two via U. S. Postal Priority Mail which takes 2 or 3 days. The normal shipping fee for releases is $6. For parts and other items or if you are not in a hurry, first class mail would be slightly less. We can do C.O.D. but the cost to you is quite a bit more we try to stay away from that. Some pro shops may also have the releases in stock and we hope to add to that number in the near future. We currently have no plans to sell through distributors or any of the major catalogs. We build more of a custom product and have no facility for large scale manufacture of the releases. In the future we plan to maintain our high quality standards and to continue to innovate in the back tension market. Due to the nature of our business, we also do not support a shooter program. If you see one of the top shooters using a Zenith, he bought it because it's the best. We guarantee our release products to be free from defects for the life of the release, with the exception of the release rope and wrist strap, which are subject to normal wear and tear.

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Zenith Archery Products.
Copyright © 2000  Zenith Archery Products.  All rights reserved.
Revised: October 3, 2014 .
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Zenith Archery Products and ZAP are service marks of On Target Solutions Incorporated.

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