What Happens If You Shoot a Bow Without an Arrow? [MUST READ]

In many bow and arrow communities, it can be unusual to find anyone shooting a bow without an arrow. What would happen, exactly, if you did dry fire, as many calls shooting a bow without an arrow?

When a bow is shot without an arrow, the bow can tend to vibrate intensely. And without an arrow to put that energy into, it will reverberate in the bow’s components. This can cause the bow to weaken over time if it is dry-fired too often. It also is not good for the upkeep of the bow.

In this post, we will cover why you should not shoot your bow without an arrow. Keep reading to learn about what you can do instead of dry firing and why it can be so horrible for your bow’s long-term health.


What Would Happen If I Dry-Fired My Bow?

When people talk about firing their bow without an arrow, there can be some mixed answers in terms of whether it is good or bad. The general consensus, however, is that you do not want to fire your bow without an arrow. Firing a bow without an arrow is referred to as dry firing, and it can damage your bow considerably.

If you happen to dry fire your bow, the energy within the draw is passed back to the following parts of the bow:

  • The arrow rest
  • The cams
  • The grip or riser
  • The upper and lower limbs

It is in your best interest and safety to never dry fire a bow. Always nock an arrow, too, to be the safest and careful.

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What Is Dry Firing?

Dry firing is the fancy term for shooting a bow without an arrow. This is different from pulling the string and not releasing it. When you fire your bow without an arrow, you release your string as you would if an arrow had been loaded on the bow.

Dry firing is not good for the bow because it can cause:

  • Pieces of the bow to break off
  • The bow to break
  • The bow to weaken
  • The cams to bend
  • The string to snap
  • Unseen damage

As you can see from above, dry firing is not good. You can cause some real damage and put yourself in harm’s way by dry firing a bow.

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Does Dry Firing Impact Recurve and Compound Bows Differently?

Dry firing any type of bow is bad. You do not want to dry fire a recurve or compound bow. But they do have different reactions to dry firing.

When you dry fire a recurve bow, you have a very high chance of causing damage. This can even cause flying debris to be thrown from the bow during dry fire.

The biggest issue that comes from dry firing a bow is that there is nowhere for the energy stored in the limbs of the bow to go. The energy is trapped and has nowhere to be released, So it reverberates within the bow.

Also read: What is the difference between a Compound bow and a Recurve bow?

What Should You Do If You Fire Your Bow Without an Arrow?

If you fire a bow without an arrow, you should take it to be looked at by a professional as soon as possible. Do not use the bow for any other reason. Take it directly to a professional to be looked at in case there is some major damage.

You do not want to fire your bow with an arrow after it has been dry-fired.

The following are some reasons:

  • The arrow could hit something you aren’t aiming at because it comes un-nocked if the bow breaks
  • The bow could have hairline fractures
  • The bow could shatter into many flying pieces
  • The bow could splinter at the limbs
  • The bow is weaker

Even if the bow doesn’t seem like it has been damaged, you want to take it to a professional anyway. A professional will be able to see if cams have been bent or if the wood has been compromised on your bow.

A professional can look for the following things after a bow has been dry fired:

  • Fractures
  • Other damage
  • Splintering

Having a professional look over the bow will make sure you do not have a bow with damage. And then you can go back to archery with the proper tools and a safe bow because the professional will have cleared it to be shot again.

Can You Draw a Bow Without an Arrow?

Drawing your bow without an arrow is different from dry firing your bow without an arrow. When you draw your bow without an arrow, this is an easy way to check if the weight of the bow is manageable for the archer.

However, drawing your bow can easily be accidentally dry-fired, and so you must be careful not to let the string go when the bow is drawn without an arrow.

You might also want to read about if the draw length really matters?

Instead of releasing the string, you slowly guide the string back to its natural, undrawn position. You must be very careful at this point. Many bows will come with warnings to not even draw without an arrow nocked, and this is a great safety precaution.

If you always have an arrow nocked when you are drawing your bow, then you can cover yourself. The energy gained by drawing the bow can be properly released into an arrow no matter what, and you cut out the possibility of damage due to an accidental dry fire.

Final Thoughts: Do Not Fire a Bow Without an Arrow

As you know by now, you should never dry fire a bow. Firing a bow without an arrow can cause serious damage to the bow. It is also a safety concern after the bow has been dry fired because it could potentially shatter if fired again later.

Do not fire a bow without an arrow. There is nowhere for the energy that is released from a firing to go, and you will cause damage to your bow no matter what.

You might also be interested in reading if it is safe to shoot an old compound bow.

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