What Happens When You Dry Fire a Bow?

One of your greatest fears archers is dry-firing a bow. Your bow responds negatively to dry-firing as it can be damaged afterward. Also, the dangers that come alongside the act include causing injuries to the archer himself.

So, what happens when you dry fire a bow? When you dry-fire your bow, the energy that’s supposed to push the arrow will spread all over it. This is why both the equipment and the user faces a certain level of risk. Normally, beginner archers are most likely to dry fire with a bow, probably because the arrow can slip off the bowstring right before they fire.

However, an experienced archer can also make this mistake. So, this article will provide a detailed explanation of dry firing a bow, the effect of the act, and what happens as a result. Keep reading to learn more.

What is dry firing a bow?

In archery, dry-firing means drawing the bowstring backward in a firing manner and releasing it without an arrow. It can happen accidentally when you don’t tightly nock the pointer to the bowstring. Additionally, a person who doesn’t know the dangers attached might dry fire a bow.

What is dry firing a bow

When you fire a bow, the projectile takes in 75% of the energy released and leaves it at 25%. But, when there is no arrow, it risks severe constructive damage as it absorbs all 100% of the expelled energy.

One way you accidentally dry fire is when you use an arrow that weighs little for your bow. Your projectile should be heavy when you use a bow that has a high draw weight. It is because the bow shares the expelled energy with the arrow. When the projectile is too light to receive 75% out of 100% of the strength given, it becomes dry-firing.

That’s why you must inspect your bow and arrow properly before going for any outing. Also, ensure to nock your projectile well in the bowstring before you take any shot. All these actions is to avoid dry-firing and the danger that occurs with it.

Also, we strongly advise that you don’t shoot with a bow that has got dry-fired. Examine your arc for cracks or splinters. Carefully check the surroundings of the wheels and cams of a compound bow and replace every deformed limb. This way, you will avoid the injury that you can get shooting a bow that got dry-fired.

How Dry Firing Damages Your Bow?

The length of the damage dry-firing can give to your bow differs depending on the strength of the bow and of your drag. Your arc may split into pieces or get cracked in the limb.

How Dry Firing Damages Your Bow

Whatever the case is, whether the limb gets cracked or the bow scatters, the bow is as good as trash. Attempting to repair it will put you at risk for the next time you will use it.

Do not fire a dry-fired arc. Even if it doesn’t have any crack, it may have internal damages, and your future fire might become disastrous. Instead, carry it to a professional for inspection to be sure it is safe for shooting again or not.

Does it work the same way for a crossbow?

Every damage dry-firing can cause in regular bows can also occur in crossbows. The risk to the body and the destruction of the bow is the same.

It might even be easier to dry fire a crossbow. The reason is that, like a gun, you will have to cock it before you place the bolt in its position. If you are hunting with your crossbow and get attached unexpectedly, you can fire without cocking or positioning the bold.

Also, you can forget and shoot without following the necessary procedures. As a zealous hunter or archer, you cannot be too careful to dry fire. There is a very significant chance you will dry fire.

Does it work the same way for compound bows?

The effect of dry firing works the same for compound bows. Like a crossbow, a compound bow is the last bow you wish to dry fire. The cam system and extra cables make it easier for so much more to go wrong. The compound bow has more fragile parts that can scatter or lose and cause severe wounds to anyone close to you.

When handling a compound bow or crossbow, you should be more careful not to dry fire. But, if it happens, do not use the bow until a specialist checks it.

What happens when you dry fire a bow?

The question- what happens when you dry fire a bow? is always in the mind of a beginner archer. They don’t see anything wrong in dragging a bowstring and releasing it. It might even be a form of play to them.

What happens when you dry fire a bow

Firing with an arrow

When you drag your bowstring with an arrow nocked in it, the limbs accumulate potential energy from the drag. They bend backward in response to your pull, and they will not hesitate to go back once you release them.

When you finally release the bowstring, the limbs pull it forward, and the string, in turn, sends the arrow ahead. Also, it transfers the energy to the bowstring and the projectile.

Then the arrow uses the energy to launch to a target, and part of the energy will go back to the bow. It causes the weapon to vibrate. If the arc-bow is strong, you will not even feel the vibration. Note that a higher percentage of the energy goes to the arrow.

Dry-firing a bow

When you dry fire, the energy stored in the limb has no place to go, so it returns to the bow and vibrates through every part of it. The force shakes through the limbs, the riser, and cams if it is a compound bow.

The vibration is strong enough to destroy and even share it with the scattered part. However, if your bow is strong, you might still have the bow for your succeeding fire. But, dry-firing never leaves a bow the same way.

How to Avoid Dry Firing Your Bow?

To prevent dry-firing a bow, you have to be very careful and in charge every time. Dry fires are usually accidents, and you can’t tell until it occurs. Your hands could slip to dry-firing your bow. Other people or your student might want to touch your arc-bow, thus causing a dry-firing. Also, it can occur when you don’t check your equipment to ensure they’re in good working condition before using them.

How to Avoid Dry Firing Your Bow

Here are things to do to avoid dry firing:

  • Inspect your equipment before use: If the nocking of your arrow is terrible, it is most likely to slip off the bowstring and result in dry firing. So, make sure your equipment is in perfect working condition before using it.
  • Ensure your arrow is compatible with your bow: When your projectile is lighter than what you should use on your bow, do not use it. Because you release the string after dragging, the arrow’s weight won’t be enough to consume the kinetic energy. So, the strength will still return to the bow like you dry-fired and spoil the bow. Always make sure that your arrow is compatible with the bow.
  • Be alert when you have your bow in your hands: Experimenting with your bowstring is not a crime. But, if you get distracted, you may dry fire. Also, when you go hunting and an animal comes at you unexpectedly, you may dry fire. So, you have to be alert to see everything coming.
  • Don’t draw your bow when you don’t have the intensions to shoot: Being careful to gently return your bowstring when you draw it is good, but you can never be too careful. You may lose focus, and you are firing before you know it. So, don’t drag the bowstring when you are not ready to fire.
  • If you have to give your bow to a beginner archer, ensure they know the dangers of dry firing: Beginners who don’t know how dangerous dry firing is might dry fire anytime and anyhow. They will do it innocently till maybe they notice a crack or the bow scatters and gets them injured. So, do well to tell them about the dangers of dry firing so they can avoid it as well.
  • Don’t give your bow to a child, someone who is not an archer: We strongly advise that you don’t give your bow to a child. Except you watch them closely, ensuring they don’t drag the bowstring. There is an instinct of dragging a bowstring that comes when they hold a bow. So they can dry fire your bow innocently without knowing the consequences.

How can you tell if a bow has been dry-fired?

If you want to know if a bow has been dry fired, inspect the bow as soon as you get it. When you examine the bow with light, there is a prime chance that you will know.

How can you tell if a bow has been dry-fired

Check the limbs

The first place to check is the limbs. Look out for splinters, breaks, or cracks in the limbs. Don’t fire the bow if you see any of these things. But, if you don’t, draw the bowstring slowly and listen for any noise or cracks. If you hear any of these, let off the bow slowly and take it to a professional immediately.

Check cam

The next place to check is the cam if the bow is a compound bow. The cam will bend a little or in half if dry fired. So, check for bends in the cam.

Even if the bend is too mild to be noticed very much, do not shoot the bow. That can derail the cable of a compound bow, even if it is the slightest bend in the cam.

Check the cables & Bowstring

Examine the cables, the servings, and the bowstring to see if there is any damage. You can replace these parts of the bow if damaged in a dry fire. If you have checked everything and still have uncertainties, take the bow to a specialist.

What you should do after dry firing a bow?

What to do after dry-firing is to examine the cams, limbs, bowstrings, and cables of the bow. If you don’t find physical damage, there might still be internal damage.

So, take the bow to a professional for a re-inspection. If it comes out safe for use, you can use it. But, if it comes out not safe, consider it as trash.


Dry firing from a bow can happen to anyone, whether he is an expert. So, everyone should be careful not to dry fire when handling a bow.

You should also note that dry firing a bow is also dangerous to the firer as it is for the bow. So, what happens when you dry fire is that the bow might shatter. Also, the archer will leave with injuries, and sometimes, they are severe.