How to Tell If a Bow Has Been Dry Fired

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In archery, dry firing is when the bowstring is pulled back and released without an arrow. When a bow is fired normally, the arrow absorbs about 75 percent of the released energy. When there is no arrow, the bow absorbs 100 percent of the energy, risking serious structural damage to the bow. Never shoot a bow that you suspect was dry fired until you conduct a thorough inspection and have any structural damage repaired. Shooting a damaged bow could seriously injure you.

Shine the light on the bow’s limbs and examine them with the magnifying glass. Systematically check for any cracks or splinters. On a compound bow, pay special attention to the areas near the wheels or cams. If the limbs have any deformities, replace them before shooting the bow again.

Examine the wheels or cams for cracks, bends or missing parts. (If you have a recurve bow, skip to Step 3.) If they show any signs of damage, replace them before shooting the bow.

Move your light and magnifying glass to the bowstring. Look for frayed areas and cut strands, especially near the axles and where the string wraps around the wheels or cams. If the string has any damage, replace it before shooting the bow.

If nothing looks damaged, shoot the bow with an arrow at a target. Make note of any odd vibrations or noises. If anything seems unusual or if you are uncomfortable for any reason, take the bow to a professional for further inspection and testing.


Use an anti-dry-fire release whenever you draw a bow without an arrow. To minimize the chance of dry-firing a bow, always draw the bow with an arrow and aim at a target. If you accidentally release in that situation, the bow will not be damaged and the arrow has a safe place to land.


Dry-firing a bow usually voids any warranties.