Is it bad to shoot a bow without an arrow?

Dry firing is very risky. Don’t do it

Dry fire is when you let go of the sting, without having an arrow on the bow. That is, firing a bow without an arrow.

The short answer to is dry firing bad is yes. It’s bad. Very bad.

But why is it bad? Let’s check it out.

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Time for some physics. Bow works on potential energy, just like a dam.

When you stop water at a height from going down, then potential energy builds up in water. When you release the water and it falls down due to gravity, it gains momentum and force. This energy is at its maximum at the bottom of the dam. That’s how water can be a powerful driver for turbines that produce electricity for you.

The same thing happens with the bow. When you pull back the string, the energy is stored in the limbs. When you release the string, most of the energy stored in the limbs is transferred to the arrow that goes out and flies forward.

A small fraction of energy doesn’t go out of the limbs and causes vibrations even when the arrow is released.

But what happens when there is no arrow to take away the energy from the limbs? It bounces back towards the limbs.

Limbs, however sturdy, are designed to be a bit flexible and are generally light and thin. They are not designed to handle that kind of energy rebound on itself.

This can cause the limbs to get damaged. The limbs of the bow can get micro fractures. If it is a layered bow, then layers may burst apart.

Read: Never Dry Fire Your Bow

Imagine a wooden table is placed below the dam, and water with all its might falls on it.

If the draw weight of the bow is higher, the damage will be higher as well because more energy is stored in the bow.

Due to the nature of bows, this damage due to potential energy holds true. However, if the limbs are made up of super sturdy material of the universe, they will be able to shrug off that rebound without issues.

That’s why, wooden bows are more easily damaged due to dry firing than say modern metal limb bows. These metal bows are more durable and are a bit more harder to damage with dry firing.

Now this rebound can also happen when you are using lighter arrows. Arrows that you get in the market is not a problem. But if you are using some kids’ practice arrows in a 60-pound bow, this can happen.

Your normal traditional bows, longbows, and recurve bows are one thing. Compound bows are an entirely different beast.

Compound bows pack a lot more energy and are much easier to damage. There are also lot more moving parts in it which increase the chances of damaging any one of them drastically.

In many cases compound bow can split apart and fly off in all the directions. Not only that, it will surely hurt you while you do so.

Read: Dry Firing A Compound Bow


Now you know the dangers of dry firing. Bow doesn’t care whether YOU dry fire it or someone else who wants to take a look at it. It will just as badly get damaged by you as with someone else. So make sure to take proper precautions when a non-archer (who may not know what dry firing can do to the bow) wants to “have a go” at it.

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