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Finger Tips
by Charles Clarke
From: The Archer's Register for 1893-1894, pp. 220-223.
Part 1 of 2

IN the ARCHER'S Register for 1883, p. 58, the following sentence occurs :—

"He" (Horace Ford) "then showed me how to hold my three shooting fingers on the string, and instructed me to take care to keep the tips of the three fingers perfectly level, so that the string might quit them all at the same instant." "There is much more," said he, "in this than many archers are aware, and few-very few-are sufficiently careful; therefore practice this point at all times, and never forget it."

So said Horace Ford, and no doubt he was right; but there still remains a difficulty, as Ford, no doubt, was aware. It is one thing to place the three fingers on the string, with their tips level, and another thing to ensure that the string shall quit them all at the same instant. Let anyone place his three shooting fingers against a bow-string with the tips level, and he will see that to do so the second finger must be drawn back, and, consequently, that it presses against the string at a different angle to the other two. When the arrow is drawn, this difference in the angle is increased by reason of the curve of the string round the fingers. Now this difference in the angle necessarily gives a greater grip to the second finger than to the other two; or, rather, gives the string a greater hold upon it; and so, at the moment of relaxing the muscles to effect the loose, there will be a tendency for the string to cling more tightly to this finger, and so to draw it forward, and consequently to quit it last.

Then there is another point. Although one sees many archers carefully lay hold of the string with their fingers at right angles to it, yet, when the bow is drawn—the upper end of the bow usually leaning slightly to the right—it is a physical impossibility that the fingers should remain at right angles to the string; at least, if the right elbow be kept well up, as, of course, it must. The fingers will necessarily point somewhat downwards, unless, indeed, the string be wrenched out of the straight line by a pull to the right of the third finger, and a pressure to the left of the first, which is not unfrequently done, but is fatal to a good loose. This then puts the third finger at a further disadvantage, while it perhaps tends to equalise matters between the first and second. Many attempts have been made to counteract this second finger difficulty by special arrangements of tips; but I do not know that any perfect cure has ever yet been found. The following are a few of my own experiments:

  1. Thickening the second finger tip so as to bring it to the level of the others when the second finger is bent at the same angle as they I do not think that this plan would ever answer, on account of its depriving the second finger of the power of feeling the string sufficiently.
  2. Hardening the tip with quill, and other substances, in order to allow the string to slip off it more easily, and so counteract the extra grip alluded to above. This seemed even less successful than Experiment I., and, I think, from the same cause.
  3. Passing over a few other attempts with tips, to come to tabs. These seemed to promise to help the difficulty; for, as the fingers all press on one piece of leather, it seems that they would he less likely to act independently; and I think the tab certainly does help to prevent the second finger from hanging on after the others. The ordinary tab, however, is made with holes to pass over the third joint of the fingers ; but, as in holding the string, the fingers should bend only at the first and second joints, the tab does not act so well in concert with the fingers, and is inclined to give a heaviness to the loose. The ordinary tab, too, is adapted to a position of the fingers perfectly at right angles to the string, not taking into account the downward position mentioned above. I tried for some years a small tab (Fig. I.) to pass over the second joints only, and also to allow for a downward position of the fingers. As far as the loose was concerned, I found it to act as well as anything I have ever tried, but gave it up at last, as I could not stand the discomfort of feeling as though my fingers were tied together.
  4. But the experiments with the tab drew attention to another thing. The tip, being in the tubular form, is almost rigid; but a flat piece of leather, even though thick, is very pliable; and, the same thickness be obtained by several thin pieces, the result is still greater pliability.