I had an extremely embarrassing bow mishap happen recently. It’s the sort of thing I almost don’t even want to admit, but perhaps my mistake can be a good teaching moment. After having my bow tuned and sighted in the other day, I got home and was thrilled that it was dead on. So thrilled, that I immediately went to my back yard and was pounding my target. After some nice groups of arrows I was putting downrange, I decided to check my draw. I moved near a window where I had a good reflection and slowly pulled my bow back. Satisfied, I stared down the bullseye and triggered my thumb release. Instantly, I felt the string of the bow smack my left forearm. Simultaneously, The whole string derailed from the bow and came whipping back at my face.
Collecting myself, and yelling more than a few choice phrases, I looked at the target to find my arrow. That’s when it hit me, and I looked at my quiver in horror. I did not have an arrow nocked. Ask any of my friends or family and they will tell you that I am meticulous about bow and firearm safety. I keep my string waxed, I have my bow tuned and checked every season, and I am always sure of my target and backstop. However, one slip of the mind—a distracted moment, and I had done the unthinkable. I dry fired my compound bow.
Now that I have successfully worked through the horror of the moment, I want to tell you what I did next and what you should do in this situation if it ever happens. Step one was to pack up my bow, swallow my pride, and head back to my archery tech. A dry fire on a modern bow can cause issues ranging from bent cams, shattered limbs, torn strings, and other fun issues. I was lucky in that my string was off the bow and it could not be fired again, but even if the string is still in place DO NOT FIRE YOUR BOW AGAIN until it has been inspected by a qualified archery tech. A limb that has a microscopic crack could completely shatter on the next shot and send sharp carbon shrapnel into your face at 340 feet per second. You do not want that.
As embarrassing as it is to tell the guys at the bow shop that your bow has been dry fired, don’t sweat it. These guys have seen everything before. The best policy is to be honest and upfront so they can properly inspect everything on the bow. I was extremely lucky in that there was no damage to my bow or the string. The force of the dry fire caused my drop away QAD rest to shift right by an inch (it had been tightly screwed down before this) and the string derailing dissipated the energy before it went into the limbs.
I tell you this story as a cautionary tale first and foremost. Be careful and never fire a compound or crossbow without an arrow nocked. The force of the modern bows is so strong that one dry fire could destroy that $2000 bow you saved up for the last 6 months to buy. Secondly, a dry fire is something that may happen to you someday. If it does, get your bow inspected immediately. Myself, I am a bit red-faced over the whole thing, but am viewing it as a cheap and valuable lesson that no matter how long I have used a piece of gear I need to always be paying attention and using caution. I am happy to report that my bow is re-tuned, in great shape, and shooting dead on. I am ready to kill some deer.