Finger tabs are your basic necessity in archery.
They’re right there along with a bow release and an arm guard in terms of necessity, and you’ll see many archers using them with every single shot.
But what are they, and why are they even a thing? Let’s talk about that.
First and foremost, finger tabs are there for protection.
They protect your skin from abrasion from the bowstring during dry firing, as well as general discomfort and irritation.
When you fire over a hundred arrows on a Saturday, that’s a hundred times you’ve brought a tense bowstring against your fingers. It’s going to have an impression.
Finger tabs aren’t just for one finger though. Some are, but most of them wrap around all of your fingers to produce a band that your fingers rest on.
Finger Tab Size Guide
First thing you should know is that there are two different ways to size a finger tab, and they’re both fairly different. This chart will explain everything.
- 7.5” up to 8” is considered a small size.
- 8.5” up to 9” is considered a medium size.
- 9.5” up to 10” is considered a large size
- 10.5” up to 11” is considered an extra large size.
- There are no known sizes above this outside of custom work
- 8” up to 8.5” is considered a small size.
- 9” up to 9.5” is considered a medium size.
- 10” up to 10.5” is considered a medium size.
- 11” and up are considered extra large sizes.
- There are no known sizes above this outside of custom work.
Are Archery Gloves the Same Thing?
More or less, yes they are the same thing.
Finger tabs are there to be far less constricting than archery gloves.
Some people don’t like the feeling of having leather around all their fingers when they’re trying to judge the draw weight of the bowstring.
It can make it difficult to feel your grip on it, but with a finger tab, there’s still immense pressure on your fingers.
Archery gloves aren’t full gloves at all.
They usually wrap around your wrist and cover three fingers.
Then there are some that cover your pinky, ring and middle finger but leave the index and thumb open.
The style you choose is up to you, but if you want something more lightweight and versatile, you should go with a finger tab.
You can use archery gloves in place of finger tabs if you wish, but before you do, check out the list of finger tab benefits below.
Benefits of Finger Tabs
- Reduces Trigger Thumb: Trigger thumb is something serious that you can get some archery. It’s when your joint locks up and refuses to let go. This is symptomatic of arthritis, but it’s different entirely. Your joints don’t simply release though; they can require surgery to repair, and in most situations, there will be a long recovery time. With a finger tab, you’re using a lot less pressure on your fingers, reducing your chance of getting trigger thumb in the first place.
- Better Comfort: You don’t want to stop archery just because your fingers feel a bit numb, do you? No, you don’t, and instead of doing that you can simply use a finger tab. By removing the direct skin-on-bowstring friction, you’re improving your comfort. Whether it’s a nylon or a leather finger tab, it won’t dig into your skin like the bowstring does. It’s a little less intimate, but it gets the job done without causing you harm.
- Cheap: Tabs are super cheap to purchase, and don’t require much upkeep. In fact, you could buy half-a-dozen finger tabs for the same cost as a single archery glove. It’s much easier to slip a finger tab on that an entire gloves, cutting down on your carry weight.
With the plus side of anything, you always have the negative.
It’s a preference thing, but many users don’t like the feeling of a finger tab.
In fact, they don’t care for gloves either, because it’s not skin-on-string contact.
It does have a slight feeling of loss of control, especially since it’s safe to assume you were taught without a finger tab.
How to Make Your Own Finger Tab
The easiest way to get it done is with a simple piece of leather, and a pair of scissors.
Use this quick instructional guide to show you a simple, yet not quite as good as the store-bought way to get a finger tab.
1. Trace the design for the finger tab in a thin piece of leather. You will need two pieces in total, so draw them similarly.
2. Cut the finger hole evenly in both.
3. Test them. Do they feel good when you use them? Does it line up with your arrow shots? If so, it’s time to glue them together with a durable hot glue.
4. The ends are going to look like a mess. Using the end of a lighter, bring it gently across the edges to singe the bits of natural polymer and even things out.
5. Let it dry and set, and see if it held together well. You’ve got yourself a finger tab.
If you want something even cheaper, you can make a DIY finger tab that takes a completely different approach. This is basically a budget option that isn’t really recommended, but it gets the job done for the short-term.
1. Take an old cotton or leather glove and get ready to cut it up a little.
2. Cut the pinky and thumb sleeves off of the glove. You only want your three middle fingers to be present inside the glove.
3. Reinforce the wrist with a velcro strap to keep it steady while you’re shooting. If you don’t have a velcro strap, you can tie a piece of string around the wrist when you’re using your finger tab glove.
4. Hem the edges of the thumb and pinky slot so that it isn’t irritating to your finger.
It’s not pretty, but it’s going to keep the tension off of your fingers and make things a little more comfortable.
You should consider purchasing a proper finger tab for future use, but this is good for the short-term.
Can I Use Something Other Than Leather?
We know leather can be a bit pricey, but it really is the very best material you could use for a custom finger tab.
Leather has a lot of durability due to its natural polymer; the string wont’ cut through it, it won’t truly wear it down, and it won’t lacerate the exterior of the leather.
But it’s not the only thing.
It’s quite frankly the best thing you could use.
You can also use nylon. Nylon is used in a lot of wrist straps for bow releases, and it’s also good to make a finger tab out of.
You have to be careful about abrasions to your fingertips and irritation when using nylon.
One benefit that leather has over nylon is how easy it is to stitch it.
You don’t have to puncture the material beforehand.
A soft leather can have a needle go through it and just carry the thread with little to no issue, but nylon requires a lot more force.
Why do Some Finger Tabs Have Metal?
To decrease the amount of pressure felt through the material.
If you’re used to using a finger tab, the pressure that you can still feel through the leather might be a bit too much for you.
The metal wing evenly distributes the pressure across it, so you’ll feel the metal press against you, but it’s wide and doesn’t cut into your fingers.
Do I Need a Lace for My Custom Finger Tab?
It’s entirely optional.
Some hunters enjoy tying it off to their hand, while others just want it to rest against your hand while you’re shooting.
Some will use a lace, some will use an elastic band of sorts.
It is recommended to have it attached to your wrist, but it’s not going to make or break your shot.
Upgrading Your Archery Arsenal
If you don’t currently have one of these in your archery arsenal, then it’s time to make an upgrade.
Finger tabs are excellent for all levels of skills, from novice to bowmaster, and can even help prevent trigger thumb to an extent.
It’s common for newer archers to feel silly with a ton of gear on (they think arm guards and bow releases are unnecessary), but it’s required to keep yourself safe, and reduce sustained injuries from those few and far between bow firing accidents.
If you’re looking to get gear for a newcomer to the archery world, we’ve covered releases and sights down to the best beginner compound bows.