Archery and numb fingers

I first experienced numbness and tingling in my fingers while shooting barebow with a thin Damascus glove. The numbness didn’t go away, so after dealing with non-feeling fingers for a while I tried a bit of medical tape around the affected fingers in addition to the glove.

Med tape on fingers

The tape worked but was a chore because I had to apply it every time I picked up a bow. I also had to be precise with how much tape I put on, as varying amounts affected my shots differently. Suffice it to say that it didn’t take me long to make my way back to the land of tabs, and leave the Damascus glove behind.

Cavalier tab

A tab with two layers of leather was certainly better than my thin glove had been but after breaking it in, I found myself experiencing numb fingers again. This time, I did some research on the web and in the varying archery forums. I found that this wasn’t uncommon. I also learned that it wasn’t something to mess with as it could be a sign of amongst other things, tissue damage and or nerve damage. Yikes!

Should this be happening to you, stop. Take a break and give your fingers time to heal, you may also consider checking in with your doc. Nothing to mess with.

While searching the web for answers, the recommendations that made sense, and seemed to be voiced over and over were as follows:

  • Vittorio Frangilli, author of The Heretic Archer, coach, and father of champion archer, Michelle Frangilli, suggests 1mm of leather on your tab for every 10 pounds of weight being pulled.
  •  1 tab layer for every 10 pounds of weight.
  • Deep hook – Using proper deep finger hooking technique will help keep your fingers safe and numb free.
3 layer tab

Top to bottom layers – Cordovan leather, super leather and suede at the bottom.

I was already using a deep hook so I focused on rebuilding the leather layers of my tabs. I knew I wanted strong and smooth cordovan for the face or first layer. I wanted a good solid second layer but I wanted it to be less money than cordovan. Economical but tough Super leather fit that bill, as for the bottom layer or the area which rests against your fingers. I went with the comfortable, and traditionally used, suede.

Finger tab

One of the challenges of adding extra thickness is that the fasteners, for my AAE Elite finger tab, now had less reach. On my first tab which had a used cordovan face, the fasteners fit fine. I had to push while turning to get them to bite, but it worked.

screwdriver countersinking tab fastener holes

Using a number 2 Phillips screwdriver as a rough countersink so the fasteners will seat into the leather.

On my second tab which had newer layers and a whisper more thickness, I couldn’t get all the screws to catch. I happened to have a number 2 Phillips head screwdriver nearby, with it I worked the holes of the suede layer, rotating the screwdriver to and fro with a bit of pressure. This acted as a coarse countersink and allowed the remaining flat head machine screws to seat into the leather and thread into the aluminum face. I used blue Loctite on the threads, as I’ve had the screws work themselves loose in the past, and be lost forever.

P1010699

The next step in the process was to shoot the new tabs in. The additional layer, did in fact do it’s job, and eliminated the tingling and numbness in my fingers. I had also read an interesting comment by John Magera, (archer, olympian, coach and online mentor to many) that the additional thickness of the tab would help to smooth the release. I found this to be true. His exact comment in Archery talk’s FITA/JOAD forum is below:

“Another benefit of adding enough layers to your tab is that it promotes a more relaxed string hand and can lead to a smoother release. When both hands are comfortable and relaxed, you can focus on the tension in your back much easier.”

I had gone up one additional tab layer and replaced a bunch of my old leather with new leather. Now that it was all assembled I was curious as to what the thickness of the tab layers was so I used a simple caliper and measured 5 mm of thickness on my older tab and 5.5 mm of thickness on my newer tab which had all new leather.

My older tab, more broken in tab measured in at 5 mm.

My older tab,  2 new layers and 1  broken in layer, measured in at 5 mm.

My newer tab with newer layers measured in at 5.5 mm's.

My newer tab with all new layers measured in at 5.5 mm’s.

By Frangilli’s guideline (1mm for every 10 lbs) I should be able to pull up to 50 pounds with the 5 mm of leather in place, I achieved 5mm of thickness with 3 tab layers. The other guideline noted was, one tab layer for every 10 pounds, so the same 50 pounds would be 5 tab layers. A difference of two tab layers for the same theoretical weight.

Is somebody wrong? I think not. The thing to remember is that these are guidelines, places to start, both could be correct depending on the quality and thickness of materials used. Think cordovan vs a softer material, like suede.

I would say that every archer has to make the decision of what to use for a schedule of materials based on what they’re pulling for weight, feel, trial and error, money, and whatever else makes it right for them.

As for myself, the numbness is gone and my shot is improved. Life is good!

 

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9 thoughts on “Archery and numb fingers

  1. Charles, well done! If any of your readers scoff at these “tingles” be aware that this nerve damde (caused by the pressure of the bowstring) can become permanent if you ignore it and you won’t know how much you depend on the feeling in your fingertips until you lose it!

  2. Pingback: Wear and tear on fingers | My Archery Experiences

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