How To Nock An Arrow

Likely one of the first things you will hear about when learning about archery is nocking the arrow, and while this might sound like a complex aspect of the sport; it really isn’t.

Nocking an arrow is merely the terminology that archers use to describe loading the arrow onto the bow.

Once the arrow is nocked, it should be that the nock snaps into place firmly and you will be ready to shoot the bow. Fortunately, nocking an arrow is a very simple thing to do but there are different ways that it can be done and this is where the confusion begins.

Depending on the type of bow you are using and the type of arrow rest you have, the process may differ slightly. Furthermore, the type of archery that you do will likely impact how you nock the arrow.

But don’t worry; we have got you covered and in this article, we are going to be showing you how to nock an arrow in several different situations.

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How To Nock An Arrow On A Bare Bow

Before you even think about nocking the arrow, you must first retrieve it from your quiver. Now, this might sound as though we are teaching you to suck eggs but in reality, different archers like to remove the arrow from the quiver in different ways.

You might like to take the arrow by the shaft and remove it from the quiver or alternatively, you may grab it by the nock end. The way you do this will likely depend on the type of quiver you are using.

For example, if you have a thigh quiver, it can be easier to remove the arrow by taking it by the fletching. These quivers are designed so that the arrows face forwards and this can mean that a light grip with the forefinger and thumb will yield the best results.

In contrast, archers who use a back quiver may find that removing the arrow by the nock end is easier.

In truth, the way that you remove the arrow from the quiver and hold it doesn’t matter, but what does make a difference is whether you are consistent in this action.

When placing the arrow into the bow, you must consider the feathers that are in the fletchings. At least one of these should be at a 90-degree angle to the grip.

Now that you have the arrow in your hand, you will need to hold the bow up high and put the arrow onto the grip. Keep your bow pointing skyward and place your arrow on the right side of the grip.

If you use a thumb draw, you will need to make sure that the base of the arrow rests on your bow hand thumb. Conversely, if you use a Mediterranean draw, you will need to ensure that the base of the arrow rests on the left side of the grip.

You will notice that there are many positions for holding your bow and while your personal preference and comfort will play a huge role if you are using a traditional bow, it is always best to keep the bow in a high port for nocking the arrow.

This is because these types of bows do not have stabilizers that will support them as you nock the arrow.

Furthermore, if you are using the bow on horseback, you will need to keep it clear of the animal and this is not as easy when using another position. Not only will this make life more difficult for you but it may also distress the horse.

Using A Pinch Grip

If you are using a pinch grip then you will need to begin by sliding the draw hand all the way down the shaft of the arrow to the nock. Now, you will need to pinch the nock between the index finger and the thumb (hence the name ‘pinch grip’.)

Once you have done this, you can then push the arrow forwards but you must make sure that lateral contact remains with the string. You will need to continue pushing the arrow forward until the nock makes contact with the string.

At the nocking point, you will now be able to snap the nock onto the string. Once here, you have the option to slide it up to get it into the correct position.

Using A Scoop Grip

Some people prefer to use a scoop grip and while there is no right or wrong here, it is important to keep in mind that the type of grip you use will impact how you nock the arrow. If a scoop grip is your preference, take a look at the instructions below.

In a similar manner to the pinch grip, this method requires you to take hold of the nock using the index finger and the thumb. However, in this variation, you will cup the hand with your palm pointing up.

Now that you have the nock in your grip, it is time to push your arrow to the string. To do this, you will need to use one continuous, scooping motion.

Using your fingers on your draw hand that are not holding the nock, feel for the string and then pull the nock onto it just under the nocking point. You can then slide the arrow into the right position.

Nocking An Arrow On A Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are extremely popular with many archers and if you have chosen this type of equipment, it is important to know how to correctly nock your arrow.

Begin by taking the arrow from your quiver. In much the same way that we discussed earlier, it is your choice how you will grab the arrow and what sort of grip you prefer to use.

Next, you should take your bow and point it towards the ground, this is the first obvious difference when compared to nocking a bare bow.

This is important because you need to ensure that the limbs are in a vertical position and do not make contact with anyone standing nearby.

Now that your bow is in the right position, you can place the shaft onto your riser or arrow rest.

On modern arrows, the fletchings are typically made up of three feather clusters, or vanes which are made of plastic. Two of these will be the same color and these are known as hens, whereas the other one, which will be a different color, is known as the cock.

You will need to make sure that you place the arrow in such a way that the index feather or vane, whichever your arrow has, is pointing away from your bow. This is important as if you do not position it in this way, then there is a high chance that a vane will make contact with the bow as you release and this can throw off your shot.

Now that you have your fletchings aligned properly, you will need to snap the nock onto the string below the nock locator. Some archers use two nock locators; if this is the case, you should snap the nock between these.

Nocking An Arrow On A Compound Bow

While there are marked differences between a compound bow and a recurve bow, you may be surprised to learn that nocking an arrow on a compound bow is a very similar process to nocking on a recurve. That being said, many archers find that nocking their arrows on a compound bow is a much easier process.

The reason for this is that compound bows tend to have a variety of different arrow rests which means that the index feather is rendered useless.

One thing that confuses new archers when nocking their arrow on a compound bow is that they don’t always hear a clicking sound as the nock forms its connection with the string. This is something that is almost always heard on a recurve but provided that you can feel a secure connection, it doesn’t matter whether you hear the sound or not.

Whisker Biscuits And Drop Away Rests

There are many different accessories that can be used in archery but two of the most common are the whisker biscuit which is a type of arrow rest and the drop away arrow rest. It is important to keep in mind that nocking your arrow with these does require a special technique. But that doesn’t mean that it is complicated to understand.

Let’s start with the whisker biscuit. Much of the process is the same as when you are nocking your arrow onto a recurve bow. You will take the arrow from the quiver and follow the steps through to snapping your arrow onto the string.

However, there is a key difference and that is that when you place the arrow shaft onto the rest, you don’t need to concern yourself with where the index vane or feather is pointing; it can point in any direction.

The great thing about whisker biscuits is that they will typically correct themselves but archers must be aware that getting the whisker biscuit correctly set up is the most important part. Once you have this in place and properly tuned, everything else is a breeze.

If you are using a drop-away rest, you are once again free to choose where the feather or vane points. It can go either up or down but for the most part, you will need to try this out and see which you like better.


When you first hear the term ‘nocking an arrow’ you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a complex secret of archery. However, in reality, this just means loading your arrow onto the bow.

There are different ways of doing this and which you use will depend on several factors including the type of bow you are using and whether you are using an arrow rest.

About Brad Harris

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