My first off-season bowhunting, I went to the range and left my arm guard at home. No big deal, I thought. I’ll be careful. I left the range early that day with my forearm raw, swollen and the color of hamburger meat. I never made that mistake again.
What I hadn’t realized that off season is that string slaps aren’t exactly accidents or the results of poor form. Really, they’re inevitable, just a part of the sport.
String slaps sting like hell, but the pain isn’t even the worst part. A bad slap can ruin your form for future shots, not to mention your decisiveness if you’re hunting. An arm guard isn’t just a convenience, it’s necessary equipment.
Different bows, different levels and different situations often call for different arm guards. Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced, a longbow Olympian target archer or a backwoodsman bowhunter, we’ve found the best guards on the market. We’ve also outlined everything you need to know to get the right one for you so you can read through our picks and find the best fit.
Our Top Arm Guard Picks
- SAS 8" Armguard Archery Bow Range with 3-Strap Buckles (Black)– “A value hard to beat”
- OMP Mountain Man– “Comfortable natural fabrics”
- ArcheryMax Handmade Leather– “It was hard to pass up this quality handmade product”
- Tarantula Sleeve– “A great option for hunters”
- Allen Molded 4-Strap– “Full-arm protection that some hunters favor”
- Allen Company Mesh– “The way to go for kids”
General Purpose Bracers
Youth Arm Guards
What Is an Arm Guard For?
Whatever your level of involvement with archery or bow hunting, you certainly aren’t alone. In 2017, over 7.7 million Americans had some involvement with the sport. Whether you’re a newbie or a more experienced arrow shooter, everyone experiences string slaps.
“Practice doesn’t always make perfect.”
Contusion, what happens to your forearm when the bowstring slaps it on the way back, is one of the most common archery injuries. The power of the string breaks blood vessels and bleeding occurs under the skin, causing bruising. If you made the same mistake I did and went shooting without your arm guard, ice can help speed recovery.
Sports medical practitioners recommend the use of arm guards to prevent string slap. Arm guards can also stop any loose clothing from getting caught in your bowstring, which could cause an arrow to fly off course.
How Long Does It Need to Be?
In general, there are two types of arms guard to choose from. A full length guard is better for beginners. It offers more protection and ensures sleeves don’t make contact with the bow string. Standard arm guards cover only the forearm. These are for archers who have more knowledge of elbow rotation when shooting.
An guard should at least cover the entire length of your forearm. If the arm guard is any shorter than the length of your forearm, it may not protect enough of the area against string slap. This is especially true if you’re new to archery.
Larger arm guards may restrict your movement, but they prevent clothing from getting in the way of the bow release. For this reason, many hunters prefer full-length arm guards, in addition to the extra protection for their biceps.
Standard arm guards, designed for the forearm, tend to come in sizes of seven to eight inches. Smaller sizes are also available for children, teens or simply those with smaller body frames. Full-length arm bracers range from 10 to 12 inches in length.
Can I make my own?
Although there are many quality arm guards available from archery and sports suppliers, you can also make your own. If you’re having trouble finding a good fit, you can tailor one yourself.
You can use any sturdy cloth like leather, suede or PVC, depending on how ambitious you feel. Leatherwork can be demanding, but it’s the most durable material.
Who needs what?
The kind of arm guard that you’ll need depends on your size, experience and how often you practice archery. For example, someone who is a regular archer with more experience may require less coverage than a novice. Beginners may also need extra padding in their arm guards for extra protection.
As you become more experienced, you can reduce the size of your guard, only covering the area of your arm where the string repeatedly hits. Once you’re more skilled, you’ll know how to better rotate your elbow so it turns sideways rather than up or down. With the arm in this position, you have less body area likely to come into contact with the string.
Hunters have the option of camouflage arm guards. They can also choose sleeve guards that stop their bulky hunting jackets from getting in the way of the bow. Camouflage can also be cool for kids just starting to learn.
Things to look for
Traditionally, arm guards were made of animal skin. Imagine Legolas in Lord of the Rings.To this day, Leather is still one of the most popular materials for arm guards.
Leather and other animal hides are not only durable but also smooth enough that if the arrow hits, it doesn’t catch. Natural materials are also more breathable and better suited to hunting outdoors in all seasons. For sensitive skin types, the use of natural fibers is recommended to avoid any undue irritation.
They now also make arm guards with synthetic materials to suit the user’s needs. These include vinyl, plastic and even lighter gauge metals. Lightweight materials are only used if they can offer the protection and comfort needed in an arm guard.
The downside of these is that they lack the traditional appearance and feel. They are also more likely to feel stiff, irritate your skin and make you sweat.
Coverage and length
Most arm guards are available in two main sizes. Forearm guards are normally 7 inches to 8 inches long and are suitable for most arm sizes.
Full arm guards tend to be longer at 11 to 12 inches, which may be desirable if you are after more coverage and protection—or if you have particularly long arms. If you are a beginner, we’d advise using a longer arm guard at first until your form develops. This is because you are more likely to injure yourself initially.
Arm bracers for professional hunters often include coverage and padding of the bicep area as well. This is for added protection and comfort. If you’re getting into archery mainly for bowhunting, consider long guards so you can get used to it.
As a general rule, when working out what size arm guard you need, you should measure the distance between your elbow and wrist. Divide this by two and then add on another two inches for the ideal length. You should also measure the circumference of your forearm at the widest point. You can always shorten the straps, but it’s hard to make them longer.
Most archery arm-guard products are adjustable to some extent and often market themselves as “one size fits all.” However, if you have particularly large or muscular forearms, you will need to look for one that is guaranteed to fit larger forearm circumferences.
The same applies for children or adult archers who have smaller arms. There are some products specifically designed and manufactured for people with a smaller size. If you go for a “one size fits all” product, do your research first to ensure it will fit you right.
Generally, arm guards are manufactured to fit either hand (a bit like bows) which makes them a versatile product. Some models, though, are specifically designed and made to fit on either the right arm or the left arm. These products often have additional features like a guard to cover and protect the thumb. This means they are created for one specific side.
All Round Arm Guards
SAS 8″/11.5″ Armguard
SAS is a brand with a great reputation for high quality items at low prices. This arm guard specifically is a value hard to beat. This product is a cost-effective option that is both functional and high quality.
This eight-inch arm guard from SAS offers maximum protection for your arm as you draw the arrow. It’s made with a lightweight synthetic fabric, so it’s both durable and comfortable to wear. There are extra vents on the arm guard that allow for better air flow to your arm. This is great for year-round archery enthusiasts or bowhunters in hot climates.
This guard has three adjustable straps, so it fits almost any size arm. On top of that, the adjustment system is designed with quick buckles. This makes for faster removal and fitting and is really convenient.
The guard is simple but well made. It provides an excellent level of protection for your arm. You can prevent any rubbing or pinching by wearing a layer of clothing underneath it.
- Great value
- Fits well
- Adjustable quick buckle system
- Simple, quality design
- High level of protection
- Extra vents for air flow
- Can scratch and pinch the skin
OMP Mountain Man
If you’re looking for one of the most comfortable arm guards, the OMP Mountain Man could be the end of your search. For starters, it’s made of suede. Even the stitching of this guard has been finished to a high standard to avoid discomfort to sensitive skin.
The seven-inch length should fit most arms, but ensure you take your measurements to see if it’s right for you.
Two Velcro straps make it easy to put on or take off quickly for a comfy fit with enough length for larger arms. If you like the look of this guard but need a tighter fit, you can always snip a little of the Velcro off.
There can be downsides to the straps. Velcro is known to lose its fastening qualities with repeated use. That may cause the guard to move or slip over time. Furthermore, the straps are not thoroughly embedded in the suede and may pull away if stressed.
What makes the OMP different from many other arm guards is the vented design of the straps. This ventilation allows your skin to breathe, a welcome relief in the hot summer months. No more sweaty Robin Hood look.
The size and fit of this arm guard make it ideal for both newcomers and more experienced archers alike. The unrestrictive, comfortable fit of the OMP is something anyone can benefit from at any level.
- Adjustable Velcro straps
- Strap ventilation
- Unrestrictive, comfortable fit
- Great for all levels
- Straps can wear
ArcheryMax Handmade Leather
First and foremost, this guard is thin, lightweight and comfortable. It’s well made and provides a high level of protection to the arm. It goes beyond just protection, though. It actually supports the arm, which has been found to be benefit the someone recovering from an injury.
Lacing along the outside of the arm means it’s fully adjustable. Plus, it’s aesthetically appealing. If you’re a recurve or longbow archer going for that traditional look, here’s something definitely stylish.
The design of the ArcheryMax features a leather flap, which ensures there is no exposed skin. However, this also means that the product can make your arm hot and sweaty after a long period of use.
It comes in two options: antique leather or black leather. It’s a shooting glove style, so it includes an area to cover and protect your thumb. As a result it’s sold to fit either the right or left arm. Consider it if a traditional archer enthusiast or if you’ve suffered an injury and are looking for something with a little more support.
- Lightweight, comfortable material
- High level of protection
- Adjustable lacing
- Traditional style
- Two leather options
- Not very breathable
The Tarantula sleeve covers the forearm with a protective padded fabric. If the string slaps back across your arm as you release the arrow, it won’t sting as much. It also has holes to allow for airflow and keep it comfortable for long periods.
At eight inches, it’s a larger guard, so it’s better for longer arms. The adjustable straps are really long and can fit wide forearms. You can also wear it comfortably over clothing to prevent any catching of the arrow or bow string.
Three elastic straps with buckles provide a strong and secure attachment to your arm. The material is tough and won’t crack or tear after repeated striking.
In fact, this arm guard is so durable the company offers a lifetime warranty against any breakage. If it should ever fail you, the company will fix the sleeve or replace it free of charge. This can save you both time and money. If you’re a serious archer who’s going to be on the range day after day or a frequent bowhunter, this along with this guard’s high level of comfort make it a great option.
- Protective padded fabric
- Breathable design
- Easily adjustable
- Elastic straps
- Lifetime warranty
- Synthetic material
Allen Molded 4-Strap
If you’re looking for an extra bit of protection, this is a very different style of archery arm guard. This is a full-length arm guard, so it’s designed to protect your whole arm, biceps and forearm. It’s a lightweight guard with a striking camouflage design.
This arm guard is so soft that you almost forget you’re wearing it. But don’t be fooled, it offers maximum protection for errant bow strings or even arrows. Even when you’re bending and extending your arm, the flexibility at the elbow ensures that the guard doesn’t restrict your movements. Still, the extra length may be uncomfortable and frankly unnecessary for many users. If you already have good form, a shorter guard is probably plenty.
The fit is comfortable and secure, and the materials and construction are of a high quality overall. What’s better, it comes at a pretty low price.
This product features fully adjustable straps with buckles that release easily to allow for resizing. It’s made in the USA and the fabric is Mossy Oak BreakUp Camo
- Striking camo design
- Soft and comfortable
- Maximum protection
- Flexible and unrestrictive
- Low price range
- Length unnecessary for some
For Kids and Youth
Allen Company Mesh
The Allen Company Mesh arm guard is specifically made for smaller or younger archers. It’s designed to protect smaller arms from injury.
It comes in a stylish black mesh material, and it’s available in a choice of orange, pink or green backing fabrics. A durable strip down the center of the product protects your arm from the force of the bow.
This guard is lightweight and breathable and forms well to different sized arms. It has plenty of padding and won’t bunch while in use, making it perfect for younger and more inexperienced archers.
It functions well and provides a great level of protection to the arm. Of course, it’s likely too small for most adults.
The wide straps are made from a soft elastic fabric, which helps to prevent pinching and rubbing. The buckles are easy to use and adjust. It’s possible to make adjustments with one hand while wearing the arm guard without having to remove it.
- Great for children
- Stylish design
- Lightweight and breathable
- High level of protection
- Very easy to adjust
- Small size range