With origins dating back to the 1960s, compound bows revolutionized the sport of archery due to their intricate system of pulleys and cables that provide unprecedented accuracy and power compared to traditional recurve bows.
For both novice and seasoned hunters alike, few pieces of equipment are as important as your compound bow. The right bow can mean the difference between a successful hunting excursion and an empty-handed return home.
With so many options on the market, however, it can be challenging to determine which compound bow is best suited for your needs and shooting style. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the key specifications and features to consider when selecting a new compound bow.
Whether you’re an archer with years of experience looking to upgrade your equipment, or a beginning hunter making your first bow purchase, you’ll learn what to look for in draw weight, draw length, speed, accuracy, vibration control, brands, and more.
We’ll also provide tips and advice for properly fitting your new bow, comparing different models side-by-side, and making the most informed purchase decision.
Follow along, and you’ll gain the knowledge and confidence to invest in the ideal compound bow to match your skills and hunting goals. Let’s get started!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Compound Bow
One of the most important specifications to evaluate when choosing a compound bow is the draw weight. This refers to the amount of force, measured in pounds, that is required to fully pull back the bowstring. Draw weight directly impacts the power and speed your arrows will have upon release.
For beginning archers, it is wise to start with a relatively low draw weight in the 30-50 pound range. This allows you to focus on developing proper form and technique without straining yourself. Attempting to use a high-powered bow too early can lead to injury and frustration. As your strength and experience grow, you can gradually increase draw weight to improve power.
More seasoned shooters generally opt for draw weights between 50-80 pounds or more. Higher draw weights allow you to maximize the kinetic energy transferred to the arrow. This leads to faster arrow speeds and greater impact upon hitting a target. However, a higher draw demands greater physical exertion when anchoring and aiming.
It is essential to choose a draw weight appropriate for your size, fitness level and shooting goals. Compound bows with an adjustable draw weight range are ideal, as they allow you to start low and increase incrementally. You want a weight heavy enough to be effective and challenging, but not so heavy that you struggle to maintain steady aim and good form.
Ideally, you should be able to comfortably draw and anchor the bowstring for a full minute without shaking or tipping. This ensures you can properly line up a shot even if game does not present itself immediately. Testing different draw weights at a pro shop is the best way to determine your ideal poundage. Consider your capabilities both now and your goals for increasing strength over time. With the right draw weight, you will be able to maximize accuracy, power, and endurance.
Secondly, draw weight paying attention to your specific draw length is a key factor when selecting a compound bow. Draw length refers to the distance between the bowstring grip and the string at full draw, and matches closely to your arm span.
Rather than guessing your draw length, it is highly recommended to get professionally fitted at a pro shop. An experienced technician will precisely measure your wingspan and divide by 2.5 to calculate the ideal draw length. This measurement ensures you can safely and comfortably reach full draw in the shooting position.
Attempting to shoot a bow with an ill-fitting draw length can throw off your entire form and lead to accuracy issues. Common problems include overextending on a too-long draw or drawing at an awkward angle with a short draw. This leads to inconsistent anchor points, unstable aiming, and possibly strain or injury.
Many compound bows allow for some range of adjustability via their eccentrics and cams. However, even with adjustments, you’ll experience the best performance staying as close as possible to your measured draw length. It is prudent to get a bow offering 10-30 pounds of length adjustment to account for technique improvements over time.
Verifying your exact draw length is worth the small upfront investment. With a properly fitted bow, you will notice immediate improvements in your consistency, stability, and precision. Taking the time to get set properly translates to greater confidence, tighter shot groups, and better results whether target shooting or hunting. Don’t ignore this crucial fitting step before purchasing your compound bow.
The axle-to-axle length is another important specification to consider when selecting a compound bow. This refers to the total length between the axle mounts that attach the cams/eccentrics at either end of the riser. The axle-to-axle measurement impacts the maneuverability, stability, and shooting experience of the bow.
Longer axle-to-axle lengths over 35 inches tend to provide a more forgiving, stable shooting platform. The wider stance increases torsional rigidity for smoother draws and better accuracy. The trade-off is that long axle-to-axle bows are less versatile in tight spaces like treestands or ground blinds.
Conversely, shorter axle-to-axle lengths under 32 inches create a more compact, maneuverable bow. While nimble in confined spaces, shorter frames can be less stable and harder to keep on target, especially for beginners. The reduced string angle also decreases some of the mechanical advantage.
When choosing an axle-to-axle length, consider your shooting environment and experience level. Hunters who frequently use ground blinds and treestands may prefer a 30-32” length for easy handling. Target shooters and archers looking for maximum stability are better served with a 35”+ axle length.
You can also evaluate how the axle-to-axle measurement combines with the brace height to impact power stroke and speed. Ultimately, you want a length that provides ideal stability without being cumbersome. Testing different bow lengths at a shop will help determine the best option to suit your needs.
The brace height, or distance between the bowstring and grip at rest, is a key specification impacting the forgivingness and power stroke of your compound bow. Finding the optimal brace height involves balancing shot precision and kinetic energy transfer.
Shorter brace heights of around 6 to 7 inches store more energy by providing a longer power stroke, which leads to faster arrow speeds and downrange energy. However, shorter brace heights also decrease dwell time at full draw, which can reduce accuracy, especially for newer archers learning proper back tension and release.
Conversely, longer brace heights of 8 to 9 inches provide a more forgiving shot with a slower, smooth draw cycle. The longer brace height increases dwell time at full draw, giving you more time to line up the peep sight and settle your pins on target. However, some speed and power potential are sacrificed.
For many intermediate and beginner shooters, a brace height of 7 to 8 inches offers the best blend of forgiveness and performance. Narrowing in on your ideal measurement depends on shooting style and experience level. Test firing bows with different brace height specs will reveal which range provides the most control while still offering ample kinetic energy.
Keep in mind that brace height interacts with the bow’s axle-to-axle length, limb design, and other features for overall feel and power. Regardless of your final selection, optimal arrow flight and precision shooting depend on properly tuning the brace height during setup and maintenance. With an ideal measurement suited for your abilities, brace height is crucial for accuracy and clean releases.
One specification frequently used to market compound bows is speed, often quantified in feet per second (FPS) ratings. However, maximum arrow speed is not the only measure of efficiency and performance.
Higher FPS ratings do translate into more kinetic energy and momentum as arrows leave the bow. This leads to a flatter trajectory and harder hits on targets. However, extremely fast bows can be harder to control and tune properly, especially for novice shooters.
While manufacturers strive for blistering speeds exceeding 350 FPS, most archers will never require that kind of velocity. Focus less on marketing hype and more on real-world requirements based on draw length, arrow weight, and shooting conditions.
The most efficient bows use optimized cam systems, parallel limb designs, lightweight materials and balanced reflex risers to propel arrows smoothly and accurately. Speed is just one output of good engineering, not the sole goal.
Test various bows to find efficient power, stability, and accuracy within your ideal speed range. Depending on your shooting environment and Arrow weights, optimal FPS for sufficient kinetic energy may be anywhere from 270 to 320 FPS.
Matching arrow weight properly to your bow and draw length has a greater impact on arrow speed than comparing FPS ratings alone. An efficiently tuned bow shooting optimized arrows will generate sufficient speed for ethical shots without sacrificing precision.
The noise and vibration a compound bow generates must be evaluated, as excessive decibels and shock can negatively impact shooting performance and bow life. Fortunately, modern compounds utilize various technologies to reduce noise and dissipate vibration.
Many bows incorporate cam designs and limb suppression systems to dampen vibration at the source. Limb dampeners and string silencers made of rubber or other polymers can further diminish excess noise and shock.
Risers crafted from vibration-inhibiting materials like carbon fiber also enhance shock dissipation and noise reduction. Some models feature tuning ports or holes strategically placed in the riser to improve acoustic dampening.
For hunters, choosing a quiet bow is critical for avoiding spooking wary game. Target archers also benefit from minimal vibration and hand shock, allowing steadier aim. Excessive vibration can loosen components, decreasing bow lifespans.
When evaluating options, listen and feel for audible noise and noticeable buzzing after the shot. Bows around or below 85 decibels offer sufficient stealth and shootability. While not totally silent, today’s compound bows can be remarkably quiet.
Some sound increase is expected with higher draw weights and arrow speeds. But with the right combination of optimized design, materials, and dampening features, you can find a bow that generates power while remaining whisper-quiet. Test various models and specs to determine the best balance of speed, vibration control, and noise reduction to suit your specific needs.
With compound bows ranging in price from under $200 to over $1,500, setting a budget is key before starting your search. Like most equipment, you get what you pay for in terms of features, performance, and durability. That said, quality starter packages are available at lower price points.
Aspiring archers can find reputable ready-to-shoot bows for under $400. Mid-range models with better materials and more adjustability run $400 to $800. Expert-level competition-bows with premium construction can cost $1,000 and beyond. Budget another $300 or more for vital accessories like sights, rests, and stabilizers.
Consider both how much you are willing to invest upfront as a beginner, along with longer-term goals. New archers may prefer an affordable starting bow they can outgrow. Those committed long-term may spend more for high-performance components that will last.
You want the best quality gear you can afford that meets your experience level. Top-tier bows are pointless if you lack the proper technique. Similarly, poor-quality equipment hampers development. Finding the sweet spot for budget and performance takes research.
By determining key features that fit your goals and current skills, you can identify ideal models in your budget range through pro shop test sessions. Manufacturers also offer last year’s flagship bows at discount prices for significant savings. Being a savvy shopper goes hand in hand with selecting the perfect bow to match your budget and performance needs.
With so many compound bow manufacturers on the market, it helps to be familiar with the major brands’ reputations when making your selection. Premier companies like Hoyt, Mathews, Bowtech, Elite Archery, PSE, and Bear Archery consistently produce high-performance bows favored by competitive archers and hunters.
Hoyt is renowned for accuracy and smooth-drawing high-end bows built with exacting tolerances. Mathews focuses on faster speeds while retaining stability and quiet operation. Bowtech offers versatile designs with innovative technologies at multiple budget levels.
PSE is a trusted brand producing a wide range of affordable to pro-level bows acclaimed for power and efficiency. Elite bows are precision-engineered for competitive archers demanding pinpoint accuracy. Bear’s legendary tradition spans generations with more entry-level focused, but reliable options.
Smaller boutique brands like Obsession, Prime, and Athens Archery have also earned recognition for premium bows with precision craftsmanship. When possible, shoot as many brands as you can to get a feel for fit, aim, draw, and shot experience.
While personal preference rules, you can’t go wrong with an industry-leading brand that matches your budget and needs. Those new to archery may prioritize value and adjustability. Experts seek finely tuned competitive advantages.
Settling on a reputable manufacturer ensures you get high-end performance and technology for the investment. With so many quality options, the hardest part is choosing just one bow from today’s top brands.
While the bow itself is the core component, you’ll require other vital accessories for a fully functioning setup. At a minimum, essential add-ons include arrows, an arrow rest, sights, a quiver, and a release aid. Stabilizers, cases, and tuning tools may be needed as well.
Match arrow spine for your draw length and poundage. Choose compatible broadheads and field points. Quality arrow rests provide stable guidance while minimizing fletching contact. Multiple sight pin options allow accurate yardage dialing. Back/hip quivers keep extra arrows organized and accessible. Mechanical releases ensure clean releases versus finger-pinching the string.
Stabilizers offset torque for steadier aiming downrange. Hard or soft cases protect your bow when not in use. Other handy accessories include wrist slings, tuning kits, bow squares, and string silencers/dampeners.
Factor accessory costs into your total budget. Some bow packages include starter accessories to get you shooting quickly. Eventually, you may upgrade to higher-end sights, rests, and specialty gear. Set priorities based on your experience level and shooting environment. A bare bow is useless without properly matched arrows and a release at minimum.
With the right accessories chosen, you’ll have a complete system capable of consistent accuracy. Don’t neglect to evaluate potential add-ons when researching your bow purchase. Identifying must-have accessories ensures you equip your bow for optimal performance and convenience.
Trying Before You Buy
With so many compound bow specifications to evaluate, it is critical to test potential models in person rather than buying sight unseen. Visiting pro shops to try different brands, weights, draw lengths, and accessories is the best way to determine your optimal fit and feel.
While reading reviews provides insights, you need to handle and shoot potential bows yourself. Minor differences in grip, balance, draw cycle, vibration, and shot sound are impossible to convey on paper. Testing gives you first-hand data to compare tangible performance factors.
Work with shop technicians to set up bows matching your measurements and abilities. Have them observe your form and aiming as you test various models at your desired draw length, weight, and settings. Notice how adjustable options like draw stops and let-off impact holding and accuracy.
Trying before buying also ensures you choose appropriate accessories to complement your bow. Test different arrow rests, sights, releases and stabilizers to optimize the setup. You may discover certain add-ons don’t pair well or require additional tuning.
Don’t rush the evaluation process. Schedule multiple sessions if needed to narrow down the best bow and accessory combination. Bring along your current equipment to use for head-to-head comparisons as a baseline. Taking time to test upfront saves frustration and buyer’s remorse later. You’ll know when you pick up the right bow for optimal shooting experiences.
Making the Purchase
Once you’ve selected the ideal compound bow through thorough testing and research, it’s time to make the big purchase. While some opt to buy bows online to save money, purchasing from a qualified pro shop is recommended.
Reputable local retailers will make sure your bow is properly set up and fitted specifically for you. This includes verifying your draw length, adjusting the poundage and draw stops, installing accessories like sights and rests, syncing the cam timing, and tuning the bow to optimize arrow flight.
Pro shop technicians will also explain proper shooting form and techniques. Take advantage of their expertise to get instruction on draw, anchor, release, follow through and shot sequencing. Avoid developing poor habits by learning correctly from the start.
Some pro shops include introductory shooting classes or training sessions with new bow purchases. This accelerates your learning curve significantly compared to figuring it out alone.
You may pay slightly more at a pro shop. But the value received from personalized setup, fittings, advice from experts, and developing relationships with local archers makes it worthwhile. You also gain peace of mind that your gear will be serviced and maintained properly for years to come.
Investing in your compound bow is an exciting milestone. But the work doesn’t end once you make the purchase. Taking advantage of pro shop guidance ensures you’ll fine tune your form, accuracy, and confidence right from the start.
Following Proper Safety
Owning a powerful compound bow comes with great responsibility to use it safely and ethically. Before ever shooting your bow, it is imperative that you learn and follow proper safety protocols.
If new to archery, enroll in a hunter’s safety course to learn essential information on range rules, shot angles, blood tracking, and more. Study your state’s regulations for legal bow specs and hunting restrictions. Commit to only taking well-placed, lethal shots you are fully confident in.
At the range, always keep arrows pointed downrange. Follow all posted range commands and whistle signals. Ensure the area behind your target is clear before shooting. Wait until all archers have finished and the range is called clear before retrieving arrows.
Inspect your bow frequently for signs of wear or damage including cracked limbs/risers, frayed strings, and loose components. Replace worn parts immediately. Store and transport your bow correctly to prevent dry-firing accidents.
Use a draw check device and never dry fire. Ensure hands and clothing stay clear of cables during the shot. Follow a disciplined shot sequence and release aid protocol every time you draw back. Stay focused and avoid distractions while shooting.
With practice, safety habits will become second nature. But always respect the power of your bow. Complacency leads to mistakes. By committing to safe operation, you protect both yourself and fellow archers, while promoting responsible use of archery equipment. Safety and ethics must come first, before all else.
Types of Compound Bows
With origins dating back to the 1960s, compound bows revolutionized archery with their use of cams and cables that provide unprecedented power and accuracy compared to traditional bows.
While the basic mechanics of a compound bow are similar across the board, there are distinct types designed for specific shooting applications and experience levels. Understanding the characteristics of different types of compound bow variations is key to choosing the optimal model to fit your needs.
As the name implies, single-cam compound bows utilize one cam at the bottom of the riser, and an idler wheel at the top rather than dual cams. The asymmetric design makes single cams easier to tune and maintain in sync.
Single cams also tend to feature a more forgiving draw cycle with a smooth acceleration to peak weight followed by steady let-off. The simple design reduces recoil and vibration as well. However, single-cam efficiency leads to slightly slower arrow velocities compared to other compounds.
Hybrid cams aim to combine elements of single and dual cam designs foradded tuning simplicity without sacrificing dual cam speed. Hybrid systems use one primary cam at the bottom and a secondary “slave” cam at the top synchronized by the bus cable.
The semi-symmetrical platform provides faster arrow speeds than a true single cam along with synchronized cam rotation for accuracy. The hybrid cam compromise gives shooters the best of both worlds.
Dual-cam compound bows feature mirrored cams at both the top and bottom of the riser for maximum efficiency and speed. Though more challenging to keep in perfect sync, the symmetrical leverage provides blazing arrow velocities surpassing 350 feet per second.
Dual cams also distribute draw weight evenly between both cams. The tradeoff is they usually have a harsher draw cycle with an abrupt weight jump and minimal valley at full draw.
Binary cam systems build on dual cam concepts with both cams beginning rotation at the same exact time during the draw. This eliminates synch issues and provides an ultra-efficient power stroke and level nock travel.
Binary cams offer all the speed advantages of dual cams but with smoother, consistent loading between the cams. The precise synchronization leads to pinpoint accuracy when tuned properly.
Parts of a compound bow
With a complex mix of cables, cams, limbs, and accessories, compound bows employ an intricate system of leverage and kinetics to deliver unmatched accuracy and power compared to other bows.
Gaining familiarity with the various components and how they interact is essential to choosing, setting up, tuning, and maintaining your compound bow setup. Here is an overview of the critical parts of a modern compound bow.
The riser acts as the central foundation to which all other components mount. Risers are typically crafted from machined aluminum or carbon fiber for maximum strength and vibration dampening.
The riser houses the grip section as well as the arrow shelf or rest mounting point. Top-quality risers feature strategically engineered cutouts and balance points to reduce noise and recoil.
The limbs are the flexible ends that provide power by bending and storing potential energy when the bow is drawn. Compound bow limbs are stiff and substantially shorter than traditional bows due to the pulley cabling system offsetting draw weight.
Most incorporate a laminate or split design with modern materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass. Recurved ends on the limbs add power stroke length.
The cams or eccentric wheels mounted at the ends of the limbs are the defining feature of a compound bow. Their oval shape converts draw force to let-off at the end of the cycle.
The interaction between the cams and cabling enables efficient energy storage and release. Compounds utilize single, hybrid, dual, or binary cam systems with differences in how the cams sync and distribute power.
The cabling system of continuous loops and string strands connecting the cams provides the compound bow’s mechanical advantage. Buss cables attached to the cams give them rotation for the drawing and loading process.
Control cables run directly between the cams to sync timing. Harnesses mount to the bowstring and ends of the cams. Proper cable adjustment and minimal friction are critical.
Modern compound bowstrings consist of multiple ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene strands for minimal stretch and friction. The specially designed string loops attach over the cams while the center serves as the release point.
Regular string maintenance including waxing prevents excessive fraying and wear.
Common compound bow accessories include arrow rests, sights, stabilizers, quivers, releases, and silencers. Various mounting points on the riser allow customization for hunting, target shooting, or 3D archery setups. Quality accessories enhance accuracy, precision, and functionality.
How Compound Bow Works
With an elaborate system of cams, cables and limbs, it takes coordinated motion to unlock a compound bow’s immense potential for power and accuracy. By walking through the sequence step-by-step, you can better understand how compound bows generate exceptional speed and precision compared to traditional bows.
Step 1 – Initial Draw
Drawing a compound bow starts the process by displacing the bowstring connected to cams on the limb tips. As the archer pulls the string back, the eccentrically shaped cams begin rolling over. This initiates take-up on the cables running between the cams and limbs.
Step 2 – Limb Load
As the cams roll with the initial draw, the cables tension and bend the flexible limbs deeper. This flexing action stores increasing levels of potential energy in the limbs, similar to coiling springs. The limbs act as the core power source.
Step 3 – Peak Weight
The leverage provided by the cams and cabling enables peak draw weight to be reached fairly quickly, often around mid-draw. This early weight peak makes holding weight manageable.
Step 4 – Valley Let-Off
The archer continues pulling through peak weight until the cams roll into the “valley” position. Here, the limb tension drops off slightly, letting off weight and allowing the archer to hold steadily.
Step 5 – Full Draw
In the valley let-off, the archer can comfortably extend to full draw and precisely anchor their release hand under the jaw. The flexed limbs hold massive stored energy at the ready.
Step 6 – Aiming
With the limbs loaded and cams in the valley, the archer has time to properly align their body, concentrate on the target, make sight adjustments, and prepare for release.
Step 7 – Release
Triggering the release fires the sequence, with the cams instantly spinning back to the starting “brace” position.
Step 8 – Energy Transfer
The rolling cams swiftly unlock the stored limb energy and transfer it through the cables directly into the arrow. This generates immense speed and power.
Step 9 – Follow Through
In milliseconds, the arrow is gone as the limbs unwind and cams settle back to neutral. The archer continues the natural follow-through motion.
Step 10 – Reset
The cams automatically reset to their starting position, ready for the next cycling sequence. The synchronized process begins anew on each draw.
By breaking down the orchestrated draw, hold, and release cycle, you gain greater insight into maximizing your compound bow shooting. With practice, you can leverage this technology for pinpoint precision unmatched by traditional bows.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best draw weight for a beginner compound bow?
Most experts recommend a draw weight between 30-50 lbs for beginners. This provides enough power while allowing you to focus on developing proper shooting form and technique.
How do I measure my draw length for a compound bow?
The best way is to get professionally measured at an archery pro shop. They will measure your arm span and wingspan to precisely calculate your ideal draw length. Generally it is about 75% of your wingspan.
What axle-to-axle length provides the best stability and accuracy?
Longer axle-to-axle lengths over 35 inches tend to offer the most stability and forgiveness for beginner to intermediate archers. Shorter lengths under 32 inches can be less forgiving but more maneuverable.
What brace height should I look for in a compound bow?
For beginners, a brace height between 7-8 inches is recommended. This provides sufficient forgiveness while still generating adequate power. Advanced shooters may prefer lower 6-7 inch heights for a longer power stroke.
How important is the speed rating (FPS) when choosing a compound bow?
Actual shooting efficiency is more important than marketing hype about FPS. For most purposes, optimal arrow speeds will be in the 270-320 FPS range based on your draw length and arrow weight.
What features make a compound bow quiet for hunting?
Key features that minimize noise are parallel limb designs, quality string silencers, dampeners on the limbs or riser, cam designs that reduce vibration, and use of lightweight, vibration-dampening materials like carbon fiber.
What are the top compound bow brands on the market?
Top brands for quality and performance include Hoyt, Mathews, Bowtech, Elite Archery, PSE, Bear Archery, Obsession, Prime, and Athens Archery among others.
What accessories do I need to buy for a compound bow setup?
At minimum, you’ll need arrows, an arrow rest, sight, quiver, release aid, and potentially a stabilizer. A case and other tuning tools are also recommended.
What is the average price range for a quality compound bow?
You can find starter packages under $400. Mid-range bows run about $400-$800. High-end pro compound bows cost $1,000+. Budget another $300 or more for vital accessories.
How do I properly tune and maintain my compound bow?
Keep strings waxed and cables tight. Check for fraying or loose strands. Clean/lube the cams when needed. Check draw weight and timing regularly. Replace worn strings every 2+ years.
What safety tips should I follow when shooting a compound bow?
Take a hunter safety course. Follow all range commands. Never dry fire the bow. Inspect equipment regularly for damage or wear. Ensure proper form and release technique.
Choosing your perfect compound bow is a rewarding journey that pairs research with hands-on testing. With countless technical factors impacting performance, take time to understand how draw length, weight, cam systems, and axle design affect accuracy and power. Matching your current skills and strength to the proper specs ensures you select a bow offering stability now with room to grow.
No matter how sophisticated the technology, consistent practice, professional guidance, and proper tuning are key to mastering any bow’s capabilities. Have patience through the progression, avoiding frustration by embracing expert advice. While the path requires dedication, the satisfaction of consistent bullseyes makes the effort to find your ideal compound bow worthwhile. Join generations of archers creating lifelong memories, one arrow at a time.
I am a john petric highly skilled and experienced archer known for his exceptional talent and achievements in the world of archery. With years of dedication and practice, I became a renowned figure in the archer community. This note aims to shed light on my archery journey, highlighting his accomplishments, techniques, and contributions to the sport.