how to set up a compound bow

How to Set Up a Compound Bow: A Comprehensive Tutorial

The compound bow has become an extremely popular weapon of choice for target shooting, bowhunting, and 3D archery competitions. With its system of cables and pulleys, compound bows provide a mechanical advantage that allows an archer to hold significant weight at full draw with relative ease. This results in arrows achieving greater speed and kinetic energy downrange.

However, in order to achieve consistent accuracy and realize the full potential of a compound bow, proper setup and adjustments are imperative. There are many key specifications and components that need to be tailored specifically to each archer. This includes draw length, draw weight, arrow rest position, nock height, sight adjustments, and much more.

This comprehensive tutorial will teach you step-by-step how to properly set up a compound bow from start to finish. With the right tools and a methodical approach, you’ll be able to optimize your compound bow’s performance and have confidence in your equipment.

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Gather the Necessary Equipment to Set Up a Compound Bow

Before beginning the setup process, make sure you have gathered all the necessary accessories and tools:

Compound Bow – The specific model isn’t important, as long as it’s in good working condition

Arrows – Match your arrow spine to your draw length and draw weight

Arrow Rest – Fall-away rests are popular, but any will work

Sight – Single-pin adjustable or multipin fixed sights are common

Release Aid – Wrist straps or handheld releases work for compound bows

Allen Wrenches – For adjusting sights, rests, and tightening accessories

Bow Square – Essential for setting nock points and verifying specifications

Bow Press – Allows relaxing the limbs to adjust draw mods and weight

Paper Tuning Target – A necessary tool for properly tuning the bow

Draw Length Checker – Optional, but helps double-check the proper fit

Adjust the Draw Length of the Compound Bow

Your draw length is the distance from the bowstring at rest, to the nocking point with your bow arm outstretched and drawing hand anchored. Having the correct draw length setting allows you to draw the bow efficiently and avoids overextension or crooked drawing.

Here’s how to determine and set your ideal compound bow draw length:

  1. Use an adjustable draw length checker and have a friend measure your wingspan, then divide by 2.5.
  2. Alternatively, stand with arms straight out, have someone mark the center of the bow hand, and then measure from there to the other hand.
  3. Consult your bow’s owner’s manual for how to use the draw length modules or cams. Usually involves rotating the module and repositioning on the inner cam track.
  4. Set the module where the corresponding draw length lines up with the reference mark on the cam.
  5. After adjusting both the top and bottom cams, recheck the measurement using the drawboard.
  6. Fine-tune in 1/2-inch increments until you find your perfect custom fit.

Set the Draw Weight of the Compound Bow

The draw weight of a compound bow is the amount of peak force, measured in pounds, required to draw the bowstring back to your anchor point. Determining the appropriate draw weight involves considering your strength, shooting goals, and safety.

Here are some tips for adjusting compound bow draw weight:

  • Use an appropriate bow press to relax the limbs and allow the draw weight to be adjusted.
  • Locate the limb bolts that run through the riser into each limb.
  • Turn the bolts clockwise to increase weight, and counterclockwise to decrease.
  • Make adjustments to both top and bottom limbs equally to keep the tiller even.
  • Adjust in small increments of 5 lbs or less until you reach your desired holding weight.
  • For hunting, 50-70 lbs is common. For target shooting, 40-60 lbs is ideal.
  • Only increase weight if you can reliably draw and shoot with proper form. Overbowing can lead to injury.
  • After setting both limb bolt weights, recheck the weight on a scale for accuracy.

Install Accessories

There are a variety of accessories that can be added to enhance your compound bow’s performance and customize it to your preferences. Here are some key steps for installing some common accessories:

Install Accessories in Compound Bow

Arrow Rest:

  1. Position so the rest lifts the arrow to align with the sight pins and provide optimal fletching clearance.
  2. Set the rest height by starting low and moving up incrementally until achieving ideal arrow flight.
  3. Use mounting screws to securely fasten the rest to the bow riser.


  1. Single-pin adjustable or multiple fixed-pin sights are common choices.
  2. Attach the sight to the bow riser directly above the rest using provided screws.
  3. On adjustable sights, center the yardage indicator marks in the adjustment range.


  1. Add front and rear stabilizers to minimize vibration and torque during shots.
  2. Use shorter back stabilizers and adjust balance by moving weights.
  3. Attach rubber dampeners to limbs and string to reduce noise and vibration.

Set the Nocking Point

Set the Nocking Point

The nocking point is a marker on the bowstring that indicates where the nock of the arrow should be positioned. A consistent nocking point is crucial for arrow clearance and accuracy. Here’s how to establish proper nock point placement:

  1. Start by positioning a nock locator such as a D-loop or brass nocking point about 1/2 inch above the square for initial placement.
  2. Press the bow and drawback using the release aid to verify that the arrow rests level on the rest at full draw.
  3. Look down the arrow shaft to check if it is crossing the rest straight with good left/right clearance from the riser.
  4. If the arrow is tilted left, twist the D-loop right to bring the alignment back. Twist left if tilted right.
  5. Nocking point height affects vertical impacts, so make micro-adjustments and retest until you achieve consistent bullet hole tears through paper.
  6. Once positioned accurately, use pliers to securely crimp the nocking point or tie the D-loop tightly.

Paper Tuning and Sight Adjustments

Paper tuning involves shooting arrows through the paper at a short range and reading the resulting tear patterns to identify any inconsistencies in arrow flight. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Hang a paper target about 5 yards away and fire arrows through the paper into a safe backstop.
  2. Look at the tear pattern. A perfect bullet hole means the bow is optimized. No adjustments needed.
  3. A nock-high tear means the nocking point needs to be lowered slightly. A nock low tear means raise the nocking point.
  4. A left tear requires moving the rest right. A right tear means move the rest left. Only make small increments of adjustment.
  5. For cam timing issues, make small adjustments to the buss cable, working the top and bottom cam in opposite directions.
  6. Once the tear is corrected, make micro windage and elevation adjustments to dial in sight pins on target at varying distances.

Safety Check and Final Tweaks

Before considering your compound bow setup complete, it’s important to make some final inspections:

  • Verify all screws and mounting hardware are tight and accessories securely attached. Loose components can be dangerous.
  • Examine axles, cams, and cables for any signs of wear or damage. Replace anything that looks compromised.
  • Confirm draw stops are contacting the limbs squarely and stopping draw at the set draw length.
  • Make sure arrow flight remains optimal through the entire draw cycle with no fletching contact.
  • Fine-tune draw weight if needed to find optimal holding weight for comfort and accuracy.
  • Consider adding vibration-damping accessories for noise reduction and enhanced feel on the shot.
  • Confirm proper clearance of fletching, rest, and cables upon arrow release.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need special tools to set up a compound bow?

Most compound bows come with the essential tools needed for assembly, such as Allen wrenches. However, some specialized equipment like a bow press may be required for certain adjustments. It’s best to consult your bow’s user manual for specific tool recommendations.

Can I set up a compound bow by myself, or do I need professional help?

While many archers opt to set up their compound bows themselves, especially after gaining some experience, beginners might benefit from professional guidance initially. Many archery shops offer set-up services and can provide expert advice.

How do I determine the right draw length for my compound bow?

Draw length is a crucial factor for accuracy and comfort. It can be calculated by measuring your arm span and dividing it by 2.5 or by using a bow-specific method described in your user manual. Some bows offer adjustable draw lengths.

How often do I need to tune my compound bow?

The frequency of tuning varies based on how often you use the bow and the conditions it’s exposed to. As a general rule, your bow should be tuned at least once a year, but more frequent tuning may be required for avid archers.

Is it necessary to use a bow press when setting up a compound bow?

A bow press is essential for certain adjustments like changing bowstrings, installing peep sights, or making cam adjustments. However, not all setup steps require a bow press. Make sure to consult your user manual for specific instructions.


Setting up a compound bow properly requires care, precision, and attention to detail. While it may seem complex, taking the process step-by-step as described above will help you master the nuances of optimizing your equipment. With a properly fit bow that is tuned for precision and consistency, you’ll be able to focus on developing repeatable shooting form and accuracy.

Just remember to follow the safety checks and don’t be afraid to tweak components in small increments until everything is dialed in. Now get out there and start practicing with your optimized compound bow setup!

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