How to Choose the Right Compound Bow

choose right compound bow choice - US Gov Work - PD in USA -’s archery market consists of numerous compound bow manufacturers making it difficult for beginners to select the right bow for the sport. However, all compound bows display several similarities regardless of their names, brands or manufacturers, draw length, axle length, brace height, size, and draw weight. In our discussion, we will look at the primary qualities every beginner should consider when making their compound bow choice.

What Is A Compound Bow?

The use of a compound bows dates back in the mid-20th century. Holless Wilbur Allen developed the compound bow with the aim of improving the drawing power of the traditional bow. Unlike other bows, compound bows use a leveling system that consists of cables and cams to bend the limbs providing a mechanical advantage to the archer.

How To Adjust A Compound Bow - Pic From, archers use minimal effort, experience reduced fatigue and apply more power behind the arrow when shooting. The leveling system also allows archers to release tension when drawing the bow resulting in better aim and accuracy. The compound bow has become dominant in US tournaments and hunting due to several other features:

  • Ability to allow archers to maintain the bow at full draw for extended periods of time (without depending on brute strength) makes the bow ideal for smaller adults and women.
  • It is made of aluminum or carbon – the materials are durable and not prone to warping caused by changes in temperature or humidity.
  • The riser is made of durable, lightweight material like magnesium, aluminum or an alloy of both materials. Risers made of aluminum alloy provide high tensile strength; an important feature when drawing the bowstring.
  • Surprisingly, compound bows are a cheaper option when compared to traditional bows. The high demand for advanced compound bows has led to reduced demand for traditional bows.
  • They provide better speed, accuracy, and performance.
  • They can be dismantled for easier transport and storage.

10 Qualities to Consider When Buying a Compound Bow

1) Draw Length

Compound bows are uniquely designed to draw a particular distance (draw length) before the string stops. They feature different draw lengths that can be adjusted to fit an archer’s shooting range.

  • Short Draw Lengths

Short draw lengths may hinder an archer’s accuracy. It becomes difficult to maintain reference points for aiming. As such, archers experience inconsistent shots and increased torque on the bow that leads to inaccuracy.

  • Long Draw Lengths

Naturally, archers lean their heads back to view the shots through the peep sight. Long draw lengths may result in poor posture and shooting form which causes increased torque and tension to the bow as archers have to lean further away. Therefore they achieve inaccurate shots and sometimes injure the inner elbow in the path of the string.

  • The Correct Draw Length

The right draw length allows form, accuracy, consistency and safety. There are endless sources that help beginners achieve the right draw length.

2) The Length of the Bow (Axle Length)

It refers to the total length of the bow. Determining the ideal shaft length greatly depends on the application of the bow; whether hunting or target shooting. Short bows (30”-32”) are more controllable but require lots of practice for beginners; they are ideal for hunting. Longbows, on the other hand, are suitable for target shooting as they provide greater accuracy. However, there is no set bow length archers should use; it depends on the archer’s personal preference and the bow’s application.

3) Draw Weight

compound bow draw weight - overdoing itThe draw weight represents the maximum weight an archer exerts when pulling the string before let-off and is usually expressed in pounds. Compound bows have a let-off percentage designed to reduce an archer’s weight at full draw. When choosing a compound bow, beginning archers have to match their strength to the bow’s draw weight. Naturally, heavier draw weights (60-70 pounds) generate faster speeds and are ideal for hunting. While speed is important, beginners should pick a bow that provides steady and stress-free shots.

They should identify lower-poundage compound bows (40-50 pounds) as they provide long draws with minimal effort. If hunting in adverse conditions, however, heavy draw weights are difficult to hold for extended periods; more so if hunting from tree stands. The idea here is to match the archer’s strength with the weight. The best way to know your draw weight is to test the bows to see if you can hold it for 20-30 seconds without shaking.

4) Brace Height

The brace height is the distance between an archer’s grip and the bow string (at rest). Long brace heights translate into slower bows while short heights translate in faster bows that are often difficult to shoot. On average compound bows have a 7” height, but beginners should try out different brace heights before purchasing a compound bow. Additionally, modern compound bows are designed to suit both beginners and experienced shooters

5) Let-off percentage

Great deals of modern compound bows have 70-80% let-offs, which is an excellent range regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced archer. Some compound bows allow archers to alter the let-off settings by reducing it to a lower range, but beginners should look for a high let-off range. It allows them to hold the bow for extended periods when drawn giving them adequate time to aim and ensure the technique is on point.

Example:  If a bow is rated at 50 lbs with an 80% let off, this means you will be holding about 10 lbs at full draw.

6) Overall size and weight

The size and weight of the bow are important especially if your aim is to hunt. Lightweight bows promote comfortable lugging around the hunting area. The downside with lightweight bows is that they produce lots of vibration. Heavy bows, on the other hand, are burdensome to carry around in the woods but are less noisy and tend to vibrate less.

7) Right or left handed

Archers are either left or right handed. Today left, or right-handedness is not as important as most compound bows are designed to accommodate both right and left-handed shooters. However, it is a major factor when determining an archer’s dominant eye. Most shooters have their dominant eye similar to the dominant hand but a small minority experiences a reverse (dominant eye opposite the dominant hand). In such cases, experts advise closing the dominant eye and aiming with the weak eye to achieve an accurate shot.

8) Noise and speed

choose best compound bow choice by soundArchers prefer quiet bows over noisy ones. Loud bows cause vibration that leads to loss of energy. However, new technological designs have developed energy loss accessories like vibration dampeners that absorb the vibrations, string silencers, and a good stabilizer bar to produce quiet shots.

Keep in mind that with all the vibration given off from a bow, you will need to check to make sure no components have shaken loose.  Sight adjustments and stabilizers can sometimes shake loose a little. Not that they will fall off, but anything that is hand tightened is prone to becoming a little loose and making noise while vibrating.

Faster bows have tighter cams but tend to be difficult to draw. Modern bows are designed to shoot a speed of 350 feet per second upwards. Beginners, however, should look for compound bows are not too aggressive as it may hinder their form. Experts recommend an IBO speed of fewer than 350 FPS for beginners. If looking for a big-game hunting bow, the speed is a major factor as it translates to the knock-down power. Thus, such bows should have a speed nearing 350 FPS to provide better penetration. If used along with faster arrows they generate a greater downrange accuracy.

9) Ready to shoot vs. bare bows

Some compound bows come with ready-to-shoot accessories like a sight, a fitted arrow quiver, and arrows, while others require the archer to purchase the accessories separately. The former model is ideal for beginners as they don’t have to spend extra cash and time fitting accessories at an archery store.

“We recommend that better accessories be bought down the road,
once you have had time to practice with the ready to shoot options. You
will have a much better feel for what you like and don’t like about
certain components.  It is a tall task to know all of that upfront without
trying the bow out for a while.”

10) Price range

choose compound bow choice based on money or priceThe prices of compound bows vary depending on the manufacturers, design and quality. Some bows may cost as low as $50 and as high as $1500, it all depends on your budget. Good quality compound bows for beginners and middle-range archers may cost around $300-$500 while state-of-art compound bows cost $600-$1500 and more. While beginners get the excitement of purchasing the best bow on the market, experienced archers advise buying a bow that costs below $500 (ready-to-shoot bow). The package should include the compound bow, quiver, arrow rest, sight, stabilizer bar, and adjustment accessories.

Other Considerations

The points highlighted above explain the ideal features beginners should look for before purchasing a compound bow. However, beginners should also define what they want the compound bow to do when hunting or target shooting regarding accuracy, silence, and power.

They should consider buying a befitting bow that allows them to maximize on energy deliverables. Note that the string acts as an avenue for transmitting energy from the limbs to the arrow; it doesn’t store any energy. Thus, bows with heavier draw weights store more energy and lead to higher arrow speeds and velocities, relatively speaking.

  • Accuracy

compound bow choice - Archery for Beginners - Target -CC0 Public DomainAccuracy to a large extent depends on the archer’s skills. Otherwise, a beginner may find the best compound bow but deliver inconsistent shots. Consistent shooting forms, arrow rests, and accurate sight are some of the qualities that depict accuracy. While arrow rests and sight are acquired from archery stores, beginners can only learn proper form through practice. Beginners may purchase three-pin sights from high-quality brands like Apex, Leader Accessories, Cobra, and Sword. They may then visit the local archery store for setting up depending on their shooting needs.

  • Camouflage

There are plenty of camouflage add-ons in the market. Beginners may buy one to match the bow of your choice. Note that your environment and the game you intend to hunt, determines your selection of camo pattern.

Where to Buy a Compound Bow

Buying a used bow

Most beginners would prefer buying a new compound bow any day. Naturally using new compound bows bring lots of excitement to hunting or target shooting excursions, yet some experts recommend buying used compound bows. Beginners often drop tips to the ground, grind the bow’s pulleys or drop their arms down. Such mistakes require costly repairs if they just bought a new compound bow. Note that used bows tend to have lots of extras as sellers want to make the deals as attractive as possible.

Local archery stores

Clients tend to go back to local stores for upgrades and other accessories hence local stores are likely to provide discounts. Additionally, local stores tend to have experienced archery salespeople who can help you identify a compound bow depending on your skill level and intention. The downside of buying from a local store is that they only stock popular brands and often times do not have the best prices.

Online shop

Today there are numerous online archery shops; eBay, Amazon, etc. The greatest advantage of acquiring from online stores is the vast selection of archery equipment and accessories available. As well, we can direct you to some great online products such as the one below!


Hopefully this guide helped you narrow down some options and help you better understand just how to choose the right compound bow.  At first it may seem daunting but the best advice is to get a relatively inexpensive ready to shoot bow.  It will get you out there shooting and practicing…and really that is the whole point.  There are a couple of Bear options here and a ready to shoot PSE bow as well.

If you feel you’re a more experienced hunter, check out our other compound bow suggestions that may be a better fit for you!

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