On average, compound bows have a speed range of 300 to 350 FPS, which translates to an average maximum range of 200 to 350 feet or 70 to 150 yards under ideal conditions when shot in a straight line. However, this doesn’t mean archers routinely shoot these distances. In fact, the furthest recorded shot with a compound bow that hit the target is just over 930 feet(source). Much greater distances over 1000 feet or 340 yards can be achieved by shooting the arrow at an angle, preferably 45 degrees.
That said, in practical applications like hunting and competitive shooting, the focus is more on accuracy than sheer distance. This brings us to the concept of the effective range: the distance within which an archer can maintain consistent accuracy. For most compound bow users, this effective range falls between 35 to 60 yards, depending on the archer’s skill level and the specific equipment setup.
The Evolution of Bows
Early bows, like longbows and recurve bows, were simple. They were essentially curved pieces of wood with a string attached. The longbow, for instance, which was popular in medieval Europe, especially in England, could shoot arrows over distances of up to 250 yards. However, hitting a target accurately at that range was a massive challenge.
Now, enter the compound bow. Invented in the 1960s, this isn’t just a stick and a string. It uses a system of pulleys, or cams, which gives it a mechanical advantage. This means that the bow can store more energy, and that translates to faster arrow speeds. Compound bows can send arrows at speeds of over 300 feet per second (fps), while traditional bows typically range from 150 to 250 fps.
Because of this speed, the effective shooting range of a compound bow is significantly extended. While a skilled archer with a longbow might be accurate up to 80 yards, a compound bow user can accurately hit targets at 100 yards or even more.
The evolution of bows, in essence, is a journey from simple hand-powered tools to complex machines, optimizing energy efficiency and accuracy. So, while ancient archers would have been super skilled to hit a target at great distances, today’s compound bow users have a bit of a technological edge to help them out.
The Effective Range of a Compound Bow
Imagine throwing a baseball. You might throw it accurately for a short distance, but as you try to throw farther, your accuracy drops. Similarly, a compound bow can shoot an arrow pretty far, but there’s a limit to how far it can shoot accurately. This distance is called its “effective range.”
For most compound bow users, the effective range is between 30 to 60 yards. Within this range, they can hit a target accurately and consistently. Sure, the arrow can travel much farther, even up to 100 yards or more, but hitting a target at that distance with precision becomes challenging. So, while the bow’s arrow might travel a long distance, think of the 30 to 60-yard range as the “sweet spot” for accuracy.
Factors Affecting Range of Compound Bow:
Arrow speed is measured in feet per second (fps) and denotes how fast the arrow travels once it’s released from the bow.
When it comes to how far your arrow will go, arrow speed is crucial. Here’s why: Every object on Earth, including arrows, has to deal with gravity pulling it down. A faster arrow gets further before gravity significantly affects its flight.
Consider this: If you toss a ball gently, it won’t go very far before dropping. But if you throw it with more force (making it faster), it covers a greater distance before hitting the ground. The same principle applies to arrows.
Arrow speed determines the distance an arrow covers before falling to ground. We will calculate the range with arrow speed in the sections to come.
Table of Arrow Speed and Distance:
|Arrow Speed (FPS)
|Approx. Distance (in a straight line from 15ft height)
The draw weight is basically how much force you’re using to pull back your bowstring. When you release the string, this stored-up force gets transferred to the arrow, making it shoot out.
Imagine stretching a rubber band a little and letting it go – it doesn’t snap back very hard. But if you pull it back a lot, it snaps back much faster and harder.
Relation to Speed: Generally, the greater the draw weight, the faster your arrow can potentially go. Then speed is the main factor to determine the range.
Table of Draw Weight and Arrow Speed
|Draw Weight (lbs)
|Approx. Speed (FPS)
|315 to 320 FPS
|330 to 340 FPS
|345 to 360 FPS
An increase of 10 pounds in draw weight typically results in an increase of 15-20 FPS in arrow speed, assuming all other factors remain constant.
Draw length is the distance from the bowstring’s resting position to its position when it’s fully drawn back.
A longer draw length allows the arrow to be in contact with the bowstring for a longer period, increasing the energy transferred to the arrow which can increase the speed. But, the draw length needs to be suited to the archer’s arm span for optimal performance.
A longer draw length means your arrow gets more time to accelerate, resulting in higher speeds and an extended potential range.
Imagine draw length as the runway for your arrow. The longer the runway, the more time your arrow has to build up speed before it takes off.
Table of Draw Length and Speed:
|Draw Length (inches)
|Approx. Speed (FPS)
From this table we can relate draw length to arrow speed as increasing the draw length by each inch increases the arrow speed by 10 FPS.
Arrow weight is the total mass of the arrow, including its shaft, fletching, nock, insert, and tip.
Lighter arrows tend to fly faster and can achieve a flatter trajectory. However, they might be affected more by wind. Heavier arrows may fly slower but are more stable and can carry more kinetic energy, ensuring better penetration. Lets take a look at the formula for kinetic energy.
This is the energy that goes to the arrow from the limbs so it propels forward, but when mass is greater and velocity is less, It negatively impacts the energy for arrow to go at far distances. This is because square of velocity is proportional to the kinetic energy, so a small change in speed of arrow will affect the energy more than a small change in mass of arrow will.
A slightly heavier arrow might not be the fastest off the bow, but it can keep a steady flight, like a well-balanced airplane.
Table of Arrow Weight and Speed:
|Arrow Weight (grains)
|Approx. Speed Decrease (FPS)
|0 FPS (base speed)
This means that increasing the arrow grains by 50 can decrease the arrow speed by 10 fps which can cause the range to decrease.
I hope these explanations help shed light on how different factors impact the distance an arrow can travel. If you adjust any of these factors, the arrow’s flight can change quite a bit!
Now the question is how would you know the speed and range when choosing a compound bow? The IBO measure is the answer.
The IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) setup is a standard used in the archery industry to measure the speed of a compound bow. The aim of such a setup is to provide a standardized measure across all bows, allowing for easy comparisons.
IBO Setup Explained:
- Draw Weight: 70 pounds. This is the force required to draw the bow back to its full length.
- Draw Length: 30 inches. This is the distance the bowstring travels from its rest position to its maximum draw position.
- Arrow Weight: 350 grains. This is a relatively light arrow, chosen to maximize the speed in testing scenarios.
With these conditions in place, manufacturers can determine the speed of their bows, usually represented in feet per second. The higher the speed, the more powerful the bow is perceived to be.
Let’s say we have a compound bow that, under the IBO setup, clocks an arrow speed of 320 fps. This means that when the bow is drawn to 70 pounds, with a 30-inch draw length, and fires a 350-grain arrow, that arrow should travel at 320 feet in one second under optimal conditions.
IBO Speed and Range:
Typical Speeds: Most modern compound bows, when set up to IBO specifications, will have speeds ranging from 270 fps to 350+ fps. Higher-end models may even approach or exceed 360 fps.
Fast Bows: Bows with IBO speeds of 330 fps or more are often considered “fast” by industry standards. These bows are typically sought after by those looking for maximum performance.
Average Speed: The average IBO speed for the majority of compound bows on the market hovers around 310-320 fps.
Max Effective Range: While a bow’s IBO speed can be high, the effective shooting range (where one can shoot accurately and ethically, especially in hunting scenarios) is often much shorter. For many hunters, the effective range is between 30 to 50 yards.
Max Theoretical Range: Using IBO specs, and in an environment without external factors like wind, a bow with an IBO speed of 320 fps can shoot an arrow over 500 yards if aimed at the optimal angle (usually 45 degrees). However, this doesn’t factor in loss of arrow energy, stability, or accuracy over distance.
However, keep in mind that this is a standardized testing measure. In real-world conditions, several factors like actual draw length, arrow weight, fletching size, and even environmental conditions can cause the arrow speed to vary.
Additionally, the IBO speed doesn’t directly translate to effective hunting or shooting range. While a faster arrow can potentially cover more distance, accuracy at longer distances is affected by many other variables, such as archer skill, wind, and more. However, the IBO speed is useful as a comparative measure when shopping for a new bow.
What after Tuning my bow?
So you bought a bow considering the IBO setup measures but now you have tuned the draw weight to something like 60 lbs and draw length to 32 inches and you use an arrow with 300 grains. You bow’s speed before was 300 FPS.
Now by the use of the factors lets calculate the approximate speed now, so a 10 lbs decrease in draw weight means 20 FPS deduction in speed. The draw length is increased by 2 inches therefore speed increases by 2 FPS. Also due to lower arrow grains, the speed increases by 10 FPS. Therefore your new speed is 292 FPS.
I hope you understood my point. Now that you have speed, you can calculate the range by the formula in the below section.
How Maximum Bow Range is Calculated on Straight Shot:
Arrow Speed (Velocity) – v : This is how fast your arrow is flying. It’s usually measured in feet per second (FPS).
Gravity’s Pull – g: Gravity constantly pulls your arrow downwards. On Earth, it’s a constant 9.8 meters/second^2 (or about 32.2 feet/second^2).
Time of Flight – t: The amount of time the arrow remains in the air before hitting the ground. This depends on the initial speed of the arrow and gravity.
For an arrow shot horizontally, the time it takes to fall to the ground is:
Where h is the height from which the arrow is shot (e.g., from a tree stand).
Range (Distance) – D: This is how far your arrow will travel horizontally before it hits the ground.
Using the arrow’s horizontal speed and the time of flight, the range is:
Suppose you shoot an arrow horizontally from a height (like from a tree stand) 15 feet off the ground. Let’s find out how far it will go if it has an initial speed of 300 FPS.
First, calculate the time of flight using the formula for t:
Now, use this time to calculate the distance:
So, in this example, the arrow will travel roughly 207 feet before it hits the ground.
I hope this gives a clear picture of how the range of a bow is calculated! If you know the height and the arrow’s speed, you can get a good estimate of its range.
Calculating Maximum Distance at an Angle
Let’s imagine an archer, uses a compound bow with an IBO rating of 320 FPS. She’s using arrows that weigh 400 grains. For this scenario, let’s consider she is shooting on a calm day with no wind interference.
- Flat Shooting (0 degrees):
Archer shoots her arrow straight ahead. Given the weight and speed of the arrow, its kinetic energy is high, but the arrow doesn’t benefit from the additional range potential an angle might offer. Thus, it follows a fairly linear path and eventually drops due to gravity, achieving, say, a distance of 220 feet.
- Shooting at an Angle (45 degrees):
Now, the archer aims upwards at a 45-degree angle and releases the arrow. The kinetic energy remains the same, but it’s now distributed between lifting the arrow upwards and propelling it forward that is the horizontal and vertical component of its speed. The arrow follows a parabolic path, which can help it travel a greater distance compared to a flat shot.
Now the trajectory looks like a projectile. This means that the range can be found by multiplying the square of initial velocity by the sin of two times the angle and dividing the answer by acceleration due to gravity which is the formula of range of a projectile.
Result: Due to the combined effects of kinetic energy propelling the arrow forward and momentum keeping it in motion, the arrow achieves a longer distance. This distance is not accurate in real life because then you have to consider the environmental effects and also the friction etc.
Key Takeaways from the Example:
Kinetic Energy: Whether the archer shoots flat or at an angle, the initial kinetic energy from the bow remains the same. However, how this energy is used changes based on the shooting angle.
Momentum: Archer’s arrow, being 400 grains and traveling at 320 FPS, has a good amount of momentum. When shot at an angle, this momentum helps the arrow maintain its trajectory and resist external forces.
How to Improve Your Shot Range
Improving your shot range is often a mix of mastering technique, optimizing equipment, and understanding environmental factors. Here’s a concise breakdown for someone eager to maximize their compound bow range:
1. Arrow Selection:
The arrow’s weight, spine (stiffness), and fletching can all affect its flight distance.
Weight: Lighter arrows generally fly faster and therefore further. But remember, too light an arrow might not be safe or efficient for your specific bow’s draw weight.
Spine: The spine should match your bow’s draw weight and your draw length. An improperly spined arrow will wobble in flight, reducing range.
Fletching: While larger fletches can stabilize an arrow faster, they also create more drag. Consider smaller fletches for distance shooting.
2. Increase Draw Weight:
While this might sound straightforward, it requires physical conditioning. More draw weight typically results in a faster arrow, but ensure you can still maintain good form. Over-stretching can lead to injuries.
3. Master Your Form:
Consistency is key. From stance to grip to release, the more consistent you are, the better your range will be.
Anchor Point: Find a comfortable and repeatable anchor point. This helps in releasing the arrow consistently each time.
Release Technique: A smooth release ensures that the arrow isn’t thrown off course by any sudden jerks or movements.
4. Optimal Release Angle:
If you’re purely looking for maximum distance, remember our earlier conversation about angles. A 45° angle typically offers the longest range, though this isn’t always practical for real-world shooting.
5. Environment & Conditions:
Understanding wind direction and strength can greatly affect shot range. Shooting against strong winds will limit your range.
Q: How far is too far with a compound bow?
A: While a compound bow can technically shoot an arrow several hundred yards under ideal conditions, practical effective ranges are much shorter. For hunting purposes, most experienced archers consider 40-60 yards to be the maximum ethical distance to ensure a humane kill. Beyond that, variables like wind, arrow drop, and shooter error increase substantially, making it challenging to ensure a precise hit.
Q: What distances can a compound bow shoot?
A: On average, a compound bow can shoot distances of 200-400 yards, but the effective range (where accuracy is reliable) is typically up to 100 yards.
Q: What is the longest range shot with a bow?
A: The current world record for the longest accurate shot with a compound bow is held by Matt Stutzman, who hit a target from 930.04 yards (or approximately 0.53 miles) away. It’s worth noting that such feats require unique conditions and extreme skill, and aren’t typical for the average archer.
Q: How accurate is a compound bow?
A: At distances of up to 40 yards, a proficient archer can consistently hit within a few inches of their target. However, accuracy diminishes as distance increases due to external factors like wind and arrow drop. Compound bows are typically more accurate than traditional bows due to their cam system and sight accessories.
Q: How far can a 70 lbs compound bow shoot?
A: A 70 lbs compound bow, under ideal conditions and depending on the arrow weight, can shoot an arrow upwards of 300-400 yards. However, the effective hunting range, where the bow retains enough kinetic energy to ensure a humane kill, is often limited to 40-60 yards.
In this article, we have looked at everything related to the range of a compound bow. From understanding how various factors influence arrow speed and range to the role of angles and the ever-important IBO standards, we’ve journeyed through the essence of archery’s technicalities.
But at its core, archery is as much about feel and intuition as it is about numbers and calculations. Remember, while tables and formulas offer guidance, nothing replaces the experience of drawing a bow, feeling its tension, and witnessing the arrow’s flight.
While it is very interesting to know about the maximum range of compound bows, the important thing is the effective range. Archers should be focused on hitting the target with consistency. I hope this post helped you find your answers relating range of compound bows.