Are you thinking of buying a bow but are not sure how to choose a compound bow? Then I am here to help you with that job. I have compiled all the important factors that need to be considered when buying a compound bow.
Here is a quick overview of the most important factors. We start from the dominant eye, draw length, draw weight, let-off, brace height, axle to axle length, and the cam types. We will go through all these factors in detail and discover how they affect the bow working and how to choose between them.
One of the most important considerations is the type of archery you want to perform that is bow hunting or target archery. So keep your goal in mind
If you do not want to read the whole guide you can skip to the last part where I have provided general features in a bow for bowhunters target archers and beginners.
Factors to Consider When Selecting Your Compound Bow
I will get you straight into what factors you should consider when buying your first compound bow.
Eye dominance, in simple terms, is about which eye your brain naturally prefers to use for aiming and focusing on objects. It’s a critical factor in archery because it determines how you align your aim with the target.
The Role of Eye Dominance in Archery:
Knowing your dominant eye is crucial because it affects your accuracy. When shooting a compound bow, your dominant eye should be lined up with the sight for optimal precision. So, when you’re trying out bows, make sure to pick one that lets you comfortably aim with your dominant eye. It might seem like a small detail, but it can make a big difference in how well you shoot.
How to Choose Based on Eye Dominance:
When selecting a compound bow, consider whether you are left-eye dominant or right-eye dominant. If you’re right-eye dominant, opt for a right-handed bow. This means you’ll hold the bow with your left hand and draw the string with your right hand. This way you can close your left eye and focus on the right. Conversely, if you’re left-eye dominant, choose a left-handed bow. This way, your dominant eye aligns with the sight and peep sight for accurate targeting.
During the process of trying out different compound bows, pay close attention to how well the sight and peep sight align with your dominant eye. Make sure that when you draw the bowstring and aim, your dominant eye naturally looks through the sights without straining. Proper alignment ensures consistent and accurate shooting.
Draw weight refers to the amount of force required to pull back or “draw” the bowstring to its full extent before releasing an arrow. It’s a critical factor in determining the power and speed of your shots.
The Role of Draw Weight in Archery:
A higher draw weight allows your arrow to carry more energy, resulting in increased speed and impact. However, it’s important to find a draw weight that matches your physical strength and shooting goals. Too heavy of a draw weight can lead to strain and decreased accuracy, while too light of a weight might not provide sufficient power for the desired outcome.
How to Choose Based on Draw Weight:
Assess Your Strength: Before choosing a draw weight, consider your physical strength. If you’re a beginner or have limited upper body strength, start with a lower draw weight. You can gradually increase it as you become more comfortable and experienced.
Consider Your Shooting Goals: Are you aiming for target practice, hunting, or competition? Different activities may require varying draw weights. For instance, hunting may require higher draw weights for effective penetration, while target shooting might prioritize comfort and consistency.
|Draw Weight Range
|15 – 25 lbs
|25 – 40 lbs
|Bowhunting (Small Game)
|40 – 50 lbs
|Bowhunting (Medium Game)
|50 – 60 lbs
|Bowhunting (Large Game)
|60 lbs and above
This table is just a general assumption. When trying out bows, experiment with different draw weights to find what feels comfortable and manageable for you. You should be able to draw the bowstring smoothly without straining or losing control.
Here is a general table so you can have an idea:
|Archer Weight Range
|Draw Weight Range
|Up to 100 lbs
|10 – 20 lbs
|100 – 130 lbs
|15 – 30 lbs
|130 – 150 lbs
|20 – 40 lbs
|100 – 160 lbs
|25 – 45 lbs
|40 – 70+ lbs
|40 – 70+ lbs
Draw length refers to the distance from the nock point on the bowstring to the throat of the bow grip when the bow is at full draw. It’s a vital measurement that ensures your shooting form is consistent and optimal.
The Role of Draw Length in Archery:
Draw length is like finding the perfect grip on the bow, allowing you to draw the string smoothly and consistently.
Drawbacks of Long Draw Length:
- Overreaching and Stability:
A draw length that’s too long leads to overreaching, causing instability in your shooting stance. Maintaining balance becomes challenging, impacting your accuracy and consistency.
- Peep Sight Misalignment:
An extended draw length can misalign the peep sight, affecting your aim. This misalignment can lead to inconsistent shots and frustration during shooting.
- Torque and Accuracy:
An overextended draw can introduce torque on the bow, disrupting its alignment. This torque negatively affects accuracy by causing the arrow to veer off target.
- Anchor Point Difficulties:
A longer draw length can make it difficult to consistently anchor against your face, leading to inconsistent anchor points. This inconsistency affects your shot release and accuracy.
Drawbacks of Short Draw Length:
- Limited Range of Motion:
A short draw length restricts your ability to fully extend your arms, limiting your range of motion. This can hinder your ability to generate sufficient power and accuracy.
- Strained Draw and Control:
Drawing a bow with a too short length can strain your muscles and reduce your control over the draw. This strain impacts your accuracy and overall shooting experience.
- Peep Sight and Aim Problems:
A short draw length can make it difficult to achieve proper alignment with the peep sight, resulting in inconsistent aiming and reduced accuracy.
- Reduced Let-Off Benefits:
An insufficiently long draw length can limit the let-off effect, where the draw weight decreases at full draw. This can lead to increased fatigue and difficulty maintaining accuracy.
How to Choose Based on Draw Length:
- Measure Your Draw Length: To determine your draw length accurately, stand tall and extend both arms to your sides. Measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the tip of the other called wingspan, and then divide that measurement by 2.5. This will give you an estimate of your draw length.
- Test and Adjust: When trying out bows, ensure that the draw length matches your measurement. At full draw, your anchor point (usually your hand against your face) should be comfortable and consistent. Avoid overextending or straining.
|Estimated Draw Length (Inches)
|Up to 50
|14 – 22
|51 – 60
|23 – 25
|61 – 70
|26 – 28
|71 – 80
|29 – 32
Here I have summarized some general ranges for you. If you’re still growing, consider getting a bow with an adjustable draw length. This will accommodate your changing body size and maintain proper shooting mechanics.
The axle-to-axle length refers to the measurement from one axle (the central point of a wheel-like cam system) to the other on a compound bow. It’s a key factor in determining the bow’s overall size and shooting characteristics.
The Role of Axle-to-Axle Length in Archery:
Axle-to-axle or Bow length impacts the bow’s maneuverability, stability, and accuracy. A shorter axle-to-axle length enhances maneuverability and deals with noise making it ideal for hunting in tight spaces. A longer length increases stability, preferred for target shooting where precision is paramount.
How to Choose Based on Axle-to-Axle Length:
Consider Your Style: Determine whether you’ll mainly use the bow for hunting, target shooting, or both. Compact bows (28 – 32 inches) suit hunters, versatile bows (32 – 36 inches) fit various purposes, and longer bows (36+ inches) are favored by competitive target shooters.
Maneuverability vs. Stability: Shorter axle-to-axle lengths offer greater maneuverability, which is advantageous in the field. Longer lengths enhance stability and accuracy, crucial for consistent target shooting.
In conclusion, axle-to-axle length significantly influences how a bow performs. By understanding your shooting needs and testing various lengths, you can select a bow that perfectly complements your style and maximizes your archery experience.
Let-off is a feature in compound bows that reduces the amount of force you need to hold the bowstring at full draw. It’s expressed as a percentage, indicating the decrease in draw weight when the bow is at full draw.
The Role of Let-Off in Archery:
Let-off is like a breather for your muscles at full draw. When you hit the let-off point, the draw weight decreases, allowing you to hold the string more comfortably. This is especially beneficial when aiming, as it helps you maintain steadiness for a longer period, resulting in more accurate shots. If you are interested in the let-off mechanism, I have written an in-depth article on how it works.
How to Choose Based on Let-Off:
Understand Your Preference: Consider how much let-off you’re comfortable with. Some archers prefer higher let-off for better-holding comfort, while others opt for lower let-off for a more direct connection to the bow’s power.
Purpose Matters: Let-off choice can be influenced by your intended use. Bowhunters might lean towards higher let-off for extended aiming, while target archers might prefer lower let-off for better control during release..
Consider Your Strength: If you’re new to archery or concerned about holding the draw, a higher let-off might be more suitable. If you have good upper body strength, you might appreciate a bit less let-off.
General Guideline for Let-Off:
|65% – 85%
|70% – 90%
Remember, let-off influences your comfort and shooting technique. Choose the let-off that complements your shooting style and provides the balance of holding ease and power you desire.
Brace height is the distance between the deepest part of the bow’s grip and the string when the bow is at rest. It’s a critical measurement that affects the bow’s performance and forgiveness.
The Role of Brace Height in Archery:
Brace height has an important role in many aspects of the bow. Here are some examples.
Arrow Speed and Energy Transfer: Brace height impacts how efficiently energy is transferred to the arrow upon release. Shorter brace heights tend to yield higher arrow speeds due to the increased energy release, while longer brace heights result in slightly slower arrow speeds.
Forgiveness and Accuracy: Brace height affects a bow’s forgiveness, or its ability to tolerate minor shooting imperfections. Bows with longer brace heights are more forgiving, allowing for slight errors in shooting form without drastically affecting accuracy. Shorter brace heights demand precise form for consistent accuracy.
Comfort and Vibration: Brace height influences the shooting experience. Longer brace heights often provide smoother draw cycles, gentler releases, and reduced vibration, contributing to overall shooting comfort and minimizing noise.
How to Choose Based on Brace Height:
Shorter brace heights offer more speed but are less forgiving of imperfect shots. Longer brace heights sacrifice some speed for enhanced forgiveness.
If you’re an experienced shooter with consistent form, a shorter brace height might suit you. If you’re newer to archery or want added forgiveness, opt for a longer brace height.
You might want to adjust your brace height according to your shooting goals in order to attain a balance between speed and forgiveness.
|Brace Height Range (Inches)
|5 – 6
|6 – 7
Foot Per Second (FPS):
Foot Per Second (FPS) is a unit of measurement used to quantify the speed at which an arrow travels after being shot from a bow. It’s a crucial indicator of a bow’s power and performance.
A higher FPS value translates to faster arrow flight, which can enhance accuracy, improve trajectory, and increase penetration.
How to Choose Based on FPS:
Consider Shooting Intent: For hunting, higher FPS can lead to increased kinetic energy and improved game penetration. For target shooting, consistent accuracy might outweigh extreme speed.
Shooting Comfort: Extremely high FPS bows can generate more vibration and noise. Choose a balance between speed and a comfortable shooting experience.
Skill Level: Experienced archers might handle higher FPS bows better, while beginners might benefit from a more forgiving setup.
Foot Per Second (FPS) Table:
|250 – 320 FPS
|Bowhunting (Small Game)
|270 – 350 FPS
|Bowhunting (Medium Game)
|300 – 370 FPS
|Bowhunting (Large Game)
Noise in Archery:
In archery, noise refers to the sound produced when the bowstring is released and strikes the bow’s components. It’s an audible indicator of a bow’s mechanical activity during the shot.
Excessive noise can startle game animals during hunting or disturb fellow archers on the range. Managing noise contributes to a more focused and effective shooting experience.
How to Choose Based on Noise:
Consider Hunting: If you’re a hunter, prioritize bows with minimized noise to avoid alarming game animals. A quieter bow increases your stealth and chances of a successful hunt. But a more realistic approach would be to use stabilizers instead of compromising on bow specs.
Range and Competition: For target shooting or competition, noise might be less critical. However, a quieter bow can still enhance your concentration and prevent distractions.
Vibration Dampening: Accessories like dampeners and stabilizers can reduce noise by absorbing vibrations. Consider their effectiveness when choosing your bow setup.
In conclusion, noise is an important factor affecting your shooting experience, especially during hunting.
Cam Type in Archery:
The cam-type refers to the design of the wheels or cams at the ends of a compound bow’s limbs. Different cam types influence the bow’s draw cycle, speed, and overall performance.
The Role of Cam System in Archery:
Think of the cam system as the special part of your bow that helps turn its potential energy into arrow speed. It’s like the engine of your bow, making sure everything works well. The type of cam system you have affects how you shoot – like how easy it is to pull the string and how fast the arrow goes.
Picking the right cam system is like picking the right engine for your car – it can make a big difference in your method of shooting and your preferred archery type. Whether you like a smooth pull or super-fast arrows, the cam system you choose is like choosing how your bow will work for you.
There is a lot more to know about the cam types as they are a very important factor. Make sure to research well about the different types of compound bow cams.
How to Choose Based on Cam Type:
Understand Cam Variations: Research the various cam types – single cams, hybrid cams, and binary/twin cams – and how they influence factors like draw cycle, speed, and accuracy.
Prioritize Draw Cycle: Choose a cam type that aligns with your draw cycle preferences. Some archers prefer a smoother draw, while others prioritize a more aggressive cycle for speed.
Consider Maintenance: Different cam types have varying maintenance requirements. Evaluate whether you’re comfortable with the maintenance demands of your chosen cam system.
Test and Feel: Shoot bows with different cam types to experience their draw cycles firsthand. Choose the one that feels most comfortable and suits your shooting style.
Cam Type Comparison Table:
|Draw Cycle Speed
|Very High Moderate-High
Remember that cam type affects your bow’s performance characteristics. The right choice depends on your preference for draw cycle, speed, and maintenance.
Overall Bow Weight:
Overall bow weight refers to the combined weight of the entire bow, including all its components such as riser, limbs, sight, and accessories. It’s a factor that influences how the bow feels in your hands and during shooting.
The Role of Overall Bow Weight in Archery:
Imagine overall bow weight as the foundation of your shooting experience. A well-balanced weight contributes to stability, ease of handling, and shooting comfort. It affects how steady you can hold the bow during aiming and the overall fatigue you might experience during extended shooting sessions.
How to Choose Based on Overall Bow Weight:
Hunting vs. Target Shooting: For hunting, a lighter bow is preferred as it’s easier to carry and maneuver in the field. In target shooting, where mobility isn’t as crucial, a slightly heavier bow might provide better stability.
Comfort and Control: A bow that’s too heavy might lead to fatigue and reduced accuracy during long shooting sessions. Conversely, a bow that’s too light might lack stability. Find a weight that balances comfort and stability for your chosen activity.
Physical Strength: Consider your physical strength and endurance. If you’re comfortable with a slightly heavier bow, it can provide more stability. If strength is a concern, opt for a lighter option.
Riser in Archery:
The riser is the central component of a bow where the grip is located and limbs are attached. It’s a vital part that connects various elements, impacting the bow’s overall performance and feel.
The Role of a Riser in Archery:
The riser is the backbone of the bow. It provides structural integrity, stability, and a comfortable grip. The riser’s design influences the bow’s balance, accuracy, and vibration management.
How to Choose Based on Riser:
Grip Comfort: A comfortable grip ensures consistent hand placement, enhancing accuracy. Try various risers to find one that feels comfortable and natural in your hand.
Material and Weight: Different materials (like aluminum or carbon) affect the riser’s weight, which can impact balance and stability. Choose a material that suits your shooting style and preferences.
Stabilization and Vibration Damping: Some risers are designed to accommodate stabilizers and dampeners. These additions help control vibration, improve balance, and reduce noise during the shot.
Aesthetics and Customization: Riser designs and finishes vary. Choose one that offers installation of different bow accessories to make it easier to install or switch different equipment.
Bare vs. Ready-to-Shoot Compound Bows:
“Bare” compound bows are sold as standalone items, typically without any accessories. “Ready to Shoot” bows, also known as “package” bows, come bundled with essential accessories such as sights, arrow rest, quivers, and stabilizers.
Advantages of Ready-to-go setups
Imagine getting your hands on a package that’s like an archery starter kit. Bow packages come with all the essential accessories pre-matched to your bow. You don’t need to puzzle over which sight, rest, quiver, or stabilizer to choose. Everything’s right there, ready to be attached. It’s a no-brainer, especially if you’re new to archery and want a simple, straightforward setup.
Expertly Assembled Accessories:
Think about it – those accessories aren’t just randomly thrown in. They’re carefully selected to complement your bow and elevate your shooting experience. Manufacturers usually include decent quality gear, so you’re not stuck with subpar accessories. You get to hit the range or the hunting grounds with confidence.
Save Money with Package Deals:
Sure, you could buy each accessory separately, but that can quickly become a wallet-draining experience. Bow packages often come at a discounted price compared to buying all the components individually. So, you’re not only getting convenience but also a cost-effective solution. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good deal?
Perfect for Beginners:
If you’re a newcomer to archery, bow packages are like your personal guided tour through the archery world. You don’t need to worry about making the wrong accessory choices or missing out on something crucial. It’s a solid way to start your archery journey without feeling lost in the sea of options.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the archery shop – price. Sure, we all want the best bang for our buck, but remember, this is an investment in your archery journey. Think about it – the right bow can be your ticket to unforgettable hunts or exhilarating target shooting sessions. Sure, there are budget-friendly options, and they can get you started. But, if you’re serious about this sport, consider stretching your budget a tad. Start with at least a budget of 400 to 600 dollars.
Quality craftsmanship, smoother draws, and higher accuracy often come with a price. It’s not just about the bow; it’s about the experience. So, think beyond the price tag, and think about the memories you’ll create with that perfect shot. Your wallet might feel a pinch, but your arrows will hit the mark.
What to Look For in Bow Packages
Bow packages are your archery shortcut to getting started quickly, easily, and without breaking the bank Although the advantages of bow packages outweigh the bare bow setup we have to know what we need to look for in a package. Let’s break down what you should look for when considering bow packages.
Here’s a list of essential items you’ll typically find in a complete ready-to-shoot compound bow package:
How to Choose a Compound Bow for Your Purpose
If you don’t want to brainstorm so much I can help you with simply putting everything together to make it easy for you. I have compiled some specs for different types of archery so that you can have your desired ranges.
Alright, hunters, let’s talk specifics. Go for a hybrid cam setup for a perfect balance of speed and accuracy. Look for a compact bow with an axle-to-axle length of around 30 inches, giving you maneuverability in tight spots. Opt for a draw weight of 60-70 lbs to take down the game effectively. A brace height of 6-7 inches ensures a good mix of forgiveness and power. And don’t skimp on a quiet bow – vibration dampeners and string silencers are your pals. When you’re tracking a game, you might need to hold your draw for an extended period while waiting for the perfect shot opportunity. A higher let-off 75-85% is advantageous in this case
Target enthusiasts, here’s the scoop. Choose a single cam bow for its smoothness and ease of use. Aim for an axle-to-axle length of 34-36 inches, offering stability during shots. A draw weight of 40-50 lbs strikes a balance between accuracy and comfort. Prioritize accuracy with a brace height of 7-8 inches. A moderate let-off 65-75% percentage strikes a balance between ease of holding and maintaining control.
New archers welcome aboard. For you, a single-cam bow is user-friendly. Look for a ready-to-shoot package with adjustable draw weight, around 20-40 lbs. Aim for an axle-to-axle length of 32-34 inches – it’s manageable and stable for learning. Opt for a generous brace height of 7.5-8.5 inches to ease you into proper shooting form. For beginners, a let-off in the 65-75% range is recommended for similar reasons as target shooting. It allows newcomers to learn proper shooting form without struggling to hold the drawn bowstring.
Remember, your bow’s cam type, size, and accessories should match your purpose. Hunters, go hybrid for versatility. Target shooters and single cams are your best buddies. Beginners embrace adjustability and user-friendly features.
These specifications are a general guideline and is not recommended to strictly follow them. Make sure to choose the right compound bow with the specifications that suit your style.
Now that you’ve got the know-how to pick your perfect bow, it’s time to kick off your archery adventure on the right foot. Safety first, always. Start with the basics and work your way up. Consistently practice your shooting and eventually, you will get to your target.
Having a compound bow is exciting. As you grow in archery you try different things and different equipment, then your bow becomes like a project. And it is all a very fun and amazing journey.