4 different types of compound bows

The Different Types Of Compound Bow

Choosing between the types of modern-day compound bows is a very tricky task. Without knowing the working, advantages, and disadvantages of different types there is no way someone can make the right choice. There are 4 different types of compound bows each providing value over the other.

From the smooth simplicity of single cam to the synchronized prowess of binary cam systems, we’ll deeply study the functionality, advantages, and even the occasional quirks of these four incredible bow types. I have included a comparison table so you can quickly differentiate between the features of these different bows.

Importance of Cams in Determining Different Types

Now that we have an understanding of how cams work, let’s understand why they matter when it comes to differentiating compound bow types. Manufacturers have designed various cam systems, each offering a unique blend of speed, smoothness, and user-friendliness.

From single cams, hybrids, and binaries, to twin cams, each type has its own set of perks. Some bows might favor simplicity and ease of tuning, while others thrive on power and speed. Knowing these differences will empower you to pick the bow that perfectly complements your archery style.

Four Different Types of Compound Bows

Now we will look at the details of all four types and analyze their cam differences, working, pros, and cons. All four types have their own specialty.

1. Single Cam Compound Bows

A single cam compound bow has a single power cam that rotates and stores the energy in the limbs to propel the arrow forward. The power cam is usually of irregular shape and is mounted on the lower limb. It creates a draw-force curve that ramps up quickly as the bowstring is drawn back. The power cam is responsible for the let off effect. The upper limb hosts an idler wheel. The idler wheel is round in shape and acts as a guide for the bowstring as it moves through the draw cycle.

single cam compound bow with cam labels

The power cam is responsible for creating the draw force curve, achieving energy storage, and influencing arrow speed, while the idler wheel guides the bowstring, contributes to accuracy, and helps maintain consistent arrow release. The easy maintenance and tuning of the single cam design wins the appreciation from beginner archers.

Advantages Of Single Cam:

Here are the advantages of single-cam compound bows.

  • High Precision: Single cam bows offer impressive accuracy compared to other bow types, making them a reliable choice for precise shooting.
  • Quiet Operation: The simple design of single cam results in quieter shots, reducing noise during archery sessions.
  • Synchronization: There are no synchronization issues with single cam, making maintenance and tuning relatively straightforward.

Disadvantages Of Single Cam:

  • Lower Power: Single cam bows are less powerful than other compound bow types, resulting in relatively slower arrow speeds.
  • Nock Travel Issues: Some single cam bows may experience nock travel issues due to unequal pressure against the arrow’s nock during the draw cycle.

2. Twin/Dual Cam Compound Bows

Twin cam or dual cam compound bows feature two cams working together to produce increased draw weight and propel the arrow. These cams can be circular or elliptical, but they must be identical to ensure proper synchronization. Twin cam offer more power and speed compared to single cam but may be prone to synchronization issues.

Dual cam bow with cams labeled

As you begin to draw the bowstring, both power cams rotate in sync which means that both cams reach their fully drawn position together, resulting in balanced energy storage and transfer. Dual cams are often designed with an aggressive shape that results in a rapid increase in draw weight as the bowstring is pulled back. This design contributes to high levels of energy storage within the bow

Advantages Of Dual Cam bow:

Let’s discuss some advantages of dual cam compound bows.

  • Accuracy: Twin cam system provides excellent accuracy due to the two cams working in harmony and producing level nock travel.
  • Power and Speed: The dual-cam system flexes the limbs equally, resulting in higher arrow speeds and improved performance.
  • Adjustment Options: Twin cam bows offer more adjustment options for archers seeking a personalized shooting experience.

Disadvantages Of Twin Cam Compound:

Here are some of the disadvantages.

  • Noise: Dual cam bows are generally noisier than single cam compound, although advancements in bow technology have lessened this gap.
  • Synchronization: The independent movement of the two cams may cause synchronization issues, requiring periodic checks by a qualified bow technician.

3. Hybrid Cam Compound Bows

Hybrid cam compound bows are an advancement from the twin cam system, designed to address synchronization issues. These bows have one power cam and one control cam, automatically synchronized to simplify tuning and reduce maintenance.

hybrid cam compound bow with cams labeled

The power cam is found on the bottom limb of the hybrid cam system. It is designed with an asymmetric shape which contributes to the energy storage of the bow and generates high arrow speeds. The power cam is responsible for the majority of the draw weight and energy buildup as the bowstring is pulled back.

The control cam is usually located on the top limb of the hybrid cam system. It is designed with a more symmetrical shape compared to the power cam, which helps in controlling the draw cycle and reducing cam lean (when one cam leans more than the other). The control cam is responsible for fine-tuning the draw cycle and providing a smoother transition between different phases of the draw.

The power cam delivers the initial energy storage and arrow speed, while the control cam helps smooth out the draw cycle and ensures accurate and consistent shots.

Advantages Of Hybrid Cam Bow:

  • Precision: Hybrid cam offers precision comparable to twin cam bows, with minimal nock travel issues.
  • Speed: Hybrid compound bows are powerful and shoot fast arrows due to their dual cam setup.
  • Synchronization: Hybrid bows are easier to keep in sync compared to twin cams, requiring less maintenance.

Disadvantages Of Hybrid Compounds:

  • Initial Setup: Hybrid bows may require proper orientation initially for optimal performance, but after that, maintenance is relatively simple.

4. Binary Cam Compound Bows

Binary cam compound bows feature two active cams, similar to dual cam setups. However, the cables from each cam go to the opposite cam, creating a self-balancing system that reduces nock travel issues.

Binary cam compound bow with labeling of active cams

Binary cams use a system of control cables to synchronize the movement of the two cams. These cables are connected to both cams and are adjusted to ensure that both cams rotate and reach their full draw positions simultaneously. The design of the binary cams ensures that both cams experience equal force during the draw cycle. This balance helps prevent cam lean, where one cam advances ahead of the other, which could lead to accuracy issues.

Advantages Of Binary Cam Bows:

  • Power & Speed: Binary cams have two power cams, resulting in more draw weight and faster arrow speeds.
  • Precision: The unique cam configuration in binary cam bows ensures self-balancing, offering high precision and accuracy.

Disadvantages Of Binary Compound Bow:

  • Patent Issues: Some manufacturers label their binary cam bows as hybrid bows due to patent concerns, which can cause confusion for consumers.
  • Maintenance: Binary cam’s complex design may require more frequent maintenance and tuning.

A Quick Comparison Table

Here’s a comparison table for all four compound bows:

FeatureSingle CamTwin/Dual CamHybrid CamBinary Cam
Cam ConfigurationOne power cam, one idler wheelTwo cams working togetherOne power cam, one control camTwo active cams
Draw CycleSmooth and consistentSmooth and consistentSmooth and synchronizedAggressive and powerful
SynchronizationNo synchronization issuesProne to synchronization issuesAutomatically synchronizedSelf-balancing system
AccuracyVery accurateHighly accurate Very preciseHigh precision
Power & SpeedLess powerful, slower arrowsMore powerful, faster arrows Powerful, fast arrowsMore draw weight, faster arrows
NoiseQuieterSlightly noisier Quiet Quiet
MaintenanceEasy to maintainPeriodic synchronization checksEasy to keep in syncRequires regular maintenance
AdjustabilityModerate adjustment optionsMore adjustment optionsAdequate adjustment optionsAdjustable
Nock Travel IssuesPossible issuesPossible issuesMinimal issuesReduced nock travel issues
Ideal for Beginners?YesYesNoNo

Other important factors include the force curve which is steady in the first three types but the draw weight increases rapidly during the initial phase of drawing the bowstring and reaches a peak draw before let off in binary cam compound bow

Please note that this table provides a general overview of the key features and characteristics of each type of compound bow. Individual models and brands within each type may have specific variations and unique features.

Single Cam vs Dual Cam: Which to Choose?

Choosing between a one-cam and a two-cam compound bow can be perplexing for many archers. Let’s examine the factors to consider when making this decision:

Draw Cycle: One-cam offers a smoother draw cycle, while dual cam provides faster arrow speeds.
Maintenance: Single cam bows typically require less maintenance, whereas dual cam bows demand more precise synchronization.
Noise Level: Single cams tend to be quieter, while dual cam bows may produce more noise during the draw cycle.

Now that you have a good knowledge of different single and dual cam bows you can choose the one that works best for your style. Beginners mostly prefer to use the single cam compound bow due to low maintenance and ease of use but if you want power and speed there are dual cam compound bows. Dual cam bows come at the expense of maintenance but if you want less maintenance consider using the hybrid cam.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Compound Bow

Here I will discuss some factors just to give you an idea but I would recommend you to check my in-depth article “How to choose the right compound bow” where I have discussed all the factors in detail and provided guides on how to choose based on them.

Draw Length and Weight

Alright, let’s talk about nailing the right draw length and weight – crucial for your archery comfort and accuracy. A draw length that matches your specifications and a draw weight that’s manageable yet powerful is the key to hitting those bull’s eyes with ease.

Bow Size and Weight

Just like picking the perfect pair of shoes, finding the right-sized compound bow is essential. A well-balanced and lightweight bow translates to better maneuverability and shooting comfort, making your archery journey an absolute breeze.

Cam Type and Speed

Remember our chat about cams? Here’s where it comes into play! Your choice of cam type will determine your bow’s shooting attributes. Do you prefer speed, smoothness, or a mix of both? You decide!

Price and Brand Reputation

We get it – budget matters! But investing in a reliable brand known for crafting top-quality compound bows will make your archery journey even more enjoyable. Reputable brands often come with excellent customer support and warranty, adding that extra layer of confidence. Know more about the best brands.


In conclusion, each type of compound bow has its unique features and advantages, catering to different archery preferences and shooting styles. Understanding the distinct characteristics of single cam, twin/dual cam, hybrid cam, and binary cam bows empowers archers to make informed choices based on their specific needs and goals. As technology advances, our sport continues to evolve, offering archers an exciting array of options to enhance their archery experience.

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