Choosing a Good Compound Bow


Good compound bow

Compund Bow (Mathews Creed XS)

I have only ever hunted with compound bows.  I have owned three compound bows in my life starting with a ProLine, then graduating to a Jenningsand just recently my third new bow-a Mathews Reezen 6.5.  The technology used in compound bows is amazing, but a few basic principles always hold true for hunting. Compound bows must be accurate, quiet, and reliable.  Speed, vibration after the shot, grips, cams, and camouflage are all secondary and are what manufacturers use to sell high end compound bows.

Know that any bow set to legal draw weights for your state will kill a deer given the animal is within the effective range of the bow.  I have killed deer with each of these three bows – however, I have created more shot opportunities with my last 2 bows as they have a greater effective range due to speed and technology.

Compound bows are available in a wide range of prices but they are really all built to deliver the arrow down the range – some just do it more efficiently, which makes them easier to shoot and also helps the bow deliver the most energy to the target.  This energy means good penetration with broadheads and a better chance that the animal will be taken cleanly.  Let’s review a handful of the features you will want to research before buying your first compound bow.

How does it feel?

The feel of a compound bow is measured in a lot of different ways.  The vibration and jump of the bow in your hand after the shot can range a great deal from one compound bow to the next.  Ideally you will get the best accuracy from a bow that is easy to handle at the shot which means low vibration and no jump.  The weight of the bow is critical even though we may only be talking about a few ounces.  Holding the bow at full draw for any period of time can make those few ounces feel much heavier.

Draw length measurementBe sure your local bow shop measures your draw length. Most bowhunters draw a bow that is too long for them because it usually means they can get a few extra feet per second (FPS) in arrow speed.  The drawbacks are not worth it, namely the lack of accuracy you will find because your bow twists you inside out at full draw.  And finally, the draw of the compound bow.  Draw weight aside, you will want to be comfortable with the draw cycle, or how the string feels when you pull it back.  Different styles of compound bows will feel differently as you draw them and you may find one feels much easier and smoother than another set at the same draw weight.

Did you hear that?

Aside from the feel of a compound bow, the noise it makes when you shoot it is important.  A deer can react to the speed of sound quicker than it takes the arrow to arrive at the target.  This can result in a deer jumping the string-basically moving before the arrow gets there.  Today’s compound bows are very quiet for the most part and manufacturers have gone to great lengths to engineer sound dampening technology into their designs.  Accessory manufacturers have also worked to reduce sound on compound bows, and products like limb savers and cat whiskers do a great job of quieting down a compound bow that may not come out of the factory in stealth mode.

The price is right.

Expect to pay for a quality compound bow.  Prices for mid range setups start at around $400 and a top of the line compound bow will be closer to $900.  Take into account the need for accessories like a sight at $80, a quiver at $50, arrow rest at $80, release at $100 and 1 dozen arrows at $100 and you can see that this is no small investment.  These prices are averages and you can spend more or less, but for our illustration, the top of the line bow set up with middle of the road accessories is going to be around $1,300.  Buy the best bow you can afford.

With this type of investment in your future, it is important to spend a great deal of time on the shooting range before you buy.  Go to a handful of archery shops – explain to them how you hunt and then ask them to make some suggestions on compound bows.  The shop should allow you the opportunity to shoot a variety of bows in various price ranges.  It is this time with the bow that will tell you which one to buy – it should feel smooth in the draw and solid when at full draw.  When you release the arrow it should feel dead in your hand–no vibration or jumping.  All of these small things add up to create a great shooting bow that shoots well for you and that you’ll be happy with.

What aspects to consider when picking your compound bow- a detailed look

There is no one-size-fits-all compound bow and you should consider all aspects when selecting your compound bow. What works for your hunter friend may not work for you. Your archery skills may differ from your friends’.

Also, the more you practice and your skills improve, you might consider making changes to your bow. It doesn’t mean that you chose the wrong model, but rather that you got better with your compound bow. After all, getting stronger when shooting your bow is what you wanted in the first place. Having said that, take a look at what you need to consider when selecting your compound bow carefully.

Eye dominance

Professionals call it “ocular dominance” and refer to how your brain trust one of the eye more than the other. You might not have noticed until now, but you see more evidence with one eye than with the other. It’s a crucial aspect to consider when choosing the compound bow, and beginners skip it. However, it’s impossible to shoot precisely if you cannot see clearly.

understanding eye dominance

We all have a dominant eye. More often than not, the dominant eye is on the same side of the body as the dominant hand. If you don’t know which eye is the dominant one, take on the following steps:

  • Form a triangle with the hands outstretched in front of you. Use your forefingers and thumbs.
  • Keep your eyes open and look through the triangle with both eyes open. Focus on a light switch or something stable on a wall.
  • Close one eye, open it, and close the other eye too. Pay attention to which eye will keep the item in its place. The other eye will make it jump or move it slightly to the side.
  • The eye that maintains the object centered in the triangle is the dominant eye. If your dominant eye is the left eye, choose a left-handed bow and vice-versa if the dominant eye is the right eye.

Draw length

Draw length refers to how far you can draw back the bowstring. You don’t want the draw length to be too long or too short. Many compound bows present a limit for the draw length before the string stops. However, many come with an adjustable range for the best draw length of the shooter.

If this is the first time you buy a compound bow, you can go to an archery store and have an archery pro measure your draw length. You can also ask a friend or measure as accurately as possible. Take the following steps to discover the draw length you need.

  • Stretch your hands and arms to the side while standing up. You need to make a T-shape with your arms and body.
  • Measure from the middle finger’s tip to the tip of the other middle finger. Make sure that the measuring tape is straight.
  • Divide the number you get and divide it by 2.5—it’s the perfect draw length for you.

Short draw length

If the draw length is to shower, you will experience increased bow torque, which will alter the precision of your shot. Additionally, a too-short draw length can generate floating anchor points. You will notice the inconsistency between your shots because you will not keep a particular reference point while aiming.

Long draw length

You will have to tilt your head to see through the peep sight if the draw length is too long. Your posture will be poor—one leading cause of the improper shooting. It goes without saying that improper shooting leads to inaccurate shooting due to torque and tension to the bow. Your back will hurt because the strain is too much.

When the draw length is too long, your shooting arm will get close to the string’s path—it’s something that you never want to feel!

Draw Weight

Many archers believe that a heavy draw weight will help them obtain faster-shooting speed. However, that’s not a good idea because a heavy draw weight is heavy and generates stress when shooting—stress when shooting alters the focus and ability to stay still. Even the highly skilled archers will miss a good shoot because of strain.

The compound bows present an effective method to reduce the weight necessary to hold the string at full draw—also known as the let-off. Many archers say that the let-off percentage should be 75-80%. Therefore, you should match the weight to your strength. When testing the bows, draw and hold them for 20-30 seconds. Ideally, it would help if you didn’t shake or quiver while holding. Go with a higher draw weight to see if you can hold it. If not, you should go with the lower draw weight.

Most compound bows come with adjustable draw weight, eliminating the need for trials. We recommend using a low-poundage bow in the beginning and working way up as your shooting muscles get stronger.

Axle-to-Axle Length

When it comes to bow length (axle to axle length), the stability and maneuverability with the bow are crucial. What you need the bow for will affect the length you need for the bow. You will need a shorter bow for hunting because it’s easier to handle and control in the field, blind, or tree stand. Compound bows for hunting are 33 inches or less.

Do you intend to use your compound bow for target shooting or shooting in an open field? If the answer is “yes,” we recommend using a longbow. A long axle-to-axle length will stabilize the bow and dampen the noise of the bow. Keep in mind that the length of the bow should match your height and feel comfortable. A bow of 33 to 35 inches will be a good length for such activities.

Many archers start with longer bows because they are more forgiving. Experienced archers, on the other hand, choose shorter bows. All in all, you should pick a bow that feels comfortable for you.


Noise and speed are crucial for every shot, whether we talk about shooting or target practice. The feet per second that every arrow travels when shot gives the bow’s speed. The draw weight of the bow provides the speed most of the time. The arrow will travel quicker and farther if the draw weight behind the shot is more considerable.

Several factors impact the speed and distance of the arrows travel:

  • External conditions (the weather)
  • The archer’s strength
  • The weight of the arrows

You will need quick arrow speed for hunting as fast speed relates to high kinetic energy. Therefore, the chance for greater penetration of the arrow is higher. If you plan to hunt big game, you will need high kinetic energy for a good shot.


We’ve mentioned noise already, but we feel we need to highlight its importance. Most archers choose a quiet bow over a loud one. But what causes the noise in a bow? When you fire the bow, the energy in the bow’s working elements goes to the arrow. But not all the energy is transferred, and the remaining energy causes the vibration and the noise you hear.

Most compound bows come with designs that reduce the loss of energy, which means they’re not loud. If noise is a problem for you, look for accessories (vibration dampers). They will absorb the vibrations from the bow and reduce the noise level.


Every element that makes the compound bow is essential for its performance and functioning. If any aspect is of poor quality or not working, the whole mechanical system of the compound bow will suffer.

compound bow cam types

Cams represent the essential elements of the compound bow’s mechanical system. The cam is created to do several things at the same. However, the main thing that the cam does is to control the draw weight of the bow.

The bow cam will modify how the bow captures the energy transferred into it while drawing. Additionally, it will let off at the end of the draw stroke. With a full draw, you will hold less weight, so you will have more time concentrating on the aim and fire with excellent precision.

There are several cams to choose from and each has benefits and downsides.

Single Cams

Also known as the “one cam” or “solo cam,” the single-cam comes with an idler wheel on the bow’s top and an elliptical cam on the bow’s bottom. Needless to say, single cams can vary in quality between manufacturers. Some will be fast and aggressive, whereas others will be smooth and silky. Typically, single cams are smooth and quite reliable.

Here are the best parts about single cams:

  • They’re easy to maintain, especially when compared to twin cam systems
  • They’re quieter than the twin cam systems
  • Many provide with a solid stop at full draw and are accurate

The main downside with the single camps is that they cannot achieve a level of nock travel.

Hybrid Cams

A hybrid cam features two asymmetrically elliptical cams: the top control cam and the bottom power cam. Many manufacturers are slowly making more hybrid cams than in the past. The hybrid cam has the main string, single-split harness, and a control cable.

The good parts of the hybrid cams are:

  • They don’t need intense maintenance
  • They ensure a level nock with no problem for timing and synchronization
  • They’re quiet and fast once you dial them in

Since they’re maintenance-free, the hybrid cams are an excellent choice for many archers. You only need to orient them for best efficiency and performance- something that you will do with any cam.

Binary Cams

Binary cams stand out with numerous benefits because they create incredibly fast bows. The system with binary cam allows the cams to balance deflections and stress automatically. A binary cam has a modified 3-groove twin cam system and connects the top and bottom cams to the bow’s limbs. It doesn’t come with a split-harness plan but two control cables. Also, the cams pull only the opposing cams and not the opposite limbs. In the end, binary cams are self-correcting cam systems, which is as appealing as it sounds.

The binary cams don’t have many downsides. We only need to remind you that many manufacturers depict the binary cams as a hybrid when they are, in fact, binary. Therefore, pay attention to the cam system and not rely on the manufacturer’s description.

Twin Cams

The twin cams (“dual cam” or “two cams”) are two wheels on every end of the bow. They have several benefits:

  • They’re very effective with the overall speed
  • They’re incredible for the nock travel
  • They ensure large adjustment ranges
  • They help with precise shooting

There are several downsides to consider with the twin cams:

  • They’re loud, especially when compared to hybrid and single cams
  • They require maintenance and servicing to remain efficient and reliable

Many archers, especially young archers, prefer twin cams to other systems due to high adjustment ranges.


Also known as the handle part of the bow, the risers vary in materials, shapes, and design. The construction of the riser will impact the performance, functionality, and price of the bow. The basic styles of the risers are:


Many modern compound bows come with reflex risers. They curve away from the limb’s natural curvature. The design lowers the brace height and leads to faster shooting speed.


Deflex risers are opposite to reflex type. They follow the limb’s curvature, which increases the brace height. The design will slow down the shot but improve the precision.


Straight risers sit in the middle of the two previous designs. They have a less extreme curvature, which is closer to reflex risers. Straight risers provide faster and more forgiving shots.

The Weight of the Bow Itself

You know if you’re a beginner or an experienced archer. A lightweight bow will be a far better choice if you’re new to archery than a heavier model. First of all, it will be more effortless to handle and carry around for many hours.

Don’t forget that a lightweight bow will also generate more sound and vibration. If you plan to use the bow for hunting, a light bow will be a safe option because it reduces the strain from carrying it around.

Brace Height

The distance between the string and the bow grip when the bow is resting is known as the brace height. A low brace height leaves for a quick shot. At the same time, a low brace height brings less stability. Therefore, a long brace height is slower, contributing to a more stable shot.

We recommend you get a medium brace height to gain both stability and speed. A brace height ranging between 6 and 8inches is ideal for most activities. The brace height will ease out handling, drawing, and control. Additionally, it will stop the string from touching the forearm. A string to the arm will hurt, for sure.

Pay attention to the following details when selecting your compound bow

The more time you spend checking out the details on the compound bow, the higher the chance to get an adequate model for your skills, body, and budget. We recommend you examine the following aspects as well:

Draw cycle

If you go in-store, seek to draw the bow several times. A good motion will feel smooth and even, with a low risk for bumps and grittiness in the road when the cam turns over. Typically, a fast bow doesn’t draw similar to a slow one and you should try them both.

Fit and finish

Take a good look at the bow when selecting. Check out if the limp pockets are made of plastic or aluminum—aluminum is better. The riser cast can be forged, extruded, cast, or machined from a single billet. See if the cutouts are smooth and clean. Do you have a long-lasting feeling when holding the bow? Is the finish uniform?

Back wall

Ease up a little from the back wall. The valley shows how much you can relax at full draw before the string lets down. Speed bows have a “narrow”/steep valley; it means that they jerk the arm forward even if you relax just a bit. On the other hand, slow bows have wide/generous valleys, ensuring more leeway. Many archers prefer slow bows for this only reason.

Handling, balance, and grip

How do you feel the bow when you shoot the bow? Is there a natural balance or not? Is it easy for you to target, does the bow jump around or settle? With grip, it’s a personal matter. However, thin grips reduce torque and many archers prefer them.

Understand bow accuracy and forgiveness

You don’t just go and buy the first compound bow you see on the shelf—we covered that already. Apart from all the details you need to examine when selecting a compound bow, and you also need to understand a few things about bow accuracy and forgiveness.

compound bow accuracy

Bow accuracy

What does an accurate bow mean per se? Some users may think that a bow accuracy is similar to rifle accuracy—and they’re not the same.

When using a rifle, the accuracy is somewhat inherent. You place the rifle on the benchrest, shoot your ammo and discover what you can do with your rifle. It’s possible to test the bow with a hooter shooter (it’s a machine that fires arrows consistently and eliminates human factors), but you won’t discover a lot about its accuracy. In reality, any bow can be adjusted to hit the same hole repeatedly.

We try to say that you shouldn’t worry about the bow’s precision but about your precision with a given bow.

Bow forgiveness

Most beginners will find it tricky to test the forgiveness of the bow. Even if bow forgiveness is essential, it’s also complicated to measure. The topic is tough to explain and we start by highlighting the difference between “easy to shoot” and “forgiving.”

Forgiving means easy to shoot well and a forgiving bow forgives tiny errors in shooting form in execution. The best way to see a bow’s forgiveness is to see how several shooters shoot groups at the same distance with a compound bow. It’s not something that one archer can do. Professionals have discovered that some bows shoot better than others and have consistency between archers. Differently put, they are more forgiving of a diversity of screw-ups.

Bare or ready to shoot compound bows?

The market is generous and you can have your pick between bare or ready to shoot compound bows.

The compound bow is made to use accessories when shooting the arrows. The bow sight, arrow rest, and bow quiver are accessories you need to shoot the bow.

Ready-to-shoot bows come in packages and include the mentioned accessories you need on the bow. However, you will need to buy the accessories you need for the bow with a barebow. Even if both types are acceptable, you will need to do due diligence when purchasing the barebow and the necessary accessories. Let’s not forget about the money you will have to spend on the accessories.


Is the compound bow a better choice than a regular bow?

Compound bows don’t require incredible physical strength and they allow more power and precision from a greater distance. This means that skills like concealment and stealth are less critical. Also, a compound bow offers more customization than a traditional bow, which is why many archers prefer compound bows to regular bows.

How much will you pay for a compound bow?

You may spend around $1,000 on a compound bow, but you can spend as little as $500 on a good model. Keep in mind that an expensive bow doesn’t make you accurate. As a matter of fact, you will find that pricey models are fast and challenging to handle if you’re new to archery.

How far can you shoot with a compound bow?

Many new archers wonder how far they will shoot with a compound bow. The easy answer is that a compound bow can fir in a straight line at 400ft per second and shoot an arrow around 200ft. If shot in an arc, the distance can go as high as 1,000ft.

Are compound bows accurate?

No matter the brand of bow you shoot, most modern compound bows impress with accuracy at ranges beyond 40 yards. However, who holds the bow and shoots is really important. Just because the bow can make a long shot doesn’t mean that it will when an inexperienced archer shoots it.

What hits harder: the crossbow or the compound bow?

Crossbows are stronger than compound bows. The latter is stronger than traditional bows. With a crossbow, you can shoot big projectiles at high speed. When you use a compound bow, the speed is 340feet per second, whereas the speed for a crossbow is 450ft per second. The bolt weighs twice as much as arrows.

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Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!