The Best Beginner Compound Bow: Which One is Right for You?
Archery can be incredibly fun, and that moment when you hit your first target—well, that can be the start of a life-long love affair with the sport.
The problem is—getting started in archery can be tough! Bows—and particularly compound bows—can get a little complicated, and it can be difficult to find the best beginner compound bow for your needs.
So in this post, we’ll take a “deep dive” into compound bows. First, we’ll quickly review our picks for the best compound for beginners. After that, we’ll discuss how you can take the measurements needed to select your first bow, so if you don’t know your draw length, draw weight, and dominant eye, you may want to look at that section. Then, because archery is a knowledge-based sport, we’ll provide an in-depth tutorial on the parts of a compound bow, how each part works, and why each part is important.
This is a long post, and if you’re just here for the reviews, awesome! If you want to learn more, though, there’s plenty here, and hopefully by the end of the post you’ll have a solid understanding of compound bows, how to select one, and how each part works.
Alright! Let’s dive in:
The Best Compound Bow for Beginners: Our Reviews
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of our reviews, here’s a quick summary of what we consider the best compounds for new archers:
We have two votes for “best of the best” beginner compound bows, and they are:
The Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro: hands down, our vote for best beginner bow for a person interested in compounds. Powerful, durable, and great for target shooting and/or bowhunting; and
The Bear Archery Cruzer G2: A solid second place. A really high FPS (foot-per-second) shooting speed, quality parts, and manufactured in a bunch of colors and styles.
We have two picks for best “just the basics” compound bow:
The SAS Siege Compound Bow: An excellent “no frills” starter option that we think is great for archers new to the sport;
The SAS Rage 70-Pound Compound: A step up from the SAS Siege, but only for stronger folks who can pull a heavy 55-pound bow string.
Our picks for best youth compound bow are:
The Genesis Original Bow: An easy-to-use option for kids and youths who are totally new to archery—this gets our vote for best bow overall for young people; and
The Bear Archery Cruzer Lite Compound Bow: A good pick for a kid who already is into the sport.
OK, let’s get to the details. We’ll start a bow that’s one of our absolute favorites:
The Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro
Our top pick: a strong bow that’s easy to learn on, up for the task of bowhunting but also great for target archery, and durable
The Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro gets our vote for best beginner compound bow, because it’s got everything we’d hope for in a beginner compound:
A broad capability for draw length—it can be adjusted to fit draw lengths of 13 to 31 inches;
A somewhat-incredible FPS of 310, which is definitely on the high side for a starter bow;
A mass weight of 3.2 pounds—on the very, very low side compared to a lot of similar bows;
An axle-to-axle length of 31 inches, which makes it short, compact, and maneuverable—great for the hunt, but also stable enough for target shooting and 3-D shooting at the range;
A let-off of 80%—not the absolute best, but very good; and lastly
A variable draw weight that you can set anywhere from 5 to 70 pounds.
That last feature isn’t the most exciting, but it’s probably the most important one: a draw weight that you can adjust anywhere from 5 pounds all the way up to 70 pounds. One of the most common mistakes a new archer makes is being “over-bowed”—that is, selecting a bow that’s too heavy. A bow that’s too heavy is not only hard to use, but it can be dangerous, too—when you struggle to pull the string, you have less control of the bow and the arrows (never a good thing!), and the repetitive stress of pulling a sting that’s too heavy can cause muscle tears and strain—no fun.
The really great thing about the variable weight feature, though, is that as you get stronger—as you’re able to pull 25 pounds, then 30 pounds, then 35 pounds, and so on—the bow will be ready for you, and you can adjust the bow to new weights as you’re able to draw them. That’s a really fantastic thing, because you can use the same bow as you gain strength and develop your skills as an archer.
When you add all these features together—low weight, high let-off, and a really fast 310 FPS arrow speed—that’s a whole lotta of wonderful, in our humble opinion, and it comes with some really excellent tools: a fixed-pin sight with three pins, a containment arrow rest (good for hunting), a stabilizer designed to eat up some of the vibration and noise during a shot, and an arrow quiver screwed into the riser of the bow. A nice package, overall.
We think this is great option for bowhunters and target shooters alike, and it’s our #1 recommendation. A fantastic bow.
Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Compound Bow
Our #2 pick (but pretty darn close): a powerful, versatile bow manufactured in a wide range colors and styles
“Bear” is a big name in the archery world, and its founder, Greg Bear, was a colorful character. They’ve been making bows since 1933, and their Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Compound Bow is a solid choice, and it’s got a lot of the same features the Diamond Infinite Edge has: a very high FPS measurement (315 FPS); relatively low carrying weight (3 pounds); a 12- to 30-inch draw length (good for the great majority of people, although if you’re very tall with a very long draw length, the Infinite Edge might be a better choice, because its draw length goes up to 31 inches); and 70% let-off (not as good as the Infinite Edge, but still pretty darn good).
It also features some great additional equipment: a fixed-pin sight with four pins, a quiver that holds five arrows and is attached to the riser, a stabilizer designed for eating up sound and vibration during arrow release, and a whisker biscuit as an arrow rest. We’re big fans of manufacturers who package all that gear together—it can take a while to collect, and it takes a lot of the “guesswork” out of putting together a new bow.
This is another fantastic option, in our humble opinion, and one we’ve enjoyed a lot.
SAS Siege Compound Bow
A solid “no frills” option: a solid bow, but a little on the high side in terms of draw weight
The SAS Siege Compound is a solid bow, with good specs: it’s got a max FPS of 206, which is definitely less than some fancier bows out there, but still pretty respectable; with a 41.5-inch axle-to-axle length, it’s on the tall side, and that lends some “heft” to it and can make it great for target shooting; and it’s got 70% let-off, which again, isn’t the best in the world, but still pretty good. Plus, it just looks streamlined: modern compounds have a tendency to look—well, a little overdone—and this has a nice, simple feel to it.
The only thing to keep in mind is that it’s right on the upper edge of draw weight. It’s got a draw weight of 40 to 55 pounds, and while an average man of average strength could probably handle it, you can’t decrease the draw weight below 40 pounds if you find out it’s too much (and that’s the real draw of Diamond Archery Infinite Edge that got our vote for “Best Beginner Compound Bow All-Around,” because you adjust the draw from 5 to 70 pounds). Again, a 40-pound draw weight is probably fine for the average guy, buy you might “feel the burn” a little bit at first.
All-in-all, though, we think it’s a solid pick—and one you can dress up nicely if you want to.
SAS Rage 70-Pound Compound Bow
A great “no frills” option, but beware: it’s got a really darn heavy draw weight for a newbie
We visit a lot of archery websites, and we’re surprised to find the following bow recommended for beginners: the SAS Rage 70-Pound Compound Bow.
We’re not saying it isn’t a great bow—it is, actually. It’s a really good bow, in fact: it shoots 270 FPS (pretty good for a beginner compound), it’s fairly lightweight (4.4 pounds—a little high, but that’s OK), and it’s got very decent let-off (70%), and it’s manufactured in a wide range of colors, including black, camo, and autumn colors. A really solid bow, in other words.
The thing is, it’s got a draw weight range of 55 pounds to 70 pounds, and that’s definitely on the high side for a new archer. Ideally, you’re looking for a draw weight between 20 pounds and 40 pounds (and 50 at the highest) for someone who’s new to archery. 55 pounds—that’s just too much, unless you are very, very strong—think, “weightlifter who’s comfortable bench pressing a lot of weight” strong. That does describe a lot of us—but it also doesn’t describe a lot of us!
So if you’re one of those stronger people, the proceed! But if that’s not you, proceed with caution. It’s a great bow, but 55+ pounds is just way too much for a lot of new archers, and we’re always surprised to find other archery sites recommending it without that warning.
That said, it’s a great bow, and if you can handle the weight, it can be a great option.
Genesis Original Bow
Our choice for “best beginner compound bow for youth” overall
We’ve got two picks for best compound bow for youths, and the first is the Genesis Original Bow. We think it’s a great bow for kids, for a lot of reasons: it’s handed, meaning you can get left-handed or right-handed versions; it’s manufactured in a range of fun colors and styles, from camo to pink to neon green to yellow; and it’s very easy to draw—it’s got a single cam with an idler wheel at the top and an elliptical at the bottom, and the draw weight is somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds—just right for kids of all ages.
The real advantage of the Genesis, though, is its size: because it’s not made for a specific draw length, kids of any height can draw this bow efficiently. If you’re somewhere in your 30s, you may remember the bows that we had in after-school programs when we were kids. They were—and we’ll be generous, here—not great. They were almost always a plastic recurve bow with a super-thin shelf that couldn’t hold an arrow, and they almost never fit right. The Genesis was created to fix these issues, and if you’re a parent, you know you are almost constantly on the look-out for products that can age with kids as they grow. We think The Genesis is a great pick for that reason (and also because it can be a lot of fun to use!).
By the way—and we talk about this a little more below—but if you’re going to allow your children to do archery, it is incredibly important that you are there to supervise them and teach them how to be safe archers. Archery is a great pastime, but without the proper safety precautions, it can be very, very dangerous. If you’re going to invest in archery equipment for your kids, you need to be there when they use it.
By the way, if you like the Genesis bow, it also sold as the Genesis Original Kit, and includes a quiver and five arrows, an arm guard (very important), and a hex wrench for bow set-up. That can take a lot of the headache out piecing all that equipment together.
Bear Archery Cruzer Lite Compound Bow
Our pick for “best compound bow for a kid who already knows he/she loves archery”
If you already know that your little one is crazy about archery and you want to invest in a “higher-end” bow, the Bear Archery Cruzer Lite can be a good pick. As we mentioned earlier, Bear has been in the archery game for a while, and they have some great products. This one also has everything we’d look for in a youth bow:
It’s on the smaller side, and has an adjustable draw length of 12 to 27 inches;
It’s got an adjustable draw weigh of 5 to 45 pounds—and that’s a really great feature, because as your child grows and gets stronger, you can adjust the bow so that it’s heavier and adequate for their shooting capability;
It’s very light—only 3.2 pounds—and that’s good for a lot of kids who might not have a lot of stamina yet; and the last thing—and this is kind of surprising:
It can shoot up to 290 FPS. That’s—honestly, that’s more than any kid needs!
Plus, it’s manufactured in a bunch of fun colors, from orange to green to pink to camo to black.
A solid pick, and one that’s a great pick for a kid who’s already into archery.
Alright! Now that we've gone over our picks, let's get into some schoolin'. If you'd like to learn how to select the right compound for your own measurements (and what parts make up a compound and how to choose them), read on:
How to Choose the Right-Sized Compound
It would be wonderful if choosing a bow were as simple as selecting one that seems attractive to you, but unfortunately there’s a lot more involved. Here's a quick breakdown of what to consider when you choose a compound bow.
Find Your Correct Draw Length
“Draw length” refers to how far you can pull a bow string back towards you when you’re holding a bow. It’s a very important measurement to take, and it’s one of the vital measurements you’ll need to take before you purchase a bow.
To measure your draw length, stand up with your back straight and stretch both arms out to your sides. You should look like a "T." Keep your hands flat and fully extended—no fists.
Measure, in inches, from the end of your middle finger on one hand, all the way to the end of your middle finger on the opposite hand. Next, divide that number by 2.5, and that’ll give you an approximation of your draw length.
Here’s an example: let’s say you’re 5’ 10” (which is the average height of an American male). If you stretched your arms out against the wall, you’d find that you’re 70 inches long (5 feet x 12 inches per foot + 10 inches = 70 inches). 70 inches / 2.5 = a 28-inch draw length.
Here’s why draw length is so important: bows are specifically designed for people with exact draw lengths. People with longer draw lengths will shoot best with larger bow, and people with a smaller draw length will shoot best with a smaller bow. When you look at bows you’re interested in, make sure they’re available within your draw length, because take it from us—shooting a bow with the wrong draw length is both frustrating and dangerous!
Find Your Correct Draw Weight
Draw weight, basically, is how much force it will take you pull the string back. A bow with a lower draw weight—say, 15 pounds—will be a lot easier to draw than a bow with a higher draw weight—say, of 65 pounds. Lighter bows are easier to draw back, but they shoot arrows more slowly, whereas heavy bows are hard to draw back, but they shoot arrows at greater force and speed.
Ideally, you want to find a bow that’s in your “Goldilocks” zone—one that’s not too light and not too heavy.
When choosing a draw weight, it's usually a good idea to go lighter, rather than heavier, especially if you're new to archery. Your muscles will develop over time and with practice, at which point you can switch to a heavier bow. Everyone is able to handle different amounts of weight, but as a general rule of thumb, here are some guidelines for recommended draw weight:
Men and women between the ages of 18 and 21: draw weight between 15 and 30 pounds (with 20 or 25 pounds a reasonable starting point)
Women age 22 and above: draw weight between 20 and 35 pounds (with 25 or 30 pounds a reasonable starting point)
Men age 22 and above: draw weight between 25 and 40 pounds (with 30 or 35 pounds a reasonable starting point).
If you consider yourself particularly strong, you may want to go slightly above these weights, but—be careful! Being “over-bowed” is a thing that happens to a LOT of people, it’s not like lifting a weight once. If you have a 40-pound bow, every time you draw it’s like lifting 40 pounds. It gets tiring. Better to start low and build.
Find the Correct Bow Length
Bow length is sometimes called the axle-to-axle length. The length of your bow depends more on the type of shooting you do than your overall size. Shorter compound bows are usually recommended for hunters, for example—it’s easier to go through woods and brush with a shorter bow—whereas longer compound bows are usually a good match for target archers and 3-D aficionados. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and you might find that you prefer a long bow for hunting or a short bow for target practice. Bow length is usually a little more important to archers using a recurve bow, and you have more options when you use a compound.
Figure Out Your Dominant Eye
In the same way that we’re all either left-handed or right-handed, we’re also right-eyed or left-eyed. One of our eyes focuses more strongly than other, and that’s our dominant eye, and it’s another important thing to keep in mind when you’re looking for a bow.
Usually, the dominant eye is the same as the dominant hand, but that’s not always the case—so you’ll need to figure out which eye is your dominant eye. Here’s how you do it: stretch both arms out in front of you. Form a triangle shape with your two thumbs and index fingers pressed together, like this. Find something to place in the middle of the triangle, such as a spot on a wall, or a doorknob, or something like that.
Now look through the triangle with both eyes open. Now, close one eye. Open that eye and close the other eye. If you’re doing this correctly, you should see the spot or the doorknob with one eye, and not the other. The eye you can see it with is your dominant eye.
When you’re buying a bow, if you're right eye dominant, choose a right-handed bow. If you're left eye dominant, choose a left-handed bow.
But… what happens if your dominant eye and your dominant hand don’t match up? If you’re right-handed, but left-eye dominant, or left-handed, but right-eye dominant?
That actually happens quite frequently, and that’s called “cross dominance.” If you’re cross-dominant, you have a choice to make: you can choose a bow that matches your handed-ness (which will feel a lot more comfortable, but it’ll be harder to aim), or you can choose a bow that matches your dominant eye (which will feel very odd, like writing on paper with your non-dominant hand—but easier to aim).
Most cross-dominant people choose a bow that goes with their handedness (lefties get a left-handed bow, righties get a right-handed bow), because that feels easiest, and they’re able to aim using a scope—but it’s up to you. There’s actually a lot of debate about that, and you can read more about it here.
And… there you have it! Those are the most important measurements you’ll need when selecting a bow.
Now that you know all that, it also helps to know and understand…
The Parts of a Compound Bow, In Detail
In our humble opinion, the best way to learn about compound bows is to study their parts. Once you have an understanding of each part, why it’s important, and how it’s used, you’ll have a better understanding of the bow, and how to use it accurately. Archery is a sport of knowledge, and very often, knowledge = ability.
Compound bows have considerably more parts compared to their cousins, the recurve bow (and their second cousins, the longbow). Knowing the different parts of a compound—and the purpose of each part—will help you wisely choose your first compound bow, but it will also help you get a sense of how to use the bow properly. We'll start with...
Every part of the bow is incredibly important, but the riser is, perhaps, the primary part of the compound bow. Once upon a time, it was made from aluminum, but newer (and higher-end) models tend to be made from carbon fibers or a carbon/aluminum mix. The riser needs to be sturdy, because the bow experiences incredible pressure when it’s at full draw, but it also needs to be light, so that archers can lift it and shoot it again and again. Below, we've added a blue line that shows the entire length of the riser:
Most of the other parts of the compound bow attach to the riser, and you see that the grip, arrow rest, sight, stabilizer, limbs, etc. are all attached to the riser.
The limbs on a compound bow attach to, and stick out from, the top and bottom of the riser. They’re incredibly important because they hold the bow string, but also because they store a great deal of the potential energy when the bow is at full draw. Just like the riser, they need to be both light and very strong. We've added blue lines to show both the top and bottom limbs:
When choosing a compound bow, there are a few different styles of limb you can choose. Solid limbs are made of a single piece of material, usually fiberglass, and they’re a little “old school.” Split limbs are made of two pieces of material that connect at the riser. Often, split limbs are more durable than solid limbs and tend to be a little bit stronger, although that may not matter too much if you’re brand new to shooting.
The limbs can also be parallel, which means that they run parallel (or almost parallel) to each other across the top and bottom of the bow. Parallel limbs don't produce as much recoil as traditional "D-shaped" limbs, and they tend to operate a bit more quietly, and those two features make parallel limbs a great choice for bowhunters, for whom silence is a big, big deal (you don’t want to scare those deer!).
The cams are the wheels or discs that are located at the ends of the limbs on the top and bottom of the compound bow. They are the defining feature of a compound bow, and only compound bows have cams. If it doesn’t have cams, it’s not a compound bow.
Cams help to make it easier for you to pull the bowstring back, as the wheels accept much of the weight of the string, and that means you can more easily pull back on the string than you would when using a longbow or recurve bow. The cams make it easier to pull the bowstring back through basic physics, and the use of a pulley system. A pulley is a device that allows us to lift an incredible amount of weight, and the pulley system on a compound—the cams—allow us to pull back a bowstring that might otherwise be waaaaaay too heavy to draw. A heavier bowstring allows an archer to shot arrows faster and further, and “faster and further” is something that most archers—particularly most bowhunters—want. We've added blue circles around the top and bottom cams:
You'll find a variety of different styles of cams on different compound bows, and the type of cams you choose usually depends on your goal as an archer. For example, round wheel cams tend to provide a bit more accuracy than other styles, while hard oval-shaped cams can shoot faster than other forms but might be trickier to set up and shoot with accuracy.
(By the way—fun fact: archery has been around for tens of thousands of years, but compound bows—and the use of cams—is relatively new. A man named Holless Wilbur Allen—a genius if there ever was one—invented the compound bow in the 1960s, and changed the sport of archery forever. The 1960s may seem like a long time ago, but in “archery years,” it’s actually very new! Alright, anyway…)
So you know that there are different types of cams; a “cam system” refers to the “pairing” of cams your bow has. There are:
Single Cam Systems. Many beginner compound bows feature a single cam system, which consists of a round idler wheel at the top limb of the bow, and an elliptical cam (that is, an oval-shaped cam) at the bottom limb of the bow. Single cam systems require less maintenance than most other options and they’re easier to set up, and that’s a big plus for a new archer using a compound.
Twin Cam Systems. Twin cams (sometimes called “dual cams”) feature two cams—one on the top limb, and one on the bottom—that are perfectly symmetrical. They may be round wheels or they may be elliptical, but they match each other perfectly. The twin cam system provides a little extra speed and accuracy.
When setting up a twin cam system, the bow manufacturer needs to make sure that the cams are synchronized, and moving at the same rate. If you take your bow to the shop for a tune-up, that’s probably one of the things the tech guy will look at.
Hybrid Cam Systems. Hybrid cams feature two elliptical cams, but the elliptical cams are shaped juuuuust a little bit differently. Usually, the top cam is a “control” cam that provides the stability to the string, and a “power” cam on the bottom, the provides a little extra “ooomph” and makes the arrow travel faster.
Binary, Quad, Hinged, etc. There are other types of cams, but honestly, they get pretty complicated, so we’ll save them for another post.
If you’re new to archery, a single cam system is usually a great choice. The twin cam and hybrid cam systems you’ll find on higher-end bows can be tricky to maintain, and when something goes wrong, they can be a bear to fix.
By the way, you may be wondering: what’s the benefit of an elliptical cam? Why aren’t all cams perfectly round? The answer has to do with something called “let-off”—a really cool feature of compound bows—and we’ll discuss that a little later.
This one is easy: the bowstring is the cord attached to the top and bottom limb that you nock an arrow to and pull back on. It's what helps you launch the arrow from your bow. Modern bowstrings are usually made from synthetic materials, which are less likely to lose their shape and tension with repeated use, and you’ll occasionally need to wax them in order to keep them strong and safe.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the cables on a compound bow aren't the same as the bowstring. While the bowstring comes into contact with your arrow, the cables don't. Instead, they stretch from cam to cam. When you pull back on the bowstring, the cables turn the cams. We've added a blue dot below to where the cable strings meet:
The cables are a unique part of a compound bow—they’re part of the pulley system that allows it to fire off arrows at such high speeds and with such great force, and many bows come with cables pre-installed. If you’re new to archery, we’d advise you not to mess with these—bring it to a bow tech at your range or local outfitter, and they can take a look for you.
The Cable Guard
The cable guard extends at a 90-degree angle from the riser. It's a small rod that keeps the cables from getting in the way of the arrow and the bow string. The cable guard works with the cable slide.
The Cable Slide
The cable slide is a small piece of plastic that attaches to the cable guard and securely holds the cables in place, out of the range of the arrow.
The Arrow Rest
The arrow rest holds the arrow in place as you set up your shot, and in some cases, it stabilizes the arrow after you’ve released the bow string and the arrow is about to leave the bow.
There are a couple of different styles of arrow rest available for compound bows, but there are two that are the most popular:
Capture Rests (aka Containment Rests). A containment rest is a circular device that surrounds the shaft of the arrow. Some, like the one in the photo below, use hard bristles to keep the arrow in place, and when the arrow is shot, the fletching on the arrows passes between those bristles. One of the most popular types of capture rests is called a “whisker biscuit,” and it’s similar to the rest shown below, but instead of three sets of hard bristles, it features soft hairs that keep the arrow in place, but allow the fletchings to pass through the hairs. Capture rests are great for hunters, because they allow the hunter to aim the bow at a target from odd angles, and not have to worry about their arrows falling off their bows. Here's an imagine from behind the bow, that shows the containment rest:
Drop-Away Arrow Rests. Another style is a drop-away arrow rest, which holds the arrow up while the archer draws the bow, and then falls away from the arrow after you release your shot. Drop-away rests are usually attached to one of the bow limbs or the cable, so that when the archer draws the bow, the rest stands up, but when the archer releases the bow string, the arrow rest “drops away.” It’s pretty clever, and if you look on YouTube, there are plenty of slow-motion videos that show how these work. These rests are popular because unlike capture rests, they don’t touch the arrow in any way. Some archers like that, even though capture rests, when used properly, can be very accurate.
The grip is the part of the bow that you hold in your hand. Modern compound bows often have ergonomically shaped grips, which make it much more comfortable for you to grasp the bow. You can also add comfort padding or other accessories to your bow's grip after purchase.
The Bow Sight
The sight is a tool that will help you aim at your target. It's similar to the sight on a rifle, except instead of “crosshairs,” archery scopes usually have “pins,” and you’ll line up the pins with your target in order to enhance your aim.
There are different types of scopes to you can use on a compound bow, but the two most popular types are “fixed pin sights” and “single pin sights.” A fixed pin sight features anywhere from three to seven pins, and you can set the pins for targets at different distances: you'll set a pin for a target at 10 yards, another pin for a target at 20 yards, another for 30 yards, and so on. Here's a fixed pin sight with three pins:
Single pin sights are a little bit different—they have only one pin, and you set it for a target at an exact distance: if you’re shooting at a target 18 yards away, you’d set it for 18 yards; if you were shooting at a target 27 yards away, you’d set it for 27 yards.
Compound bows—particularly beginner compound bows—very often feature a fixed pin bow sight that comes with the bow, and that’s a good thing: fixed pin sights are a great way to learn how to aim. Single pins are precision tools, and while they’re great to use—and great for hunters—they don’t really teach you how to aim!
The Peep Sight
The peep sight is a small plastic ring that you slip it between the strands of your bowstring to enhance your aim. When it’s set up properly, you can look through the peep sight on your bow string, and then through the sight itself, to line up your shots and have more accuracy and consistency.
In the image below, there’s a peep sight on the woman’s string riiiiiiight in front of her eye (we've added a blue dot right in front of it), and she’s looking through the peep sight on the string, and the through the sight attached to her riser. Lining up the peep sight and the sight and then aiming at your target can dramatically increase your accuracy.
The D-loop is attached to the bowstring and is a small piece of very strong string in the shape of a "D." When wearing a release aid, you hook the release aid into the loop of the D to pull the bow string back.
A Release Aid
Technically, a release aid isn't part of a compound bow, but most archers use one with a compound, so we should discuss them. Most compound bow shooters don’t draw the bow string with their fingers, and instead use a release aid to pull the string when drawing. The bow strings on compounds tend to be VERY strong, and a release aid can make it a lot easier to draw.
There are a couple different types of release aids, but the most popular—and perhaps best—for new compound bow archers is the wrist strap, aka the index finger release. It looks like this:
The strap goes around your wrist, and you attach the caliper—those two hook-looking pieces at the end—to the D loop. Pull the bow string back to full draw, and when you’re ready to release an arrow, you pull the trigger. It’s VERY, VERY important to keep your trigger finger BEHIND the trigger when you draw, because keeping your trigger finger ON the trigger makes it very likely you’re going to release an arrow before you’re ready, and that is incredibly dangerous. Draw, aim, put your finger on the trigger, and then release.
By the way, if you’re looking for a release aid, we like the TruFire Edge Release: sturdy, reliable, and with a wide range of adjustability.
There are other types of release aids—thumb releases, hinge releases, and resistance activated releases—but those are mostly for intermediate archers, so we’ll those be for now.
A release aid connects to the D-loop on the bowstring and is what you can use to let go of the bowstring, instead of your fingers. Now that you know what a release aid with those calipers at the front looks like, here's the D loop you connect it to—it's that grey piece loop on the bow string:
A Bow Stabilizer
A stabilizer sticks out perpendicular to the riser, and it’s got two functions: to eat up some of the vibration in the bow after you release an arrow (and therefore make the shot a little quieter—a very important feature for bowhunters) and to provide a little “balance” to the bow. Stabilizers for compound bows tend to be anywhere from four to twelve inches, whereas on recurves, they can be anywhere from 10 to 30+ inches.
Whether you use a stabilizer or not is a matter of personal preference. Some people find that the rods help improve their aim and their shots. Others don't notice any difference between shooting with a bow with a stabilizer and one without a stabilizer.
A Sling / Wrist Sling
A sling is attached to the riser of the bow, and it slips around your wrist to help you maintain control of the bow during and after a shot. Without a sling, it’s very possible to let go of the bow after shooting, and it’s definitely “best practices” to shoot with a sling. The wrist sling is that grey piece of material right below the grip:
We mentioned this earlier, and while it’s not a part of a compound bow—it’s more of a feature—it’s important to mention.
When you draw a bow, the bow string provides resistance. A low-poundage bow will be easy to draw, and a high-poundage bow will be difficult to draw. On a compound bow, you’ll find that after a certain point in the draw, it’s a LOT easier to hold the string back. You’re pulling and it’s heavy and you’re pulling and it’s heavy and then all of sudden, it’s very easy to keep the bow string held back. That spot where it’s easy to hold the bow string back is the “let-off.” It’s the place in the draw where pulling the bow string back becomes a LOT easier. That’s a function of the cams on a compound bow—there’s no “let-off” on a recurve bow—and it’s great for hunting, because you can draw and aim for quite some time without getting tired, but it’s great for target shooting, too.
Let-off is often measured in percentages, and if you had a bow with a 100-pound draw weight—a ridiculously heavy bow, that we’re just using as an example—and it had an 80% let-off, when you pulled the bow all the way back, it would feel like you were only pulling back 20 pounds. Let-off is an incredible feature, and it’s an important aspect of compound bows.
And… those are all the major parts of a compound bow! Congratulations—if you’re still here and you’re still reading, you’ve gone from “total newbie” to “advanced beginner.” Good job!
Other Bow Features Worth Noting
There are two other features you may want to consider when getting your first bow. They’re secondary features, but we get a lot of questions about them, so we’d figured we mention them. They are:
If the draw weight of the bow is the amount of weight you have to deal with when you pull back on the bowstring, the bow weight is simply the weight of the bow itself. Luckily, in the grand scheme of things, compound bows don't vary too much when it comes to overall weight, and you’re likely to find a bow that most bows weigh somewhere between 3 and 4.5 pounds (although a very short or very long bow might weigh a bit less or more).
Although it might not seem as if there's too great of a difference between a bow that's 3 pounds and a bow that’s 4.5 pounds, after an afternoon at the range, that weight can be quite noticeable. There are also slight performance differences—lighter bows are great to lug around (great for hunting) but can be noisier and “jumpier” on the shot, whereas heavier bows can be very stable—but make your arm feel like it’s going to fall off.
Honestly, with just about everything related to archery, it’s a trade-off, and you’ll figure out what you really need through practice and experience.
Speed, aka FPS
It seems like the longer you’re into archery, the more concerned about speed you get. So, as a general rule of thumb, a "slow" bow is one that shoots less than 300 feet-per-second (FSP) while a "lightning fast" bow is one that shoots at least 340 FPS.
Many archers prefer fast bows because a greater speed means greater power behind the shot. That’s a really important feature if you’re bowhunting—but if you’re going to be doing target archery, 3-D archery, or roving, it’s a secondary concern. Again, we wish there was a “one size fits all” answer, but the importance of speed really depends on your personal preferences.
When it comes down to it, speed matters, but only slightly. In the grand scheme of things, there's not too big of a difference between an arrow that's traveling at a speed of 300 FPS and one that's going 340 FPS, and 300 FPS is pretty darn fast.
A First Compound Bow Q and A
We get a lot of questions from new archers, and we’ve tackled most of them in the sections above, but here are few other random ones we get, with the first one the most common:
Q: Can my kid shoot archery?
A: Absolutely! BUT. And this is a big but: the decision to let your kids do archery is a parenting decision that you need to make, and if you’ve got a spouse, you and your spouse need to make together. There are kids all around the world who do archery—it’s been an integral part of Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts training for decades—and it can be a great parent/child bonding activity. A lot of kids seem to love it, and it can also be a great way to teach them about nature and the outdoors.
THAT SAID—and we can’t stress this strongly enough—archery is a sport that, without proper supervision, can be incredibly dangerous. If you make the decision that your child can do archery, you need to provide proper supervision to ensure they don’t get hurt. If you’re not going to provide supervision and make sure they’re safe, don’t get them involved in archery.
The next question we get a lot:
Q: Is there a difference between a men’s compound bow and a women’s compound bow?
A: Nope! The thing you need to think about is the draw weight. A draw weight that’s too high can be brutal to use, so be sure to select one that fits your strength.
Q: Aren’t compound bow used only for hunting?
A: No way! There are plenty of archers who use compound bows who are interested in target archery, and have no interest in bowhunting. There are compound target competitions all over the country, and they’re a lot of fun. Please don’t think that compound bows are only used for hunting—that’s absolutely not true at all.
Q: Can I go hunting with a compound bow?
A: Yes, and in fact, we’ll say that most bowhunters use a compound bow to go hunting. There’s good reason for that—compound bows are fast and powerful and they’re much easier to aim and use than recurve bows. For a lot of people—most, we’d even say—it’s a much, much better idea to use a compound bow when you’re hunting.
If you do decide to go hunting, make sure you’re following state and local bowhunting laws—many states have a requirement about how heavy your draw weight must be (usually it’s 40 pounds, but every state legislates requirements differently) and the dates during which you can hunt, so make sure you’re “up to code,” as they say. If you call your state’s department of game and wildlife, they’ll usually be able to steer you in the right direction.
Q: Is a compound bow better than a recurve?
A. There’s no “better,” really—there are different bows for different purposes. Compound bows are usually more powerful and faster and they have the “let-off” we discussed above, and that makes them a go-to for hunters, but recurve bows are easier to take care of, and most target competitions require you to use a recurve. One isn’t better than the other—they’re both great, and you’ll find that the more you love archery, the more you may want to shoot with both of them.
Q: Why is your website so fantastic and amazing?
A: You’re too kind! We put a lot of work into it, and we’re really passionate about the sport. It’s our pleasure!
We’re going to wrap this up, but if you’re new to archery, WELCOME! There are some fantastic people in the sport, and we wish you many years of growth and development as an archer. Hopefully you learned something in here, and we helped you find the best beginner compound bow for your needs. Be safe, and have fun!