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The Best Beginner Compound Bow: Which One is Right for You?(2021 Update)

There are a lot of sports that trigger the desire for competition, and there are those that capture the imagination and transport us to a different plane. Archery is just such as sport that your first target capture is enough to launch a lifelong love affair. As captivating as the sport may be, when you first start out, archery can present a serious challenge. There are so many different bows to choose from, and when it comes to compound bows for beginners, picking the right one can be complicated.

We will cover several different compound bows that are good for archery beginners and casual users alike. As a part of our compound bows reviews, we will also give you a short guide that lets you know how to calculate the proper measurements to select a bow that meets your needs. 

Archery, in general, is a sport based on knowledge, as such, understanding the function, and importance of each part is critical. Understanding which eye is dominant, what your draw length is, and what draw weight is best for you is critical when picking out a compound bow for the first time. We have also included a guide that gives you a clear roadmap on the workings of a compound bow to give you a head start in your archery exploits. 

Without further ado, let’s jump into our reviews of the best beginner compound bows of 2021.

Compound Bows for Beginners

Our Reviews on The Best Compound Bow for Beginners

We are going to go into deep detail about each of the compound bows on our list, but before we get to the reviews, here is a short summary if you don’t want to read the extended version. In our opinion, these are some of the top choices for compound bows for people who are new to archery.

We have two votes for “best of the best” beginner compound bows, and they are:

The Bear Archery Cruzer G2  RTH Compound Bow: 

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 RTH Package One Nation LH
  • Engineered to excel for bow hunters of any age or skill level
  • A grow-with-you bow with great shoot ability

Of all of the compound bows on our list, this one takes the top spot. It features high-quality construction with sturdy parts that can handle new user wear. It also has a high FPS shooting speed which will guide your shots to their target. For those who like the bow to match their style, this option is ideal as it comes in a diverse range of colors.

The Diamond by Bowtech Deploy SB R.A.K. Compound Bow:

Diamond Archery Deploy SB Compound Bow - 70 lbs, Right Hand
  • Compound bow is perfect for hunting, target shooting, or archery target practice
  • Diamond archery bow comes standard with R.A.K. equipped system hunting accessories
  • Deploys at speeds up to 330 feet per second for a fast hunting bow performance

For beginners who are interested in investing in a bow that can grow with their skill level, the SB R.A.K. Compound Bow is one of the best options. It has a high draw weight of 60-70 pounds which is ideal for athletic users interested in archery. The carbon riser and study materials will ensure that your bow lasts for as long as you want to use it.

We have two picks for best “just the basics” compound bow:

The Diamond by Bowtech Edge 320 R.A.K. Compound Bow:

Diamond Archery Edge 320 Bow Compound Bow - Black - 70 lbs, Left Hand
  • Compound bow is perfect for hunting, target shooting, or archery target practice
  • Diamond archery bow comes standard with R.A.K. equipped system hunting accessories
  • Versatile and adjustable components make hunting gear great for beginner or experienced archers

This compound bow is our second choice for users new to archery. It is highly durable and makes a great starter bow for small game hunting and target practice. It is powerful enough for users of all sizes, but easy enough to manipulate while learning how to shoot a compound bow. It is available in three colors so matching it to the rest of your gear is simple.

The PSE Archery Stinger Max RTH Compound Bow:

This stinger compound bow is ideal for new users who have a moderate amount of arm strength. At only four pounds, this bow is ideal for both live hunting and target shots. It only comes in one color but for those more interested in function over fashion, it makes a great compound bow for beginners.

Our picks for best youth compound bow are:

The Genesis Mini Compound Bow: 

GENESIS Kit - RH Red
  • Official bow of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
  • Great starter bow for archers of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities. With no specific draw length requirement, kids can't outgrow this bow.
  • Includes a machined 6061-T6 aluminum riser, aluminum cam and idler wheel, sturdy composite limbs and high-strength bowstrings – all made in the USA.

Sometimes you just need a great compound bow that is also paired with a light package for some of the smallest new archers. The mini bow from Genesis has a small draw weight of 6-12 pounds making it a perfect option for children and youth.

The Original Genesis Compound Bow: 

Sale
GENESIS Original Bow - RH Blue
  • Official bow of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
  • Great starter bow for archers of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities.
  • With no specific draw length requirement, kids can't outgrow this bow.

This bow comes in a range of bright colors and is perfect for younger archery users. The draw strength is 10-20lbs and it also comes in an assortment of fun colors. The price is affordable, and with fewer frills, much easier to use for beginners.

Now that you have read through our summaries, let’s take a shot at the in-depth compound bow reviews and purchase guides.

The Diamond by Bowtech Deploy SB R.A.K Compound Bow Review

Diamond Archery Deploy SB Compound Bow - 70 lbs, Right Hand
  • Compound bow is perfect for hunting, target shooting, or archery target practice
  • Diamond archery bow comes standard with R.A.K. equipped system hunting accessories
  • Deploys at speeds up to 330 feet per second for a fast hunting bow performance

The Diamond Deploy SB was made with bowhunters in mind. It is a great tool for new users and experienced archers alike. It is a lightweight compound bow that weighs just over three pounds making it a perfect choice for hunting and target practice over long periods. It is actually one of the lightest bows on the market to date.

There is very little noise when dropping the string so you dont have to worry about scaring off prey. Though lacking in style and flair, it makes up for it in performance. The unit comes in black and also camo color so you can blend in the scenery during your hunting sessions. The grip is carbon which is comfortable in all seasons.

With a 26″-30.5″ draw range, it is ideal for the average user and even has an 80% let-off which is impressive for the price point. The draw weight range is 50- 70 pounds so you will need a bit of upper arm strength, however, it is still new user friendly. It is paired with a lifetime warranty for the original buyer.

One of the most notable features is the riser. It is made from carbon which means it is both light and offers high performance. The grip is also slim which increases the accuracy of each shot. You can adjust the draw weight with ease, and this unit is pretty low maintenance which is great for new archers.

Pros:

  • Carbon riser

  • Slaved twin cams

  • Quiet shot

  • Very lightweight

  • Slim grip

Cons:

  • Generic styling

  • Slightly heavy draw weight for newbies

  • Short ATA is a bit difficult

  • Few color options

The Diamond by Bowtech Edge 320 R.A.K Compound Bow Review

Diamond Archery Edge 320 Bow Compound Bow - Black - 70 lbs, Left Hand
  • Compound bow is perfect for hunting, target shooting, or archery target practice
  • Diamond archery bow comes standard with R.A.K. equipped system hunting accessories
  • Versatile and adjustable components make hunting gear great for beginner or experienced archers

The Edge 320 is a top-of-the-line compound bow that is great for those who are just starting their journey into archery. It has a whopping FPS of 320 which is impressive considering the price point of this model. The cam system is very unique which is one of the main reasons this bow made it on our best-of list.

The let-off is 80% which is both generous and average at the same time. There are plenty of higher-end models with a lower percentage if you are thinking of a comparison. The brace height is a generous 7.25 which will help to mask any imperfections your shots may have. It is also very adjustable which is another benefit that new archers will find useful.

The Bowtech Binary Cam System boosts the FPS and also makes the draw cycle extremely smooth. The bow is a bit longer than other compound bows in the same line, which is worth noting if you are extra tall. It also adds more stability to each draw. The draw weight also has a massive range starting at 7 pounds and going all the way up to 70 pounds.

For beginners who like to start off with a good package out of the gate, this Diamond brand compound bow will certainly deliver. It has a range of excellent features and the construction of the unit is made to last. With high adjustability and easy to maintain parts, you will get your money’s worth as you increase you archery skill.

Pros:

  • Extra-long which is good for tall people

  • High FPS

  • Amazing cam system

  • High let-off

Cons:

  • Less than impressive bow sight

  • Few style or color options

  • A bit costly for the features

  • Odd look

The Bear Archery Cruzer G2 RTH Compound Bow Review

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 RTH Package One Nation LH
  • Engineered to excel for bow hunters of any age or skill level
  • A grow-with-you bow with great shoot ability

The Compound Bow - The Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  is a highly versatile compound bow that is also extremely powerful. When it comes to compound bows, Bear is one of the biggest names around. The founder has been making bows for almost 100 years and the construction and performance is a testament to their quality.

It has a solid FPS of 315 which is also paired with a low physical weight of just 3 pounds. The Compound Bow - The Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  is a beginner-friendly bow that is also a solid pick for those who have been in the field of archery for a while. It easily adapts to increasing skill levels which is a bonus for those looking for a compound bow that can grow with their skill level.

It has a draw length of 12 to 30 inches which will fit the average person. If you are exceptionally tall, with extra long arms, this may not be the model for you. The let-off is a bit lower than some other models clocking in at just 70%, but if you have average to strong arms, this won’t be a problem. The draw weight ranges are wide enough that a new archer will be able to adjust as they grow without getting frustrated.

It has some add-ons that you can fit that will make your experience even better. A quiver that holds several bows and can attach to the rider will keep you well-stocked during practice. The fixed pi sight allows you to sight at least 4 targets at varied ranges. The wicker biscuit arrow rest is another favorite of ours that you will find on this model.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easily adjustable
  • Very sturdy
  • A diverse range of accessories are available

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for tall people
  • Only a 70% let-off

The PSE Archery Stinger MAX RTH Compound Bow Review

For those who are just getting into archery but are not looking to invest too heavily at the start, the PSE stinger is worth considering. This highly versatile compound bow is adjustable and can be used at any skill level. The 304 FPS speed is enough to get your blood all fired up without overexerting your muscles. The starting draw weight is low and can be adjusted as the archer's skill improves.

It can be used for hunting at the entry-level, or for regular target archery. It is a single-cam bow but still reaches enough speed to take down a dear with the right broadhead arrow tip. The finish is smooth, and it has a couple of color and style options to chose from. If you buy the kit, you will also get a stabilizer that helps reduce noise and improves the overall aim of the user.

This model has an 80% let-off and a draw weight that ranges between 22-70 lbs. The actual weight of the unit is just under 4 pounds which makes it light enough for regular use. The Draw length is 21.5-30 " making it versatile enough for a wide range of users. As a beginner, you can't go wrong with a PSE Stinger MAX compound bow.

Pros:

  • Forgiving brace height

  • Easy to use

  • Adjustable draw weight

  • Sturdy

  • Affordably priced for the performance

Cons:

  • Noisy without a stabilizer

  • A string stop is not included

  • The grip is wider than average

The Original Genesis Compound Bow Review

Sale
GENESIS Original Bow - RH Blue
  • Official bow of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
  • Great starter bow for archers of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities.
  • With no specific draw length requirement, kids can't outgrow this bow.

When it comes to compound bows for younger archers, the Genesis Original is one of the best on the market. This compound bow makes a great fit for younger archers for a myriad of reasons. To start, it is available for both left-handed and right-handed archers. Style is a big thing with the younger crowd so the fact that it comes in a lot of different styles and colors just adds to its list of benefits.

The bow is easy to draw being a single cam model. It has an elliptical bottom and an idler wheel on the top with an easy draw range of 10 to 20 pounds. This is exactly the right draw weight for small archers who are just getting into the sport. Kids grow at a rapid pace, the fact that this model fits users of varying heights means that you won’t need to upgrade if your child has a growth spurt 6 months from now.

The Genesis is fun to use, entertaining to look at and is made tough enough for even the most mindless kids. You can purchase the compound bow on its own, or you can buy the kit. For those just starting out kit is a great money-saving deal. It comes with an arm guard, five arrows, a quiver, and a hex wrench to set the bow up.

Pros:

  • Made in the USA

  • Available in a variety of colors

  • Fits a wide range of heights

  • An affordable option for beginners

Cons:

  • Not the best for very tall users

  • Arrow knock is not included

The Genesis Mini Compound Bow Review

GENESIS Kit - RH Red
  • Official bow of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
  • Great starter bow for archers of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities. With no specific draw length requirement, kids can't outgrow this bow.
  • Includes a machined 6061-T6 aluminum riser, aluminum cam and idler wheel, sturdy composite limbs and high-strength bowstrings – all made in the USA.

If you have a child interested in getting into archery, then the Genesis Mini Compound Bow will make a great choice. This is a mid to high-end range compound bow that is great for the smallest users starting from 4 years old and up. It is made with sturdy materials and had a durable frame that will last as long as your child wants to shoot. It is easy to adjust the draw weight which is important when it comes to archery for children.

This model is also available in a variety of fun colors, and the style is ergonomically crafted for comfort in small hands. It has a molded competition grip, a durable cam and idler wheel, and a 6061-T6 aluminum riser. Overall it is rather compact, but considering it is made for smaller children that is a benefit. The draw weight ranges from 50 to 12lbs and it makes for accurate shots as far as 15 yards.

This is the bow used in the National Archery in the Schools Program and comes with very high-quality strings that stand up to the rigors of new user wear and tear. As an entry-level bow, this is a well-rounded option worth considering. 

Pros:

  • Ready to shoot right after purchase

  • Fits both right and left-handed users

  • Made in the USA

  • Budget-friendly

Cons:

  • No hand shock

  • A bit noisy

Our Verdict On The Best Overall Compound Bow For Beginners

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 RTH Package One Nation LH
  • Engineered to excel for bow hunters of any age or skill level
  • A grow-with-you bow with great shoot ability

Of all the compound bows on our list, our top choice for the best all-rounder for new archers is the Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  Compound Bow. The reason this one outshines the rest to clinch the title of best beginner compound bow is that it ticks all the right boxes. Of course, it helps that it is also an affordable choice for the quality of the product you are getting.

It has a broad draw length capability which means a wide variety of users will be able to get use out of this model. The Compound Bow - The Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  also features a thrilling 315 FPS which is rather high for a bow intended for new users. The actual weight of the bow itself is light enough that you won’t tire quickly but heavy enough that you will get accurate and quick shots.

Though not the smallest compound bow on our list of reviews, it is small enough to be highly maneuverable, but also large enough to ensure stability. When it comes to usage, the Compound Bow - The Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  is ideal for both hunting and target shooting for new archers. This strong bow is easy to use, and a great pick to learn archery or general bowhunting.

After looking at all of the advantages the Compound Bow - The Bear Brand Archery Cruzer G2  has to offer starting from the low weight and high speed, the affordable pricing is simply the cherry on the top. When you buy this model in a kit, you get a lot of extra tools that will allow you to start off in the world of archery with all that you need to get started. A really solid package, overall.


How to Choose the Right-Sized Compound

Before we get into our compound bow reviews, it is important to understand how to chose a bow that is sized to meet your personal needs. Aesthetics play an important role in purchase decisions, but when it comes to compound bows, there is more to a perfect fit than how the bow looks. We have put together an easy-to-understand guide on factors that you should keep in mind when choosing a compound bow as a beginner archer.

Your First 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...

The Riser

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:

Compound Bow 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

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:

Compound Bow 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

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:

Compound Bow 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…)

Cam Systems

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.

The Bowstring

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.

The Cables

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:

Compound Bow Cable

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.

Compound Bow Cable Guard

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:

Compound Bow 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.

A Grip

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:

Compound Bow Sight from Belly

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.

Peep Sight on the Bow String---Blue Dot

A D-Loop

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:

Compound Bow Release Aid with Trigger and Wrist Strap

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:

Compound Bow D Loop

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.

Compound Bow Stabilizer

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:

Compound Bow---From Belly---At Angle

Let-Off

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:

Bow Weight

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!

Our Final Thoughts

Learning to shoot a compound bow is a great way to get outside and see nature. You can enjoy this sport with your kids, or you can hone your skills and head out to hunt. Regardless of why you chose to explore archery, outfitting yourself with a high-quality compound bow is critical to your success. We have covered a wide range of affordable options for users of all ages and sizes.

While you can buy a compound bow on its own, you can save money and hassle by purchasing a kit. This will give you complimentary accessories such as arrows, a quiver, or even a stabilizer depending on the make and model. There are even creative color options and attractive designs that will fit just about any aesthetic.

If you are new to the world of archery, we are glad to have you. A lot of great names have helped bring the spotlight to the sport, and there are many more fantastic archers that help further the love of archery outside of competition. We hope you have enjoyed the information we have to offer and wish you all the best on your journey to becoming an archer through dedicated growth and development. We also hope that our suggestions have helped you choose the best beginner compound bow that meets your needs. Take care until next time!