The Best Youth Compound Bow: Options for Kids, Pre-Teens, and Teens
Welcome to the Complete Guide to Archery! In this post, we're going to take a deep dive into youth bows, and in particular, the best youth compound bows for kids, pre-teens, teens, and new archers.
If you know nothing about buying a bow, fear not—we'll present all the info you'll need to know in order to make an informed decision. If you're an archery veteran and you're just here for the product reviews and see our pick for best compound youth bow, we'll start off with a quick overview of our favorites, and then you can jump down to our "Reviews" section, where we go into great detail about each compound bow, and which one is a good choice for you and your child.
Before we jump in, we'll start with...
Our Favorite Youth Compounds: Quick Picks
Here's a quick summary of the bows we recommend:
The Genesis Original Bow: Ages 6 to 99+. This, hands down, is our top pick for youths who want a compound. It's the official bow of the National Archery in Schools Program, and it's designed to be easy to set up and easy to use. It's got an adjustable draw weight, so youths can keep using it as they gain strength. This is the first bow we recommend to people looking for a youth compound. Two big ol' thumbs up.
The Bear Archery Scout Bow: Ages 4 to 7. This is our pick for younger kids. It has a very light draw weight, you can adjust it as your kid gets bigger, and it’s very easy to use.
The Crosman Elkhorn Jr. Compound Bow: Ages 9 to 12. This is our “best bang for your buck” pick. It’s a solid bow that comes with some gear, including some safety equipment.
The Barnett Vortex Lite Bow: Ages 9 to 12. Features one of the most important aspects of a youth bow: it looks like an adult bow! Good for kids/young ones with a little more strength.
The Leader Accessories Compound Bow: Ages 13 to 99+. A very good bow, with a LOT of excellent gear. If you’re looking for just about everything you’ll need to shoot a bow an arrow, we think this is it.
The Infinite Edge Pro Bow Package: Ages 6 to 99+. This is a top-tier bow that a person can use from childhood to adulthood. If your youth is committed to archery, this can be a great option.
The Best Youth Compound Bow: Our Suggestions
We've reviewed dozens of youth bows, and here are the ones that we consider the best. We've selected a range of age-appropriate bows for younger kids to pre-teens to teens, and given a spotlight how each bow is unique, and who for whom it would be a good fit.
Genesis Original Kit
- For all ages—pre-teen to adult
- Draw length between 15 and 30 pounds
- Draw weight of 10 to 20 pounds (adjustable)
- Can be adjustable as your child grows
- Manufactured for righties and lefties
- Not for hunting
- The draw weight can be low for older teens
The Genesis Original Bow is, our opinion, the best compound bows for kids and young adults out there, and it's a pretty popular bow—in fact, it's the official bow of NASP, the National Archery in the Schools Program, and you if you've been to a youth archery event, chances are strong you've seen a few of them.
There's a reason for that: they're high-quality bows that are easy to set up and easy to use, and they're designed specifically for a wide audience. They're manufactured in a wide range of colors, from fluorescent green, orange, and pink, to more "traditional" bow colors, like green, camo, blue, and black; they're made for lefties and righties, whereas many starter bows are just made for righties; and they've got a very accessible draw weight of 10 to 20 pounds that you can adjust up or down.
The kit itself has a good round-up of gear, too—the bow, five arrows (it can be a pain when kits only include two arrows—that means a lot of walking to your target and back), a quiver (another item a lot of bow kits miss), an arm guard (safety first!), and a HEX WRENCH. That hex wrench is such a great inclusion—the more archery you do, the more you'll be using a hex wrench!
Ironically, the only downside to the bow is its draw weight. With a max draw weight of 20 pounds, if your child or teenager makes a commitment to archery, he/she may eventually gain enough ability to move up to a stronger bow, and that'll most certainly be the case if he/she wants to enter tournaments or go hunting, where higher-poundage bows are common.
Nonetheless, the draw weight concern is only if your child or teenager decides to really commit to archery. If you want a quality bow to get your kid into archery, this is our best bet.
Summary: Our pick for best compound bow for younger people overall—a very reliable, very popular pick.
Bear Archery Scout Bow Set
- For kids ages 4 to 7;
- Draw weight 8 to 13-pounds
- Draw length between 16 and 24 inches;
- For righties and lefties;
- Comes with arrows;
- Includes safety equipment.
- Not as durable as many other bows;
- Your kids will definitely grow out of it.
If you've got a very young child, ages 4 to 7, and you're looking for a start bow, we think The Bear Archery Scout is a great option. It's manufactured in a number of colors that kids are drawn to (including pink, if your little one is in a "pink only" stage!), and it's got a very, very low draw weight of 8 to 13 pounds. That's about as low a draw weight as you're going to find (but just a reminder, even though this is a very weak bow, it comes with real arrows, and you want to be paying very close attention to your kids when they use it. Safety first, safety always!). We also like that it comes with an arm guard—that's a vitally important piece of protective gear (so make sure your little one wears it, and doesn't wiggle out of it!).
The only downside to this set is that if your kid develops a real and true interest in archery (and we hope they do!), chances are very, very strong they'll want to upgrade eventually. As parents ourselves, though, we understand that sometimes that's exactly what you're looking for—and "no-frills" option to see if your child will stick with it!
Summary: A simple, ready-to-shoot starter set that’s a great pick for young children.
Crosman Elkhorn Jr. Compound Bow
- For ages 9 to 12;
- Draw weight between 17 and 21 pounds;
- Draw length up to 26 inches;
- Includes safety equipment.
- Only for right-handed kids;
- Accessories are not incredibly durable;
- Your preteen will most likely grow out of it.
The Crosman Elkhorn Jr. Compound Bow is a solid mid-range compound bow for pre-teen, and it *looks* like an adult bow, and kids seem to appreciate that. Its specs are still reasonable for an older child—the draw weight of 17 to 21 pounds is low enough so that a child 9 to 12 should be able to pull the draw string back, but it's a little on the higher side, so it should pose a reasonable challenge, and kids can let off arrows at greater distances.
Keep in mind, this is still a "starter" bow, and most starter bows come with gear that's "lo-fi." The arrows are OK, the bow sight is OK, the tab (what you put on your hand to pull the bow string back) is OK. That's fine—it's absolutely good enough for a new archer. The set comes with an arm guard, and that's a plus—make sure your child wears it!
With a more "serious" look and a little bit more draw weight, we think this is a great package for a pre-teen interested in archery.
Summary: A great first bow for a pre-teen bow, that looks like an adult bow—this is our "best bang for your buck" pick.
Barnett Vortex Lite Bow
- For ages 9 to 12 (and a couple years after that);
- Draw weight of 18 to 29 pounds
- Adjustable draw length of 22 to 25 inches
- Features an excellent 3-pin bow sight
- A little sturdier than other "just for kids" bows
- Only for right-handed kids;
- The grip is OK but not great.
The Barnett Vortex Lite Bow is the strongest of the pre-teen bows we recommend, and it's got a draw weight of 18 to 29 pounds. That makes it a great choice for kids around 10 or 11 or 12, who might find some of the bows with a lower draw weight a little "too easy." If your child already has a bow and wants a step up, this can be a good option.
The best aspect of this bow—especially for a new archer—is that the draw weight is adjustable, meaning that you can extend the life of the bow as your child grows in strength. It's kind of like buying sneakers for your child, and then being able to lengthen those sneakers as your child grows (wouldn't that be nice!). Not all starter bows have that option—many of them have a single draw weight, and that's that. Being able to increase the draw weight as your child grows is a great feature in a starter bow.
It's also a little bit sturdier than the rest of the pre-teen bows we've reviewed, and the gear it comes with is a little more durable. The rest may be a little bit challenging—you may want to put whisker biscuit on it, if you know how to do so—but another good option for pre-teens, in our humble opinion.
Summary: A sturdy, well-built option with an adjustable draw weight, good for kids 9 to 12 (and maybe a couple years after that).
Leader Accessories Compound Bow Package
- Ages 13 and up;
- Draw weight of 30 to 55 pounds;
- Draw length of 19 to 29 inches;
- 70% let-off (pretty decent);
- Strong enough for hunting;
- Comes with a LOT of gear.
- Manufactured for righties only;
- Accessories are good but not deluxe.
We'll start with the bow: the Leader Accessories Compound Bow is a very solid bow, with everything we'd look for in a youth bow: an adjustable draw weight that you can take from 30 all the way up to 55—a wide range that'll allow your young archer to develop strength and then increase the draw weight when necessary; an adjustable draw length that ranges from 19 to 29 inches; a maximum foot-per-second shot of 296 (which actually surprisingly high); and a let-off of 70%. Those are really great features, and they take it out of the "bow for youngsters" category and put it in the "both for youth and adults" category.
All of that is very very good, but the truly phenomenal feature of the Leader Accessories Compound Bow Package is the gear. Far and away, this is one of the most expansive kits we've seen, and it includes: 12 carbon arrows (most starter packs come with aluminum arrows, as carbon are a little more high-end), a quiver, a bow sight, a drop-away arrow rest AND a whisker biscuit (most sets only come with one kind of arrow rest, so it's nice that you can choose which arrow rest you'd like to start with, and we'd recommend the whisker biscuit for beginners—much easier to set up), a stabilizer, a wrist-strap release, a bow stand, and a soft-case bag so you can transport the bow from place to place. That soft-case bag is a fantastic inclusion, because it can be a bit of a pain to find a bag that can fit your bow. This is, as they say, "the whole kit and caboodle," and with the exception of a target, it's just about everything you'd need to get started.
This is the youth bow kit we recommend if you want to get a kit that has just about everything you'll need.
Summary: A package set that comes with almost everything you need to get started; great for kids (and parents!) who don’t know much about archery.
Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro Bow Package
- Ages 6 to 99+
- Draw weight of 5 to 70 pounds (5 to 70 pounds!);
- Draw length of 13 to 31 inches;
- Let-off of 80% (not incredible, but very good);
- Available in pink (rare for high-end bows);
- Manufactured for righties and lefties.
- Should have it tuned at a range or archery store.
The Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro Bow Package is an extremely versatile bow, and Diamond designed it to be a long-lasting option for just about any compound bow user between the age of 13 and... however old you can live to be. The draw weight is adjustable, and you can set it at an extremely low 5 pounds, all the way up to a very high draw weight of 70 pounds—and that's the real stand-out feature of this bow, and it's the reason your child or teen won't outgrow it: you can use this bow at all ages, and all stages of your development, and for target shooting and hunting (in fact, it's a very popular hunting bow, and widely used for big game). It's rare to find a high-end bow that is so adjustable, and that's one of the best aspects of this bow.
The accessories are also very good for a starter bow: the stabilizer is decent (you may, eventually, choose to get a longer stabilizer, if you get into target archery or bowhunting), the 3-pin bow sight is easily adjustable (and you can switch to a 5-pin sight, if you build a lot of skill and want to shoot at distances farther than 40 yards), and the containment rest is very solid (but you can switch it out for a whisker biscuit or drop-away rest should you so choose). That said, each accessory is fully function and usable for a young archer. The let-off and solid back wall are also nice features, which make it a good option for someone who is just starting an archery journey.
We've actually written a lot about this bow (and we have an in-depth review here), because it's got so much going for it. We think this is the best youth compound overall, and a great pick if you know your young person will continue with archery for a good long while.
Summary: The best youth compound bow for kids and young adults who are serious about archery and/or bowhunting, and one that your child or teen won't outgrow—a good option if your child is ready to make a commitment to archery and/or bowhunting.
Measurements You'll Need When Selecting a Bow for a Youth
Archery is one of those sports where finding equipment that fits is very important. Here are the measurements you'll need to know in order to buy a compound bow for your young person:
Measurement: Draw Weight
Draw weight refers to the amount of force is takes to pull the bow's string back. A bow with a low draw weight will be easy to use, and a bow with a high draw weight will be more challenging.
As a rule of thumb, kids need bows with lower draw weights, and while it’s difficult to predict what an appropriate draw weight will be, here's a general guide:
- Smaller children, 60 to 100 pounds: 10 to 15 pounds draw weight;
- Medium-sized children, 100 to 125 pounds: 15 to 20 pounds draw weight;
- Larger children, 125 pounds to 150 pounds: 20 to 30 pounds draw weight.
If you're concerned about draw weight, or if you're buying a high-end bow that your child can use for many years as he/she develops muscle and strength, you can look for a compound bow that has an adjustable draw weight. Most of the compound bows we suggest have an adjustable draw weight, and perhaps the best youth compound bow on our list, the Diamond Infinite Edge, has a draw weight that you can adjust from 5 pounds all the way up to 70 pounds, which is a weight that a very, very strong adult would pull.
By the way, "pounds" is usually shortened to the symbol "#", so if you see a bow discussed as "a 25# bow," they're saying the bow has a draw weight of 25 pounds.
Measurement: Draw Length
Draw length is the distance from your bow hand to your string hand when you’re at full draw.
If that doesn’t make sense, here’s another description:
When you grab a bow, but an arrow on it, and pull the draw string all the way back, the draw length is the distance from the handle you’re gripping with your one hand to the spot where your holding the string with the other hand.
The draw length is one of those measurements that you want to get juuuuuuust right because it helps you aim consistently, and luckily, it’s pretty easy to find. Take your child's height in inches, and then divide by 2.5, and there you go—that's your child’s draw length.
Here are a few examples, just to make sure you're on the right track:
- A child who is 4 feet tall is 48 inches tall —> 48 / 2.5 = 19.2, and you'd round down for a 19-inch draw length;
- A child who is 4-and-a-half-feet tall is 54 inches tall —> 54 / 2.5 = 21.6, and you'd round up for a 22-inch draw length;
- A child who is 5 feet tall is 60 inches tall —> 60 / 2.5 = 24-inch draw length.
Measurement: Bow Length
Bow length is something that experienced archers think about a lot, because a longer bow—while requiring more strength to hold—is usually a little easier to aim.
That said, bow length isn’t really too important when it comes to kids’ compound bows. There’s not much variation in length among the models made, so it’s not something we usually recommend parents’ look at.
Isn’t that nice? Something you don’t have to consider—wonderful!
Features to Look for When Buying a Youth Bow
Youth bows are a little simpler than adult bows, but there are still some things you may want to keep in mind when you're selecting one, including...
Size of the Youth Bow
Kids grow quick, so while it's tempting to adhere to the unspoken parents' rule regarding sneakers ("buy 'em big, and the kid'll grow into 'em"), we’d urge you to put that impulse aside. It’s important to get a bow that's the proper size for your child—not only is it unsafe to shoot a bow that’s too big/too small, but a properly sized bow will easier to shoot, more accurate, and they’ll enjoy it more.
This is actually another important consideration: because archery is an "equipment-heavy" sport—not only will your youth need a bow, they'll also need arrows, a quiver, an arm guard, and a target, among other things—it can make sense to consider bow packages that include much of that equipment.
You don't *need* to choose a bow package—and in fact, choosing equipment can be a great way to learn about each item—but it can save you a lot of time (and a lot of frustration!) if you're just starting out.
Accessories to Enhance Aim, Stability, etc.
We just mentioned that archery is an equipment-heavy sport. Here's a quick run-down of the various pieces of equipment that can be helpful:
- The basics we just mentioned—bow, arrows, quiver, arm guard, target;
- A bow sight, to attach to the riser and assist with aiming;
- A stabilizer, to add some heft to the bow and make it easier to balance; and
- A release aid, to help pull the string back, and protect the fingers.
Pattern, Design, and Colors
This is another component that doesn’t seem like a big factor, but it’s actually important. The color scheme (and bow manufacturers know this, and make bows in a wide range of colors and patterns for kids). Here’s what we’ve found:
For younger kids, ages 6 to 11 or so: Brighter colors are great. Kids love it, and if/when your kid loses the bow (especially in the grass someplace), bright colors will make it easier to find. And, if you've got a child who is very much into pink at the exception of every other color, don't worry—there are a ton of pink bows out there.
For pre-teens, and teens, ages 11 to 13+: We’ve found it makes more sense to go with a compound bow with muted colors, like black or grey or camo. Kids outgrow bright colors, and if you're buying a youth bow that your child/teen plans on using for a number of years, it makes sense to get something they'll still want to use it a few years from now. There's nothing worse than buying a high-quality, neon green bow for your pre-teen, and then finding that your now-grown teenager doesn't want to use it, even though it's still perfectly good.
For hunting: Also, if you plan on hunting, black or camo is the way to go. There are only a few youth bows that are solid and steady enough for hunting, but obviously you don't want any bright colors if you're planning on hunting.
Safety Tips You and Your Kid Should Follow
We'd be remiss if we talked about compound bows for kids and didn't include some safety instructions. We’ve written a lot of articles about archery safety, but here are some things to keep in mind: BE PRESENT.
This is Job #1 when it comes to archery safety and kids: be there.
The absolute, #1 best way to keep your kids safe while they're shooting bows and arrows is to supervise them carefully. Be clear about the rules, be clear when they're breaking the rules, and observe them at all times. If you can't watch them and they're not old enough to shoot on their own, that's fine—it just means they need to do something else for the time being.
Plus, not only is it the safest way to practice archery, it's a chance to spend some time with them, show them proper setup and form, and bond with them.
Know Your Child's Maturity Level
This is a good place to start. Some kids are ready for archery, and some are not. The National Archery Association, aka USA Archery, the official governing body for the sport of archery in the United States, says that the age of eight is a good time for kids to get involved in archery. That sounds about right—as a general rule of thumb, children by the age of eight are old enough to pay attention, mature enough to follow instructions, and strong enough to hold and draw a bow.
That said, not all kids are ready at age eight. The age at which you introduce your child to archery—earlier than eight or older than eight—is obviously up to you as a parent, but we'd urge you to be very honest about what your child should and should not do when it comes to archery. If they're not ready, you should wait off.
Teach Kids That Safety is Their Job
Ever notice how most kids love enforcing the rules, once they know what those rules are? You can use that principle to your advantage. Make sure everyone knows the rules, and make them feel safe and comfortable to speak up when they see someone breaking the rules. Ideally, you want to teach kids that safety is the responsibility of *everyone* on the range, and when you do that, you have everyone looking out for everyone's safety.
You Should ONLY Aim at Your Target
This one's pretty simple. If you don't want to hit it, don't aim at it.
As the saying goes, "Only aim at something you want to hit." Kids need to be reminded of the dangers of the sport, and if there's one rule you repeat over and over again, it's that—"only aim at your target."
Wear Protective Gear
Protective gear is pretty darn important, and the most important piece of protective gear is an arm guard. An arm guard is made from thick material, and it protects the inside of the arm from getting hit by the bow string after the archer releases an arrow.
There are quite a few arm guards out there, and we've used the SAS Arm Guard. It's a one-size-fits-all guard, but you want to make sure it fits snugly on your child's bow arm.
"Go Low" When It Comes to Draw Weight
When a child/teen is using a bow that's too heavy, it increases the odds s/he will struggle with the shot cycle, and let loose an arrow before s/he is ready. Don't let your child use a bow that s/he struggles with, and when in doubt, "go low" on the draw weight.
No "Dry Fires"
A "dry fire" is when an archer pulls back the bow string without an arrow, and releases the bow string. It's a big no-no, and you need to teach your kids not to do it.
Here's why: When you pull back the string on a bow, the bow is full of potential energy. When you release the bow string, all that energy is released, and when you've got an arrow on the string, the energy transfer to the arrow and pushes it forward.
When you pull back a string on a bow and you DON'T have an arrow attached to it, all the potential energy reverberates through the bow, and because it's a LOT of energy, it can destroy the bow, and send parts flying everywhere.
Obviously, "parts flying everywhere" is dangerous, so you want to avoid that.
STAY BEHIND THE LINE
Remind kids that they must ALWAYS stay behind the line when there are archers shooting. This sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many kids forget this. It usually happens when they've hit the bullseye, get excited, and forget that there are other archers around them, and they run to the target to retrieve their arrow—but the truth is that it can happen to any child, when he/she gets into a groove and gets distracted.
Teach your kids to always stay behind the line, but also keep an eye out for it when you're supervising them. It happens from time to time.
If an Arrow Falls Over the Line, Leave It There
This is related to the "Stay Behind the Line" safety rule. Instruct your kids that if one of their arrows falls out of their bows and over the line, they need to leave it there until everyone is done shooting. This actually happens a lot, to archers of all ages—including adults.
This is another instance where you'll need to be watching them closely. Kids will reach down and pick up the arrow without thinking about it, and it's a no-no—it's distracting to the author archers (and it can result in them send arrows before they mean to), and it puts them in a position where they're closer to the other archers shooting.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Any loose clothing, long hair, or jewelry that hangs off the ears or neck or head should be disallowed. It can interfere with the draw, and in worst cases, long hair/clothes/earrings can get caught up in the bow string when it's released.
Be Careful with “Hand-Me-Downs”
Be particularly careful buying archery equipment second-hand or inheriting it from a family member. If you do use archery gear from friends/family members, make sure that everything is up to snuff, and most importantly, make sure the gear fits properly. As we mentioned above, fit is VERY important.
If you don't quite know what you're looking at—if you're not sure if a piece of equipment is in good shape or not—ask a friend or family member who would know, or better yet, take it to your local archery range and get their opinion.
Inspect Gear Upon Purchase and After Use
Archery equipment isn't eternal, and you need to make sure it's in working order. Check the bow to make sure the bow string is properly attached, the handle on the riser is steady, and the limbs are solid and not cracked. Also inspect the arrows—make sure there aren't any dings or dents in the shaft, that the arrowhead is properly fastened at the end of the shaft, and that the fletchings (the feathers or plastic vanes at the end of the arrow) are securely attached and functional. It won't take long, and it's one of the best ways to ensure safety.
Have a First Aid Kit and Emergency Contact Info Ready
Have a full, stocked first aid kit ready at all times, and know the numbers to your police, hospital, etc. This is a good idea for any sport, and it's always good to be prepared!
Know and Follow the Rules of Your Range
If you're taking your kids to an archery range—and that's a fantastic way for kids to meet other kids who are interested in archery, and to get lessons from coaches who really know their stuff—make sure your kids know the ranges rules. The rules we've mentioned here are guidelines, and your range may have additional rules you need to follow.
That's a Good Start...
As we adults always like to say, "Safety first, safety always!"
That Wraps It Up for Youth Compounds
Archery is a fantastic opportunity to teach your kids the importance of patience and the value of practice. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with them. If you're looking for a bow for your young one, we wish you all the best! Good luck, have fun, and be safe!