Learn Everything About Compound Bows

Learn Everything About Compound Bows

The world of archery is one with centuries of history behind it and a promising future thanks to continual improvements in techniques and devices, with one of the most notable developments being the invention of the compound bow.

In terms of archery’s history, this bow has one of the shorter places in time but one of the most significant changes to the way we now shoot a bow and arrow.

The compound bow is certainly a common type of bow these days and is useful for all offshoots of archery including hunting and target practice. No matter how you like to get out and use your bow, there’s a good chance that the compound bow is recommended as the best way to do it and the easiest way to maintain accuracy.

One of the most impressive things about the compound bow is how the slightest difference or change in features can have a huge impact on how it shoots. All of these features working together give the compound bow some amazing advantages over other kinds and make it one of the most popular styles of bow found today.

Crosman Elkhorn Jr. Compound Bow Review

By understanding a little more about the compound bow, its history, and what exactly makes it so unique, we can learn about how this bow has changed the world of archery forever. As a sport and hobby enjoyed by millions of Americans each year, it’s no wonder that many of them prefer to use this unique style of bow for their favorite activity.

What Is A Compound Bow?

Upon the first inspection of a compound bow, you can immediately see some differences in how it works and how it was made. Simply put, a compound bow uses a levering system which allows the user to bend the limbs and pull the arrow back.

When compared to a traditional recurve bow, there are many parts that all work together in order to help you shoot your arrow, and when you first see one you’ll notice just how much more technical it appears.

This levering system is made from a number of wheels, pulleys, and cables that allow the user to effortlessly pull back force on the bow so that the arrow can be propelled with accuracy, speed, and power.

This pulley and cam system is commonly referred to as a “let-off” and it refers to the action that the system makes as pulls back and then releases the arrow.

The pulley uses two separate cam tracks to move and with a simple manipulation of either of them, the archer is able to get a different result from their shot. Some might be soft drawing and able to go longer distances whereas others are made to shoot at closer range and with more speed and power, so it depends on what the bowman prefers.

The History Of The Compound Bow

Archery has been around for hundreds of years and has always been enjoyed as a hobby, sport, and hunting activity for as long as we can remember. Traditionally, bows were of the recurve style that features a wood bow with a string, requiring the user to pull back and use their own energy to shoot the arrow.

First compound bow.

However, in 1966 an American named Holless Wilbur Allen from Missouri was set to change the archery game forever.

As a keen archer himself, Allen had begun experimenting with the use of a pulley system that worked in place of the ends of the limbs of a recurve bow. These pulleys were intended to pull more weight than usual and when Allen discovered the power of the ‘let off’ by using one with an offset angle, the entire notion of the compound bow was born.

Allen patented the idea for a compound bow in 1966 and the description read ‘Archery bow with draw-force multiplying attachment’ and this patent was granted some months later. A renowned bow manufacturer, Tom Jennings, partnered up with Allen and began making the bows not long after, and the rest is history.

Since their invention, compound bows have only grown in popularity and they are now officially the bow of choice for the average American.

There have been some minor developments to their construction but for the most part, they still look and feel as Allen intended them to, and have completely changed the way we enjoy archery, target practice, and hunting in this country.

Developments in compound bow technology occur regularly, and it’s one device that definitely continues to get better with age.

Compound Bow Features

Every compound bow is made differently depending on their intended use, the budget of the user and the skill level.

The slightest change in features can have a dramatic effect on how the bow is shot, so it’s important to understand what the key features are and what their purpose is. Modern compound bows are usually sold online these days or without a test drive, so the features are what draws a customer in and keeps them happy.


Compound bows are generally made from unique materials when compared to bow styles like the recurve bow and you can usually find the central riser made from aluminum, magnesium alloy, or carbon fiber. Bows should be sturdy but lightweight enough to be flexible and adjustable.

Draw Length

Unlike other bows all that can go back as far as you want, the compound bow has been made to only reach a certain distance. This distance is controlled by the mechanisms on the bow and this should meet the physical requirements of the user.

Man drawing a compound bow.

The range can usually be adjusted to give users some leeway, however, it’s not recommended to try and use a bow that’s out of your physical limits.


The draw weight refers to how much strength you need to physically pull the bow back, or the pull force. This weight varies as you move through the pulling motion so it won’t always be at its maximum limit, but rather an indication of its capability.

The draw weight is determined by a number of things including the materials used, limb shape and thickness, and hardware choices, among others.


Look for a compound bow that matches your eye dominance and your hand dexterity, as this will allow you to operate the bow smoothly and accurate.

The Anatomy Of A Compound Bow

If you’re new to archery and compound bows in general, reading about them and their specifications can be enough to confuse even the sharpest mind.

Compound bow anatomy.

There are quite a few parts at work in the compound bow and understanding the role of each will help you to become a more proficient archer.


This is found in the middle of the bow and it’s where the shooter grips. This is also home to several of the bow’s accessories, including the sight and arrow shelf. Most risers are made from something durable but light like aluminum or carbon fiber in order to reduce the weight.


Made from fiberglass, these flexible parts sit at the end of top and bottom of the bow. Attached to the riser, the limbs also hold the cams.

These are important because they help to store the energy when the bow is pulled back and eventually launch the arrow. There are a few different types of limbs found on compound bows including spilt limbs and parallel limbs.


These are round discs that are found at the end of the limbs and they mechanically manipulate the draw weight as you pull back.

This is essentially what makes a compound bow different from the rest as most of the effort isn’t the responsibility of the shooter. Cams also come in different styles such as round or soft, and each is used for something different. For example, hard cams are best for faster shooting but they are less accurate, so it depends on how you use your bow.

Cam Systems

These are the individual wheels on the bow and help them to turn and might also be referred to as a bow eccentric. There are four different types of cam systems including single cams, hybrid cams, twin cams, and binary cams. The most popular is a single cam and these are recommended for beginners as they require less skill to operate.


This is the important part which actually launches your arrow, and compared to other types of the bow where you remove the string each time the bowstring stays on for a compound bow. The benefit of modern compound bows is that they don’t stretch out over time so there’s no need to constantly restring your bow.

Cables And Cable Guard

These cables run from one cam to another and are how the cams move when you pull back the string. The cable guard runs perpendicular to the riser and helps to keep the cables away from the sight of the arrow and the center of the bow.

Arrow Rest

Just as you’d expect from the name, an arrow rest is where you rest your arrow on the bow. There are a number of different styles but their main purpose is to hold your arrow so you can aim your shot so that you’re able to focus completely on the target in your sight.

Peep Sight

This is a small round piece of plastic with a hole in it and it sits in between the strands of your bow string. As you pull the bow, you look through this hole and to the sight to aim your shot.

The Advantages Of A Compound Bow Vs Recurve Bow

One of the oldest debates in the world of archery is about the preference of either a recurve bow or compound bow in your collection. The recurve bow was the traditional style of bow using for hunting and archery, however, when the compound bow was invented in the 1960s it quickly gained dominance.

Recurve Bow.

If you’re trying to weigh up which might be best, the answer generally lies with the compound bow. These are especially ideal for people learning how to shoot as they can be a lot more forgiving and easier to operate as you learn the other necessary bits and pieces to do with archery.

Compound bows can be more customized to suit you individually and although there are a lot of parts to them, they actually make the whole process easier.

When thinking of the best bow for modern times, compound bows are definitely more advanced.

However, some do prefer the traditional type of archery from time to time so might like to have one of each in their arsenal, but in terms of convenience, smoothness, and versatility to where what, and how you shoot, the compound bow is certainly the clear winner.

The Compound Bow Accessories You Need

One of the great things about using a compound bow is that they’re completely adaptable to your needs and preferences as the shooter.

Because there are more parts than you’d find on a recurve bow there’s more room to change the selections and features which means you can build yourself a custom compound bow with just a few tweaks. Here are some accessories you might want to consider when forming your ideal compound bow.


Arrows can be just as unique as the shooter himself and there are many different types all with their own benefits.  The best way to choose an arrow is to consider the draw length, then find a suitable arrow length, and then choose the weight of the arrow.


All three considerations will have a significant impact on your shot. If you’re unsure, many bows come with recommendations for which arrow is best for that device so you can follow these guidelines.

Release Aids

These accessories attach to the riser and allow you to release the bowstring with a trigger rather than using your own fingers. Some people prefer this due to injury, strain or just because they prefer the added accuracy it can bring to their shot.


These are similar to a sight you’d find on a gun, in that they sit on the device and allow you to look through and aim where you’d like to hit. Again, there are a few different types of sights available with the most popular being a fixed pin sight. These allow you to get an accurate shot without much effort so they’re perfect for beginners.


These can be used in both compound and recurve bows and they help to reduce the vibration of the bowstring by being mounted on the riser.

They’re not necessary in order to shoot a bow but many people prefer to use one, particularly in the case of archery competitions where some bowmen have been known to use more than one stabilizer on their bow.


Most archers will prefer to keep their bows and equipment in a case, and these can be found in either hard or soft varieties. Arrows are kept separately in a quiver and these allow the archer instant access to them while keeping them comfortably contained close by.

How To Care For Your Compound Bow

As the most prized possession an archer can have, it’s no wonder that people go to great lengths in order to care for their bows.

Compound bow maintenance.

Just like you’d take care of a car and give it regular maintenance, so too should you for your bow in order to get many years of good use out of it. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re giving your bow the best care possible.

Always keep the bowstring clean by using a specialized cleaner, and once you’re done cleaning be sure to coat it with bowstring wax. This will help to keep the string in good order for longer so there’s no need to replace it often.

Replace your bowstrings once a year and continually check for signs of damage or wear on your bow and strings that could indicate a problem. If you don’t change the strings and it results in a break this could injure the archer and the bow significantly.

The axles of a bowstring should be well lubricated, but only with designated bowstring oil. Sprays like WD-40 contain cleaning agents that can strip away at your bow so you should never apply them.

When applying wax to your bowstrings you should avoid rubbing it in too much as this can generate heat. The best way to wax your bowstrings is slowly and by using more of a pushing motion to ensure they are well lubricated without being rubbed too hard, and getting the wax inside of the strings.

Tips For Your Compound Bow

For those new to archery, there are some tips and tricks that you’ll eventually learn along the way. However, we’ve taken the hard work out of the learning process for you and compiled some easy tips to remember that will make you a better shooter and keep your bow in the best possible condition for years to come.

No matter how tempted, you should never draw you bow back beyond its recommended length. You should always shop for a bow that meets your physical requirements so you never feel the need to do so, otherwise, continual pulling will break your bow and cause serious damage.

If you’re shopping for a new bow, it’s best not to sacrifice accuracy for speed.  Bows can be adjusted to do one or another so make accuracy your focus. As an archer, you should always be practicing your aim so that no matter the bow you work with you’ll be confident in your shot and not need to rely on a forgiving bow choice.

Heat can be seriously damaging to a bow and arrows, so keep your case away from any potential sources of heat. Some people leave their bows in their car which is the easiest way to overheat them and lead to cracking and breaking of your device.

Compound bow technology is continually evolving and updating, so if your bow is older than a few years’ old then it’s time for an upgrade. Not only can it be dangerous using an older bow, but your shot will be nowhere near as impressive when you can’t keep up with the other archers.

The Right Bow For Your Passion

It’s no wonder that archery remains one of the most respected and enjoyed sports in this country as it offers a challenging and fun way to build skills, get outdoors, and focus on something worthwhile. As the most popular type of bow that archers in the country use, the compound bow is one with a rich history and even more promising future.

Woman using compound bow.

Compound bows all follow the same basic design and have loads of advantages over other styles, but they come in many different styles and with unique features.

The shooter is able to buy the ideal bow to meet their specifications so that they can get the most out of their archery, whether it’s for target practice or hunting in the great outdoors.

Archery is an amazing hobby to be involved in and one that you can share with the whole family. The pride of owning your very own compound bow and mastering the skill over the years is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever experience, and even more so when you have one of the best compound bows on the market.

Choosing the right compound bow is just as important as putting in the hours to improve your skills, so it’s not a process that should be taken lightly.

With a few popular brands known for making archery equipment and some that seem to be on the rise, there’s certainly no shortage of quality compound bows out there to satisfy beginners and professionals alike.

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