How to Choose a Compound Bow

Are you ready to finally try the much-praised compound bow but don’t know where to start?

Well, pull up a seat and follow us as we take you through all the technicalities of how to choose a compound bow.

And since we want you to be spot on when deciding, we will cover each and every detail incisively.

Can we get down to business?       

1. Know your draw weight

A compound bow draw weight is simply the force you need to successfully draw a bow. We measure it in pounds (lbs.) and you must get it correct if you’re going to be a happy shooter.

I don’t know whether you have heard it but for compound bows, the let-off means you hold less poundage at full draw making it somewhat easier compared to a recurve or longbows.

Regardless, you must determine how much weight you will be holding at full draw and compare this with your physical strength.

Remember that a suitable draw weight will help you hold your compound bow for longer which means you can get a steadier and more accurate shot.

Your physical sizing and body weight can give you a clue on your best draw weights.

Here is a guiding table..

Personality profile Actual Weight (lbs.) Proposed draw weight (lbs.)
Little
children
40 to
70
10-15
Small
Children
70 to 10015-20
Larger
boys/most women
100 to
140
30-40
Larger
Women/ Youth males
140 to
160
40-50
Standard
males (majority of men)
160 to
190
55-65
Larger
men
Over 190
lbs.
60-70

I don’t know what your goals are (maybe you harbor dreams of one day becoming the Olympic gold medallist in archery) but we advise that you start a little lower if unsure then upgrade as you improve your drawing form.

The more you get used, the better will be your form and the more draw weight you can hold.

Something else:                      

You can take matters into your own hands and try to increase your strength and hence draw weight through simple exercises.  

For instance, push ups- which even don’t need any equipment to engage in- can help strengthen your core, shoulder, and back muscles.

With consistency, you will gradually raise your draw weight making your hobby even more fun.

2. What is your ideal draw length?

You can only pull your string to a certain limit. We call it the draw length and you can view it as the distance from the pivot of your grip to the pulled bow string (when you have reached full draw).

It’s important that you find out how much it would be in your case before ordering a compound bow.

That’s because just like draw weight, a wrong draw length off will hinder your shooting.

In fact, a wayward length messes your steadiness in addition to throwing your timing off when shooting.

Worse still, if you persist to shoot when it’s not right, you will probably develop some complications that may eventually lead to unpleasant experiences like target panic.

How do I measure my draw length?

  1. Stand naturally (arms reached out and your palms open).
  2. Ask a friend to measure your arm span using a tape measure.
  3. Divide the resultant value by 2.5 to obtain your draw length.
  4. Round it upwards if necessary. For instance, if you get something like 19.65”, round it up to 20” to make your work easier.

Note that you will be facing forward and that your aide will stretch the tape measure starting from the tip of your first middle finger all the way to the tip of the middle finger in your other hand.

There are other ways you can use to calculate your draw length but let’s work with this seeing that it’s the easiest.

You can also request an experienced shooter or a pro at your neighborhood archery shop to recommend the best draw length for you.

3. Brace height (BH)

Every enthusiast should also worry about the brace height when choosing a compound bow.

So, what is it?

Brace height is nothing else but the maximum distance between your bow’s string and the pivot point in its grip.

Remember it’s measured as the bowstring rests.

Why is it important?

Generally speaking, for identical bows, a lower BH implies that you will be shooting arrows a tad faster than when using bows with a higher BH.

But this comes at a cost….

Such bows are less more challenging to shoot, a few exceptions notwithstanding.

The opposite is, of course, true.

Higher BH is easier, particularly when starting but you lose out on the arrow speed.

Overall, a brace height 7” seems okay with many shooters- new and old- and many of my buddies favor it.

That doesn’t mean that you cannot go for a different BH…it’s after all a personal preference.

4. Factor in the total bow weight

Can you comfortably lug it around? That will depend on its total weight.

But unlike the previous three points, the issue of the overall compound bow weight can be controversial.

You see, while lightweight bows are very convenient to haul along, they tend to be noisier on the shot because of a higher vibration.

If you have hunted before you know what that means- the deer will have taken to her heels by the time you release the arrow!

So presumably every shooter would be better off with heavier bows.

Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.

That’ because while they are quieter (they don’t vibrate as much), the extra load makes them more difficult to carry around.

For this reason, we leave it up to you to weigh your shooting needs vis-à-vis the impact the bow’s weight might have on your style.

I should also mention that you can always add noise/vibration dampening accessories like limbsavers and stabilizers to your bow if need be.

5. Axle-to-axle (ATA) measurement

When I first took my compound for tuning, the gentleman I found on the shop advised me to buy a bow with a longer axle to axle in future.

And since I didn’t want him to realize how green I was then, I didn’t question his suggestion. Luckily, my new friends in my archery club soon made me understand why…

Let me explain:

To begin with, the axle-to-axle is the distance from the axle of the top cam to the axle of the bottom cam.

And like I hinted, this distance is crucial- and in two ways.

First, you don’t want your bow to be an obstacle when maneuvering tight situations like tree stands.

With respect to this, the shorter the ATA, the easier the bow when hunting down trophies in such grounds.

Unfortunately, you will have to pay a price. For example, your peep angle will be naturally affected adversely by a shorter ATA.

Again, the greater a bow’s axle to axle, the more stable it is when shooting long range.

Even for me, a longer ATA typically feels more forgiving and is often more accurate.

Unfortunately, longer ATAs are not that good on tight situations…

What we are effectively saying is that this is yet another number that could prove problematic down the road.

In short, you have to choose what’s more important: The distance, accuracy, and forgiveness (longer ATA) or the closer shots when in confined spaces (shorter ATA).

6. What about the IBO speed Rating?

This question keeps popping up and it’s good that we answer it.

For starters, here we don’t have a speedometer like in autos.

Rather, modern day bow manufacturers use the IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) standard system to rate and compare arrow speeds.

The speed itself is in fps (feet per second) and the higher the value, the faster your bow.

Back to the question now and we will take an example….

Let’s say you have a brand new compound bow IBO rated 320 fps. And I have a different one rated 340 fps.

Will the 20 fps really make a difference?

Well, yup and nope.

Yes because the additional speed closes the pin gaps giving me improved shot accuracy.

Besides, extra speed increases the bow’s kinetic energy a bit (meaning a more powerful shot).

Nevertheless, it can also be a no since there is more to archery than just speed.

In other words, don’t be duped by speed alone..

Sure, don’t go for a tortoise speed but again don’t be over excited by supersonic speeds to forget the rest of the fundamentals.

As a matter of fact, some companies use speed to hype their products and nothing more.

All in all, there is no harm in knowing that anything beyond 320 fps is considered an ace in many shooting circles.

One more thing:

If you will be taking part in 3D archery, low speed compound bows are a big NO.

Other issues to have in mind

There are a couple of other not-so-big areas of concern. I will take you through them in summary form.

The price

You always get what you pay for, right?

Well, I am the type who agrees partially and here is why…

Traditionally, a slick compound bow will cost you more than the pretenders to the throne.

But does it mean that all pricey bows are this good? Nope!  You still have to do some due diligence.

In addition, some of the less popular brands have some pretty surprising bows at bargain prices.

It can also happen that you discover a gem of a bow only to be turned off by its expensive price.

In such a case, you can consider buying its used equivalent, particularly if you’re buying for the very first time.

The brand name

What is in a name? Very little if you ask me!

And while we cannot deny that some of the manufacturers have managed to build a huge name for themselves because of being consistent in quality over the years, there are still some newcomers who are as good as the big boys.

Simply put, don’t shy away from a good bow just because it doesn’t come from PSE Archery or their fellow big timers Hoyt.

In a nutshell, the brand name should come way down in your list of considerations when it comes to the question of how to choose a compound bow.

Customization

I prefer tools and gadgets I can personalize. And so if you’re like me, you may want to go for a bow that allows you to adjust it to fit specific needs.

For instance, if it allows, you can take off the original grip and install a tennis racket grip tape for more comfort.

The other main modifications shooters perform on their bows include changing the string, the string stops, and adding stabilizers.

Some even introduce flashlights to make night shooting less challenging as well as myriad silencers.

Check what your bow accommodates and see if it’s satisfactory for you.

Conclusion

That’s how to choose a compound bow like the champ you are (even if you’ve never come near one).

As always, we are happy to receive and answer your questions- feel free to drop them in the comments section if there’s something that you didn’t understand.

Otherwise, we are persuaded that this guide will help you land your dream compound bow without too much fuss.

Good luck and I hope to see you out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *