What are Compound Bows and their Parts Made of?

handle, arrows, rest, limb, and string placed on a table

Like many of his fellow bowhunters , Holless Wilbur Allen was getting increasingly frustrated by his slow-shooting bow.

And so one bright evening in 1966, a determined Allen sat contemplating how he would get his pulley bow to shoot arrows faster.

By bedtime, Allen had managed to create a primary bow design of what became the very first compound bow on the planet, just two days later.

Nobody would have expected it back then but Wilbur Allen impressive design revolutionized bowhunting and archery at large.

In this article, we will discuss this wonderful hunting weapon.

Specifically, I will be answering the question: What are compound bows made of?

Overview of Compound bow’s construction

Compound bows use pulleys and cables to help bend their limbs and generate the all-important kinetic energy that shoots arrows swiftly.

The bow has two wheels (cams) on either side, through which the string passes.

This pulley/cam system affords you a mechanical advantage and hence the limbs of compound bows are more rigid to bend than those of recurve bows or longbows.

This stiffness makes your compound bow greatly efficient at storing energy during the drawing process since it maximizes energy storage throughout a draw cycle.

The pulley/cam system additionally grants you a “let-off” at full draw (I will explain this later).

The added firmness, let-off, and high-tech construction also improve shooting accuracy by making the bow less sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.

Compound bow’s parts

Overall, you will note that compound bows are more sophisticated than the rest and have lots of moving components.

That being so, to understand the various materials used in the various parts of compound bows (and why), we need to dissect it from scratch.

1. The riser

The riser is the central portion of your compound and is the base on which other components attach.

These include limbs, stabilizers, sights, and quivers.

To facilitate proper drawing, compound bow risers are generally built very rigid.

What are compound bow risers made of?

The central riser is typically made of magnesium alloy, aluminum, or carbon fiber.

Overall, many manufacturers prefer aluminum alloy as its lightweight.

Carbon fiber is, however, the lightest and is common in some of the more expensive brands.

2. Limbs

The compound bow limbs stores all the shooting energy you need for the perfect shot. They’re thus undoubtedly crucial to a compound bow’s proper functioning.

Several limb variations exist….

Solid (single piece aka D shaped limbs) limbs are older and cheaper to manufacture so you might notice them in more brands.

Some bows come with split limbs (two piece limbs aka parallel limbs).

These weigh and vibrate less.

As a result, compound bows using this limb type are significantly quieter.

Like I mentioned above, limbs attach to the bow’s riser (You will find one either side).

What are compound bow limbs made of?

Limbs are traditionally made of flexible fiberglass-based materials.

For the most part, you will find a cam (or wheel) attached to either limb.

Which brings me to cams..

3. Cams

I had promised to explain compound bow’s “let-off”?

Well, this is made possible by the cam so this is a good time to keep my promise..

You see, as you draw the bow, the cam turns and generates force so as to compress the limb. Initially, you will have the cam’s ‘short’ side meaning that the leverage creates a mechanical disadvantage.

At this point, you need to exert higher energy to attain full draw.

By the time you’re nearing full draw, the cam is fully turned and you now earn a mechanical advantage.

And you’ll consequently require very little force to maintain the limbs in a bent position (as you aim). This is the famous “let off”.

From this description, it’s clear that it would be impossible for you to draw a compound bow without cams.

With the let-off origination out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the different cam configurations.

Contemporary compound bows might have a single (one cam), one and a half, two cams, hybrid cam systems, and more. Each brings you unique advantages.

For instance, the single cam system is quieter and easier to pull and hence quite popular.

What are compound bow cams made of?

To a great degree, cams are made of machined aluminum.

I feel we have overstayed on cams so can we move on?

4. Compound bow strings 

Perhaps I need not say this but you pull back the compound bow string to shoot the arrows accurately. To make it easy to draw your bow and gain a successful shot, the string is typically engineered to resist stretch.

The materials used must also not give in to tension.

What are compound bow strings made of?

I am speaking about synthetic materials like high-modulus polyethylene, famed for their minimal stretchability nature and greater tensile strength.

5. Cables

Cables run from one end of cam to the other and help move the cams when drawing your compound bow.

They are as fundamental as the cams themselves to the compound bow draw operation.

What are compound bow cables made of?

Cables are again nowadays made of man-made materials like the aforementioned polyethylene.

The older compound bows, however, had steel cables.

And I should add that the cable slide- the mechanism that prevents the cables from touching the arrow- is mainly made of plastic.

Finally, cable guard rods (also help keep cables out of the arrow’s path) are made of fiberglass.

6. Arrow rest

You guessed right- an arrow rest is simply a horizontal platform where arrows ‘rest’ as you prepare for (and launch) the shot.

It attaches to the riser too via the Berger hole and stabilizes the arrow until you release it from the bowstring.

This way, arrow rests helps you consistently achieve super accurate shots.

What is the arrow rest made of?

In most cases, arrow rests are constructed from durable and lightweight metals like aluminum and stainless steel.

7. Sight

The very first compound bows had no sighting mechanism so you can imagine how hectic it was to pinpoint a buck for hunters back in the day.

Thankfully, today’s best weapons are much advanced and have sophisticated bow sights mounted to the riser.

Having said that, fixed pin sights are more common and are naturally quicker to use out in the range though movable pin sights attain greater accuracy.

Pendulum pin sights are a bit specific and would be ideal if you enjoy hunting in elevated areas.

Other than that, reticle sights are currently causing waves in the industry because of their incredibly fast target acquisition.

What are compound bow sights made of?

Some of the latest sights are made of high-quality aluminum alloy. Many of the current constructions are additionally waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof.

8. Stabilizers

Stabilizers are rods optionally installed below the grip to the bow front.

Stabilizers absorb vibrations when you’re shooting making the bow quieter. They, in addition, help you balance the bow by adding some weight below the bow-hand.

Some designs also resist rotation triggered by bow-hand errors.

What are compound bow stabilizers made of?

Manufacturers use materials like rubber, metal, and plastic, or their combination.

9. The Grip

This is the part you hold when drawing and releasing a shot.

To boost your chances of nailing your target first time, try to obtain a grip that is restful for your palm according to your shooting style.

A lot of hunters favor custom bow grips over factory grips because they promote a comfortable hand placement to allow you to make repeat shots from the same position.

What materials do people use for compound bow grips?

These are traditionally made of materials like aluminum, wood, plastic, and rubber. 

10. Peep sight

The peep sight is a kit rounded in shape and inserts between your compound bow’s string strands.

Bow peep sights are incredibly popular among hunters because they lift your shooting accuracy and consistency in hitting targets.

What materials are compound bow peep sights made of?

Peep sights are made of metal or rubber. Lightweight aluminum is especially very dominant.

11. D-Loop

The D Loop is a tiny piece of cord attached to the bowstring’s serving.

Its D shaped hence the name D loop and initiates the mechanical energy (making you quite deadly) when you draw the bow.

Having a top-quality and consistent D loop is pivotal for successful shooting.

What are compound bow D loops made of?

D loop cords are largely made of non-stretching nylon or polyester materials.

12. Mechanical Release

The mechanical release device wraps your wrist firmly to augment the poundage you can pull.

The setup mostly operates off a trigger that you control with either the middle finger or your pointer.

Several other styles exist on the market.

This type of arrangement delivers a cleaner release than you would get with your plain fingers.

You can thus shoot best.

What are compound bow release aids made of?

The various varieties of release aids are made of materials like leather, plastics, and others.

13. Quiver

This accessory mounts to the compound bow side and holds your arrows.

Bow-mounted aids your movement and helps guard you from the dangerous broadheads.

What are quivers made of?

Quivers have for years been made of natural materials including leather, wood, and furs.

That has largely changed and now they’re often metallic or plastic.

What arrows do compound bows use?

In terms of the material, compound bows are not that different from those you use with recurve bows.

Many are actually typically made of carbon fiber, aluminum alloy, or a mixture of these two materials.

Tips to Care for Your Compound Bow

Now that you know what makes up your compound bow, it’s only fair that we discuss how to maintain the various parts in shape.

The last thing you want is a misfiring bow just when you thought you finally have the elusive big buck on sight.

Try to implement the following…

  • Arrow rest, sight, stabilizers, cable guard, and quiver attachment – all these essentials converge at the riser, the epicenter of your compound bow’s operation and you need to pay special attention to them. You, especially, want to confirm that they’re all properly installed at all times.
  • Grip – A wobbly grip is likely to result in a shaky shot. If your grip is the type that attaches to the riser, be sure to inspect it regularly for cracks/gaps. Grips curved out of risers don’t have many issues.
  • Bowstring and cables – Waxing your bow string does the trick. Wax each time you notice signs of dryness, discoloration, or fuzzing out. And while at it, stick to the recommended wax type depending on your type of string.

Also restring your compound bow once every 2-3 years (Fraying or loose strands are some of the telltale signs that it’s time for a changeover).

Finally, regularly review your cables/strings to ensure they’re not loose. Have them tightened if you’re experiencing excessive vibrations or noise when shooting it.

  • Cams: Keep your cams clean (Inspect them for debris and wipe when necessary) and free from corrosion (by oiling them lightly, for example, with a quality reel lube).
  • Bow Limbs: Since some compound bow limbs tend to delaminate once exposed to heat, remember to store your compound bow away from heated locations. For example, you should avoid leaving it in your hot car for an extended duration (even if it’s inside a case).

Persistent moisture can also warp the limbs and land a killer blow on your bow so again keep of damp locations like garages or basements.


Well, that was quite lengthy but for a good cause. Or what do you think?

Most importantly, I hope I have adequately answered your question What are Compound Bows Made of?

As you can see, a compound bow packs lots of mechanical complexities and uses a whole range of materials.

That being said, I know of enthusiasts who build compound bows using local materials like PVC pipes.

I am not very good at DIYs so I personally prefer buying.

Either way, follow proper maintenance routine for the various parts if you want it to serve you excellently. 

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