So you've been taking archery classes, or are a self-trained archer, and you believe it's time to get a compound bow. But you're not sure how to choose a compound bow. There's no need to worry. We're here to help. Invented by Holles Wilbur Allen in 1966, compound bows have become very popular among archers. This is because, unlike the traditional models, they use a levering system that "amplifies" your strength.
As a result, you can make more powerful and accurate shots without using a lot of strength. They are also very durable, light, and ideal for usage by kids, women and the elderly. When looking for a compound bow, you'll come across terms such as draw length, cams, bus cables, and many more. If you don't understand any of that, don't worry. I will guide you on how to choose a compound bow and explain most of the standard terms.
Types of Compound Bows
Compound bows are often made of either aluminium, magnesium, or their alloy. This is to ensure they are strong enough to handle tensile forces, but also light. Bows are categorized based on the cams system. The cam is a wheel that's usually at the top or the bottom of the limb. They include single cam, dual cam, hybrid, and binary cams.
Just like the name suggests, this type comes with one cam system. You may also find a solocam which has a power cam and an idler wheel. Single cam bows are more comfortable to use, more accurate, and quieter. However, the back wall is not very solid. If you're a beginner, then this one would be great for you. They are easier to maintain too.
Dual cam bows have two cams. They are more robust than the single-cam models. They have a stronger back wall, shoot faster arrows, and require frequent fine-tuning. If you'd like to achieve a better form during archery, then this is the bow you need.
This type of bows has two cams, a power cam like the one in in the solocam, and a control cam. Just like the dual cam, they are more powerful, faster, and easier to maintain. They also require regular tuning, but that's nothing you can't manage.
This type also draws inspiration from the twin-cam bows, but it has a unique design. The two cams are slaved to each other so that if you pull the bowstring, the two cams move in unison. This enables them to achieve excellent nock travel. They can achieve very high speeds, but they are also a bit challenging to tune. Both hybrid cam and binary cam bows are more complex and require some experience. If you're starting, I advise you try the single cam and dual cam first.
Factors to consider when choosing a compound bow
Besides the type of bow, below are other factors you can consider when shopping for a compound bow.
Identifying the dominant eye will save you a lot of frustrations. In most cases, your dominant eye coincides with your writing hand. That is if you're right-handed; your right eye is the most dominant. But some right-handed people have a dominant left eye. To save yourself some trouble, form a triangle with your hands. Then, focus on an object at the center of the triangle.
Now close one eye and try viewing the object. The eye that keeps the object at the center of the triangle is your dominant eye. This is the same process you'll go through when aiming with a compound bow. So make sure you choose a compound bow that matches your dominant eye.
This is the distance between the grip and the bowstring when fully drawn. Choosing the proper draw length is critical to appropriate archery form, accuracy, and full enjoyment.
To measure your draw length, stand with your arms fully stretched sideways. Then, have someone measure the distance from one tip of the middle finger of one hand to the tip of the middle finger of the other hand.
If you're alone, you can make marks on the wall. Then, divide this measurement by 2.5 to get your draw length. Make sure an experienced archer measures your draw length too to ensure you get it right. Now adjust the compound bow based on these measurements.
This is the amount of weight or force you need to pull the bow to its maximum. If set wrongly, it could cause inaccuracies and even fatigue. If you find yourself drawing at the ceiling, or using your head to pull your arm back, then the draw weight is too much for you. Luckily, some compound bows allow you to adjust the draw weight. Start at a comfortable point and work your way up. The more weight a bow has the bigger game it can hunt.
The draw weight also brings the issue of let-offs. This is the difference between the draw weight and the amount of weight you can hold. The higher the let-off, the easier it will be to keep the bow at full-draw for a long time. As mentioned earlier, the more draw weight a bow has, the bigger game it can hunt. Most bows promise a let-off of about 80%. This means that you will only be holding 20% of the weight at full draw. So, the higher the let-off, the better.
Lighter bows may seem ideal, but they vibrate a lot and may be hard to control when it's too windy. Vibration also lets out a very unpleasant noise. Heavier bows are cumbersome, but you'll achieve accurate shots and less fatigue since they absorb most of the vibration.
This is the length between the bowstring at rest and the grip. Shorter braces shoot faster but are hard to use. Longer brace heights are the best, especially for beginners. It may be hard to achieve the right archer's form, but the longer brace heights tend to be more forgiving as you learn.
This is the full length of a compound bow. The axle length you choose depends on the activities you need the bow for. If you're hunting in tighter spaces, or from the top of a tree, a shorter bow will give enough flexibility and accuracy. But when hunting in the open, you can always go for the taller ones. Tall bows are also ideal when making longer shots.
Speed and Noise
A bows speed is measured in terms of feet per second. The faster a bow can shoot the better since you can hunt bigger game. But other factors influence the bow's speed. These include weather conditions, the archer's strength, and the weight of the arrow. Besides the speed, you also need to consider the noise a bow emits.Some energy is stored in the bow and is released as vibrations. You don't want to scare the animals, and you don't want to have unpleasant noises either. So as not to compromise the speed and efficiency of a bow just because of the noise levels, you can also purchase vibration dampeners. These devices minimize the noise levels of the bows.
If you're just starting and don't have a lot of money to spend on a bow, you can omit some of the fancy features. Better yet, you can get used compound bows and arrows from sites like craigslist for at least $400. Once you gain more experience, you can buy advanced bows.
And there you have it. I believe I have exhausted everything you need to look for when choosing a compound bow. It's also important to note that it all boils down to personal preference. So considering all the features we've discussed, walk down to the store and pick up the bow and get a feel of it.
When it comes to compound bows, the brand doesn't matter that much. What matters is how the bow feels in your hand. If the seller has a shooting range where you can test the bow, the better. Feel it and get the sellers to adjust it based on your needs, then decide on whether to buy it.