Best Archery Compound Bows
The compound bow is a modern machine. It traces its roots back only as far as 1966 when Holles Wilbur Allen, hailing from Missouri, introduced a new style of bow that used a system of pulleys and strings to bend the limbs.
The result was a bow that could store a lot of energy, significantly lightening the load on the archer while the bow was at full draw. Archers could now hold the bow for a lot longer before needing to release, as well as draw heavier bows than they’d normally be able to.
In the decades since, the style has been developed and refined, leading to the creation of the most powerful and most accurate bows that have ever been made.
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They aren’t used in the Olympics, but you will see them at the Paralympics, and they’ve been accepted in international competition since the late 1980’s. You’ll see them at ranges all around the world – as well as in films like Rambo.
In this article, we’re going to help you understand what a compound bow is, how it works, and what factors to consider when you’re buying one – then suggest some great options whether you’re looking to get into archery or take your shooting to the next level.
What is a compound bow?
So what actually is a compound bow – and how it does it work? Not only do they look confusing and complicated, they sound it, too. They’ve got wheels, cams, all those strings…
Let’s start by understanding what a compound bow does, which will help to explain the way it looks. The main differentiator between a compound and a recurve or longbow are its wheels, or cams, attached to the top and bottom limbs.
The cams enable a feature called ‘let off’. When you draw a recurve bow, the force required increases gradually all the way to the full draw and stays at that same level until you release the arrow.
On a compound, the force also increases as you start to draw, but as you continue to pull the cames turn over, and after that, the strength needed begins to ease off. The bow is now holding a lot of the energy that you’d otherwise be holding in your arms on a traditional bow.
To be a bit more specific, to fire a 60 pound recurve bow at its maximum power, you need to pull and then hold all 60 pounds until you are ready to fire. A compound still needs you to pull 60 pounds, but by the time you get to full draw, 65-75% (typically) of the draw weight will be held in the pulley system, meaning you’ll only need to hold, say, 18 pounds until you’re ready to fire.
When you release the bow string, the 18 pounds you were holding goes behind the arrow, which is then followed, or ‘compounded’ by the rest of the energy that was being held by the bow for you.
The riser on a compound bow is normally made of a strong, lightweight metal like magnesium or aluminium – or a mixture of the two. The ‘cam eccentric’ is the type of cam system the bow actually uses. Single cam, hybrid cam, dual cam and binary cam are the most common.
One thing to be aware of is that the design of most compound bows means their stated draw length is adjustable, but not flexible beyond that point. There’s usually a bit of leeway with a traditional bow but with a compound, if it says 29” maximum, it means it.
When thinking about getting your first compound bow, make sure you factor in draw length. If this is your first bow of any kind, then it’s still great advice to choose a draw weight that is well within your physical ability. You should be able to easily draw and control it so that you develop good form and habits.
A bow with too heavy a draw leads to bad form, which can injure you and damage your bow, and more importantly limit how far you can progress in the sport.
Benefits of using a compound bow
A compound bow’s cam system delivers a pretty wide range of advantages that are derived from its ability to store so much energy during the draw.
Compared to a recurve or traditional bow, you need to pull the maximum draw weight for a fraction of the time, but importantly, you only need to pull it part-way through the draw. With a recurve, you need to be strong enough to hold the full weight at the same time as aiming and steadying yourself and your breathing.
With a compound, your main exertion happens before you start aiming, meaning you can spend much more time getting yourself perfectly settled before releasing, or in the case of a moving target, be ready throughout a longer window of opportunity.
That means compound bows allow you to shoot more accurately and more consistently. They also allow archers to use a more powerful bow than they’d be able to if it were a traditional bow – further increasing accuracy by shooting a flatter trajectory that is less affected by wind and gravity.
Compound bows also make the sport more inclusive by letting archers who don’t have as much upper body strength or with disabilities that affect their shooting compete because there is less emphasis on strength.
Whereas a recurve or longbow should be unstrung when you’re not using it, a compound can stay strung all the time, which can mean less time setting up and packing away. And their typically all-metal designs can make them more resistant to changes in humidity, which can lead to warping in wooden designs.
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Genesis Original Bow Review
[amazon box=”B000AUAK6O” title=”Genesis Original Bow” description=”The Genesis is a well-known and well-liked compound bow. It is the official bow of the National Archery in the Schools Program, and consequently can be used in NASP tournaments.”/]
The bow’s headline feature is its lack of a specific draw length – or rather no ‘hard stops’. In contrast to what we’ve said about compounds having a ‘let off’, the Genesis has no such thing. The version we’ve picked out here can be adjusted between 10 and 20 pounds, and extended to suit archers with draw lengths all the from way from 15 to 30 inches.
That makes it an exceptionally versatile bow (perfect for the school environment) that is a really interesting choice for beginners who are growing in stature, strength and archery ability, because it’s a bow you can grow into in every sense of the word. It is also potentially a one-size-fits-all bow for the whole family.
Even for adult beginners, the low draw weight will make sure you are able to focus on developing the right techniques and form.
The version we’ve picked out here is the standard Genesis bow. It has an aluminium riser and cams with composite limbs and a moulded grip. It also has drilled holes for a range of accessories you might want to add later.
The box contains the bow itself, the string and the hex wrench to adjust the bow’s height. There’s nothing else included (arrows, quiver, sight, targets etc), so make sure you factor that into your budget.
Beginners, family users and young archers all get on well with this bow. A lot of people report their child improving quickly once they’ve got their own bow (and likely the same model that they started using at school). A lot of adults with a bit less strength or endurance like it too – and everyone seems happy with build quality and durability, too.
The Genesis Original Bow gets great reviews. It is an extremely versatile compound bow aimed at beginners. It’s zero let off design with adjustable draw weight and no specific draw length means a new archer can grow into it, or the bow can serve as a single bow for a whole family.
It has great reviews and has been designed with robustness in mind, which means it should easily stand up to years of use. It is also approved for NASP competitions which is a nice bonus. A great starter bow, but make sure you factor in the cost of buying the accessories you’ll need to get started.
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Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow Review
[amazon box=”B076X3JLJC” title=”Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow” description=”The Cruzer G2 from Bear Archery is a compound bow whose primary feature is extremely wide draw weight range. It’s possible to adjust the bow all the way from 5 to 70 pounds. That means it will suit the needs of basically every archer.”/]
To complement that, it’s also adjustable from 12 to 30 inches draw weight, which again, will suit almost any archer. To deliver on the promise of that versatility, the bow’s adjustments can be made with an Allen wrench and without a bow press.
It’s available in both right- and left-handed options, and eight choices of finish, including ‘Kryptek Highlander’, ‘Moonshine Muddy Girl’ and ‘TrueTimber Kanati’. Some of the designs are loud in colour and very eye-catching; while elsewhere there’s much more subtle, sleeker finishes.
At the top end, this is a powerful bow – with a claimed 315 feet per second, thanks to its versatile cam design, and the grip is designed to avoid hand torque for improved accuracy. The bow incorporates a 70% let off, and it’s also very light, at only 3 pounds.
The huge draw weight and length range make this is a really interesting option for an archer looking to grow into a bow. As you develop good form, and as you build upper body strength (or even grow in height), it’s possible to adjust the bow accordingly.
The version we’ve picked out here comes as a kit. It’s got a sight, whisker biscuit arrow rest, quiver, stabiliser, peep sight and nock loop, which means you’re not far from shooting right out of the box. That’s a really nice bonus if this is your first bow.
User reviews are very positive. People love being able to grow into their bow and being able to adjust it easily. Other use cases people talk about are adjusting downwards following injury and using one bow to help friends try archery out – getting them up and running quickly.
The Bear Archery Cruzer G2 is a quality bow with incredible versatility. Its low end is suitable for beginners, and its high end is powerful enough for more or less any archer. Build quality rates highly despite its light weight, and the accessories that come in the box make it really easy to get up and running quickly.
Its features could also make it a good family bow, helping beginners get into the sport without ever feeling like it holds back the more experienced archers when they’re alone.
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Leader Accessories Compound Bow Review
[amazon box=”B016I9BRR6″ title=”Leader Accessories Compound Bow” description=”Next up, let’s have a look at the Leader Compound Bow. The Leader is a 50-70lb bow that comes right-handed and in black, autumn camo and green camo finishes, and has an aluminium riser at its centre. It has a stated maximum shooting speed of 310 feet per second, achieved via a 75-80% let off. The bow weighs 4.4lbs.”/]
The Leader bow comes with a draw weight range of 50-70 pounds, and a corresponding 25-31 inch draw length. That’s a high but useful range that will accommodate archers of most sizes.
The weight is definitely at the upper end of the typical range – so in most cases, this won’t be a perfect bow for a beginner, especially a younger one. It might simply be too heavy to draw, but the bigger problem is that it’ll be difficult to develop the right archery form with a bow that’s too heavy.
There’s a choice of bow only (which does include an Allen wrench that lets you adjust the bow without a bow press), bow with kit, and bow with full accessories. In the case of the kit, you get a sight, arrow rest, release aid, string loop, peep sight, wax and two arrows.
The accessory pack comes with twelve carbon arrows, paper targets, a quiver, whisker biscuit arrow rest, arm guard, stabiliser, a bunch of other things and even a bag to hold it all in. In other words, it’s a surprisingly complete set – although at a significantly higher price.
It’s advertised at beginners through to veteran archers – and with the full accessory pack, you can see why. It’s really easy to get up and running, with very little else you’d need to buy. If you’re already into the sport, it’s nice to have the option of picking up just the bow.
That said, bundled accessories aren’t usually the best – and that’s the case here. You shouldn’t expect top quality, but you can expect them to help you get going, and you can upgrade certain bits if and when you want to.
The Leader Compound Bow is great value for money and could make a good starter bow for people with significant upper body strength. It’s a little heavy, but it’s well-made and shoots smoothly. A lot of people like this bow and feel it shoots above its price point.
The question is whether it’s the best choice as a beginner bow because the draw weight is on the heavy side – and probably higher than ideal for someone just trying to get into the sport, who should be focusing on their form. The accessories aren’t fantastic but good enough to get you off to a great start in the sport.
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RAPTOR Compound Hunting Bow Kit Review
[amazon box=”B01NAXOIDV” title=”RAPTOR Compound Hunting Bow Kit” description=”Our next pick is the RAPTOR Compound Bow. This version is a kit that comes with a sight (with light and level), whisker biscuit arrow rest and stabiliser. The bow has a peep sight and loop pre-installed, too. That’s a great bonus as they can be difficult to install. This is another powerful bow, making great use of its dual cams to deliver up to 315 feet per second arrow releases.”/]
It has a wide draw weight range of 30-70 pounds and an adjustable draw length of 24.5-31 inches. That makes it a very versatile bow that should suit archers of most sizes and strengths, as well as accommodating people new to the sport who want to start at a low draw weight and work up.
The bow is light, at 3.6 lbs, with aluminium cams that feature no plastic, and is well kitted out straight from the box, with sound dampeners, stabiliser and quiver gripper pre-installed. You also get the Allen wrench needed to make adjustments, which can be done without a bow press.
There’s a choice of black or camo finishes, but it is only available for right-handed shooters. The riser is aluminium, and the limbs are fibreglass. It’s well-built, and most people feel the quality is higher than you’d expect for the price.
One thing worth mentioning is that cable guard coming loose. The bow’s design has been improved in response to a lot of users having trouble with it, and the manufacturers also recommend using some superglue on the screw threads. Having said that, customer service seems to be responsive and thorough in helping people solve this.
The RAPTOR Compound is a great bow with good accessories (at this price point) that will help you get shooting really quickly. The wide draw weight range means this is a good choice for a beginner who wants a bow they can grow into. It could also suit a family looking to share a bow.
The build quality is better than the price suggests and overall this is a great value product for beginners and intermediates on a budget.
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SAS Rage Compound Bow Review
[amazon box=”B00U1NUFCO” title=”SAS Rage Compound Bow” description=”Last, but not least, we’re looking at the SAS Rage Compound Bow. The version we’re looking at comes in a couple of options. You can opt just for the bow, or for a kit that comes with a sight, arrow rest, stabiliser, bow sling and peep sight. There’s a Pro package and even an extensive Travel kit at a significant premium with higher-end accessories.”/]
This is a slightly heavier bow, at 4.4lbs. It’s draw weight ranges between 55 and 70 pounds and the draw length can be set between 26 and 30 inches. It features a 70% let off and can shoot at 270 feet per second at its top end.
You don’t need a bow press to adjust the weight, which is great, although a lot of users found they wanted to have it professionally tuned and set up. The documentation that comes with the bow is a little vague which doesn’t help matters.
As with the Leader bow, this is a high draw weight bow. An adult with decent upper body strength would find this fine to use, but it’s still higher than is recommended for a total beginner. The main thing is being able to draw the bow repeatedly without too much fatigue setting in, which will affect your form.
Build quality is good, and generally exceeds expectations given the low price point for the bow alone. It feels solid and durable and as though it should stand up to a lot of use. The accessories that come with the basic package a good to get started with, but aren’t especially high quality. If you get into the sport, you’ll likely upgrade most of them, but if you’re only dipping your toe in the water, they should be fine.
The SAS Rage is a well-regarded bow that delivers excellent value for money. It is well made and has options that include a range of accessories to help get you started – and the quality of those accessories is certainly good enough if you’re just getting started.
Except for the heavy-ish draw weight, this could be an ideal starter bow. As it is, it’s important to have good upper body strength to make sure that you’re able to learn the correct form without over-exertion that could lead to poor results or injuries.
A great bow for the price – just make sure you factor in the possibility of needing to have it professionally tuned.