Compound bows are unlike conventional longbows and recurve bows in a significant manner. Their limb tips do not bend backward in the direction of the shoot – the opposite happens, i.e., the string and harnesses pull the compound bow’s limb tips in the same direction.
The compound bow’s limbs are also relatively a lot stiffer than other variations of bows. This unique construction of the compound bow allows it to hold energy more efficiently when shooting with it.
Additionally, a pulley cam system comprising wheels and strings is present to aid with the bow’s shooting – this is absent from longbows and recurve bows since they continue old-fashioned designs. In contrast, the compound bow can be thought of as a hybrid of new and old technology.
If you’re new to the compound bow market, prepare yourself to hear about the best compound bow brands and their various models of compound bows. Compound bows aren’t exactly a new product and don’t possess the kind of hi-tech technology which many brands of compound bows would have you believe.
As you begin your quest of buying a compound bow, you will frequently come across marketing tactics that upsell the manufacturer’s technological improvements in compound bows – these are usually just fancy words chosen to make the product look more technologically advanced than it really is.
However, compound bows have, in fact, come forward by quite a degree when you compare today’s versions with the simplistic Robin Hood Compound bows of the ‘80s. (Looking for a Recurve Bow? Check Out Our Ultimate Guide)
You’ll also discover that many shoppers rely on brand loyalty. Shops and forums contain plenty of people who have a ‘my bow is better than yours’ mentality. The truth is that most bows are more or less the same product but advertised to different audiences.
One individual may prefer Bowtech because of their edgy designs, and he may disregard Bear bows because of their simpler, more understated looks. This would be true even if the bow had identical specs and was made from the same material.
Your choice of crossbow brand will have a lot to do with your needs and preferences – for instance; if you’re a beginner, you’ll be looking for the best entry-level compound bow, whereas someone tight on cash would search for the best budget compound bow.
Regardless of what the manufacturer touts, there isn’t a single perfect bow. Each bow design will have its advantages and flaws. It is up to your call to decide the most important features for you based on your skill level, experience, and aesthetic preferences.
The only sure shot way to know how good a bow performs is to buy it, give it a try, and then compare its statistics with other bows you have used.
However, bows aren’t cheap, so most people haven’t the resources to test shoot lots of bows – archers are restricted to trying out only those bows which are up for sale at their nearest pro shop.
Fortunately, we’ve done the hard part for you and have chosen the bows best suited for the most common denominations of archers. Read on to find out.
What do I need to Consider when Choosing a Compound Bow?
To answer how to pick a compound bow, you need to consider some essential characteristics when picking out the best compound bow for yourself.
These are speed, draw weight, draw length, let off, brace height, and, of course, your budget. Here’s an explanation of each to teach you how to buy a compound bow, even if you’re a total novice.
- Speed: One of the primary factors to consider when you’re choosing a compound bow is speed. It is expressed in feet per second (i.e., fps), and every compound bow has a measured FPS speed rating. To ensure that the ratings are consistent, the International Bowhunting Organization (IBO) has standardized the approach to measuring the bow’s speed. Every bow is measured based on 70 pounds draw weight, 30 inches draw length, and a 350-grain arrow. Obviously, if a bow was tested under different conditions from the standard, its resulting speed will be different.
Normally, when picking out a compound bow, you should go for the fastest compound bow on the market that matches your budget. The greater the speed of an arrow shot from the bow, the harder it will be for your hunting prey to dodge it. Furthermore, more speed means that the arrow will hit its target with greater force. Ensure that you use the correct hunting arrows for your bow to get the best results.
- Draw weight: This is another crucial factor when selecting the best from the plethora of compound bow brands available today. Draw weight means the amount of weight felt when you retract the bowstring.
To enhance the speed and energy of the stroke, it is recommended to shoot with a compound bow that has the highest draw weight. For example, a compound bow with a draw weight of 60 pounds will have greater arrow speed than one with 50 pounds draw weight.
If you opt for deer hunting with your compound bow, a 45 pounds draw weight is the lowest you can settle for, but the majority of hunters settle for compound bows with a draw weight between 50 and 70 pounds.
Although greater draw weight has its benefits, it can also come at a disadvantage. Even though you can achieve a quicker and deadlier shot with it, if it is too much, it can result in poor shooting techniques since the drawing and aiming will be harder to control.
To prevent injury and ensure correct shooting techniques, it is important to keep the bow fully drawn for at least a minute without shaking and draw the compound bow smoothly at any instant of the whole draw cycle.
However, many compound bows today let you decrease the draw weight by 10 pounds, so you are able, to begin with, to an easier to handle draw weight, increasing it when your muscles get tougher from practicing.
Here is a table containing general guidelines for selecting draw weight:
|Weight of person
|55 to 70 pounds
|10 to 15 pounds
|70 to 100 pounds
|15 to 25 pounds
|100 to 130 pounds
|25 to 35 pounds
|130 to 150 pounds
|40 to 50 pounds
|100 to 130 pounds
|25 to 35 pounds
|130 to 160 pounds
|30 to 40 pounds
|45 to 55 pounds
|120 to 150 pounds
|45 to 55 pounds
|150 to 180 pounds
|55 to 65 pounds
|65 to 75 pounds
- Draw length: The compound bow’s draw length is the difference in length of the bowstring when it is fully drawn and at rest. Picking the correct draw length about your physique is essential since you won’t reach your complete shooting potential with a fully-suited bow suited to your body. The general rule in choosing a draw length is your full arm span divided by 2.5. But bear in mind that the majority of bows have variable draw lengths.
- Let off: This is another factor you’ll have to assess when buying a compound bow. The compound bow’s cams can be held at full draw while using just a small fraction of the draw weight. Let off is computed as the percentage of peak weight that you can hold at full draw; for example, if your compound bow has a draw weight of 70 pounds and a let-off of 75 percent, then you can achieve full draw at about 17 pounds, i.e., you need to pull it with a force of 17 pounds to get a full draw. Greater and lesser let off each have their own advantages and disadvantages. A lower left off will mean a greater arrow velocity, while a higher let off will enable you to hold the bow fully drawn for a longer period of time. A let-off that is too high leads to poor shooting form but can be useful in specific hunting scenarios where you have to wait for the perfect shot patiently.
- Brace height: This is the length from the shooter’s grip to the bowstring. The closeness of the bowstring to your wrist at rest and the amount of work you have to do to draw the bow back have a direct correlation. Shorter brace height means a greater energy store which results in greater arrow velocity. But a shorter brace height (6.5’’ or fewer) isn’t recommended for newcomers since small flaws in their shooting technique can get magnified due to it. A beginner should start with the standard 7’’ brace height.
- Budget: When picking out the ideal compound bow for yourself, it is vital to keep your budget in mind. There are compound bows in the market catering to all kinds of budgets. However, as opposed to the norm in many other industries, price and performance are closely and positively related. Patent costs for using the newest technologies, high-performance materials, manufacturing complexity – all of these contribute to the price of a compound bow. In other words, the greater its price, the more advanced the compound bow will be. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to pay for the most expensive compound bow you can afford to enjoy archery – for a beginner, even a reasonably priced bow with standard features will be sufficient to start with. As your skill progresses, you can think about better and pricier bows, perhaps even the fastest compound bow in the market.
Besides these technical factors, you should also consider buying a bow with additional perks, such as an optic sight, camouflage, etc. Collapsible compound bows, for instance, are quite popular with those who go on longer hunts since they are much more portable than their non-collapsible counterparts.
The sections which follow contain compound bows reviews of the most prominent brands to give you an idea of what you’ll find in the market:
What are the Top Compound Bow Brands?
Bear Archery has consistently remained one of the top compound bow manufacturers in the market. Each year sees them launch new bows that see many acclaims, e.g., the Bear One compound bow. In 2014, they released 20 new bow models in the market, and this year, up until now, they’ve released five new ones.
Of the many Bear compound bow models out there, this one is a top competitor. This bow goes head to head with the Diamond Infinite Edge, considering how adaptable it is. It has an adjustable draw length of 12 to 30 inches and a variable draw weight of 5 to 70 lbs., making it one of the best starter compound bows out there, ideal for both beginners and huntresses.
Bear has also tried to deviate from the classic look with this bow – its shape and color options are meant to appeal to children. Bear pays heed to the requests for more customizability options and better quality bows for female archers, as is evident from this particular model.
Bear Arena 30:
This is another fresh release from Bear and is quite the powerhouse. Shooting at an amazing 343 feet per second and generating little shock, this bow incorporates almost all innovations Bear has under their belt.
Its draw length is adjustable over a narrow range from 25.6 to 30 inches, and the draw weight can be varied from 50 to 70 lbs, so it isn’t really recommended for youngsters. This bow is excellent for hunting from treetops and also for long-distance archery. The Arena 30 lends confidence to the hunter and ensures a clean kill.
The Bear Element compound bow, priced at just $240, is a good, cheap bow meant for beginners or a budget. It comes with a silencing package to reduce noise and has a modular-adjustable eccentric system.
It doesn’t need a bow press to vary its draw length (which can be done in 1’’ increments. However, the strings it comes with leaves something to be desired, and if you want to adjust the draw length in more accurate intervals of .5’’, you’re going to need a bow press. With all said, this bow does indeed offer great value for the money.
Hoyt is another one of the leading compound bow companies and has made adaptability their chief priority:
Podium X Elite:
The Podium X Elite incorporates some seriously user-friendly elements. Besides its draw length is easily adjustable, it also comes with various options for your back wall at the time of purchase. Hoyt has included a modular adjustment to their spiral cam, which touts a solid back wall to prevent overdrawing. It also comes with a GTX 1.5 cam.
The new inner module adjustment allows for a more flexible wall which is good news for people who intend to share the bow with others since it will be easily adjustable each time you hand it to the other person.
Another interesting feature is the adjustable grip – you can decide between the standard grip angle or another one from the included grips that add 2, 4, or 6 degrees. This gives archers more freedom to improve their shooting.
Although Hoyt has innovated several personal adjustment options in their 2015 lineup, they don’t have a bow that can compete with the weight and draw length adjustment features from Bear or Diamond, which is why this offering remains an entry-level compound bow at best.
This crossbow is meant to cater to the female/young adult clientele, with a length that can be varied between 15 and 26 inches and an adjustable weight of 15 to 45 (in case of the regular) or 9 to 29 (in case of the Ruckus Jr.).
This is a bow that has the most customization options out of the box compared to everything else Hoyt offers, making it one of the best youth compound bows in the market. However, this does not mean that their other bows are inferior – the other models are also superb choices for experienced archers who are well aware of the requirements.
Note that Hoyt products can only be purchased at Pro Shops (i.e., establishments where the dealers themselves are professional archers). Online purchase of their product will void its warranty.
Bowtech is another one of the top compound bow brands; they focus on innovating the style of their compound bows.
They are masters of the binary cam system, which got rid of cam synchronization problems. 2015 has seen them launch their ‘Powershift technology.’
With the Prodigy, Bowtech has incorporated a new power disc to the cam system, which lets the archer easily and quickly change the bow’s power setting to achieve shots that demand varying levels of power or comfort. Would you please set it to perform to obtain the most speed and power, albeit with a less smooth draw? (Read Where To Shoot A Deer)
Please set it to classic to get a blend of power and comfort, to allow for a shot like a classic Bowtech compound bow. The comfort setting lets you make an effortless draw and is excellent for shooting in colder locales. With its customizability options, this is a good beginner compound bow.
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This compound bow has been made to meet the demands of target archers and focuses on every detail. It incorporates Bowtech’s first shoot-through riser, which keeps the bow steady until the archer is ready to take the shot. They have also included adjustable let-off options – low, medium, and high, which offer 75% reduced draw weight.
Bowtech RPM 360:
This could be the best compound bow out there – if we had to choose the top ten compound bows, this one would have the throne. Packing a new riser design, a revamped limb pocket, and a re-imagination of their already popular cam system, the RPM 360 is a force to be reckoned with.
It doesn’t draw like a normal speed bow since it is extremely smooth. It is also one of the quietest compound bows in the market, which is also quite extraordinary for a speed bow. Bowtech’s flagship has a 31 inch ATA, 7-inch brace height and yields a blazing 360 FPS IBO speed.
You won’t be able to understand the fuss until you give it a try, but once you do, you will definitely have an answer to the question of ‘what is the fastest compound bow right now!
It could arguably be the fastest compound bow in the world, but don’t assume, because of its insane 360 FPS output, that it is a noisy bow that isn’t great for hunting. It is tranquil and produces minimal vibration.
Throw in a stabilizer, and even that little bit of vibration is gone so that you’ve got the fastest compound bow on the market all set for an accurate, silent, and deadly hunting experience. It comes in various color schemes, a 24 to 30-inch draw length, and a 50 to 70 pounds draw weight.
A close competitor of the fastest shooting compound bow is the PSE DNA, with the RPM 360 shooting about 15 FPS more than the PSE, but that is so close that you won’t notice it while shooting.
PSE boasts of being the best bow maker of all, and they released some fine compound bows in 2015 – they have upgraded their popular single cam, high-performance Madness brand to hybrid cams, according to the PSE Bow Madness Review on their website.
However, these bows do not appear to have the same attention to detail in their design. But what is lacking in terms of the latest technology, PSE compensates for with premium quality materials.
Here are some PSE bow reviews for their leading compound bows:
PSE Stinger X:
The Stinger X is a compound bow featuring a durable single cam system. Its draw length can be varied from 19’’ to 30’’, and the back wall can also be adjusted – a helpful feature uncommon in most compound bows.
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Dual compression limbs limit vibration in the bowstrings. This bow comes with a ‘Grow with me’ setting which lets the user reduce its draw weight until they’ve developed their skill. Its low 3.5-pound weight makes it an ideal starter compound bow, as well as a great choice for extended hunting trips.
At the price of around $400, this bow offers a lot of quality features. And as a PSE product, you can be sure that you’ll get the value you’re paying for.
The PSE Brute bow is an exceptional hunting bow if you’re tight on cash. It features a highly smooth draw and an easy brace height that lets you shoot accurately without much effort. It is also free of vibrations, which makes it feel a lot like highly-priced models.
At its low price, there isn’t much to find fault with. But its low price might make hunters overlook it since the norm in the archery industry is that the higher the price, the better the quality.
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PSE Brute X:
The PSE Brute X Compound bow has an unbelievable smooth and fast performance at its price point. It features preloaded split limbs, a new pivoting limb pocket mechanism, and a totally new machined rise.
The re-designed Madness Pro cam lets you make half-inch adjustments with the manufacturer’s posi-lock inner cam (scope). Combine that with a backstop, Raptor grip, multiple sight mounting holes, and all the other features typical of PSE, and you’ve got an exceptional compound bow.
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The Brute X is available in either 60 or 70-pound draw weight, a maximum arrow speed of 320 feet per second, 7.25’’ brace height, and an adjustable draw length between 25 and 30’’. It has a 75% let-off and comes with shock and noise-suppressing Vibracheck Backstop, as well as reformulated Vibracheck limb bands.
This bow costs just a little over $400 for all its features. Moreover, PSE Brute X reviews from users have been near perfect!