What to look after when buying a compound bow

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When first becoming interested in hunting and using a compound bow instead of a longbow, there are several factors to consider. It is not all that complicated, but one does still need to understand specific aspects of hunting and compound bow features to appreciate their pros and cons, and which type of bow will be right for you.

Compound bows are not usually setup to be ambidextrous. They’re designed either to be right for a left-handed or right-handed shooter.

Generally, a left-handed person in their regular life will need a left-handed compound bow. The same is the case with a right-handed person too.

With the configuration, it’s not possible to manually re-configure a bow to be suitable for the other handed type.

When two people wish to use the same bow, they usually should prefer the same shooting hand.

The alternative is when they’re fairly ambidextrous in their real life (perhaps they can take shots in games of pool using either hand) in which they may not favor one particular hand.

Nevertheless, even in such a case, they may discover that they’re more accurate with one hand over the other or hold the bow steadier because one arm is the stronger, dominant one with other regular activities.

So even someone who’s ambidextrous may have an unstated preference.

a man helping his kids shootimg a bow

Getting the Draw Weight Right

Depending on the bow, the draw weight is adjustable within a certain range and in specific increments. With the limbs of the bow, these vary depending on the draw weight selected pre-purchase.

A different set of bow limbs is required for each bow weight range, other than with some of the most advanced bows that offer a greater adjustability.

The limb bolts are turned to make an adjustment to the weight for the fitted limbs. Only a fixed number of revolutions is permitted within the manufacturing base before the limb pocket will separate from the bow causing the bow to fall apart.

Therefore, new hunters must pay special attention to the number of limb bolt turns that is supported for their selected bow.

What Draw Weight is Right?

The draw weight is partly a function of your arm strength. Each bow is adjusted within a draw weight range. It is not safe to attempt to adjust beyond the minimum or maximum intended range.

A hex wrench is often the tool of choice to tweak the draw weight setting on a bow. For newer hunters, it’s often a good idea to start lower and work up gradually rather than setting it too high and always struggling. A smoother draw with greater accuracy is preferable over greater power with less accuracy.

Ideally, when hunting deer, one should look to have a 40 to 50 lb draw weight. Any type of larger game in the forest will require a 50 to 60 lb draw weight to hit the target with enough speed and power.

Depending on the state, it’s worth noting that there are laws about the minimum draw weight levels when hunting game and these must be properly observed.

Modern compound bows adjust well to different levels of draw weight – and make the perfect bow for smaller archers. The more weight, the better.

It’s worth noting that one doesn’t extend the useful life of a bow by letting up on the amount of weight for each draw; bows simply don’t work that way.

Parallel Limbs vs. Split Limbs

The term “parallel limbs” refers to bows where a single top limb is shown as parallel to the bottom one.

With “split limbs,” there are two limbs, not one, each on the top and the bottom, rather than there only being one.

How to Know Your Correct Draw Length?

a man watching his son shooting a bow

The correct draw length for your body is a rough measurement. The way to measure it is to extend both your arms out as wide as possible away from your body. Then measure the distance across your body between the tip of your fingers from either hand.

With this measurement, then divide it by 2.5 to get a rough idea of your correct draw length for your arm span.

Be sure to avoid stretching your arms or fingers out more than feels natural otherwise the measurement will be incorrect. In many cases, your measured arm span in inches will approximately match your height.

The above measurement approach only gives an approximate draw length in inches and will vary minimally from person to person.

To avoid arm strain and improper shooting posture, it is a good idea to air on the side of caution with a lesser draw length than a longer one.

Choice of Fletching 

The Fletch is the feather at the end of the arrow. These may be machine manufactured or made by hand. There is a choice of plastic vanes or parabolic feathers that come in a variety of single colors or a mix of colors.

The plastic vanes are durable and pop back into position after being pushed down. With feathers, they may get splayed and some part of the feather could be lost during the shooting.

A large enough quiver is required to keep each arrow apart with feather fletches to avoid them catching together and becoming damaged before use.

Beginning archers or people who don’t take care of their gear that well do better with plastic vanes. Feathers are for hunters who take better care of their arrows. Feathers fly faster and truer. Matching a helically configured feather with a broadhead arrow works well.

The fletch configuration is also important and a good arrow supplier will discuss this with you before your order.

Choosing a Peep Sight

A peep sight is installed directly on the bow string and allows you to look down range through the sight to see where you’re aiming. Typically, the ring is a donut-like shape.

Peep sights come in three main types:

Fletcher – aluminum peeps provide the most accurate view. A more experienced hunter tends to find these the most useful once they are able to line them up properly at full draw. The downside to this type is that they twist around when the string does.

Trio – this sight uses three fiber strings, not two, to keep the sight mostly in view at all times. Many beginner bows use the trio peep to make aiming easier for novices.

Tube – this sight has a longer history. It uses a rubber tube that stretches and avoids the twisting strings from taking the sight out of view at the critical time. The rubber tubing isn’t as long-lasting and is not the most modern choice. This type of sight is also a little noisy.

The aperture is the size of the hole inside the peep sight that one looks through. There are many sizes to pick from, but the most popular remain either the 3/16th inch and the 1/8th-inch versions.

Smaller apertures often result in more accurate shots, but make the prey harder to keep in the sight before firing.

The peep sight height level is typically 13cm higher than the nocking point. A high peep set at 15cm is another option when using a longer than average draw length. With youth bows and shorter draw lengths, it’s not uncommon to set a lower position.

FPS and IBO Speed

FPS stands for feet per second for arrow speed. Official IBO measurements confirm what the maximum speed is for a compound bow. These speeds are theoretical and based on the longest draw length and the heaviest draw weight. Shortening either of these settings will drop the achievable shooting speed.

What to expect in regards to budget: low, middle, high

When it comes to buying a compound bow, the budget greatly affects the type and quality of the materials used in the construction of the bow. Different materials change the durability of each part and the speed that the bow may achieve.

Usually, only the more expensive products have been developed to achieve higher speeds.

When shooting with a bow, it puts many of the parts under extreme stress during the draw and release process. The cheaper the parts, the more likely they will break early and often under such stresses.

As such, it is not sensible to go too low with pricing if one is serious about hunting semi-regularly with equipment that won’t let you down in the middle of the hunt.

Alexander Knobloch
Alexander Knobloch
Hi. Alex here. I'm the founder of BowAddicted.com. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors.

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Archer takes aim with a hunting compound bow
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