It is quite easy to mistake the compound bow for an outdated invention, but when you detail the intricate cam lock and pulley system that characterizes the compound bow, you’ll understand this is a modern invention. Invented in 1966 in Missouri, probably with the intention of adding ease to hunting and later became a go-to for target shooting.
The invention of the compound bow basically consists of adding levers (or cams) the ends of a shortened conventional recurve bow. What this accomplishes is the ability for the shooter to pull the bow back with more ease, as the cams will take most of the strain and tension on the string rather than it all is relying on the shooter’s strength. The amount of force that the cams can take off the shooter is called the “let off”. This piece of engineering allows the user to be able to hold a position on the bow for a longer period, which can come in handy when waiting for the right moment to shoot at game.
This does not mean that the limbs do not play a vital role in arrow shooting. Quite the opposite, the limbs of the bow are still the major source of power when releasing an arrow. Because of this, the limbs are made of composite material that provides just enough flex for the bow not to break when pulling back on an arrow but keeping enough rigidity at the same time in order to apply force to the shot. Not to say that it isn’t important for the bow to have the right mix between “let off” and force applied on the limbs in order to hit the sweet spot.
If we focus on the mid-section on the bow, the construction of the product becomes much harder, and it isn’t without purpose that this is done. The central part of the bow, where the grip is, is known as the riser. The riser must be the stronger and most rigid part of the main structure of a bow. It is up to the riser to hold the limbs, sights, stabilizers, and quivers. And it is because of this that the riser can be made of aluminum, magnesium or the lighter option; carbon fiber.
It is safe to say that in general terms compound bows pack more power and speed than their counterparts. It is for this reason that the arrows used with compound bows must be similar in build (when it comes to materials) like the limbs. Using composite materials in order to absorb the heavy shock that the compound bow can apply to the arrow. If the arrows are made of stiffer material, such as wood, the arrow runs the risk of breaking and the archer runs the risk of getting hurt. It’s safe to say that it’s not safe for a compound bow archer to use wooden arrows.
The compound bow can be considered a better bow in terms of speed and power. However, it also has its own disadvantages. It is usually easier to damage a compound bow than a recurve bows due to the intricacy in its design which involves lots of moving parts and pieces. Harder maintenance is also involved in a compound bow, for instance, changing a bowstring can be a tad more tedious as doing so requires a special instrument called a bow press.
What is a Compound Bow?
A compound bow is a modified recurve bow with shorter axle to axle distance and with added cams or pulleys at either end. As discussed above in detail, the cams are meant to provide an easier pull of the arrow for the shooter or hunter, making the compound bow one of the best choices for children and women. Similarly, hunters stalking game usually also look for compound bows that will allow them to hold a position at full draw for a longer period while applying less strength and energy to hold it. The compound bow is the dominant form of a bow in the United States for both hunting and competition purposes. See more here.
Being a modern invention, the compound bow requires to be built with modern materials and techniques. Risers, cams, limbs, and arrows are usually made from aluminum, magnesium or carbon.
There is a vast array of types of compound bows for the user to choose and these are often classified depending on the type of cam system they use. There is a total of six types of compound bows to choose from; Single cam, hybrid cams, twin cams, and binary cams or the less common quad or hinged cam systems.
Things to Consider when Buying a Compound Bow
1. Purpose of the Bow
To decide on all the other important variables when choosing a bow, the first step is figuring out what you will be using the bow for. If this is clear then the rest of the variables that you will need to decide on directly related to the design of the bow (draw weight & let off length and arrow speed) will be much easier to decide on.
For instance, if you will use the bow primarily for hunting then you’re probably better suited to use a product with a higher let off as this implies you will need to hold draw positions for longer periods of time while stalking prey. Similar sorts of decisions will have to be made with other variables so it’s safe to say that no decisions on bow specs can be made without knowing the purpose it’s intended to fulfill.
2. Length of the Design
The length of the bow is the distance measured from axle to axle. The primary variable to have in mind when choosing the length of your compound bow is knowing what your max draw length is. You want a bow that will work well with the frame of your body. The last thing you want is to have a bow that is too long for you to pull to its full draw length, or a bow to small if you can potentially add more power and speed to your shot.
But not everything has to do with your size and build. The purpose of your new bow also comes into play here. Usually, a shorter bow makes for a better hunting bow as it becomes easier to carry around and prepare a shot quickly. On the other hand, the size of the bow is usually proportionate to balance so if your goal is to shoot targets then a larger bow length might be your way to go.
Ultimately the size of your bow will just depend on what feels right and works for you personally. Rather than depending on theoretical premises that might prove not to be the best for your specific situation.
3. Overall Weight
As discussed above, the weight could turn out to be a very personal spec and it will ultimately end up being what you feel the most comfortable with. On paper a heavier bow is better for target shooting while a smaller bow is better suited for hunting. But you will likely end up looking for medium ground on this one since you don’t want a bow too big for you to grow tired of it or a bow so small for you not to be able to shoot with enough power and speed to get the game you’re after.
4. Arrow Speed
Higher arrow speed is suited for hunters who want to avoid scaring their game away before the arrow reaches it. Not likely a quality you are looking for if your aim is target shooting, pun intended.
Arrow speed is of course strictly related to the power the bow has, the higher the power the higher the speed on the arrow. That said, the speed of the arrow is also an indicator of the weight on the arrow and the bow. So, a bow with higher arrow speed usually means a heavier bow and lighter arrows. Learn about the speed of an arrow shot from a compound bow.
5. Draw Weight & Let-Off
This might be made more complicated than it should be on other compound bow reviews, but here we are going to try and keep it short and simple. The draw weight is, in short, the amount of strength that must be applied by the archer to pull on the bow and reach maximum power. While the let-off is the amount of that strength that the cam system takes away from the user.
The let-off is expressed in percentage. For instance, if a bow has an 80% let-off, this just means that 80% of the strength applied on the bow will be done by the cam system. Meaning, the archer only must hold on to 20% of the total strength generated by the tension on the shot.
That said, the more the power the more the speed on the arrow and effectivity when shooting to kill. The higher the let-off, the easier it will be for you to reach maximum power on each shot.
Need we say more? As with any product you need to look for a bow that suits your immediate needs but there are ways of doing so without breaking the bank. A high-end compound bow will also likely mean high-end arrows to go with it, so take arrow pricing into account when deciding on a bow.
What is the Best Compound Bow for You?
1. PSE Prophecy 70-Pound Skullworks – Best Compound Bow Overall
As one of the fastest compound bows out there, this PSE work of art gives you the ability to shoot arrows at 340 feet per second. Largely due to the PSE pas-parallel limb technology that aids in a stronger arrow release. Along with its single-cam action fully constructed in aircraft-grade aluminum which helps this bow provide additional strength without making sacrifices on overall product weight.
As the best compound bow out there today, total weight draw must be a fit for all user ranges. Averaging a 60-pound draw weight, this piece will be able to satisfy users in the scale ranging from beginner to professional, based on it’s easy to manage yet sufficient total weight draw. Making it a manageable piece for both rookie and veteran hunters alike.
When it comes to hunting, the size of the game is probably one of the most important variables when choosing a bow, once again, a wide range is a must for the overall best bow on the shelves. Skullworks has done a fantastic job by making this unit fit for small, medium and large game by perfectly balancing size, power, and speed. However, if looking for a potential “draw-back” (pun intended), it has to be said that the let-off on this unit needs to be sacrificed from the usual 80% to a total 75% in order to achieve that perfect balance. Which in our opinion, is not that much of a let down when taking into account the low vibration and quiet operation of our choice for best compound bow 2019.
2. Predator Archery RAPTOR – Best Compound Bow for Hunting
Predator Archery has outdone themselves with this one. Although compound bows might not be your choice if you are a highly experienced bow hunter, the Raptor is a hunting specific bow that regardless of its short time on the market has made itself a go-to item in the hunting realm. Even though it is not considered a premium compound bow itself, its performance is comparable and is available at a major discount when comparing to other high-end units out there.
Accuracy is probably the word we are looking for if you asked us to describe this piece in one word. Power would be the second one if you give us some room. All packed into a smooth drawing and easily maneuvered design. Which, if you think about it, is all you look for when out on the hunt for game. Maneuverability and an easy hold draw are what you’re looking for (but you already know this).
With speed and accuracy that is second to almost none and trust-worthy manufacturing, the Raptor is a versatile unit suited for most hunters out there, ranging from very experienced to the not so much. This added to the extra perks brought by a solid out-of-box accessory kit.
3. Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow – Best Compound Bow for Technology
It’s easy to catalog bows as an antique and butch product. But if you’re a true hunter or marksman, then you surely know that there is nothing that could be further from the truth. Bow manufacturing, like any other market, is one that is driven by innovation and new technology. Bear Archery is a brand recognized for doing just that.
How to make a bow rigid but just flexible enough to grant you smooth draws and shooting is a feature that is no longer solely dependent on material hardness. This fantastic piece of engineering has found the way of doing precisely that with its intricate limb system tied directly to the core of the bow, in addition to the movable dampener system that minimizes vibration during the draw and release. Which is the main reason why the Realm is able to provide the accuracy it promises.
The skeleton frame on this bow allows the unit to provide enough flex and accuracy accompanied by lightweight and maneuverability suited for hunting. Also, note-worthy is the Bowtech Clutch Performance Grip that cuts the pain out of the heavier weight draws in this state-of-the-art model.
4. SAS Rage – Best Compound Bow for the Money
Although you might be asking yourself what Southland Archery Supply is, it’s likely something you are expecting if your priorities are set on the added value for the money quality. The Rage sits on the heavier side of the spectrum but this is probably due to its durability and endurance, featured by the fiberglass used for the limbs in addition to the aluminum alloy cam system.
Keep in mind that the Rage is a unit designed for entry-level or rookie archers. Which right of the bat does not make this the best unit for medium and big game hunters. However, it’s probably a good place to start for small game hunting as the low price does not necessarily mean cheap on this piece and the draw is designed to be smooth and easy for the archer to adapt to. Not only that, but 70-pounds of total draw weight make room for kill shots and 5-pound increment adjustments make it easy for novice hunters to practice on easier draws.
Even though the noise on this bow is not the loudest, it is also not the quietest in the game. Something that you should expect when purchasing a bow sitting at $149 USD. But hey, there is a solution to everything and this noise issue is not the exception, just make sure to purchase a dampening kit and say bye-bye to undesired vibration and noise. There aren’t many other compound bow choices that can deliver the performance of the Rage for this price tag, so if bang for the buck is your number one on the checklist then we suggest you proceed to check out.
5. Bear Archery Escape – Best Compound Bow for Arrow Speed
Although 350 fps is probably not the fastest arrow speed you have seen out there if you’re an experienced outdoorsman/woman. It is a premise for us to look at the whole bow rather than just one of the features and this is something that’s easy to do with the Escape, as its manufacturer (Bear Archery) promises years of experience and a reputable background. That said, 350 fps should be enough for hunting almost any game.
Not only because of the lightning-fast speeds with every draw but because of the low levels of noise and vibration promised by the rubber inserts included to the design on the riser. Both risers and cams are made entirely of aluminum alloy. Being a hybrid bow this unit also makes a case as the best compound bow for speed as the draw feels smooth all the way through but avoids any sacrifices on arrow speed.
However light, 4 pounds is not the lightest you will see on most compound bow reviews, but given the features on this unit, a few ounces more on total weight is a compromise we are willing to make. The draw ranges in lengths of 25.5” to 30”, which on paper makes it a unit suited for a wide range of users, but the combination of price and weight probably doesn’t make this the best option for novice archers.
6. PSE Perform X – Best Compound Bow for Competition
Once again PSE is on a top-rated compound bows list, although we might sound surprised we really aren’t as PSE is considered one of the best compound bow brands in the market today. We have to say that the best compound bow for competition is not necessarily the best bow for target practice but in this case, Perform X is a part of PSEs target shooter line. Which might explain the bright color options that come with this bow. Remember the purpose of this unit is to hit the target, which apparently took a hit on the weight when designing the bow as it sits at a whopping 5.2 gram.
This unit comes with a shoot-through riser that helps the archer achieve accuracy as it stops the bow from flexing and potentially hurting the accuracy of your shot. Although not the widest range of draw weight, this unit comes with a good enough 50-60Lbs draw weight to serve its sharpshooting purpose.
7. Leader Accessories Compound Bow – Best Compound Bow for Beginners and Youth
It is our belief that a bow purchase should be a smart one. What that means is, that even though you’re looking for a beginner bow we suggest that you analyze if you are in it for the long run or just to have fun from time to time. If you’re in it for the long run then this bow is probably not for you, however, if your desire is just to test the waters or perhaps teach your children how to shoot arrows and decide later on to purchase a more expensive unit, then you have arrived to the right item on the list.
First of all, do not buy this bow if you’re a left-handed user as the item is designed for right-handed archers only. The bow comes with a dual cam system capable of shooting targets up to 40 yards and hunting small to medium game. Which explains the draw weight range of 50 to 70 pounds.
Although the draw is smooth and reliable on this unit, it is not recommended to hung using this bow without a silencer and stabilizer as the shot can be on the noisy side. Which is safe to say that this is where Leader Accessories makes their cheddar as this IS a bow meant for hunting. In addition to the noise and vibration, the unit already sits on the heavy side at 4.4 Lbs, and to that be sure to account for extra weight in accessories for long hunting trips.
8. Prime Logic Compound Bow – Best Compound Bow for Target Practice
Prime Archery has developed a versatile product that suits both target shooting competitions as well as ticking the main boxes for all types of hunting. With a draw length range of 24.5” to 30” and draw weight from 40 pounds all the way up to 80 pounds, it’s safe to say the Prime Logic is really the versatile instrument it promises to be and is game for any type of game.
The bow comes with a dual cam system, or how Prime Archery likes to call it, the TRK Parallel Cam System. Which helps provide an extra smooth draw. The Prime Centergy Technology helps you lock on to the target by raising the grip position, allowing for a more comfortable draw and hold. Making for a comfortable shooting experience along with the aluminum alloy risers with the Swerve technology which intends to keep the limbs working in synchrony to maximize let off, power and speed.
9. Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow – Best Compound Bow under $500
If it’s not clear by now, we love Bear Archery because it is a reliable and experienced manufacturer. And all of this is considered when choosing a bow, especially under $500 as it is of great importance that the manufacturer is trustworthy and is not skimming on cost where it shouldn’t.
Not only is the manufacturer incredibly trustworthy but the bow also has an incredibly wide draw weight range of 5 to 70 Lbs adjustable between 12” and 30”. The unit is constructed with aluminum alloy that makes this item durable yet lightweight.
Beginner hunters and all types of archers are the target audiences for this bow, which comes with a string stabilizer, twin-cam system, and suppressor that provide both quiet release for the hunter and a smooth draw for the novice. Regardless of all the amazing little features this piece comes with, it has to be said that 315 fps speed is probably not suited for big game hunters or others looking for high shot power.
10. Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro – Best Compound Bow for Women
Manufactured by Bowtech, Diamond is a trustworthy bow and one of the first innovators in the women archer’s market. The Diamond comes with all the quality benefits that Bowtech has to offer but with a more budget-friendly price tag. Since the weight for this bow is customizable the unit is likely to be better suited for beginner women and children in addition to a draw length to suit most sizes.
Arrow speed can exceed 300 fps, which in most cases is not saying a lot, but good enough for small game and for shooting under 40 ft. Although the main feature to point out for this item is probably the impressive 80% let-off which allows the user to hold the shot long enough for perfect alignment, which is also magnified by the 3.1 Lbs lightweight this bow has.
11. PSE Carbon Air Stealth – Lightest Compound Bow
Carbon fiber makes for a lightweight material which ultimately takes the credit for this 3.5-pound bow being possible. It also has to be said that with reduction in weight there are barely any sacrifices made in precision as the Air Stealth is designed with a 35” length from axle to axle, giving it a long and steady platform.
As previously advertised, the riser is also built from carbon and makes for a light, yet sturdy design that promises a smooth shot with every draw. The 90% let-off is also the main feature on this bow, product of the 35” length discussed. The draw itself comes with a draw length range of 26.5” to 31.5” and can be adjusted all the way up to 70-pound draw weight.
12. Elite Archery Impulse 34 – Most Powerful Bow
Although speed is not the number one variable to watch out for with this unit, it is at a level worth mentioning with 340 fps. The entry-level kit itself comes with accessories that you have to buy separately for other units in the same price range which is always a plus in our books (stabilizer, 4-arrow quiver, wrist strap, etc.).
But what you were looking for the most powerful item on the best compound bows list, then probably speed and accessories are not what you were expecting to find. Don’t worry, we have you covered. The Impulse 34 brings a 70-pound max. draw weight to the table, which combined with its 340-fps speed and a 27.5” draw length, this piece packs a serious blow for its target, be that small, medium or large game.
It also needs to be mentioned that the power on this item also comes from the 34” axle-to-axle length along with a 6” brace height. Which in return probably does not make this bow the best option for women, children and smaller archers.
13. Gen-X Bow – Best Affordable Compound Bow
Affordable doesn’t necessarily need to come attached to a sub-par performance. The Gen-X compound Bow is easy and ready to use out-of-box. If you are also a beginner hunter or looking for a bow for one, then look no further than the Gen-X if your plan is to start with small game. Not only this, but you will probably struggle to find a bow on the market better suited for training.
The unit can come for both left-handed shooters as well as right-handed shooters, adding versatility to the design. Although you are not likely to be familiar with Gen-X, it’s safe to say that quality is guaranteed based on its American manufacturing and the materials used for construction (mainly aluminum alloy for major important parts like the riser and cam system) and composite for the limbs, which ultimately benefits the balance on the unit and the overall 3.4 pound weight.
With a total max draw weight of 40 lbs and adjustability to 25 pounds, this is evidently not the most powerful or fast bow in the market, but it is a good option to build yourself up whether that is on strength or shooting level. Another cool feature for beginner or novice shooters is the capacity to adjust the bow between 21” and 30”. Lightweight and decently priced, the Gen-X compound bow is one of the top compound bows in the affordable price rating.
14. Bear Kuma Compound Bow – Most Accurate Compound Bow
Although the Kuma could have easily taken first place in the best hunting bows category, it is not easy to say which product is actually the best hunting bow of all time. That said, we decided to retire the Kuma from that infructuous battle and point out the accuracy and consistency that this bow delivers.
Hunting bows (which is what the Kuma is at its core) need to mix a number of variables in a single bow in order to excel in their primary objective; lightweight, arrow speed, low noise levels and last but not least, accuracy.
The Bear cage design reduces weight while still maintaining a stable structural design of the bow and adding extra rigidity to the already lightweight body. A balanced mix between weight (4.1 pounds) and the 30” axle to axle length, make this a compact compound bow that promises to shoot with accuracy every time you draw, be that with the 45 to 60-pound version or 55 to 70-pound draw weight version.
15. PSE Bow Madness Epix – Best Quiet Compound Bow
Stealth is a major factor when shopping for a new compound bow. Even though it’s not listed on the considerations when acquiring a bow, it’s a spec you want to keep your eye on if the purpose of your bow is hunting fidgety and aware game like elk. The Epix is not only one of the quietest bows you’ll find on the market but also packs considerable speed.
The unit comes with shorter and preloaded limbs and dampers out-of-box that make this unit quiet and considerably low on vibration. Not only this but the Epix a machined riser and PSE X force limbs that prove to dampen the sound and vibration without needing to equip any additional accessories that could potentially prove to be a liability for weight and price. PSE has been around for a while and is considered a reputable manufacturer.
There are numerous compound bows on the market. And choosing the right one can be a long and overwhelming process. With our top 10 list, you may find the best one that fits your personal needs.
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