In this compound bow buyer’s guide for beginners, we’re going to look past the propaganda and consider the core aspects you need to know before buying a compound bow.
Please note this is just a guide and we suggest you speak to a SANAA accredited dealers of bows to get good advice.
With anything that you buy, you must first consider application. Why are you buying a compound bow? Are you into hunting or target shooting? The application calls for different specifications. To start, we need to fit the bow to the shooter.
Let’s become familiar with a couple very important terms for fitting the bow to the shooter: draw length and draw weight.
Compound bows will draw only a certain distance before the string stops. This distance is the draw length. Most compound bows have a range for draw length and can be adjusted to fit the shooter for a comfortable shooting form. It’s very important that shooters find their appropriate draw length for multiple reasons.
· If draw length is too short, it can hurt accuracy since maintaining reference points for aiming becomes more difficult. At full draw, shooters have an anchor point, and too short of a draw length leads to a floating anchor point and therefore inconsistency between shots. Too short of a draw length also can lead to increased torque on the bow which contributes to inaccuracy.
· If draw length is too long, archers have the natural tendency to lean their head back in an attempt to see properly through the peep sight, a small device used for aiming. This will cause a host of other problems such as bad back posture and therefore shooting form. Improper shooting form can add tension and torque to the bow, leading to inaccuracy. To make matters worse, this will inevitably cause the shooter’s bow arm, or arm holding the bow, to extend more than it needs, putting the inner elbow right in the path of the string. Ouch!
· Proper draw length. There are endless sources that explain how to predict or measure draw length. For the beginning archer, it’s smart to visit your local Bass Pro Shops archery department or other qualified archery shop to measure draw length. Having the correct draw length will help with form, consistency, accuracy and safety.
Bow Draw Weight
When it comes to draw weight, the most important thing to understand is matching your strength to the bows draw weight. Heavier draw weights produce faster speeds, but more important than speed is finding a weight that you can hold at full draw steadily without too much stress. Draw weight is the peak weight you pull as the string is being drawn back before let-off. Compound bows have what’s called let-off, which is a way to lessen the weight archers have to hold at full draw. So, when considering draw weight, also look for let off percentage.
Selecting draw weight— What archers need to consider, hunters especially, is the potential to be drawn back for long periods of time while waiting for an opportune shot. Or, drawing in adverse conditions, as draw weights that are too heavy are hard to hold for a long time and are even harder to draw after a long sit in a treestand on a cold winter day. So, match the weight to your strength.
When testing bows, see if you can draw and hold the bow for a full 20-30 seconds without shaking. If you can, then the draw weight should be appropriate for you. Another important point is accuracy, having a draw weight that you can easily draw and hold will allow you to have a steadier and more accurate shot.
When choosing a bow, length is an important factor for manoeuvrability and stability. Again, what is the application? If hunting, shorter bows are more controllable in the field or in the treestand. If target shooting, many archers suggest that longer bows are more accurate. Bow length is measured from axle to axle, and while there is no set length, hunting bows are generally shorter, around 30 to 32 inches. Target shooting bows will be significantly longer. There’s no right or wrong answer, it comes down to personal preference and application for the end user.
Speed and Noise
Common among archers is talk about speed and noise. Modern bows are capable of shooting upwards of 350 feet-per-second or more. Arrow speed is important because it also translates to kinetic energy, or knock-down power. Bows able to shoot heavy arrows at fast speeds will provide greater penetration potential, which is desired when hunting. Faster arrows also shoot flatter, which aids in downrange accuracy.
Also important to archery hunters is noise. A quiet bow is generally desired over a loud bow. When a bow fires, energy stored in the bows working components is transferred to the arrow, but some of that energy isn’t transferred and is lost as vibration, which causes sound. Thanks to new innovative designs, energy loss is minimized and compound bow accessories called vibration dampeners can absorb leftover vibrations making for a quiet shot.
Bare vs. Ready-to-shoot
For the beginning archer, it is important to understand the difference between a bare bow and a ready-to-shoot bow. The compound bow is designed to use accessories when shooting an arrow. For example, an arrow rest, a sight and a quiver to start. Ready-to-shoot bows that come in packages have these necessary accessories already on the bow. However, if you buy a bare bow then you’ll have to outfit that bow with the required accessories. Either way is fine, but realize that a bare bow will require some additional work and money before going out and shooting
Finding the best compound bow for a beginner archer is easier than you think… if you know what to look for, that is.
How Much Should a Beginner Pay For a Compound?
As nice as it is to believe that your first compound bow will be perfect, the reality is you will likely want to buy a new one a few years down the road. As a result, you want your first bow to be solid and adjustable enough to grow with your experience, but also inexpensive so that:
You can get started quickly
You have enough money left to buy a higher-quality bow down the road
Most of the best compound bows will cost you R10 000 but there are a few models of exceptional quality that cost less than R5 000.
Make no mistake – while cheap, compound bows for beginners are absolutely not a toy; they’re equally deadly and dangerous weapons as models that cost twice or thrice as much.
How Much FPS (Speed) Should a Beginner Go For?
Compound bows are governed by basic laws of physics. Despite their modern design and fancy technologies used, they are no more than a slingshot with a somewhat fancier construction. As a result, there is a very simple relationship to be aware of: The faster your bow shoots, the more aggressive the cams will feel and hence the more difficult the bow is to draw.
There is no way around this. Certain designs attempt to circumvent this fact, but they are then no longer considered regular bows – they become crossbows. As a novice archer, you don’t want the draw to be too aggressive and difficult as it will make it harder for you to properly learn shooting form.
As such, we strongly recommend that beginners stick to compound bows with an advertised IBO speed of below 330 FPS. Even 320 FPS is more speed than a beginner will ever need, and it can be used to successfully hunt the toughest game in the world. See our guide on kinetic energy to understand how powerful modern compounds actually are.
What Brace Height Should a Beginner Choose?
It doesn’t really matter. Back in the day when compound bows were still in their infancy, models with lower brace height were harder to shoot:
· They were harder to hold the bow properly
· They were harder to draw and aim it properly
· The string was more likely to hit your forearm upon release
As a result, some people back then recommended that beginner archers go for bows with a 7″ brace height or longer. In today’s world however, I believe this issue to be irrelevant.
Modern compound bow designs are designed in a way that makes brace height pretty much irrelevant as far as “beginners vs. advanced” comparisons go.
How Much Let-Off Should a Beginner’s Compound Bow Have?
The vast majority of modern compounds have a 75-80% let-off, and this is an excellent value regardless of whether you are just starting out or an advanced shooter. Many competitive archers prefer to use lower Let-off (such as 60%), but this is something a beginner should definitely not worry about.
Additionally, the vast majority of modern compound bows allow you to slightly change the let-off settings by reducing them from the maximum to a lower value. As a beginner though, you’ll want to keep the let-off as high as possible because it will allow you to hold the drawn bow for a long duration, giving you more than enough time to properly aim and make sure your technique is on point.
How Much Draw Weight Should a Beginner’s Compound Have?
Some compound bows, have a wide range of different draw weights you can choose from. With most other compounds, however, you’ll need to decide on the peak draw weight before you make your purchase, typically having to choose either a 50, 60, or a 70 lbs. version.
It’s hard to say how much draw weight you should go for as a novice, as it depends on your strength, body build, and a few other factors. To answer your question, please consult our compound bow draw weight chart, which will help you determine an approximate acceptable draw weight based on your body shape and gender.
Can Beginners Hunt With a Compound Bow?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve come to realize that many people believe you need a top-of-the-line compound bow, with 350+ FPS and a 5″ brace height if you want to hunt. The reality is that most adult beginner archers will be able to handle bows more than capable of taking down a deer, elk, black bear, and even bigger game.
All things considered, whether a compound bow is suitable for hunting is not determined by its status as a “beginner” or “advanced” bow. It’s determined solely based on how much kinetic energy (KE) an arrow shot through it will carry. The more KE, the more deeply the arrow will pierce, and the larger the game you can take down. Please read our reviews of the bows listed in the chart above, as we mention how much kinetic energy you can expect from each of them, depending on your settings (draw weight, length, and arrow weight). For more on the subject, please read our guide to kinetic energy.
What About The AtA Length And Weight Of The Bow?
The general rules are as follows:
· For hunting purposes, you should prefer shorter (less than 33″ axle to axle) and lighter (less than 4.3 lbs.) compound bows. As you will need to carry the bow around in the field, manoeuvre it in a blind or tree stand, the compact size and low weight will come extremely handy.
· For target shooting purposes, a longer bow will provide better stability and less vibration, thereby improving your aim.
As a beginner though this is not something you should worry about much. Just make sure the bow isn’t too long (over 35″ in length). You also want it to be relatively light-weight so that your muscles don’t tire too quickly from all the practice you’ll probably be doing. Any of the bows listed above will work just fine.
Best Compound Bow For a Beginner – Summary
Hopefully the advice above has been helpful to you. If you’re still at a loss and not sure what model to get, please leave a comment below describing:
· Your gender, age, height and weight
· Your budget
· Your previous experience with archery (if any)
· Your goal (hunting, target practice, or both?)