What’s the Best Compound Bow for me?

So you want the best compound bow? It's tough to call an overall winner for everyone because every bow has a different purpose. You might be a hunter or a target archer. You might want speed or you might favour weight and versatility. With that in mind checkout our comparison tables. All the bows we've reviewed (and some we haven't) are listed to give you a great overview of what's on offer.

We've a specific guide if you're looking for a youth compound bow or maybe you have an older child or adult who's just getting started and need something that works well for a new starter because we've got you covered there too.

Compound Bow Comparison Table

Clicking the little arrows in the column headers below will allow you to sort this table by any specification you want. Fastest on top? Highest let-off? Lightest? Just click the little arrow in the relevant column and you can sort by whichever you choose. If you're on a mobile device or tablet this table is scrollable, just swipe across to see the columns hidden to the right.

*The links to check prices in the table below will take you to Amazon and the links on the crossbow name will take you to our review page (if applicable)

Compound Bow

Award

Price Range

IBO
Speed
(fps)

Let-Off
(%)

ATA
Length 
(inches)

Min
Draw

(inches)

Max
Draw
(inches)

Min
Draw

Weight
(lbs)

Max
Draw

Weight
(lbs)

Bow

Mass
(lbs)

Riser

Material​

Hands

350

75

32

25.5

30

45

70

4

Aluminium

L&R

335

80

31

26.5

30.5

50

70

3.2

Carbon

L&R

332

80

31.25

25

31

30

70

4.2

Aluminium

L&R

315

70

30

12

30

5

70

3

Aluminium

L&R

Low/Med - Check Price

315

80

31

24.5

31.5

30

70

4

Aluminium

L&R

Best Buy

Low/Med - Check Price

310

80

31

13

31

5

70

3.2

Aluminium

L&R

​Low/Med - Check Price

310

75

31

13

30

5

70

3.1

Aluminium

L&R

310

75

32

12

30

5

70

3.6

Aluminium

L&R

Low/Med - Check Price

310

80

32.25

24

31

50

70

4

Aluminium

L&R

Low/Med - Check Price

310

80

31

25

32

40

70

3.7

Aluminium

L&R

Low/Med - Check Price

290

70

27 1/8

12

27

5

45

3.2

Aluminium

L&R

​Low - Check Price

270

70

35

26

30

55

70

4.4

Aluminium

R

SAS Siege

​Low - Check Price

206

70

41.5

29

29

40

55

4

Aluminium

R

Compound Bow Buyers Guide

Let's take a spin through the features and specifications you'll see listed for compound bows and why they matter to you.

Handedness

Unfortunately, unless you're shooting a survival bow or a traditional longbow without a shelf, modern bows such as the compound are limited by design to use either by a left or a right hander. To just clarify which is which, the hand you use to draw the string on a bow is the handedness of the bow. For example a right handed bow is held in the left hand and the bowstring drawn back with the right hand. Vice versa for a left handed bow.

To determine which way you should shoot you need to know which of your eyes is the dominant one, and then your handedness before you can  make a decision. Fortunately we've written a useful guide on the subject which will help you figure out which way you should shoot.

Bows have specific models for either right or left handers and some bows don't have both variants and are only made for one hand or the other. We usually list this information alongside all the bows we review. Be sure to make sure the bow you're interested in comes made for your handedness.

Eccentric Systems (Cams)

The compound bow is designed based on a mechanical system called the Eccentric System. This system always has a string and one or two cables and harnesses. As you draw the bowstring, you wrap the harness around the cam and pull the arms towards each other.

Cams comes in several different styles and it's the style of cam that can determine the speed of the arrow, the let-off of the bow and the feel of the draw

Two cam systems were​ standard for decades but inherent problems meant the design is not as popular today. A two cam system without perfectly matched harness lengths can kick an arrow tail high or low. This is because one end of the bow string will retract faster than the other.  This type of system required continually checks of a bow on a press which is a maintenance nightmare you really don't need, and also the reason for the development of the single cam system.

Single cam​ bows have a cam on the bottom arm and an idler wheel on the top. The advantage of this system comes from the fact that the the length of the cable does not affect accuracy. If the cable is stretched you can still fire accurately. The downside with the single cam is that single cam bows are not designed to work well with all draw lengths.

Hybrid bows have two cams directly connected to each other. This system also prevents any change in bowstring length from affecting arrow flight.

Binary bows have identical cams on the top and bottom, this maximises efficiency, but the harness from each cam is attached to the other cam instead of the bow arm. By linking cams together you get the best of both worlds. A huge amount of energy can be stored and the bow adjusts to length changes in bowstring automatically.

Let Off (%)

Let-off is possible because of the cams in compound bows. To explain let off quickly all you need to understand is this:

A bow with a 70 lbs draw weight and an 80% let off will only require the archer to hold 14 lbs at full draw.

The amount of draw weight that you actually have to hold back at full draw in the bow is the draw weight of the bow minus the let-off percentage. You still have to pull through the peak draw of the bow so don't think that let-off means you can draw a bow well above your draw weight category.

Fore and Draw Curve for a Compound Bow

Fore and Draw Curve for a Compound Bow

If you want to see that principle graphically, then take a look at the picture, this shows force vs draw for a typical compound bow. At certain points in the draw you need to pull through the full draw weight of the bow, but at the peak (end) of the draw the majority of force is let off. The benefits of a high let-off percentage are mainly for hunters. A hunter can hold an arrow which will shoot with a high draw weight at full draw for long periods whilst he readies a shot. A compound target archer may use a lower let-off as there is less need to hold the aim for extended periods and they may feel more comfortable aiming with more weight through their arms.

IBO Speed (fps)

When comparing bows, we use a standard measurement called IBO speed. IBO Speed is the speed of a 350- grain arrow released from a 70-pound bow with a 30-inch draw length through a certified chronograph, measured in feet per second (fps).

These specifications do not necessarily represent the arrow weight, draw weight, and draw length you will actually use. It does, however, give a standard measurement by which to compare bows. For hunting we'd suggest an IBO speed of at least 300 feet per second. Over 320 feet per second is considered a fast bow.

ATA, A2A or Axle to Axle Length

Axle to axle length is defined as the distance between axles when the bow is at rest. This measurement should be taken with the draw weight bottomed out for the most accurate measurement. Conventional wisdom has stated that a longer A2A length is more accurate than a shorter one. However, this means carrying a heavier bow. At normal hunting and target distances, the difference in accuracy is barely noticeable. Unless you are trying out for the Olympics, it will not make a huge difference.

ATA Length and Brace Height

(A) ATA Legnth, (B) Brace Height

Brace Height

Brace height is defined as the distance between the bowstring and the back of the handle. The shorter your brace height, the faster your arrow will travel. Most hunters consider a brace height of 7 inches to be the perfect distance.

Min/Max Draw Lengths (inches)

Before you look at this specification you really need to know your preferred draw length. Fortunately if you don't know there are several easy ways to figure this out. Once you've done that you need to understand that compound bows can be adjusted to work with differing draw lengths, so long as your preferred draw length is within the acceptable range for the bow you'll be fine.

You should note however that compound bow speed ratings (IBO speeds) are measured with a 30 inch draw length. If your actual draw length is higher than 30 inches you can expect an increase in your actual shot fps over the specification (allowing for arrow weight of course). If you draw lower than 30 inches, again you can expect your actual arrow speed to be less . Exactly what the difference will be entirely depends on the bow.

An estimate of 10 fps increase or decrease per inch of draw above or below ​30" is not a bad gues s.

Min/Max Draw Weights (lbs)

Just as a compound will allow for you to adjust for draw length it will also allow you to adjust the draw weight. Even though let-off will mean you don't have to hold all that weight, you still need to draw through it. Take a look here for a good guide to estimating a good draw weight based on your size.

Compound draw weights can range from 10 pounds for a child upto to 70 pounds for a strong adult. You typically need at least 40 lbs for hunting big game such as whitetail deer). 

Riser Styles

On a compound bow, the riser is the middle portion of the bow upon which the handle is mounted. Modern bows typically have several cutouts that are used to make the bow lighter while still maintaining structural integrity. Most risers are made of aluminum to keep the bow light and prevent rust. However, some modern bows now have risers made of fiberglass or carbon fibre for an even lighter finished product. Most of the bows accessories are attached to the riser such as sights, quivers, stabilizers, arrow rests, and wrist slings.

Limb Styles

The limbs on a bow are the arms that attach to the riser and are typically made of fiberglass. Some limbs are solid while others have a split design. Solid limbs may be more likely to break. Some people feel that a split limb design will be more prone to imbalances that can affect the flight of the arrow. Either way, most modern bows have parallel limbs (meaning that that top limb is parallel to the bottom limb). This creates less noise from vibration as the limbs are moving in opposite directions.

Price

Higher let-off, higher bow speed, lighter construction, durability, adjustability. These are all desirable things. However as all these numbers go up so, usually will the price tag. The amount you want to pay is obviously going to be determined by your budget. There are some great bargains out there as manufacturers start to target different sectors of the user base. As retailers can have sales, prices can seasonally fluctuate, so we've decided it best to not list them on our site at all rather than list them inaccurately. We've provided links for you to check the prices of all the bows we review. As always, buy the best you can afford that fits your criteria. If you're a beginner, get a bargain entry level bow first, make sure you enjoy the sport before you move on up the scale to something a little more expert!

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