You might be a hunter or a target archer. You might want speed or you might favor something light and versatile. The best compound bow for you is going to be the one that meets your budget and your needs.
In this article we've scoured the market and found a selection of bows that we think deserve some recognition. There's something for everyone.
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.
Take a look through our roundup of the top compounds, we've reviewed each of these in more detail further down this article after a general buyers guide that introduces you to the facts and features of the compound.
Compound Bow Roundup
Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon.
If you want a good overview of all the bows we've reviewed (and some we haven't), take a look at our compound bow comparison table.
We list them all alongside their price range, IBO speed, draw weights, lengths, handedness and other factors. It's a great way to quickly narrow down what you're looking for if we've not covered it here!
The Top Compound Brands
There are an overwhelming number of compound bows available on the market today. The compound is popular because of its adaptability and has really streaked ahead of the more traditional recurve bow because of what it can offer.
Finding the right bow for you will depend up your skill level, your end game and to some extent, your pocket. Don’t assume that a cheaper price necessarily means an inferior product.
Hardcore archers will always have their favorite brands but household names are not necessarily the ones to go for. There are lots of other lesser known makes which offer really decent alternatives.
If you are new to the market and really struggling to discern between all the different bows on offer then this article will take you through some of what we think of as the best compound brands of today.
This is an American company with a long history and which prides itself on a totally reliable and ethical product. Founded by Fred Bear in 1902, Bear Archery has been around long enough to have an impeccable knowledge and pedigree, honed by many years designing and crafting the very best products.
Managed and steered by the great Fred Bear until his death in 1988, the company has always been driven by his lifelong passion for hunting and personal quest to make the best possible bows. Begun as a hobbyist venture, making bows for friends, the company took shape in the late thirties as demand began to demonstrate to Fred that he knew what he was talking about. The rest as they say is history.
Bowtech Archery is a market leader in terms of innovation and the development of archery products. Bowtech is not standalone as it is the parent of other very well known brands such as Excalibur Crossbows and Diamond Archery so their reach goes well beyond the US, into Canada and worldwide.
Bowtech is based in the States and boasts a passionate and dedicated workforce which really listens to their customers and thrives on communication and innovation. Bowtech pride themselves on ongoing customer contact which allows them to not only offer support, but also to improve design and development based on customer usage. It is fair to say that they are at the forefront of bow design, always with several patents pending and their stated ethos ‘refuse to follow’ really emphasizes their drive and desire to be at the cutting edge of bow development.
Precision Shooting Equipment (PSE)
An American sporting giant, based in Tuscon, a newer kid on the block at around forty-seven years old, this company again began out of the vision of its hobbyist founder, Pete Shepley. Wanting to harness the newest technologies of the seventies, Pete Shepley’s revolutionary ideas were initially met with derision from established market players and so, he founded his own company so that he could begin to fulfil his vision.
He made his first compound bow not long after and quickly received enough orders to demonstrate that this was indeed viable and popular. PSE was one of the first manufacturers to use aluminium to make bowrisers and other accessories. PSE also pioneered what is described as the four stage forging process, designed to create the most lightweight bow with maximum strength. PSE remain committed to the use of the most modern manufacturing processes, to improve the development of the compound bow both within PSE and to further outreach to the sport of archery in general.
No frills bow purchase, Diamond is a brand that sits underneath the great umbrella that is Bowtech and offers a more economically priced bow but with no compromise on quality. All Diamond bows are designed and manufactured in exactly the same way as Bowtech bows. The only difference between the bows is that Bowtech bows have a binary cam system which is the latest industry design whereas Diamond is still using the single cam technology that has been around for twenty years.
Diamond offers the same quality and design that is inherent in Bowtech and very solid and reliable products at great value. The other point to note is that Diamond bows are not sold directly to the public so you have to locate a dealer via their website; this differs a little from the supply and distribution of Bowtech products which are store based.
Southland Archery offers a full range of both traditional and compound bows. Based in southern California, they have been supplying to the archery market for about ten years and pride themselves on field testing all of their products and also their incredibly competitive prices. Southland have possibly the most economic range of products and there doesn’t seem to be any compromise on quality either.
The website is however a little spartan in detail and facts compared to others but don’t let this put you off. This just reflects the company’s newer status in the archery field compared to some of the other industry giants.
Compound 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.
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.
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.
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 guess.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Reviews of Our Top Picks
Diamond Infinite Edge Pro
"versatility and performance and a great price"
The second generation of the Infinite Edge is something most people will never outshoot. This has been an incredibly popular bow for Diamond and with the level of versatility and performance it shows for a reasonable price point it isn’t hard to see why.
You can adjust the draw weight from 5-70 lbs, the length from 13-31”. This has what some might say is the ‘ideal’ brace height of 7” and sets out the stall at 310 fps on the IBO speed rating front coupled with an 80% let-off.
With that level of weight adjustment this is a bow suitable for all types of archers, target shooters, Elk hunters and even youth archers who need something they can grow with.
The second iteration of this bows improves on the first by adding a solid back wall to the draw cycle.
People rave about the Diamond and they have been doing so for years, it’s been their best selling bow of all time. More here in our full review.
- Extreme Adjustability and Versatility
- 3 Color Choices
- Solid Back Wall
- Lifetime Warranty
"a flagship that's like 3 bows in 1"
A true flagship bow in terms of performance, technology, and style. Few bows will out shoot the 343 fps. arrow speeds, and few bows will match this bow for quietness, and a dead in the hand shot
The Prodigy comes with Overdrive cams and Powershift technlogy. Overdrive are the standard dual cam system for Bowtechs flagship bows and have been for a few years.
Powershift is a module on the cam that makes a huge difference in the shooter’s experience. Each module has three different settings; one for speed, one for comfort, and one is a happy medium.
Although the Bowtech Prodigy has many features worth noting, its best feature may be in the shootability department. This bow is touted as being dead in the hand, vibration free, and having zero torque and we agree. More details in our full review here.
PSE Brute Force
"a great mid range that has us raving"
With a silky smooth draw and dead-on accuracy the PSE Brute offers a good range of adjustability and is usually a steal for the price.
Whilst not quite as adjustable as something like the Diamond Edge Pro the Brute still offers a good range of adjustment and a higher IBO speed at 332 fps.
You get the same dual cams on this bow that you get with the BowMadness bows (a serious hunting bow). Those cams give it a smooth draw, solid back wall and almost no creep, vibration or noise.
A pleasure to shoot. Read more in the full review.
"a great bow for the bargain hunter"
If the high and mid range bows we've listed above are a little out of your price range you may want to take a look at this rugged performer from SAS.
The Rage is a great bow for introducing yourself to bowhunting or archery in general. It has good adjustability (55-70 lbs weight and 26-30 in length) and a reasonable 270 fps speed rating.
It won't be as quiet, or as smooth to draw as some of the others in this roundup but the price makes up for it.
One other downside to mention is that you can only get it for right handed shooters! Get the lowdown in our review.