What’s the Best Beginner Compound Bow?

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So your sights are set on a compound bow? Like many before you, you were probably drawn in by the speed and power of these simple yet ingenious weapons. You may want to start hunting, hit the range or help your child discover a new hobby. Compound bows are great for all these things.

Of course, despite their shared technology, different models of bows are better for different purposes. More importantly, different people need different models depending on size, age and prior archery experience.

Below you’ll find information on numerous factors like draw weight, draw length and accessories. You need to be aware of all these things and how they relate to your plans with your compound bow. Once you have a clear idea of compound-bow specs, you can find the best beginner bow to start you on your new archery adventure.

There’s a lot of choice out there on the market. Let’s quickly run through our picks before we get into the detail….

What's the best starter compound bow?

Our Picks for the Best Starter Compound

Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon and other retailers

Which handedness of bow you need…

If you don’t already know this, here’s a quick recap.Which way round do you shoot? Which hand picks up the bow and which draws the string? If you know which is your dominant eye and your dominant hand then use our guide to figure that out.The hand you’d use to draw back the bowstring IS the handedness of bow. So…

  • Right handed bows are held in the left hand and the string is pulled back in the right hand.
  • Left handed bows are held in the right hand and the string is pulled back with the left hand.

Compound bows are made for either the right hand or the left hand. Some are only made for right handers (sorry lefties), but if you’re a leftie that sometimes will limit your choices, but not too much so don’t sweat it.

Bow Size Specs, ATA, Brace Heights and Draw Lengths

Measure a compound bow from “Axle To Axle” (one cam to the other) and you’ll get the ATA measurement. This is usually specified on bows and lets you know how large they are. It can help with choosing good case or backpack to suit the bow but other than that, unless you’re shooting long distances regularly (say 60 yards) then a shorter bow will be lighter and will be just as accurate as a longer bow.Modern compounds have a brace height that’s set by the manufacturer. Brace height is the distance from the bowstring to the back of the bow grip. The longer the brace height, the less time the string is in contact with the arrow after release and conventional wisdom would have you believe that this makes a bow more forgiving. With today’s fast bows you’d be okay to ignore conventional wisdom and go for any brace height you like. Longer brace heights sometimes make for slower bows but they certainly make for an easier draw cycle.Finally your draw length is something you can figure out pretty easily using the armspan method, but there are other methods (see our guide). 

Hold your your arms to your side, measure the span from middle finger to middle finger tip and divide it by 2.5. Round-up to the nearest cm or ½ inch and this is your draw length.

A little about IBO speeds and FPS

IBO speed is measured in feet per second (FPS) and is measured using a standard weight of arrow and a standard draw weight and draw length. It doesn’t tell you exactly how fast your bow will shoot, but it DOES give you a relative yardstick you can use to compare different bows. 310 fps for example would be considered a pretty fast bow.What you can safely use that speed for is dependent on the weight of your arrow and the type of arrow-head you’ll use. With a 310 fps bow and an arrow equipped with the right broadhead weighing 500 grains you’d be safe to hunt pretty much any game animal on the planet.

Draw Weight and Let-Off Percentage

With a compound bow you get the benefit of lef-off. To draw a 70 lbs compound as you pull back the string through the full cycle, at some point in that draw you will have to pull through 70 lbs of weight.At full draw however you’ll only be holding back the draw weight minus the let-off percentage.

For example a 70 lbs draw bow with 80% let off will only require you to hold back 14 lbs at full draw whilst aiming

That let-off makes aiming for extended periods much easier with a compound.

Adjustability

The ideal type of first bow you need is adjustable. Adjustable for BOTH draw weights and draw length.Fortunately most compound bows can be easily adjusted, but some more than others.Starting out you want a light weight on the draw that allows you attain proper form.As your technique improves you’ll want to increase the weight of your draw because you’re muscles will be able to handle more weight and keep that form.You’ll also find that as you shoot more and use your tendons and muscles you’ll naturally stretch and find yourself wanting to draw further.If you happen to be a youth, you’ll also benefit from the ability to adjust draw length and weight as you grow.

RTH Packages and Accessories

Lots of compound bows come RTH (ready to hunt) out of the box. That’s going to mean you’ll get a sight, stabilizer, silencers, bow-sling and sometimes other extras alongside the bare bow. This type of package is a good idea for a starter compound as you’ll save money vs purchasing them individually and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to get piece of kit that you know will work well together.

The Price/Performance Ratio

As with many things, you can pay top dollar if you want to and can afford it. That’s not where our recommendations will lie. Pay 5x the price of a ‘regular’ item, you won’t be guaranteed to get 5x the quality or performance. Too far up the scale and you’re throwing money at things you won’t ever appreciate, we call that the price/performance ratio.Our starter bow picks sit well in that range of gear that’s not too expensive but provides a good level of performance that a beginner will be more than happy with.

Starter Accessory Choices

Sometimes it can be confusing looking through all the different accessories available to compound bow hunters. The foundations of archery may be quite simple, but when it comes to maximizing your hunt, things get more complicated.

All accessories can help you get your quarry, but as a beginner, too many accessories will just weigh you down and get in your way. It’s better to start out with the essentials, get the hang of them, and then slowly add on more.  

Specifically, we recommend the following:

Quiver. You need something to hold your arrows. Quivers can be bracket mounted, which means they attach to your bow, or they can hip quivers.

Bow release. Compound bows are powerful, and it’s difficult to get a good shot without a release. A release holds the string so you can use the full power of your arm rather than relying on the skin of your fingers.

Arrow rest. Arrow rests are important for accuracy. They make sure the arrow leaves the bow on a straight trajectory. They can be drop-away rests which fall away from the arrow as it leaves the bow, preventing any interference, or they can be containment rests which hold the arrows securely in place.

Sight. Odds are you aren’t going to take down any game without a sight. For hunters, you want a pin sight that has different colored pins depending on how far away your target is. 

Other types of sights are available for other kinds of archery. If you’re a target shooter, for example, you might be fine with a single-pin sight. 

Sights themselves come with further accessories such as LEDs and peep sights. Like accessories in general, it’s best to start out simple and work your way up.

Silencer. This accessory is only necessary for hunters, but if that’s you, they’re essential. As the name suggests, silencers reduce the noise and vibrations produced by a compound bow shot. On the hunt, you want to be as quiet as possible.

Stabilizer. A stabilizer provides extra weight at the front of the bow which keeps it balanced when you draw. In addition to helping you make a cleaner shot, they usually absorb vibration from the bow and reduce noise.

Our Top Picks In Detail

Diamond Infinite Edge Pro – Best compound overall

Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro Bow Package
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

The second generation of the Infinite Edge is something most people will never outshoot.
You often see the Diamond Infinite Edge Pro marketed as a kids or ladies bow. However the level of adjustability on offer make this a suitable choice for archers of all types. Rather than buying a new bow every 2 years as your strength or technique improves, this bow will grow right along with you It simply is a great choice for anyone and seems to be spurring innovation within the archery industry.

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, and 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.

People rave about the Diamond and they have been doing so for years, it’s been their all time best compound bows for sales.

Checkout our full review here.

What we liked:

  • Adjustability and Versatility
  • 3 Color Choices
  • Solid Back Wall
  • Lifetime Warranty

What we didn’t:

  • If anything you could say the grip was a little ‘square’, but aftermarket grips are available if this bothers you.

Check the price on Amazon »

Bear Cruzer RTH

Bear Cruzer Sand
Bear Cruzer (Sand)

More than enough to hunt big game and versatile enough to grow with a new archer learning the basics. Bear bows are some of our favorites and the Cruzer offers a wide range of adjustments.

310 fps is the IBO speed you get from a bow that will adjust from 5 to 70 lbs of draw weight and 12-30” of draw length. Couple that with a 75% let-off and the only thing you may be left wondering about is why you’d ever choose the Cruzer G2 or the Cruzer Lite instead of the RTH. This bow has a brace height of 6.5″.

Well if you’re of a smaller frame and don’t need all the power the Lite might suit you better, whilst if you’re a more experienced shooter who wants ALL the performance and weight reduction they can muster the G2 is where you’ll sit. For the beginner though, the RTH fits just fine.This bow has a smooth draw, a lifetime warranty and this particular version is an RTH package with stabilizer, sling, sight and quiver. Also read our full review and our Bear vs Diamond ‘bow-off’ article.

What we liked:

  • Versatile
  • Smooth draw
  • Lifetime warranty
  • L&R Handers
  • 3 Color Choices

What we didn’t:

  • Sloppy back-wall
  • Slightly heavier than the Diamond

Check the price on Cabelas »

Leader Accessories Compound – Best for adult beginners

Leader Accessories Compound Bow 30-55lbs 19' - 29' Archery Hunting Equipment with Max Speed 296fps (Green Camo.)
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

It’s rare to find a basic starter bow with so many options, so the ten different combinations of finish and accessories really caught our attention. Even the simplest option includes an Allen wrench for adjusting the draw weight and length.

The draw weight specifically ranges from 30-55 lbs. That’s plenty for hunting while still being low enough to get a good feel with the bow before moving up. If you’re a large man, you may eventually want a heavier draw, but this is more than enough to start out with. 

The draw length is adjustable from 19-29 inches, which should cover almost any adult. The 70% let off and the 296 FPS firing speed are enough for hunting but not so much you won’t be able to get the hang of it. Brace height on this one is 7.5″.

Surprisingly, despite all the options, only right-handed bows are available. Still, if you’re looking to get into hunting, the multiple camo patterns make this a great choice. Plus, high-quality accessories like a camo carrying bag get you maximum use from this model.

Specifically, you can opt to purchase this bow with pretty much every accessory you can imagine for hunting, from a quiver to a stabilizer to a sight. Even with all the accessories, this bow is less expensive than many other starter models. If you decide you just want to learn the bow first, you can forego all the accessories and get the bow for an incredible low price.

What we liked:

  • Ten purchasing options
  • Adjustable draw weight and length
  • Multiple camo patterns
  • High-quality accessories
  • Low price range

What we didn’t:

  • Right handed only
  • Weak string
Jeffrey Rhoades and Dustin Kellogg take a few shots with a Leader Accessories compound bow

Check the price on Amazon »

Raptor Compound Hunting Bow Kit – The best way to start hunting

PREDATOR ARCHERY Raptor Compound Hunting Bow Kit: Limbs Made in USA | Fully Adjustable 24.5-31 Draw 30-70LB Pull | Up to 315 FPS & Guarantee | 5 Pin Lighted Sight, Rest, Quiver | W String Stop
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

This is another kit designed to get you started right out of the box. That said, it’s not exactly a starter bow. Instead, it’s a good choice for someone who’s already familiar with archery and compound bows and now wants to take one hunting.

We say this for a few reasons. First of all, this is a powerful bow. A max draw weight of 70 lbs is enough for even the hulkiest man, and a 315 FPS max firing speed is great for big game. Similarly, the draw length is adjustable up to 31 inches, one of the longest out there.

Despite tough construction built for hunting and limbs made in the USA, this kit comes at an affordable price. What makes the price even more impressive are all the accessories you get with it. It comes with a fiber optic sight, silencers and a stabilizer as well as everything else you need to take it straight to the tree stand. The only thing missing are the arrows, which you’ll have to get yourself. 

Finally, the bow comes in two finish options, black and camo. Both are good for hunting. Predator Archery also backs the kit with a lifetime warranty.

What we liked:

  • 30-70 lb draw weight
  • 315 FPS max firing speed
  • 24.5-31 in draw length
  • Quality construction
  • Great value
  • Accessories for hunting
  • Lifetime warranty

What we didn’t:

  • Right handed only
Predator Archery shows you all the accessories that come with the Raptor and how to set them up

Check the price on Amazon »

SAS Rage

Southland Archery Supply SAS Outrage 70 Lbs 30'' Compound Bow
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

SAS make bows that are affordable and don’t compromise too much on the quality. They’ve got a good range of kit that comes in the lower end of the price spectrum. The Rage isn’t as powerful as the Diamond or the Cruzer, it only gives you 270 fps with 70% let-off and a lower adjustability range, 30-55” on the draw and 55-70 lbs on the weight, it’s also a heavier bow overall.

If you’re looking for something to get started with that offers ‘some’ easy adjustment and don’t want to break the bank, this might be the right choice for you.

A standard deer and turkey hunter or range target shooter would be fine using this bow even though the top end FPS figure can’t match the Diamond or the Edge. Our review.

What we liked:

  • Price!
  • Long A2A (35 inches)
  • 3 Color Choices

What we didn’t:

  • Heavy
  • Noisy

Check the price on Amazon »

Bear Archery Cruzer Lite – Best for serious child archers

Bear Archery Cruzer Lite RTH Compound Bow - Flo Green - Right Hand
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

If your child is tired of using flimsy kids’ bows, this could be the answer. Although it’s sized and built for children, it has the quality and design of an advanced, expert bow.

In fact, this Bear Archery model has the versatility your child needs to continue improving. Starting with five pounds of draw weight, a starter can get the feel of the bow and slowly move up to the max 45-lb draw weight. That’s about what you need to start hunting.

The draw length is adjustable as well. The minimum of 12 inches is low enough for a small child, while the maximum of 27 inches will still work for most teenagers. You can make all these adjustments with the included Allen wrench. You don’t need a bow press. Brace height on this bow is 6.5″.

If hunting is the ultimate goal, the Cruzer Lite comes with five Trophy Ridge accessories: sight, whisker biscuit, quiver, stabilizer and nock loop. Along with the solid 290 FPS firing speed, this is good for small game and getting the hang of hunting. You can even get it in camo.

What we liked:

  • Versatility
  • 5-45 lb draw weight
  • 12-27 in draw length
  • Five Trophy Ridge accessories
  • 290 FPS firing speed

What we didn’t:

  • Nothing!
Patrick Meitin for Inside Archery talks about the Bear Archery Cruzer Lite

Check the price on Amazon »

Genesis Original Kit – Best for Kids/Youth/NASP Archers

Genesis Bows Kit, Left Handed, Black, Original Kit (GenK-12239)
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

This is the official bow of the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP). Consequently, it’s a great first bow for older kids or teenagers who want to get into archery. It’s specifically designed so your child won’t outgrow the bow. Single cams and a draw length up to 30 inches let a kid or teenager use the bow without having to adjust it as they get bigger.

The tough aluminum riser and composite limbs also mean this bow will last a starter for years as they grow and learn. The bows are manufactured in the USA and made to last. Once your child moves on to a more advanced bow, they can give it to a younger sibling or their own children.

Despite an optional camo finish, this isn’t a bow for hunting. The draw weight only goes up to about 30 lbs, which isn’t enough to take down game. However, the single cam system provides accurate practice, so whoever uses it will be ready to jump to a more powerful bow when the time comes.

Genesis also makes sure you have everything you need to get started right out of the box. The kit comes with a basic quiver, arm guard and five aluminum arrows, as well as a manual so you can learn the ins and outs of compound bows.

What we liked:

  • Official NASP bow
  • Kids won’t outgrow it
  • Draw length up to 30 in
  • Composite limbs
  • Single cam system
  • Accessories included

What we didn’t:

Low draw weight

The Guns & Accessories unboxes a Genesis Original bow kit

Check the price on Amazon »

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