How Do Compound Bows Work?
How Do Compound Bows Work?

How Do Compound Bows Work?

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As an archer or a bow-hunter, you’d already know about the different types of bows available in the market. Bows have come a long way since ancient times. Today, bows have a mechanical advantage, making them easy to use and improving accuracy.

Even beginners can operate the bows and hit the target better than expected with some effort. The compound bow is the most famous among the different types, followed by the traditional recurve bow. The crossbow has a separate fan base.

This post is dedicated to answer “how do compound bows work.” How does it work? What are the parts of a compound bow? How easy or difficult is it to use one? We’ll answer many others questions related to compound bows and learn as much as possible. The next time you see a compound bow, you’ll know what to do without asking anyone else.

Shall we get started?

The Anatomy of a Compound Bow

Anatomy of a Compound Bow
Anatomy of a Compound Bow

The compound bow sort of looks like a horizontally stretched M. Yeah, that’s a bad comparison, we know. At first look, the compound bow is a dangerous weapon, unlike the recurve bow or the traditional bow. It looks overwhelming with those wheels, strings, and other attachments. Knowing the names of each part and their purpose will help you familiarize yourself with it a lot faster.


The compound bow has two limbs, upper and lower. These are flexible and the part where energy is stored. Without this energy, the arrow will not reach the intended target. The compound bow is made of a mix of materials for durability and resilience. The limbs are usually made of carbon fiber and are sturdy enough to draw weight and produce tension when you draw the string to shoot an arrow. Energy is stored in the limbs of the compound bow.


This one is hooked to the arrow and drawn close to your body. When released, the string propels the arrow forward using the energy stored to hit the target. A compound bow has two cables, and the outer one is the bowstring. The external string is the one that faces your body. It rolls over the cams on the ends of both limbs and is attached to the inside of the cam.


A cam isn’t short for a camera. Cams are wheels located at the outer ends of the upper and lower limbs. The string is run through the grove in these cams. The cams/wheels bring together the various parts of the compound bow and ensure that the bow is functioning. The bottom cam is large if it’s a single cam compound bow.


The compound bow has additional strings that are called cables. These cables run side by side with the bowstring but serve a different purpose. The main difference is that the cables are fixed to the limb on one side and go through the wheel on the other side. They run over the mod on the limbs.


A mod is nothing but an adjustable part that allows you to change the drawstring length to suit your convenience. The mods are typically attached to the limbs.

Other Parts of a Compound Bow

The limbs are fixed into their positions using limb bolts. The grip lies around the center of the bow. That’s where you’re supposed to hold the compound bow.

Other attachments include a stabilizer that keeps the bow and the string steady and increases accuracy for beginners. The arrow rest is where you place the arrow to shoot. It lies directly over the grip.

The bow sight is a removable attachment that helps you get a better aim at the target. For longer distances, a bow sight is a handy attachment.

The quiver holds the arrows for you, and the nocking loop on the bowstring tells you where to hold the arrow to the string to aim and shoot.

How Do Compound Bows Work?

Person drawing the bowstring of a compound bow
Person Drawing the Bowstring of a Compound Bow

The basic principle of the compound bow is the same as the one followed for every bow. It’s not that different from a longbow or a recurve bow. So when you draw the bowstring, it pulls the limbs, thereby drawing energy from them.

When you release the string, this energy is transferred to the arrow to push it through the air. The arrow flies until it spends all the energy transferred to it. The arrow will fall to the ground before the mark if the target is farther.

So how do you decide how much kinetic energy to generate? It depends on how far you pull the string. The more you draw the string, the more energy you generate. But if you cross the maximum point (the full draw), the bow will break, or the string will snap. The draw weight determines this.

Draw weight is the evaluation of the force necessary to draw a bow. It’s measured in pounds. For example, when a hunter says they shoot a 50-pound bow, the draw weight is 50 pounds. The draw weight depends on your shooting experience, age/ gender/ weight, and the target. For example, the peak draw weight of a compound bow is 65 pounds.

While high draw weight is hard when using a traditional bow, the compound bow makes it easy, thanks to the dual cams. These cams have a let-off that carries some of the excess draw weight and takes the load of your arms.

How Far Can a Compound Bow Shoot?

Effective Shooting Range - 30 - 60 yards
Effective Shooting Range – 30 – 60 yards

You’d have understood by now that the compound bow can shoot farther distances without tiring the shooter. But what is its maximum shooting range?

Well, the maximum a compound bow can hit is 1000 feet. It could go up to 930.04 feet from the shooter’s position. However, we need to focus on the effective shooting range of the compound bow.

A compound bow has an effective shooting range between 30 and 60 yards (90 to 180 feet). This is more than the effective shooting range of recurve bows (20-40 yards). Therefore, you should position yourself within this distance to increase your chances of successfully hitting the target.

How to Tune a Compound Bow?

How to Tune a Compound Bow
How to Tune a Compound Bow

A bow needs tuning to shoot accurately and hit the target. Tuning a compound bow is scary for many because they think it’s something only the top shooters can do. Well, that’s not the case. Tuning a compound bow is simple if you know what to do. Follow the below steps:

Adjusting the arrow rest will solve a lot of problems. Even the tiniest shift can cause the arrow to miss the target. Use a vice for this purpose and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Your focus here should be limited to positioning the rest correctly. The rest comes later.

  • Set the rest speed by using the tuning marks on the fall-away rest or asking a friend to make notes as you draw the string. The arm should be vertical when the bow breaks over. What if it doesn’t happen? Tighten or loosen the drawstring (depends on the tension you feel in the string).
  • Now it’s time to set the center shot. This is where you align the arrow rest with the nocking point. It ensures that the arrow is straight and doesn’t fly in an unexpected direction. Measure the distance to get it right or go by the eye.
  • You’ll have to pay attention to the sounds the compound bow makes when you draw the string and release the arrow. An odd sound means a severe contact between the arrow and the arrow rest. Adjust the control cable attached and try shooting at different lengths until the result is perfect.
  • Another crucial element of tuning a compound bow is the paper test. Set up a paper on a frame and place this between you and the target. The frame should be closer to the target but at a distance to let the arrow pass entirely through the paper.
  • Shoot the arrow and observe the kind of tear on the paper. If the tear is towards the left, slightly move the rest to the right, and vice versa. However, don’t worry too much about the tear. Most compound bows are good to go if the arrow hits the target within the effective range.

If the compound bow is shooting perfectly well, mark the tuning adjustments for future reference. It helps to tune the compound bow the next time easily.

How to Store a Compound Bow?

A compound bow has an intricate mechanism and needs proper care. But, of course, the rule applies to every bow. So you just can’t leave it lying somewhere. Nothing works better than a bow case to store a compound bow safely.

Luckily, there’s no need to destring the bow to store it. Hanging the bow case on the wall is a good idea. However, the wall should be free of dampness, moisture, and dirt and away from direct sunlight. Don’t ever stuff the compound bow into a locker or a cupboard.

You can use a hard case or a soft storage case. However, if you often travel, invest in a hard case to protect the compound bow from external forces.

How Effective are Compound Bows?

Compound Bows are More Effective than Longbows and Recurve Bows
Compound Bows are More Effective than Longbows and Recurve Bows

Compound bows are effective compared to longbows and recurve bows. They can transfer around 70 to 85% of the limb energy to the arrow. That said, the effectiveness of a compound bow depends on the model, the tuning, and your expertise.

A compound bow is effective in hitting the target. That’s one of the reasons archers and bow hunters prefer it. It also takes the pressure off the shooter and improves their accuracy over time. According to a research done by the Archery Trade Association, over 62% of bow users used compound bows!

What is the Brace Height of a Compound Bow?

Bracing Height of a Compound Bow
Bracing Height of a Compound Bow

The modern compound bow has a brace height between six and seven inches. Some compound bows may have a slightly lesser bow height (around 5 inches). Cool. But what is a brace height?

Brace height is the measurement between the deepest point of the grip to the bowstring when the bow is not in action. You can also call it the distance between the center of the mounting hole and the bowstring. Alight!

If the brace height is short, you can draw the bowstring farther, generating more energy. It powers the arrow to a longer distance. Of course, there’s a disadvantage here. A shorter brace height means that the arrow is connected to the bowstring for longer. This increases the inaccuracies of the shot.

A compound bow with a shorter brace height might result in a longer shot distance. But it has lesser forgiveness and can result in an inaccurate shot, especially if you’re still a beginner.

The case works in reverse for a longer bowstring. Either isn’t good if you want a compound bow that delivers reliable results. A brace height between 6 and 7 inches usually works the best as it’s neither short nor long.

Are Compound Bows Good for Beginners?

The answer to this question stands on who you’re asking. Some archers claim that a recurve bow is a better choice for beginners. That said, you can use a compound bow even if you’re a novice.

The vast range of compound bows can be terrifying for beginners. The price is yet another scary factor. But worry not. You can find entry-level compound bows for affordable prices and with almost all attachments. These are known as youth compound bows, specifically designed for young adults. Such compound bows are highly adjustable and tend to come with a kit.

Compound Bow Setup Guide

A compound bow has to be correctly set up and tuned before using it for shooting. We’ve already seen how to tune a compound bow. Now, it’s time to learn the setup process.

The setup also starts with the arrow rest and nook positioning. After all, the arrow needs to go in the direction of your aim. The nocked arrow should be in line with the string and point slightly to the left if you’re a right-handed shooter (and vice versa).

If you use a release aid to shoot, the lower edge of the nook point should be around 1/8th of an inch above the center of the plunger hole. But if you are a finger shooter, set the nock point around 3/8th of an inch above the center.

It is trial and error and takes a few attempts to get the position spot on. The type of rest used determines the arrow flight. Finger shooters will benefit from flippers and springies (shoot around rests).

Do the test for paper tuning to see the type of tear and make the necessary adjustments. The arrows you use also influence the shot and the bow’s setup. If the positioning doesn’t work no matter what, try changing the arrow’s model. You’ll notice the difference.

Finger shooters can try the bare shaft tuning to set up the compound bow. It’s a tested technique that shows if the bow is properly set up or not. Shoot an arrow using the fletched shafts and mark the position. Now remove the shaft and shoot again from the same position. If both the arrows hit the same spot, your bow is ready for use. A slight difference is usually acceptable and cannot be avoided at times.

However, if the bare shaft mark is to the left of the fletched shaft, try increasing the point weight. If it is below, move the nock point below and reverse the directions for opposite results.

Deer Hunting With a Compound Bow – All You Need to Know

Deer Hunting With a Compound Bow
Deer Hunting With a Compound Bow

Deer hunting is quite common in the US during the official hunting season. The whitetail deer is found in most parts of the US and is a great sport. Bowhunting deer using modern compound bows is a popular sport in the country.

Of course, you’ll have to learn at least the basics of archery, practice hitting the target, and follow the hunting guidelines to be successful. You’ll need a license for bowhunting in many states.

The draw weight is the main factor to consider when hunting deer with a compound bow. The draw weight for deer is 40 pounds. It’s enough to kill a whitetail deer. Remember that extra draw weight is a hindrance rather than an advantage.

A 60 or a 70-pound draw weight might be great to use in the shooting range. But it puts unnecessary pressure on your arms and shoulders when you’re dressed for hunting in the wild. It gets worse during colder seasons.


Compound bows are great for archery and hunting. Many seasoned hunters use high-end compound bows with customized fittings to hunt deer, elk, moose, etc. Practice is a must if you want to master a compound bow. If you want to know the which are the best hunting bows you can use, have a look at our buying guide!

Start with the entry-level models and invest more as you gain expertise. Take good care of the bow and keep it safe when not in use. We hope the article has provided you with the necessary information to understand a compound bow. Go ahead and buy yourself one and become a professional bow hunter.