What is a Compound Bow?

Categorized as Glossary
what is a compound bow

A compound bow is a modern type of archery equipment that combines the traditional aspects of a recurve bow with innovative technology. The result is a highly accurate and powerful bow, perfect for target shooting and hunting.

Let’s examine the parts of a compound bow.


The riser is the central piece of the compound bow, connecting the limbs and providing a foundation for the entire bow. It’s typically made from lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber, offering strength and stability without adding unnecessary weight.


The limbs are the flexible parts of the bow that store energy when the bowstring is drawn back. In a compound bow, the limbs are typically shorter and stiffer than those on a recurve bow. This design offers increased power and accuracy.


Cams are the unique feature that sets compound bows apart from other types of bows.

They are the pulley-like systems attached to the ends of the limbs that create a mechanical advantage, making it easier to draw and hold the bowstring.

There are several types of cams, including single cams, dual cams, and hybrid cams, each with its own advantages and drawbacks.


The bowstring is what connects the cams and is drawn back to propel the arrow forward. Bowstrings for compound bows are often made from high-performance synthetic materials like Dacron, FastFlight, or Dyneema, which provide strength and durability.


Compound bows can be outfitted with various accessories to enhance performance and accuracy. Some common accessories include:

Arrow Rest

An arrow rest is a device mounted on the riser that supports the arrow before and during the shot. There are several types of arrow rests, including drop-away, containment, and shoot-through rests.

Bow Sight

A bow sight is an aiming aid that helps archers line up their shots. Bow sights can be simple pin sights or more advanced electronic sights with features like rangefinders and automatic pin adjustment.


Stabilizers are rod-like attachments that help reduce bow movement and vibration during the shot. They can be particularly helpful for improving accuracy and consistency.


Quivers are used to hold and transport arrows. They can be attached directly to the bow or worn separately on a belt or shoulder strap.

Bow Sling

A bow sling is a strap that attaches to the bow,

allowing the archer to securely carry the bow without gripping it tightly. This can help prevent hand torque, which can negatively affect accuracy.

Release Aid

A release aid is a mechanical device that assists in releasing the bowstring, providing a more consistent and cleaner release than using fingers alone. There are several types of release aids, including wrist strap releases, handheld releases, and thumb-trigger releases.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Compound bows offer several advantages compared to traditional bows like recurve and longbows:

  • Mechanical advantage: The cams make it easier to draw and hold the bowstring, enabling archers to focus on aiming without straining.
  • Adjustability: Many compound bows have adjustable draw lengths and draw weights, allowing archers to customize their equipment for their needs and skill level.
  • Accuracy and power: The design of the compound bow, combined with its various accessories, results in improved accuracy and increased arrow speeds.

However, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  • Complexity: Compound bows have more moving parts than traditional bows, which can lead to maintenance issues and a steeper learning curve for beginners.
  • Weight: Although materials like aluminum and carbon fiber keep the weight down, compound bows can still be heavier than other types of bows due to the additional components.
  • Cost: Compound bows are generally more expensive than traditional bows, and the cost can increase further when adding accessories.