What is Compound Bow Archery?

The Compound Bow.  Our modern version of the famous traditional archery bow.  What makes it different from a recurve bow?  What are all of those cool parts?  It’s a lot simpler than you think, and you may find yourself using a new favorite bow.

what is compound bow archery

All of the gears working together may look complicating at first, but you’ll soon find out that the parts are easy to locate and easy to figure out.  Lets take a look at basic compound bow facts that everyone should know!

Basic Compound Bow Facts

The cams, also known as wheels if they are circular, are visible on each end of the bow limbs and is the first sign that immediately tells you this is a compound bow.

The distance between these two cams/wheels is called Axle-to-Axle.

Let-Off is the main difference between a compound and a recurve bow.  When pulling the bowstring back, you will reach a point where the draw-weight decreases before coming to a full stop.

All compound bows have a draw stop, also called a wall.  This is when you cannot draw back any further.  Most compound bows allow you to adjust this length.

Standard compound bows can easily reach over 300 FPS (feet per second).

This type of bow made its first appearance appearance in the 1960s by Holless Wilbur Allen.  A good way to remember this is that many compound bows require allen wrenches!

compound bow archery competition

Popular compound bow competitions are held by the World Archery Championships and the Olympics!

On compound bows with dual risers, you will often see a Y-shape cable called the yolk system.  Adjusting one side of the yolk cable will cause the cam to lean in that direction.

Due to the faster FPS (feet per second) compared to recurve bows, the flight trajectory of the arrows are flatter.

Compound bows are generally more accurate than recurve bows. This is because of the higher velocity arrows and the consistent mechanical processes of all the parts working in unison.

Often, a bow press is required when performing maintenance or repair on a compound bow.

Parts of a Compound Bow

Parts of a Compound Bow Ace Of Bows

1. Limbs
The limbs, along with the riser, are the driving force of power for the bow.

2. Limb Pockets
These are where you attach the compound bow limbs when installing or repairing your bow.

3. Sights
Without sights, it is considered “instinctive aiming”.  Using sights gives you a more pin-point picture of where the arrow is going to land.

4. Arrow rest
The arrow rest is the attachment that assists you in keeping the arrow in place while drawing and aiming.  It is placed near the arrow shelf which is permanently part of the bow’s riser.

5. Handle
You want to make sure you have a steady, comfortable grip and let the weight of the draw-cycle keep the bow within your hand.  A wrist strap is highly recommended. Avoid being near the arrow with your fingers!

6. Stabilizer
The stabilizer adds more weight towards the front of your bow, helping you keep it steady while aiming.

7. Riser
The main body of the compound bow that houses all of the attachments.  The designs can get pretty intricate and amazing!

8. Cam/Wheel
These are what makes compound bows unique.  Wheels are perfect circles while Cams are oddly shaped like the ones in the picture.

9. Peep Sight
At full draw, you look through the peep sight and align it with the front sights.  This gives you an indication that the bow is in perfect alignment for a straight shot.

10. Cable Slide/Guard
This attachment moves the cable strings out of the way of the fletching.  Keeping your bow string properly waxed can reduce wear from the cable slide.

11. D-Loop
This is where you hook your compound bow release.  Wrist releases allow you to perform consistant draws and delicate trigger releases that can dramatically increase your accuracy.

12. Cables
This is the bow string, also called cables.  Servings are the material wrapped around certain parts of the cable like on either side of the D-loop.  Keep your bow string properly waxed!

13. Wrist Strap
Some archers hold the bow so lightly that the force of an arrow being fired causes the bow to tilt forward and fall.  The wrist strap prevents you from dropping the bow.

14. String Dampener
As well as lowering the vibration of the string after releasing the arrow, this also keeps the bowstring in the proper position.

The Different Types of Compound Bows

The Compound Bow
A fine piece of modern ingenuity that will last for the ages.

Compound Crossbow
The compound version of traditional recurve crossbows.

Micro Compound Bow
Ultra-light, compact compound bows with a skeleton riser.

Compound Recurve Bow
A unique form of compound bow that uses lever-action and recurve limbs.

Triangle Compound Bow
A triangle-shaped compound bow with risers so small, the handle is seperate.

Compound Sling Bow
A compound variation of the practical sling bow. In rare and new development.

How to Shoot a Compound Bow in 5 Easy Steps. Archery is simple to learn! How to Sight In A Compound Bow in 6 Easy Steps. Adjust your bow sights for bullseyes!

How to Shoot a Compound Bow

If you want to learn proper form and archery basics, read our Archery Guide for Beginners.

how to shoot a compound bow archery

It is highly recommend to use a compound bow release that connects to the D-loop.  Compound bow releases eliminate any inconsistencies your fingers may cause against the bow string.

  1. Stance
    Get into a proper archery stance and remain in the stance after every arrow released.

  2. Nock
    Securely nock the arrow in place and position the stem onto your arrow rest.  When not using an arrow rest attachment, make sure you practice proper bow string handling to keep the arrow steady on the arrow shelf.

  3. Draw
    Hook the release onto the D-loop and draw the string back.  Have your finger behind the trigger when using the release to prevent early shots.  Lower the poundage of your bow if you are having trouble pulling it back.

  4. Anchor
    Have specific anchor points on your face to keep the bow steady when you’re at full draw.  You should easily be able to look through your peep sight and front sights when anchored.  A proper grip is light without any torquing.

  5. Release
    Pulling the release trigger should be a very light process that almost surprises you.  Use the same compound bow release that is adjusted specifically for you to stay consistent with each draw.

Repeat these steps for each arrow.  It is very important to remember to stay in the proper stance after every shot.  Only move your legs when you are done firing your arrows.

How to Sight In Your Compound Bow

Once you have learned proper shooting form, you may still want to attach a sight to your compound bow.  Attaching a sight removes “instinctive aiming” and can dramatically improve your accuracy with the use of pins or crosshairs.

Compound bow sights come in many different designs so always make sure to carefully read all the specs and parts to know exactly what to change when sighting it in.

Always adjust your sights in a controlled environment with a properly maintained bow!

  1. Get Your Allen Wrench
    Once you have your tools ready, locate your housing screws.  These are the screws to your pin sight adjustments.  Normally, the top screw moves the sight up & down and the side screw moves it left & right.
  2. Test Your Top Pin First
    It is natural to aim with the highest sight marker first, so we will test our accuracy with that one at 20 yards*.  Perform the proper shooting form while looking through the top pin and at the very center of your archery target.  Fire while aiming at the very center.
    *You can adjust this distance to any number as long as it is smaller than the distance for your next pin.
  3. Take Shot Then Inspect
    It is recommended to release at least two arrows to practice your precision.  Inspect where the arrow landed in comparison to the center of the target.  This is the direction you need to move when adjusting your sight.
    For Example: If your arrow landed top-right, you will adjust your sights up and right.
  4. Adjust The Housing
    Use your allen wrench to loosen the housing screws.  Now use the path of the arrow from the center of the target to know where to move your sight.  Many sights have measurements to assist you in fine tuning your adjustment with precise clicks.
  5. Test the Top Pin Again Until Bullseye
    Repeat steps 3 & 4 until it’s perfect.  You are always aiming at the center of the target, so you’ll know you have adjusted it perfectly when you consistently get a bullseye.
  6. Adjust Individual Pins
    Now you can move on to your next pin at a longer distance.  At this point you should not need to move the whole sight, but instead just the individual pins to best suit your aim.

Try out different types of sights, you may find yourself better with crosshairs rather than pins.  Practice makes perfect!  You will be amazed at how accurate you can be with proper form and well adjusted sights.

Compound Bow Tips & Safety

Never point your bow and arrow up above the horizon when drawing your bow string.

Having a light grip while drawing your bow insures less interference upon releasing the arrow.  So wearing a wrist strap is highly recommended to prevent dropping your bow after firing.

A compound bow release further minimizes your interaction with the mechanics of the bow, giving you consistent draw-cycles and releases.


Keep your finger behind the compound bow release trigger when drawing back the bow string to prevent accidentally releasing your arrow early.

Remember not to draw your bow without an arrow knocked in place.  Dry firing can damage your bow string and other parts.

Keep your fingers BELOW the arrow when you are gripping your bow.  The arrow is very dangerous at full draw.

It is very important to avoid twisting your grip, also called torquing the bow, as the string will ride off the cam upon release.  String derailment is the most common compound bow accident.

Allen wrenches are a very handy tool to have with you at all times for quick maintenance.

compound bow archery accessories backpack

Have a compound bow backpack to keep your archery accessories together when traveling on the archery field.

You may need a longer axle-to-axle compound bow if you plan to use your fingers to pull the string.  Shorter bows can cause the string to pinch your fingers at full draw.

Lever-Action compound bows are great for finger shooters!

Also keep your bow string properly waxed!  A good bow string will always give you reliable shots.

Read our Compound Bow String Waxing Guide to know how.

In Conclusion To: What Is Compound Bow Archery?

The most important thing to understand with compound bows is… Precision!  The beauty of all of the moving parts working together with each draw will guarantee consistent, tight groupings.

With more parts means extra maintenance.  A good compound bow needs the extra care to be reliable and to keep you safe.

how to hold an arrow release

Read our article 5 Best Compound Bows For The Money in 2019 for great compound bow price deals!

If you are new to archery, you may see results faster with a compound bow rather than a recurve bow due to the comfortable let-off while anchoring.

Read our Archery Workout Exercises & Strength Training Guide if you want to use heavy-duty compound bows!

Remember, having fun with archery depends on which bow feels best for you!