How to Choose a Basic Compound Bow - High Altitude Archery

Interested in trying compound bow archery? Choosing a compound bow is a complicated affair. To correctly size and weight your bow you will need to be able to measure or estimate your draw length, and accurately gauge your strength. If you’re new to archery, we at High Altitude Archery highly recommend choosing a basic recurve bow to start, or renting equipment from a local shop for a few months to learn the basics of archery.

Compound bows have a set draw length and weight, so you will need to know how to specify this value to the shop. Do not assume that the shop you purchase from knows how to accurately measure these values – I have seen many archers with incorrectly set equipment.

genesis-bowOnce you’re ready to try a compound, you’ll need to measure or estimate your draw length. A good archery shop will use a specially marked arrow with a recurve bow to measure your draw length, but you can also estimate your draw length by dividing your height by 2.5.  I am 69″ tall: 69÷2.5 = 27.6.  As it happens, my draw length is 27½.  Other recommendations involve measuring your “wingspan” or arm length from fingertip to fingertip — but this is very often the same as your height, which is usually already known.

Note: If your draw length is greater than 29″, you may have difficulty finding an inexpensive compound bow. Resist the urge to get a bow shorter than you require as this will hamper your accuracy and decrease your enjoyment of the sport. You may need to prepare yourself to spend over $1000 for a “long draw” compound bow.

There are two important weight numbers to know when searching for a compound. The first is the maximum pull, and is often the poundage that is highlighted by the marketing materials. The second is the “holding” weight, and is expressed usually as a “let-off %” of the maximum weight. For instance, a bow might be weighted at 80# with an 80% let-off — this would result in a bow that has a maximum weight of 80# and a holding weight of 16#. You can determine your numbers by finding what weight of recurve you can hold back comfortably, and multiply by 1.5 — I can comfortably hold a 30# recurve, so a good starting weight for me is 45#. This weight is heavy enough for me to work with, but not so heavy that I will become fatigued, hurt, or be tempted to engage in bad habits to draw (e.g. “skying” the bow).

For a basic compound, you should look for a lower weight. While you might be able to grunt back a heavy bow, you risk hurting your shoulder or back. 40# is sufficient for most general usage and will help you get in shape for when you are ready to handle heavier weights.