How To Shoot A Compound Bow

how to shoot a compound bow

Archery is not popular as it was a few thousand years ago— when people depended on it for food and protection from enemies. However, just because it is not needed for survival does not mean the practice is extinct. It is, in fact, increasing in popularity, especially now that people want to take time off screens every once in a while. Although back then archery was mainly (or entirely) practiced by men, more women are taking it up as a sport and they are very good at it.

The bows and arrows being used today are a little different from those that were used long ago. They have been modified to suit various archers and enhance performance. Bows, in particular, come in different kinds and each one is special in its own way. The four main bow types include the compound bow, recurve bow, longbow and the crossbow. It is hard to conclude that one bow is better than the rest. The type of archery you decide to venture into will greatly influence the bow that you choose. Your personal preferences will also help you in making that decision. You can always rent equipment to test and see the one you like best.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 10 Top Rated Compound Bows of 2024

The compound bow uses a levering/pulley system to bend the limbs which are far more rigid than the limbs of other bows. The increased stiffness makes it energy-efficient; thanks to the reduced limb movement that uses less energy. This, in turn, results in enhanced accuracy because the bow is not greatly affected by changes in humidity and temperature. The first compound bow was made in 1966 and archers liked it. Presently, it is the most used bow in the United States. It is mainly used for bow hunting, field, and 3D archery. To learn how to shoot one, it is important to understand its anatomy first.

Parts Of A Compound Bow

A compound bow has so many parts. It is a little more complicated and different from your average traditional bow. All these parts contribute to the accuracy of the bow.

The cams: the cams in a compound bow are ovular or circular metal discs at the end of the limbs. Their main job is to transfer energy from the limbs to the bowstring and arrow. There are different types of cam systems. The single cam system involves one cam at the bottom limb and an idler wheel at the top limb. A single cam bow is best for beginners. A twin cam system bow has cams both at the top and bottom. Other cam systems include the hybrid cam and the binary cam.

The limbs: these are planks, commonly made of flexible fiberglass. They store the energy that propels the arrow. There are different limb styles when it comes to compound bows. Solid limbs constitute one piece of fiberglass. Split limbs, on the other hand, constitute two thin limbs joined at the riser. Most archers prefer split limbs because they produce less vibration and last longer. Unlike the traditional compound bows with a “D” shape, modern ones have parallel limbs.

Limb pocket and limb bolt: the limb pocket is where the riser and the limb are connected. The limb bolt is next to it and helps you adjust the draw weight in addition to holding the limb in place.

Riser: this is the central part of the compound bow. It is the heart of the bow, if you may. Most risers are made of aluminum or carbon. Carbon risers equal a lighter bow, are more flexible, durable and cost more. Aluminum ones are super rigid and cost less. Just like with limbs, compound bows have various riser styles; reflex, deflex and straight risers. Reflex style risers tend to curve away from the limbs curvature. Deflex style risers curve the same way as the limbs, not away from it. The straight style is a little bit of both.

Bowstring: this is the string onto which you nock the arrow and it is responsible for launching arrows. Important note: always ensure that your bowstring is in good condition; otherwise, it could be dangerous when worn out.

Cables: these run from one cam to another. When you draw your bowstring they help to move the cams.

Cable guard/cable rod: this is a rod that keeps the cable out of the way of the arrow. On a compound bow, it is usually made of fiberglass and is perpendicular to the riser. It goes without saying that the cable guard is exposed to a lot of vibration. Make a habit of checking it for cracks regularly.

Cable slide: this is a small piece made of plastic. It is fixed to the cable rod and mounted to the cables to ensure that the cables are not in the arrow’s path. Just like the cable guard, the slide is easily damaged and should be checked frequently.

Serving: to protect the cables and bowstring from wearing out, a string is wrapped around them .that extra string is the serving.

Bow sight: a sight is a device mounted on the riser. It uses a pin to help you aim more accurately. Many archers do not like to use a bow sight as it kind of takes away the thrill of instinctive archery. A bow sight can only perfect your aim but not make you a great archer. You have to practice your techniques.

Grip: this is the part of the bow that you hold. One of the benefits of modern bows is that they have a defined grip; ergonomically designed and made with materials that are comfortable to hold. Most grips are replaceable so you can buy one separately if you do not like what comes with the bow.

Stabilizer: this is an accessory that is totally optional. It is more of a rod that you fix at the front of your compound bow, below the grip. Its main purpose, as the name implies, is to ensure that your bow is steady as you shoot. It also minimizes noise and vibrations.

RELATED: The Bear Cruzer G2 Reviewed

Compound Bow Terminology

Draw weight: it is the resistance felt or simply the force needed to draw back the bowstring. It is measured in pounds and determines the force that launches the arrow. The average draw weight for a child is 10 pounds and 40-70 pounds for adults. The draw weight you will need depends on what you are aiming at. For the arrow to penetrate deeper into the target and to increase its speed, a heavier draw weight is needed. However, if you are a beginner, do not feel pressured to start with a heavy draw weight, 40 lbs is a great start as you learn.

Let-off: you will notice a difference in weight between when you are first drawing and when you have fully drawn your bowstring. The reduction/difference in draw weight is what is known as the let-off. It is usually expressed in percentage.

Draw length: if you have any experience with recurve bows or longbows, you know that when using them, your draw length depends on your strength, mostly. You draw back as much as you can. Some compound bows are a little different. The bowstring can only be drawn back to a certain distance. This distance is called the draw length. Most compound bows allow for the adjustment of the draw length and there are tools for that. When choosing a bow, make sure the draw length is neither too short nor too long.

Back wall:  it has been mentioned above that a compound bow has a setting that allows you to draw your bowstring to a specified length. When you draw your string to a point where you cannot pull it back any further, that point is the back wall of your bow. Always go for a compound bow with a solid back wall so that you will know when you have reached the maximum setting every single time.

How To Shoot A Compound Bow

As you might have gathered from the parts and terminologies of the compound bow, shooting it is not easy as picking it up and launching an arrow, it requires a few skills. Not to worry, though, they are skills that you can easily learn if you set your heart to it. On top of that, you will have tons of fun.

Archery Shooting Form

The first step to becoming a great archer is perfecting your shooting form. The way you position every part of your body matters and influences your accuracy. It is important to master this part of archery even before you can learn about aiming and shooting. If you start off with bad habits you will have a hard time shedding them off.

Starting from the feet, they should be shoulder-width apart. Now, this is the recommended width. However, as you become a better archer and practice archery on different platforms, you may stand with your feet closer together or wider apart—whatever makes you comfortable. With your feet wider apart, your stability is enhanced. If you are a beginner just go with shoulder-width.

Your body should be perpendicular to your target, that is, your shoulder and the side of your body should be pointing to what you want to shoot at. If you are right-handed, then this should be the left side of your body. You can have your left foot point slightly to the target or keep it parallel to your right one, depending on your preference.

Your back should be flat so you can be as stable as possible. It also helps to evenly utilize the back muscles. Relax your neck, shoulders and every other muscle. Take a deep breath, no need to be tense, and face the target.

Next, you need to practice holding your weapon. Your non-dominant hand is your bow-holding hand. An archer does not just pick the bow and assume he is ready to shoot. Archery is art and everything is done intentionally and with skill. Hold your bow firmly but in a relaxed manner. When your grip is too tight, you will torque the bow and interfere with your accuracy. If this firm-but-relaxed-grip thing is too complicated for you, get a wrist sling.

An incorrect grip is not the only thing that can cause torque. Where you place your bow is also important. It should rest comfortably in your hand, at the center. When you find yourself relying solely on wrist strength, move the bow a little forward. If you are relying on finger strength, move the bow a little back.

Ensure that your elbow (on the bow hand) is slightly bent and firm. If it keeps interfering with the string you might discover a whole new level of pain (and you will not like it). As for your dominant hand, the string-hand, the forearm should be parallel with the arrow. This should give you an idea as to how to position your elbow.

That is about all as far as your archery form is concerned. When you have mastered the right stance, you are ready to shoot an arrow. Do not feel rushed; take as much time as you need until you can actually get into the right stance comfortably—and hopefully, instinctively.

The Shooting

First, attach your mechanical release. Some archers prefer to shoot using a mechanical release. This piece of equipment, also known as a release aid or simply a release, ensures your arrow’s accuracy. It has a trigger and you will not use your fingers to launch the arrow.

Next, nock your arrow. This is easy to and does not require a lot of thinking. Attach the nock of the arrow to the bowstring. If you do it correctly, the arrow will touch only two parts of the compound bow, the rest and the string. If you are using a mechanical release and it has a D-loop (basically a loop in the shape of the letter “D”), fit the nock of the arrow into the middle of the loop. Make sure you hear or feel a click; that is how you know that your arrow is well attached.

When everything is set, draw your bow, making sure that your bow hand is parallel to the ground. Assume the proper stance as outlined above. Draw the bowstring back towards your face. When the string is fully drawn it will most likely touch a part of your face, which is your anchor point. Some experts recommend having two anchor points, one somewhere around your cheek and the second one on your nose. There is no strict rule about this but it is useful if you want to prioritize accuracy.

Throughout this whole process remember to relax; this cannot be emphasized enough. It will help you rely on your back muscles and make your shots smoother and more accurate. You will also thrive as an archer if your anchor point is the same every single time. Smoothly release your arrow. If you are using a release, pull the trigger.

After releasing your arrow do not get too excited, remain in place. Keep holding your bow and maintain your stance for about two seconds until the arrow hits the target. This is called follow-through and is very important.

Some Important Tips For You

As a beginner, it is normal to be so focused on the shot and the target that getting into the right stance becomes a problem. You will also find it hard to release your arrow smoothly. In this case, in an area with a safe backdrop, practice shooting with your eyes closed. Do this from a close range. It may sound strange but it will help. Close your eyes just before releasing the arrow. This trick lets you concentrate on relaxing and perfecting your stance.

Even if it gets frustrating at some point, keep practicing. Unfortunately, not everybody will be a natural when it comes to archery. If you are among the unlucky lot do not be discouraged. Be relentless in your practice while trying your best not to fall into bad archery habits.

Even though it may not seem like it, the bow is a weapon much like a firearm and should be treated as such. Just because people do not use it in war anymore does not mean it is not lethal. That said, do not dry fire (firing without an arrow) a bow. An arrow is needed to use the force in the bowstring, otherwise, it may explode. Be a responsible archer.

Invest in useful accessories. When setting aside money to buy archery equipment, do not just think of a bow and arrows. You will need a release, armguard, a sight, and more importantly, a case for your weapon. If you take the equipment home with you—as opposed to maybe leaving them at an archery club or something—they need to be stored securely and safely.

If you are trying to pull the bow smoothly with no success, try lowering the draw weight. Starting with a very high draw weight, you will interfere with your form; which is something you are really keen on as a beginner.

Safety Measures

Whenever a weapon is involved, everyone needs to know the safety measures to take.

You must never point your bow at anything that is not your target. This is the first safety rule. You should also never carry it when an arrow is nocked. It is common knowledge that the bow was used to take down enemies and animals (big ones, sometimes) so if it lands on the wrong target the outcome will not be pretty.

Never draw your bow until you are ready to shoot. This means that you should be in form and facing the target. The problem with drawing your bow aimlessly is that misfiring is possible. Someone may bump into you causing an accidental misfire.

You should understand that not every target is appropriate for archery. Do not use targets like cardboard boxes or anything like that. A special dense target that can absorb the arrow’s energy is required. A fired arrow can go through a lot of things.

Whatever is behind your target matters. As a beginner you will be missing your target a lot; and even though you are not, you still cannot be sure that you cannot miss. Do not place the target in front of anything that can suffer injuries or damage the arrows.

The Right Bow

All the above information will not help you much if you are using the wrong equipment. Before you set off to buy a bow, know your dominant eye, brace height, overall bow height, draw length, axle-to-axle length and draw weight. That will help you narrow your options. If all these things sound too technical for you, do not worry. The people at the archery store will help you out.

Even after considering the above parameters, you will still want to have a bow that feels as though it was designed specifically for you. The wise to do is to rent equipment and try out different things. As you become better and learn more you will get a clear idea of what is perfect for you. Better still, join an archery club. In addition to participating in events and being part of an archery family, you will get tons of advice and get access to different bows and arrows. When you learn about each bow in detail, you will be able to single out the one that brings out the archer in you.

ALSO READ: How Much Is A Compound Bow?


Archery is one of the best activities one can choose to participate in. The practice requires discipline and keenness which will help you become a better person in general. You will also find it easier to remain relaxed and calm which will do you a lot of good.

Although a compound bow appears to be complicated, it is an awesome choice for archers of all skill levels. Learning the basic parts and jargon included above is a good start. Put a lot of effort in practicing the right archery form and you will become a better archer faster. Do it over and over until your body learns to do it instinctively. Always adhere to the safety measures to avoiding ruining this fantastic sport with a misfortune. Finally, ensure that you get the right bow and essential accessories.