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Compound Bow Selection

What compound bow do you choose?

What difference does the wheel, limbs and riser make?

How does brace height affect the performance of a bow?

Selecting your compound bow
The first question is how much do you want to spend? 

  •  - The more you spend the higher the performance compound bow you will get.  
    • $180 compounds are very simple, they have a cast riser and simple round wheels.  These bows tend to be ok at 20 metres.
    • $400 compounds are very good. The PSE Vison has parallel limbs, compression limbs and has a heap of adjustment.  With a speed of 306fps it is the same price as $1500 Hoyt bows
    • $600 compounds tend to have most of the $1000 bow features and you might only be loosing 10 fps on a high perfromance $1000 bow.
    • $1,000+ These are the absolute latest and greatest in a manufacturer - At this price manufacturers produce different bows for specific requirements.  Bows can be fast, long, light or made to look attractive.   If price is no object then you really need to consider the type of bow suited to what you want. 

If you are starting out and you need to buy a bow, arrow rest, quiver, arrows, release aid, then you should really look at the PSE Field Ready range.  These bows are fantastic value and you really can't get close to them in value and they are setup at the factory so all you need to do is shoot.  The PSE Vision, PSE Surge and PSE Bowmadness should be the 3 bows you look at.

Select your draw length and bow weight:
  • Do you want to be able to adjust the draw length? - For children adjustable draw length is almost essential.  Even if you are an adult you may want to adjust your draw length so a bow with little or no draw length adjustment might lead to problems later on.  Bows without draw length adjustment are harder to sell. A bow with a rotating module make life easy to adjust.  Some bows you need to buy modules for each draw length and other bows you need to buy new cams.
  • Draw Weight - Bows shoot better toward maxium weight, in 2014 many bows offer 50# weight adjustment, but if you don't need it, don't do it.  If you shoot under 60# don't buy a 70# bow and wind it down, it will not perform as well.
  • Secondhand vs New - New bows come with generally a five year warrenty, secondhand bows come with no warrenty so ensure if you are buying secondhand that the price is around half that of new.  The cost of replacement limbs or cams is about half the price of a new bow and a set of strings and cables is $120, so ensure a second hand bow is actual value.  

Wheel Options
There are numerous wheels on the market but there is generally three popular choices

  1. Twin Cams - they tend to be faster shooting, however they can come out of tune.  This occurs when one cable is longer than the other.  If the cable lengths are the same and the wheels roll over together then these are good options
  2. Single Cam- they have an idler wheel at the top and a cam at the bottom.  They tend to be slower than the Twin Cam and can have a harder draw curve.  This means that a 60# bow feels like a 70# bow to draw.  They tend to have one really long string 100+" which can cause some problems.  Single Cam bows tend to have a very solid draw wall.  We have experienced problems with lower limb twist and string wear on these bows
  3. CPS or Cam and a half - This is a hybrid between the twin cam and the single cam.  There are no tunning issues.  It features a cam system at the top and the bottom.  They tend to be faster than the single cam bow and have a smoother draw also.  They can be subject to lower limb twist problems also but this problem seems to be less common.  They tend not to as solid draw stop as the single cam but depending on the twin cam can either be better or worse in the draw stop.

Summary - The Twin Cams were the first of the cams and are still popular and dependable today.  The Single Cam took the archery industry by storm, about 12 years ago but today CPS cam or hybrid cam is making its mark with most bow companies now offering this as an option. Single cam bows can not generally slower.  My opinion is Cam is not a major thing that should affect a purchase.

Bow manufacturer table showing what cams the manufacturers use

Twin Single Hybrid
Martin Martin Martin
 Darton Darton Darton
Browning Browning  
 Bowtech  Mathews Hoyt 


Cam and a Half  vs CPS - All Cam and a Half bows are not created equal 

There are many versions of the Darton CPS cam on the market today.  The most well known is the Hoyt cam and a half.  While the Hoyt Cam and a half features the same basic cam design as the Darton CPS it has quite different technical performance.  The Merlin Cam looks the same as the Darton however the draw length can be changed by modules without using a bow press.

The Darton CPS cam - The Darton CPS requires virtually no tuning.  If the strings stretch the bow will drop slightly in arrow speed.  Draw length is altered by either moving the module on the bottom wheel or fitting a new module.  Changing the draw length on a Darton requires the use of a bow press.  The draw stop on the Darton CPS cam is obtained by the module on the bottom cam hitting the cable.

The Hoyt Cam and a Half- Is based on the Darton CPS however the top cam features a draw stop.  This means that both cams need to be in time.  If the string stretches then the bow is out of time.  While the cam is basically a CPS its tunning is more like a twin cam.  Its draw stop will be more solid than the Darton CPS cam however you must ensure the bow is in tune.

The PSE Hybrid cam uses modules top and bottom to adjust draw length.  These can simply be screw on without using a bow press.  The new PSE X-Force obtains 350 FPS using the Hybrid cam system.  In 2010 PSE use three models of the Hybrid cam.  The AXE has module adjustment top and bottom wheel, The Omen is a set draw length and the Vendetta uses a single module adjustment.

The draw length is adjusted with modules.  A bow press is required.  The setup time on a Hoyt is significantly more than the Darton since the timing must be perfect.

 Bow Length
Today compound bows come in various lengths from 30" to 45".  The most common bow sold today is around 38".

If you are intending to shoot fingers then a bow around 40" is preferable, as the shorter models may cause finger pinch.  However not many bows made in 2008 are 40" unless you want to spend $1,000.

Many hunters are looking for a compact bow so for release aid shooters the shorter models are prefered.

Target shooters generally prefer a longer bow as it is considered more forgiving

Brace Height
The smaller the brace height the faster.  The longer the brace height the more forgiving.  Bows with a very small brace height may cause wrist slap.

Limb Design
Historically wooden recurve limbs were regarded as the best limb money could buy.  In 2006 parallel limbs hit the scene and are now standard on most top of the range bows.  Instead of limbs moving forward when you shoot parallel limbs move in opposite directions up and down, eliminating hand shock and noise too.

The best bows I have shot to date have clearly been parallel limb bows.  Bowtech has become one of the largest bow manufacturers today and one of the key reasons must be their parallel limbs.

Split limbs.   Most manufacturers had split limb bows and have gone back to solid limbs.  I would guess consistency and warrenty replacements might the major reason for this.  While the early split limb designs had some issues, my understanding is that these have been ironed out. 

The PSE X Force uses Split limbs - the limbs are under a massive amount of pressure however in four years no warrenty has been claimed for the limbs.

Determine your price point, determine what you want in a bow.  Then ask what bows fall in this category.  Generally one bow will stand out.  Try one of the new Parallel limb bows also, they are amazing and easily the biggest change in archery since the single cam and the cam and a half.

Like cars there are countless bow manufacturers.  Many archers will prefer one brand over another.  Alot of this may be the store which only carries this brand, or their mate shots a particular bow, or it may be that they are following the top archer.

In reality the top archer can win with any bow manufacturer.  Over 20 years various bow manufacturers have been the popular bow.  In 80's Darton and Jennings were huge.  The 90's Hoyt and PSE were huge.  In 2000 Mathews became the big bow manufacturer.  In 2005 Bowtech stormed on the scene with popular designs.  In 2007 Bowtech sold 120,000 bows making it one of the largest bow manufacturers.  In 2006 PSE released the X Force one of the most popular bows of the year, it proceeded with revamping their line, producing the best selling PSE Stinger a parrallel limb bow with a machine riser for $500.  Since 2009 PSE without doubt have the loins share of bow sales with bows offered at all price points and for all archers.

Alpine - A small company make a solid bow - I dropped the line when they did not fix warrenty items.  The customers in question we gave new PSE bows to.

Bear Archery -  Bear archery is one of the oldest bow companies.  It has had an amazing history since Fred Bear, however in the past 5 years Bear has really started to produce bows which are successful.  Based on the popular PSE XForce limb design, Bear use 4 highly compressed limbs, however unlike PSE they use a single Cam system.  Bear has put even more tension on their limbs than PSE pushing their limbs beyond parallel.  Many of the Bear models feature 2 string stops.  The bow is a nice shooting product.
BowTech - Claim to be the largest bow company in the world.  The bows use a Binary cam or a Twin Cam.  Bowtech tend to come out with cutting edge technology such as the pivoting limbs, flex guard, new limb design.  Support has been an issue with this company and reliability. In recent years Bow Tech is becoming rare - with reliablity and setup issues.

Darton - Darton has been very popular with bowhunters.  The inventor of the hybrid cam and Binary. In 2007 Darton uses primarly the Binary cam on most of its bows.  While the Darton is a great shooting bow in 2007 it price puts it along side Bowtech and other major brands.  I have shot Darton for around 10 years and the bows are bullet proof.  2011 Darton use a Binary Cam system with dual tracks to stop cam lean, they also use an angled cable guard rod to reduce tension on cable and reduce cam lean.  The DS3800 has recieved good reports on speed and draw cycle.

Hight Country - High Country was once a major bow manufacturer - producing bows to suit all archers, many world champions choose High Country.  For 2011  High Country use a Binary Cam system with draw stops on both cams which touch the limb producing a very solid wall.  The bow is really fast at 350 fps.  However the bow weight is a little over 3 lbs, making it the lightest adult bow on the market.  High Country use the barnsdale laminated limbs which are regarded as bullet proof.  Hight Country also use roller cable gurad and has 2 string stops. 

To stop Cam lean the limb is slightly differnt in thickness.  Overall a top shooting bow - but only for the top end archer.

Hoyt -Since 2010 Hoyt has gained significant market share.  Very popular with target archers.  Hoyt sponsor alot of the top target archers.  A nice bow looking bow.  Hoyt use a hybrid cam system however both cams need to be timmed. Hoyt do not push the speed barrier with most hunting bows shooting 330 fps, but they claim you can dry fire the bow and it will hold together.

Martin - 2014 Martin has been sold and they have made changes to the lineup.  All bows come with a new split limb, new cam design.  Martin offer a range of bows at most price points and the bows are easy to adjust with rotating modules.

Mathews - Single Cam inventor - The strange thing about this bow is the off set limbs!  No other manufactuer does this.  This means the setup is difficult and the centershot is hard to determine.  Changing the draw length also involves changing the entire cam - an impractical thing to do.  This makes selling the bow second hand very hard.  There is no doubt it is a quality bow which shoots well.  It is just not simple to setup or change draw length. In the past 2 year Mathews has struggled, it is rare to see a Mathews bow on either a target or hunting line.  I assume part of the reason for this is the bows are expensive and have not really changed in years.

 PSE - PSE produce the largest range of bows in the world.  PSE is the biggest bow company and has more employees than anyone else.  Their bows start at $300 and finish in the elite category.  PSE produce high class and high proformance bows at prices lower than their competitors.  PSE offer both the single cam of Mathews and the Hybrid cam of Hoyt.  PSE has had significant growth in the Australian market.  The PSE kits have been a huge success and the X Force range has built a solid reputation over the years.

The XForce Range of bows use different limb weights to eliminate Cam lean.  PSE has such a large range of bows it is hard choosing what one to buy. 

Some of my Favourite bows for 2014
PSE  Micro Burner XT - The biggest selling kids and ladies bow on the market.  11-28"" draw length adjustment.  This is not a plastic bow like some.  This is a solid bow with no problems.  In 2014 PSE have made the Micro Burner more adjustable in poundage by allowing adjustments in string and cables.  At $300 it is the cheapest and highest performance kids bow on the market.

The PSE Fever at $400 is a great ladies bow with spped 312, heaps of adjustment, 3.6 lbs so still light.
 Adult Begineer ($400-$500):
PSE Vision is a great bow at the $400 market, compression limbs which are the same as the $1000 bows make this bow a shooter, with a heap of adjustment, no shock, no noise.

The Martin Blade - I like this bow - it has a rotating module for draw length adjustment, draw stop touching the limb for a solid wall.  The bow shoots great like any $1000 bow.  I like the fact the top poundage can easily be adjusted from 70# to 60# or 50#.  priced $500

PSE Surge - New for 2014 - 320 fps $500 retail.  It is a high quality bow which is better than the Brute or Stinger of 2013.

Adult Mid Range ($600-$800)
PSE Drive ($650) - Voted best value bow of 2013, the bow is smooth to shoot at 336fps it is faster than most bows and really has no bad points.  It is a bow which shoots like $1000 bow but is alot cheaper.

Adult Advance (money not an issue)

High Country X10 - What is there not to like - Solid wall, super light, really fast, really quiet, easy to work on, roatating module, roller cable slide.  This is a bullet proof bow which is easy to shoot.
PSE Full Throttle ($1250)- Fastest bow ever made 370fps- if that is not cool then nothing is.
PSE DNA SP ($1000)- Like the DNA but with smooth cams, you give up speed but it is still a blazing bow with all the tech.  I love the DNA, the machining of the riser, cams , cable guard. bow is very light.  I also love the fact that PSE gear is all matching and locks into place.
PSE Supra ($1000) - While this is a target bow at 330fps it is as fast as the Hoyt and it shoot a treat, light enough for hunting.  Easy to shoot and target accuracy
Hoyt Carbon Spyder ($1600) - the most expensive bow, carbon riser.  The bow is not fast, the bow is not even light, you need to buy modules to change draw length.  But the bow is well finished and a great looking bow
Oneida Kestral ($1800) it is the smoothest bow to draw and the most different bow on the market.
Darton 3814 ($1000)-  Unique hand grip, smooth draw, nice shooting bow.
Martin Nemsis ($1050) - This was voted bow of the ATA show in 2014 and the bow does shoot great, I really like this bow, it comes in Red, White and Carbon.

Target (bows sorted by price)
PSE Supra ($1050) - used by world champions.  It is not to heavy and shoots great at 330fps it is about 8% faster than the Hoyt.
Hoyt  ($1600) - Hoyt know how to make a bow look great
Factors I use to determine my next bow purchase:
1.  Bow Weight - Kids and ladies I think bow weight is the most important aspect.  Despite my daily gym workout I also like a light bow because once I add sights, quivers, arrows, stabilizers and bits the bows become heavy.
2. Draw feel - I like a smooth draw with a solid draw stop.
3. Reliability - I want to ensure the bow will hold together.  I want a proven bow from a company that backs its product
4.Vibration - when you release the arrow- I like the bow to be stable and have minimal vibration.

Archery Supplies stocks Darton,Hoyt,High Country, Limbsaver PSE, Martin. You can try all the latest bows and decide for yourself what is the best bow.