When you go to a local professional store to start looking for a beginner’s compound bow, you will hear a bunch of arc terms thrown around: riser, module, bus cable, limbs, limb pockets and cams. If you’re new to archery hunting, the parts of a compound bow can sound like a whole different language.
We are here to help you. The parts of a bow are sophisticated, but they are actually not complicated to understand. Below, I’ve outlined the nuts and bolts you need to know to start asking the right questions. The more you know about compound bows, the better your chances are of finding one that shoots and makes it look like it was made for you.
Compound Bow Lifter
The riser is the platform of the arch. It makes up the bulk of the arch and is the middle section that connects to the pockets of the arch members. Most risers are made of aluminum, but many bow manufacturers offer carbon risers models as well. Carbon riser compounds are generally more expensive but are lightweight, durable and warm to the touch in freezing outside temperatures (aluminum risers are more affordable but are icy to the touch on cold archery mornings) . Manufacturers have gone to great lengths to provide the archer with the perfect blend of strength and weight in the riser design, which is a big reason you will notice so many cutouts in the riser.
Good riser design adds stability and balance to your shot. Traditionally, arches with longer risers are more balanced at full draw, while those with shorter risers are more maneuverable in tight spaces. The riser will come with pre-drilled mounting holes for sight and rest. Flagship arches from PSE, Mathews and Hoyt now feature dovetail slots in the riser with a traditional Berger hole bracket for attaching face-mounted brackets from Quality Archery Designs. The arrow shelf, where the resting launcher arm drops when the arrow is shot, is also part of the riser.
Compound bow handle
The handle of the arch will either be a direct handle to the riser or a pre-fabricated handle that attaches to the riser with screws or glue. Handles directly to the riser are typically thin, flat-backed, and narrow in the groove, which is the part of the handle that goes up and under the boom shelf. Many direct mount handles have side plates, but these are primarily for cosmetic purposes.
A pre-made handle (even the thinnest ones) will add bulk. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and don’t go up the nose to a bow that has a hilt attached. Bowmakers like Hoyt, Mathews, and Bowtech usually feature some sort of grip attachment, and I’m a fan of all of them. A pre-made grip can create a personalized fit and feel that lead to a consistent shot. Stay away from bulky handles with large side flares, these designs will make you apply uneven pressure on the handle as you pull, making you less precise.
The design of the limb pockets of a bow is crucial for its durability and ability to dampen vibrations. The limb screws that are in the center of the pockets secure the riser, and the screw adjusts the draw weight. Some bows offer more pull weight adjustments than others, so be sure to read your owner’s manual. A bow will perform best when set at maximum weight, that is, with the limb bolts screwed in. Made of aluminum or, in some cases, high quality plastic, the limb pockets also keep the arch limbs securely in place.
Compound Bow Members
The limbs are among the most important parts of a compound bow. If catastrophic failure occurs, it is usually in the limbs. The limbs take a good amount of energy when shooting and are constantly bent and flexible. In recent years, manufacturers have stepped up the design of the limbs, and most hunting bows feature wide, slotted limbs with a rubber damper placed between them to absorb noise and vibration. Although double-pronged models are popular, several arch manufacturers offer solid single-pronged models. Most modern hunting bows feature a parallel or non-parallel limb design. This means that the limbs are parallel to each other rather than tilting towards the riser. This design allows each limb to shoot in the opposite direction of the shot, reducing noise and vibration after firing.
Parts of a compound bow: Cam and module
The cams of a compound bow are those wheel-shaped discs at the end of the limb. The cam system is the engine of the arc. Most bows have a dual cam design, but single cam bows are not uncommon. Double cam arches have an upper and lower cam which are exactly the same. Single cam bows usually have a large cam at the bottom and a idle wheel at the top. There are cams designed for speed and cams designed for smoothness and shooting ability. The cam system dictates how the bow shoots and shoots. Generally speaking, a cam with a sharper angled design creates a harder pull, but a comparatively faster boom. Ask lots of questions about the makeup of a bow’s cam before you drop a part on it, and be sure to test drive the bow. I’ll take a cam that promises smooth draw, is not choppy and provides solid arrow speed compared to one that is painful to draw and shoot, but provides super-fast arrow speed.
The cams are also equipped with tension stop modules and pins. Some draw stops contact the internal cable of the bow (a cable stop) while others touch the inside of the limbs (a limb stop). Most bows have a draw stop on each cam, but some have a single peg on the lower or upper cam. Bow Modules allow the shooter to change the length of the draw. Most modern bows are adjustable in draw length in ½ inch increments over a wide range. However, others come with a set draw length and require a complete module change to change the draw length. Mods also, on most arcs, allow the shooter to modify their output. Letoff is the reduction in holding weight at full draw (so with a 60 pound arc and 80% release you are holding 12 pounds at full draw). Most states require a release rate of no more than 80%, so keep that in mind.
There isn’t much to know here, and I won’t mention the axle pins, except that the measurement between the top pin and the bottom pin is the axle-to-axle measurement of the bow. It is essential to know that the axle-to-axle length of an arch, which all manufacturers publish, is not the measurement from the top of the upper cam to the bottom of the lower cam. Most of the time, a longer axle-to-axle arc is easier to balance, hold on target, and shoot accurately. However, long axle-to-axle arches can be difficult to maneuver in woods or in a blind.
Compound bow strings and cables
The string or D-loop that a pro shop attaches to your string is what you’ll hook your release on to pull the bow back. Most double cam bows have a chain and two cables, while single cam models have a long chain and a single cable. Today’s bow strings are constructed from an excellent material, which increases their longevity. Some strings will have silent devices designed to counteract noise and residual oscillation. Many strings will also come with a version of a quick notch. Most will be shrink wrapping material with the logo of the arc manufacturer – the notch speed up to one foot of arc per second.
Roller guard or cable slider
Most of the flagship arch models feature some type of roller protection that facilitates the movement of the arch wires. The job of this device is to pull the cables to the side to make room for the boom. A roller guard won’t bite cables as fast as a cable slider, which is basically a piece of plastic with a pair of slots that cables run through. Another benefit of a roller guard is that it reduces friction, and most have some kind of anti-torque system.
Most rope stops extend to the back of the riser and consist of a carbon rod fitted with a cushioning device. Most of the stops are adjustable. You don’t want the bow string pushing hard as the string stops when the bow is at rest. The job of the chain stopper is to stop the speed chain, which propels the boom in flight. The chain should rest right next to the chain stopper.
Bow Hunting Accessories: Shock Absorber, Stabilizer, Bow Sight, Peep Sight, Quiver
Once you have the basics of a barebow, there are all kinds of fun compound bow accessories you can dive into. Here we will cover some of the accessories that you will need for your hunting bow.
Most bows are equipped with some damping device. Some are incorporated into the riser while others, as mentioned earlier, are placed between the limbs. The job of a shock absorber is to further eliminate noise and vibration. You can also purchase these aftermarket parts and add them to your bow.
This is the long bar that screws into the front (and sometimes the back) of your riser and adds weight and stability to your bow. Longer stabilizers are more effective, but they can be bulky for bow hunting.
There are all kinds of archery sights that you can put on your hunting bow. But the key is to understand that a good bow sight allows you to have an accurate point of aim for shooting at a variety of distances. Find our guide to the best compound archery sites here.
A sight is the small circle that you look through to line up your arc sight. The peep is tied to your channel. Work with a professional bowman to make sure you have the correct sight diameter and that it is placed in the correct location on your string.
The quiver contains all of your arrows and the options are almost endless. Pick one that will hold three to five hunting arrows (with wide tips) and attach to your bow without clicking or vibrating. Many hunters shoot with a quiver on their bow, so make sure the quiver you choose doesn’t introduce any additional noise or vibration.