A major part of modern archery, a compound bow is a bow that makes use of a levering system. This system is usually made of pulleys and cables to bend the limbs. Compound bows are widely used in hunting and target practice.

The pulley/cam system of a compound bow grants an archer a mechanical benefit. Therefore, its limbs are much more rigid than those of a longbow or recurve bow.

This allows the compound bow to become more efficient in terms of energy. The energy dissipated during the limb movement is reduced to a noticeable extent.

The optimum technology construction and the high-rigidity aspect enhance the accuracy of the compound bow by reducing its sensitivity to alterations in humidity and temperature.

Modern compound bow designs are believed to be the most powerful, accurate, and fastest. Let’s discuss how they work and how to shoot one.

Parts of a Compound Bow

what is a compound bow


Cables are responsible for lashing the limbs to the cams. This enables them to easily pull on each other.

Cable Slide

A cable slide holds the cable in place, on a single side. and keeps it from interfering with the arrow.


compound bow cams

Your compound bow can have one cam, two cams, or even hybrid cams. In case of a single cam, there’s an idler wheel located on the opposite side which doesn’t do anything except for spinning.

You can pull and adjust them with extreme ease but not at a quick pace. It is harder to pull two cams and also synchronize them; however, they are relatively faster.

Lastly, with hybrid cams, you get the best of both worlds; you get double power (like two cams), along with the ease of adjustment (similar to one cam).

Brace Height

Brace height is the total distance between the string when it is at rest and the throat of the grip. The shorter the brace height, the longer the distance between the string and the arrow will be.

This means that the string will apply power to the arrow for a longer time. This plays an important part in the speed of the arrow.

One drawback to this scenario is that if the string stays in contact with the arrow for a longer period, the movement that is transferred from the shooter to its flight will also be longer. Therefore, shorter brace heights work better when it comes to reducing shooter errors.



The bowstring is pulled by the shooter to flex the limbs and rotate the cams. When you release the bowstring, it launches the arrow. Bowstrings with modern designs are made from materials that don’t have a lot of elasticity.


Limbs are the parts that are flexed and thus, they store and release energy.


The base of the bow is known as the riser. It holds all the components of a compound bow in place and the material needs to be light, non-elastic, and extremely durable.

How Does a Compound Bow Work

how does a compound bow work

Now that you’re clear about the components used to make a compound bow, let’s jump to how it actually works.

One major feature that distinguishes a compound bow from a traditional bow is that the requirement to draw a string back on the bow with an extremely high draw weight while using simple pulley systems becomes quite less challenging with compound bows.

Compound bows let off about eighty percent of the determined draw weight. This percentage is known as the “let-off”.

For instance, if you are working with a compound bow with an 80-pound draw weight, after the 80% let-off you will only be holding 16 pounds at full draw. This feature makes these bows quite convenient and easy-to-use.

Specially designed cam pulleys are used by compound bows to acquire the advantage of a decreased drawing weight at the end of the draw. This makes it easier for an archer to hold a draw for an extended period.

These pulleys have an asymmetrical shape and they are usually positioned at the tip of the limbs. There are various cam designs available in the market.

Some work great for providing comfort while some are better at speed generation.

Step-By-Step Procedure to Shoot a Compound Bow Effectively


You might think shooting a compound bow is as simple as just picking it up, drawing the string, and simply releasing the arrow. You couldn’t be more wrong.

The practice of archery has been around for several thousands of years. People have been trying to master the skill of using weaponry for equally as long. After all, practice makes perfect.

Here are a few simple steps that will teach you how to shoot a compound bow efficiently and effectively.

Step 1

Start by purchasing or making a compound bow with extremely high-quality strings. If they are heavily used, it might reduce its effectiveness. Keep your bow maintained and in good shape.

Learn about the draw pressure it can handle and preferably use one that you’ve used before for better handling. Ideally, the best way to master this art is to learn it through someone who already has a lot of experience in the field.

Step 2

Compound Bow

You need to stand with your feet parallel to each other, facing the target at about an angle of 45 degrees, and your feet should be about 18-24 inches apart. With this stance, it will be easier for you to draw your bow and your chances of hitting the target will increase.

Step 3

Your grip needs to be firm but also relaxed. A tight grip will most probably result in a non-accurate shot. If you are unable to form a comfortable yet firm grip, use a wrist sling to achieve it.

To hold the bow, use the hand that you’re most comfortable with. Shooting with an open hand is NEVER admissible as it can lead to fatal errors.

Step 4

how to use a crossbow

After drawing the string, lock the hand that you’re drawing with against the same side of your face. This posture is known as the anchor position.

If you are left-handed, your hand will be positioned on the left side of your face and vice versa if you are right-handed. The ideal anchor position is to have your hand under your chin or near the corner of your mouth.

Step 5

Now grip the string very firmly between your fingers and then extend your bow arm straight towards the target. You can also use a mechanical release device instead of gripping the string yourself.

Now, while pointing the bow towards your target, pull and extend your bowstring back to its full draw. Do this very firmly and smoothly. Try not to let the compound bow move forward.

Step 6

A bow equipped with sight makes aiming easier to a certain level, but you’ll still need to do a lot of practice to aim naturally. Aiming slightly above your target is the ideal choice.

You can also aim directly at your target depending on the weather conditions.

Step 7

compound bow tips

Your release is the most essential part in determining whether your arrow will hit your mark or not. A smooth release is important in this case; therefore, relax your fingers before releasing the string.

Finger tension, even in the slightest amount, can cause your aim to be disrupted.

Step 8

Similar to golf, in archery, follow-through is known to play an important part in the success of the activity. Although it might be a myth, it is believed by almost 90% of shooting archers.

Follow-through is the practice of aiming and holding your arrow still until your arrow hits your target. It is recommended to follow this step just in case.

Step 9

The last step is to practice, practice, and practice until you master the art of shooting a compound bow!


By now you should have a good idea how a compound bow works, so be safe and have fun!