Mark Raycroft
Mark Raycroft

How to choose your first compound


For anyone wanting to break into the awesome world of archery, there can be an overwhelming learning curve when it comes to choosing the right bow. These days, most new bowhunters start with a modern compound bow, which is relatively easy to master and simple to tune. And with the help of modern sights, arrow rests and releases, a beginner should be able to shoot consistent groups in a relatively short period of time.

Once you’ve mastered the compound, it’s natural to eventually want to try a recurve or other more challenging form of archery, but a compound bow is what most beginners should opt for. Here’s what you need to know to choose just the right model for you.


Shoot for comfort

If you’re not familiar with modern bows, arrows and accessories, the associated technical jargon can make it difficult to compare equipment, let alone know what it is you even need. Do you want parallel or split limbs? Is a forged or machined riser better? Is carbon or aluminum the way to go? There are so many different questions, most new archers simply opt for the same set-ups their more experienced buddies use. Try to avoid this, as what’s good for your buddy won’t necessarily be good for you, the beginner.

You can take some relief in knowing that all new compound bows will meet your demands, although some are designed for experienced archers looking for more speed and specifics. For the novice, the most important thing to consider is how well the bow fits and how comfortable it is to shoot.

The best bow to start with will be relatively easy to draw and hold at full draw. If you need to strain to draw, or the string wants to jump out of your release at full draw, it’s not the bow for you. Certainly don’t start with a heavy draw weight— with today’s bow technology, you don’t even need to. Comfort and stability are the most important considerations.


In the end, something as simple as how the bow feels in your hand can be the most important decision in your first purchase. The more relaxed and confident you are with the equipment, the easier it will be to master the sport.

Test the market

To find the bow that’s best for you, set your price limit and start looking, taking the time to shoot several different makes and models before making a final purchase. This will also help you begin to develop your archery muscles, as well as the proper shooting form. If you go to an archery shop that won’t let you shoot a bow on its shelf, you aren’t in the right store. Most shop owners are very knowledgeable, and they’ll help you set up and compare equipment.

There isn’t any one shop that carries all the different archery brands, however, so make your rounds and take your time making a decision. Be fussy and try them all. After you shoot several bows, you’ll find one that naturally lines up to quickly acquire the target. It will just feel right, and stand out above the rest.

If the ideal bow is out of your price range, don’t be afraid to keep looking—you’ll be surprised at the number of inexpensive, easy-to-shoot bows on the market. There are also some great package deals for new bowhunters, complete with bow, sights, rests, quiver and arrows—the perfect option for determining whether archery is, indeed, your game.


When you buy a new compound bow, keep in mind you’ll want to grow with it. That is to say, make sure the bow’s draw weight and draw length is adjustable. That way, you can always take things up a notch as your strength and form improve. This is particularly important for younger shooters as they grow and become more familiar with their bow.