Buying your first compound bow - updated 9/5/17

So why buy a compound bow?

  • Most clubs nowadays teach new archers to shoot recurve in a beginners course - this typically leads to that person taking up target recurve upon joining a club (unless they entered archery to pursue a specific bow style to begin with), usually this is because the majority of the club membership (and therefore, expertise) is recurve biased
  • Health -at full draw a compound bow can be easier to hold and aim.  Until it gets a bit windy!  Some people may have joint issues or old injuries that make drawing and holding a recurve bow uncomfortable or even painful.  Some people may have eyesight issues that make forming a string picture difficult - aiming through apertures like the peep and scope might work better for them.
  • Perception - the general perception of compound archery is that its easier.  That might be true against a fellow recurve archer but as the two types are not in direct competition with one another its a pointless argument.  The bar is set higher for compound archery.  Mentally it can be tougher as the expectation is not to miss at all.  By miss I mean a perfect ten - it's possible to hit a 9 (gold) with every shot in a competition and still come last (experience speaking!).
  • Because they look cool!

Sometimes the decision is based largely on budget - initial research will show that a complete compound kit can be around twice as expensive as an intermediate recurve kit.
However, depending on the length of your archery career the price difference can narrow over the years.
How?  With the correct choice of bow you'll have a wider adjustable range of poundages (typically 10lbs +/- but as wide as from 5 to 70lbs on one particular bow) available in a single bow/purchase, offsetting the need to upgrade as you develop "archery muscles".
Through tiller adjustment you could gain an extra 2-3lbs on the limbs of a recurve bow before having to upgrade (if you are working towards a higher poundage/distance shooting that is) so that potentially represents 3 recurve limb upgrades to one compound limb upgrade.
If I add up how much I had spent on recurve kit over 5 years I could have easily purchased a nice compound bow kit at that time from the outset.
Of course - a) 6 years ago I would not have known I would still be an avid archer, and b) recurve was more interesting to me at that time (and a purer form of archery than compound :P).

In 2017, a new, bare compound bow can be purchased for as little as £140 (please understand that £140 is just for the bare bow and that accessories need to be added still).  The same as a decent intermediate recurve riser (no limbs or attachments).  Admittedly it is not a glamorous bow but is fine as a starting point.  Witnessing such a cheap bow in action at a local competition got me interested in trying compound on a shoestring - in the end I picked up a 2nd (3rd or even 4th!) hand compound bow of a more established "pro" brand on Ebay instead.

Here's the buying process I went through - I am not an expert (less so than for recurve!) but hope my experiences are of some use to you - Chugs

The bow - compound bows can appear much more complex than a recurve.  If you are buying new then any decent archery shop will set the bow up to suit your body.  The cost of a new compound bow varies from £140 to £13000+. 
If you are opting for the second hand route then make sure that you buy a bow that is adjustable for draw length and draw weight - otherwise you will find yourself facing another bill for swapping out cams and modules to suit your needs.  If you have never shot a compound bow before this is made more difficult as you probably don't have a consistent technique upon which to base these decisions.  Also, it is advisable to replace old strings as soon as possible on 2nd hand bows as you have no idea about the history of the bow.  Unlike recurve bows, strings are not removed from the bow at the end of a shoot - they remain on as part of the bow all the time.  It requires skill and equipment to replace strings on a compound bow so a trip to your nearest pro shop will be required.  Cost to restring is between £60-80.

The poundage of the bow is usually adjustable by quite a fair range.  It's best to try it out if possible as although compound bows have a let off at full draw which holds between 65 and 75% of the peak poundage, you still need the beans to get past the peak!
For target archery it is preferable to buy a bow with the longest axle to axle length possible (35 inches and above).  Shorter, more compact bows are less forgiving and are aimed at field archery and hunting (in the US).  Shorter bows also produce more acute angles at the point the string meets the release aid so some may have difficulty in establishing repeatable anchor/reference points on the face. Everyone has a different shaped face so you need to try as many bows as possible to see what works best for you.

If you know any compound archers in your club it would be a good idea to ask for advice before purchasing.  Try to do as much research as possible.

Due to the complex nature of compound bows you should budget to have the bow worked throughout the year on by expert technicians at your nearest archery shop.

Arrows - if you are moving from recurve to compound it's unlikely that you can transfer these over unless you are pulling an equivalent poundage.  For starting out stick to something relatively cheap like Easton Platinum Plus XX75s - these use decent components that allow for repairs should you be good enough to hit your own arrows and can be bought as singles.  Buy at least 8 arrows (6 + 2 spare).

Release Aid - the interface between your fingers and the bowstring.  There are several release types available and I would say for a beginner, a thumb trigger type would suit best.  These can cost between £40 and £200+.  Once you find the right one, spend as much as you can afford on this.  Ebay is a safe option for buying a second hand aid as long as you have handled/tried it beforehand.
You can also buy back tension release aids and wrist/index finger trigger release aids - another case of trial and error - there is no right or wrong type of release, just whatever works best for you.  Back tension/hinge releases are considered for advanced users however.  It would be handy to try someone else's equipment if possible to avoid the wasted expense.
Second hand releases can be resold with little loss if you buy the brand.

Sight and scope - compound sights are beefier than recurve sights and generally are more expensive.  £50 for the cheapest sight but you should aim to spend as much as possible to avoid replacing a shoddy item in the future. 
You also need to factor in the cost of a scope.  As a beginner, a bottom of the range scope should suffice which is around £30.  Quality optics can cost upwards of £60.  You will also have to cost in the peep sight which forms the "back sight" - this is served into the string and is an aperture through which you will line up the front scope.  The peep is not expensive but a bow press is recommended to fit one so a trip to a shop will be required.

Arrow Rest - as a contact point for the arrow you should aim to spend as much as possible again!  Blade style rests start from £20-30.  Look for something micro adjustable in every axis (they should all be these days).

Quiver - just a standard quiver.  £20 upwards.

Stabilisers - start with a standard long rod as you would a recurve.  Finding the right balance for you will take time and experimentation.  Buy extra base weights for the rod to have a play around. £25 upwards.  In time you will want to add a rearward rod to further experiment with the balance of the bow.  Rods can make a tremendous difference to how steadily you are able to hold your scope over the gold ring so it's worth investing time and money in perfecting this aspect of your bow.

Bow stand - normally attached to the lower limb to enable it to stand upright in-between shooting.  The front stabiliser will act as a third leg.

Bow case - as compound bows cannot be collapsed like a recurve the cases tend to be correspondingly bigger - make sure you can fit it in your car!

Shopping List:

  1. Bow
  2. Bow stand
  3. Sight
  4. Scope
  5. Peep
  6. String wax
  7. Arrows
  8. Arrow rest
  9. Arrow puller
  10. Quiver
  11. Stabiliser (long rod)
  12. Release aid
  13. Finger sling / wrist sling
  14. Case

Expert's guide to buying your first bow here:


  1. Without any doubt you can buy and use this compound bow. I am already using.
    best compound bow

  2. Buying your First Compound Bow
    This is exciting! You want to buy your first compound bow, it looks like you really are getting serious with this sport! Here are some important tips to share to help with the direction you may want to go with your purchase.
    a. Choose where you want to buy your bow. People may suggest to buy it online for the best price, but it doesn’t hurt to also do some physical shopping as well.
    b. Second point, and it is related to the first advice is, the advantage of being able to see the bow is that you will be able to do some practice on it as well, and you will be able to get a real feel on how comfortable you are with it. Give it a try, you want to know what you’re going to buy feels like, right?
    c. Set a budget, and stick to it. It may be so tempting to buy the shiniest thing out there, but you don’t have to spend so much to get what suits you for now. Bow also come at different price range, so you will be able to find something in your price range.
    I hope you have taken note of these tips. Now go and shop around.