By Josh Boyd
If you are new to bowhunting, or archery in general, the thought of selecting a bow best suited to your needs might seem somewhat intimidating. This is quite understandable, as there is a lot to digest when making such a decision.
These waters are further muddied by the long list of technical specifications used by manufacturers for description purposes, many of which can be confusing to those that are unfamiliar with typical archery industry jargon.
So, what should those in search of their first compound bow keep in mind when attempting to differentiate one model from the next, and what makes one particular bow best suited to an individual over another? While much of the answer to this question will come down to a matter of personal preference, there are several points of interest worth keeping in mind when heading to your local pro shop.
A Number That Matters: Brace Height
One of the most important specifications that can be observed when pondering the purchase of a new bow is its brace height. A bow’s brace height is defined as the distance between a bow’s string and the deepest part of the bow’s grip.
Brace heights vary from one bow to the next, with somewhere around the 6-7 inch range being typical. As a general rule, the greater a bow’s brace height, the more forgiving it is to shoot.
On the contrary, as a bow’s brace height is shortened, less forgiveness is afforded to an archer. While this can seem somewhat confusing, the reason behind this is rather simple to digest.
The shorter a bow’s brace height, the longer an arrow is in contact with its string upon being released. This longer duration of contact allows for a greater period of time in which a mistake can be made on an archer’s behalf when releasing their arrow, which will then be magnified downrange.
A bow that features a longer brace height typically masks a greater degree of archer error, which can be of significant value to those that have no prior experience shooting a bow.
Speed Is Not Everything
Every year, an untold number of archers step into their local pro shop, with the intent of purchasing a particular bow for no other reason than its exceedingly fast IBO speed. For those new to archery, this is not advisable.
The reason for this is that sacrifices are made to achieve this envelope-pushing speed, and these sacrifices come predominantly in the form of reduced brace heights. As previously mentioned, the shorter a bow’s brace height, the longer the period of contact between an arrow and a bow’s string. This allows for greater energy transfer, which translates into higher arrow speeds.
While arrow speeds increase, forgiveness and overall accuracy tend to suffer. This can especially hamper the efforts of those who are new to archery and are in the beginning stages of honing their craft.
Select Draw Weight Carefully
When considering the purchase of a bow that features 10-pound draw weight increment limbs, choose your poundage carefully. While it might seem easy to pull a bow back once that features 70-pound limbs, this is not always the case when shooting several consecutive shots.
After only a few shots, a weight that was previously no trouble to draw can quickly become more than an individual can handle. Muscle fatigue sets in, and with only 10 pounds of adjustability to work with, you are suddenly faced with a troubling situation.
Additionally, attempting to pull a weight that is too heavy to be drawn comfortably can lead to the development of poor habits in regards to shooting form. This can become a significant and long-lasting hindrance to your accuracy, as it is far easier to prevent the development of such bad habits, than to break these habits once they have taken root.
Consider Adjustability for Youth Archers
In recent years, several bow manufacturers have released new, highly adjustable compound bows, which are meant to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to bow selection.
These bows feature specialized cam modules that allow for a range of draw length adjustability, which few would have ever thought possible. Likewise, the range of draw weight adjustability featured in these bows is unsurpassed as well.
There are a number of distinct advantages to bows of this configuration, with many based in their ability to readily fit youth archers of every size and experience level. These variable bows can be adjusted in a manner that provides a highly customized fit for young archers, all without necessitating the need to purchase a “youth” or “beginner” specific bow.
Of most significance is the fact that these bows can grow with your young archer as they mature into adulthood, requiring no need for replacement. This eliminates the traditional switchover to an adult bow, that up until recently, required a secondary purchase.
A bow of this nature is also well suited for adults who require draw lengths on one extreme end of the spectrum or the other. In the past, these archers were limited in their selection of bows, to only those models which could cater to their specific needs. Now, these same archers can simply pick out a bow that they find favor in and adjust the included cam modules to accommodate their particular draw length.
Selecting a new bow is a big decision, and often one that can leave an individual feeling somewhat conflicted. This is especially true for those who are diving into the world of compound archery for the first time.
However, by knowing what one’s options are, and coming armed with a basic understanding of what various technical bow specifications mean in regard to the overall shooting experience, consumers are better afforded the opportunity to make a wise and informed buying decision.