Finding the best compound bow for a beginner archer is easier than you think… if you know what to look for, that is. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the finest entry level CB’s, covering a wide range of different archery technologies and specs. Right below the comparison chart there’s a more detailed outline on what to look for in a beginner’s compound bow, and I recommend reading it so you can make an informed choice.
|13 Diamond Infinite Edge|
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|Bear Archery Encounter|
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|Bear Archery Apprentice 2
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|Our Review||Our Review||Our Review|
|5 - 70 lbs. (adjustable)||50, 60, 70 lbs.||20 - 60 lbs. (adjustable)|
|13 - 30"||27" - 32"||15" - 27"|
|310 FPS||310 FPS||265 FPS|
|3.1 lbs.||3.7 lbs.||2.9 lbs.|
So what is it exactly that makes a compound bow suitable for a novice? Below are some of the more important criteria to consider:
How Much Should a Beginner Pay For a Compound?
As nice as it is to believe that your first compound bow will be perfect, the reality is you will likely want to buy a new one a few years down the road. As a result, you want your first bow to be solid and adjustable enough to grow with your experience, but also inexpensive so that:
- You can get started quickly
- You have enough money left to buy a higher-quality bow down the road
Most of the best compound bows will cost you $500+, but there are a few models of exceptional quality that cost less than $400, and you can find them in the comparison chart above. Make no mistake – while cheap, compound bows for beginners are absolutely not a toy; they’re equally deadly and dangerous weapons as models that cost twice or thrice as much.
How Much FPS (Speed) Should a Beginner Go For?
Compound bows are governed by basic laws of physics. Despite their modern design and fancy technologies used, they are no more than a slingshot with a somewhat fancier construction. As a result, there is a very simple relationship to be aware of: The faster your bow shoots, the more aggressive the cams will feel and hence the more difficult the bow is to draw.
There is no way around this. Certain designs attempt to circumvent this fact, but they are then no longer considered regular bows – they become crossbows. As a novice archer, you don’t want the draw to be too aggressive and difficult as it will make it harder for you to properly learn shooting form.
As such, I strongly recommend that beginners stick to compound bows with an advertised IBO speed of below 330 FPS. Even 320 FPS is more speed than a beginner will ever need, and it can be used to successfully hunt the toughest game in the world. See our guide on kinetic energy to understand how powerful modern compounds actually are.
What Brace Height Should a Beginner Choose?
It doesn’t really matter. Back in the day when compound bows were still in their infancy, models with lower brace height were harder to shoot:
- They were harder to hold the bow properly
- They were harder to draw and aim it properly
- The string was more likely to hit your forearm upon release
As a result, some people back then recommended that beginner archers go for bows with a 7″ brace height or longer. In today’s world however, I believe this issue to be irrelevant. Modern compound bow designs are designed in a way that makes brace height pretty much irrelevant as far as “beginners vs. advanced” comparisons go. But if you want a range, here it is: go for a brace height between 6″ and 8″.
How Much Let-Off Should a Beginner’s Compound Bow Have?
The vast majority of modern compounds have a 75-80% let-off, and this is an excellent value regardless of whether you are just starting out or an advanced shooter. Many competitive archers prefer to use lower Let-off (such as 60%), but this is something a beginner should definitely not worry about.
Additionally, the vast majority of modern compound bows allow you to slightly change the let-off settings by reducing them from the maximum to a lower value. As a beginner though, you’ll want to keep the let-off as high as possible because it will allow you to hold the drawn bow for a long duration, giving you more than enough time to properly aim and make sure your technique is on point.
How Much Draw Weight Should a Beginner’s Compound Have?
Some compound bows, such as the Apprentice 2 or the Diamond Infinite Edge, have a wide range of different draw weights you can choose from. With most other compounds, however, you’ll need to decide on the peak draw weight before you make your purchase, typically having to choose either a 50, 60, or a 70 lbs. version.
It’s hard to say how much draw weight you should go for as a novice, as it depends on your strength, body build, and a few other factors. To answer your question, please consult our compound bow draw weight chart, which will help you determine an approximate acceptable draw weight based on your body shape and gender.
Can Beginners Hunt With a Compound Bow?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve come to realize that many people believe you need a top-of-the-line compound bow, with 350+ FPS and a 5″ brace height if you want to hunt. The reality is that most adult beginner archers will be able to handle bows more than capable of taking down a deer, elk, black bear, and even bigger game.
All thing considered, whether a compound bow is suitable for hunting is not determined by its status as a “beginner” or “advanced” bow. It’s determined solely based on how much kinetic energy (KE) an arrow shot through it will carry. The more KE, the more deeply the arrow will pierce, and the larger the game you can take down. Please read our reviews of the bows listed in the chart above, as we mention how much kinetic energy you can expect from each of them, depending on your settings (draw weight, length, and arrow weight). For more on the subject, please read our guide to kinetic energy.
What About The AtA Length And Weight Of The Bow?
The general rules are as follows:
For hunting purposes, you should prefer shorter (less than 33″ axle to axle) and lighter (less than 4.3 lbs.) compound bows. As you will need to carry the bow around in the field, maneuver it in a blind or tree stand, the compact size and low weight will come extremely handy.
For target shooting purposes, a longer bow will provide better stability and less vibration, thereby improving your aim.
As a beginner though this is not something you should worry about much. Just make sure the bow isn’t too long (over 35″ in length). You also want it to be relatively light-weight so that your muscles don’t tire too quickly from all the practice you’ll probably be doing. Any of the bows listed above will work just fine.
Best Compound Bow For a Beginner – Summary
Hopefully the advice above has been helpful to you. If you’re still at a loss and not sure what model to get, please leave a comment below describing:
- Your gender, age, height and weight
- Your budget
- Your previous experience with archery (if any)
- Your goal (hunting, target practice, or both?)
And I’ll come back to you with some suggestions specific to your particular needs.