Compound bows can last indefinitely if you care for them, and make sure they’re regularly inspected and repaired by expert technicians at archery shops.
Blake Shelby, vice president of sales and marketing for PSE Archery, said bows are stronger and more reliable than ever, but they can fail if neglected. In addition, archers can outgrow their setups or simply lust after a new bow’s high-tech features.
Let’s review a few scenarios to help you determine if it’s time to upgrade.
Physical Growth = New Bow
“If a bow doesn’t fit you properly, you won’t shoot it well,” Shelby said.
It’s that simple. Specific bows match different abilities and body sizes. To be an ethical, efficient and effective bowhunter, your bow must fit your draw length, whichis a measurement of how far back you pull your bow. At full draw, an archer’s drawing hand must settle at the same anchor point each time, with their bow arm fully extended but not locked.
If your bow’s draw length is too short or too long, your form will suffer because you’ll feel awkward or uncomfortable while shooting. The result? Inconsistent shots. If your bow becomes a misfit, it’s time to replace it or adjust its draw length.
Many compound bows have rotating cam modules that can adjust to a range of draw lengths. If your bow is adjustable, take it to a pro shop so a technician can adjust its draw length to fit you.
Another factor is the bow’s draw weight, aka its poundage. This measurement indicates the force required to draw the bow. Higher draw weights generate faster arrow speeds by transferring more energy from the bow’s limbs to the arrow. Likewise, fast-flying arrows generally have flatter trajectories and penetrate deeper into targets, which increases the likelihood of pass-through shots when bowhunting.
If your bow is easy to pull back and hold, you might want to increase your draw weight. Some bow weights can be adjusted over a 50-pound range, but others offer only 10 pounds of adjustment. If your bow can adjust as your strength increases, great! If not, it might be time for a new bow.
Mental Growth = New Bow
Some people start shooting archery and find themselves attracted to different disciplines. For example, some start shooting recreationally and then dabble in 3D archery before switching to bowhunting. Others sign up for leagues and shoot competitively. And still others might set their compound bow aside after growing curious about crossbows or traditional bows.
Whatever the case, an archer’s first bow might still fit them, but their shooting and equipment interests changed. Shelby said an archer’s capabilities often surpass a bow’s purpose or performance. If that happens to you, buy a bow that better suits your skills or interests.
Better Technology = New Bow
Shelby added, however, that many people upgrade their setups because they want to take advantage of new features and advancements in archery equipment.
“The technology that goes into bows grows leaps and bounds every year,” Shelby said. “It’s kind of like a computer. If you have a bow that’s more than 5 years old, it’s probably outdated because we’re always advancing. New bows are faster, easier to shoot, and more accurate and efficient. Plus, they have good let-off and outstanding forgiveness.”
Choosing a New Bow
If you’re ready for a new bow, first determine what you need. Few bows fit everyone. Make sure your next bow matches your body, budget, competitive or bowhunting needs.
For bowhunting, do you want a lightweight model for backpacking through mountains while chasing elk? Do you want a fast bow that’s more accurate at farther distances? Or, perhaps you want a bow with a good let-off so you can wait longer at full draw for the ultimate shot.
No matter your choice, you must study your options while working with qualified professionals at nearby archery shops to find the best bow for you. Tell a retailer your goals and budget, and then ask them to set up different bows to shoot. Testing multiple brands at different weights will help you make educated decisions.
Shelby recommends asking questions, doing your research, and testing new bows yourself.
“Don’t buy a bow because someone said it was a good bow,” Shelby said. “It might be good for them, but you might not like it as much as another option. It might even be out of your price range. You don’t have to spend over $1,000. There are good bows for $300 to $600. Shoot different brands and offerings, and find one that best suits you.”
What if you can’t pick just one bow? Having different bows for different activities is OK. Shelby, for instance, owns three. Just be smart with your money, and decide what’s best for you. Keep saving for your dream bow, or buy what you can afford today.
No matter your decision, ask for help throughout the buying process by consulting with professionals at a nearby archery shop.