Compound bows’ advanced and mechanical system makes them one of the most preferred and popular bow types for beginner and experienced archers. There are four different types of compound bows, each with distinguishing features:
- Single-cam compound bows
- Dual cam compound bows
- Hybrid cam compound bows
- Binary cam compound bows
Getting familiar with the basics of a compound bow is a step to help you decide what to choose or how to use your bow better. Compared to other vertical bows, it’s essential to know that compound bows are more complex. It contains several parts you can’t find on others, like a cable system and cams.
Cams are the compound bow’s most distinguishable component and the system’s heart. It can produce fantastic speed and power while making it easier to draw back and shoot.
Moreover, each compound bow type differs mainly from the others due to its cam system, which is available in multiple designs, styles, and shapes.
The table offers a quick look at the type of compound bows and on which archery skill level they function best:
Type of Compound Bow Suitable Archery Skill Level
Single Cam Compound Bow Entry-level or beginners
Dual Cam Compound Bow Experienced archers and those into hardcore competition games
Hybrid Cam Compound Bow Most experienced archers
Binary Cam Compound Bow Big game bow hunters and archers into competitions
Nevertheless, a more in-depth discussion can offer better and more feasible decisions to find the best compound bow type fit for your want and needs, which this article provides as you continue reading.
Type of Compound Bows
Here is the ultimate list of compound bow types you’ll likely come across, plus their advantages and disadvantages to aid your selection.
Let’s get started!
1. Single Cam Compound Bows
The first cam system invented was the single cam. Also referred to as “solo cam,” the single cam compound bow is a direct successor of the bows from the middle ages. It is also common among beginner compound bows and is famous for its simple design.
Although the compound bow’s design resembles two cams, a single-cam compound bow features only one power cam. It functions to flex the limbs and produce energy to propel the arrow.
True to its name, single-cam compound bows only has one cam mounted on the lower limb. On the other, the wheel mounted on the compound bow’s upper lid is the idler wheel.
Single-cam compound bows offer an effective basic and functional system, pertaining that they have the least complicated design among other types of compound bows.
The main advantage that made the single-cam compound bow a widely accepted option is due to its simplicity. It is the preferable type of compound bow for those who appreciate less bow tuning, ease of maintenance, and operation.
Besides their simple design, single-cam compound bows are less aggressive and provide a smooth draw. You can also expect a clean and neat shot with less noise.
Moreover, their design gears toward attaining accuracy compared to their counterparts focused on speed. Single-cam compound bows are incredibly light and fierce enough.
Since it has fewer moving parts and less tension, single-cam compound bows are the quietest compound bow type. Unlike dual-cam compound bows, synchronization is unnecessary, resulting in manageable maintenance.
Shooting a single-cam compound bow means high shooting precision. Its accuracy gives it the upper hand as opposed to its counterparts. A single-cam compound bow might work well for you if you are a newcomer in archery, especially shooting compound bows.
Despite its tempting advantages, single cam compound bow has major nock travel issues. The compound bow’s one-cam design leads to unequal pressure. Thus, the nock travel issue can affect its accuracy.
Regarding speed, it has the disadvantage since it’s not as fast as the other compound bow types making it also less powerful. Furthermore, not all single-cam compound bows are equal. It means some may be more aggressive and faster than others, while some are silky and smooth.
Another example is that some single-cam models are prone to let-off problems due to experiencing adjustment difficulty.
2. Dual Cam Compound Bows
Dual cam compound bows, also known as twin cam compound bows, have the two-cam system that single cam doesn’t have. Its cams work together to propel the arrow powerfully and faster by producing more draw weight.
Another distinguishable feature of the dual-cam compound bow is that its cams should look the same to enable proper synchronization. Cams on this type of compound bow can be elliptical or circular.
In addition, it is the single-cam compound bow’s advanced variant with two perfectly symmetrical cams on both ends of the bow. Thus, it is incredibly appealing to look at due to its aligned cams.
The reason for its design is to address the previous issues apparent in single-cam compound bows, like the nock travel problem. Also, dual cam compound bow is popular in countries outside America.
Since the dual-cam compound bow features two cams, it is faster and more potent than the single-cam compound bow. Also, string stretch occurs less with dual-cam compound bows due to modern models’ recently improved bowstring technology.
Therefore, it results in fewer synchronization issues.
You will also likely enjoy shooting dual-cam compound bows since it offers more adjustment selections. Another great thing about this type of compound bow is its more balanced nock pressure.
Since it successfully eliminates nock travel problems, you’ll observe enhanced arrow velocity, which results in excellent accuracy. It is ideal for serious archers, especially those entering various competitions.
Sadly, even with two cams working harmoniously, dual-cam compound bows still have recurring issues. For example, it suffers from synchronization problems more often, unlike single-cam compound bows. Its two-cam design makes it at risk of one cam rotating ahead from the other.
Another disadvantage of dual-cam compound bows is the string stretch. It means there’s a potential imbalance between lower and upper limb forces. Although it’s the less pressing matter, you must keep your compound bow checked by a professional at least once every season.
Compared to a single-cam compound bow, it requires more maintenance and bow tuning to avoid any potential issues from arising. Also, it is noisier due to its moving parts, which is a big deal for bow hunters.
3. Hybrid Cam Compound Bows
Third on our list is the hybrid cam compound bow, which is an improved model of dual cam compound bows, promising zero synchronization issues. Unlike the latter, the hybrid cam compound bow boasts automatically synchronized cams.
Thus, it is easier to tune and requires less maintenance.
Although it has two cams, each cam has a different primary purpose: one is a power cam, while the other is a control cam. Also, the upper cam’s cable goes not to the limb but to the lower cam. On the other hand, the lower cam connects to the bow’s top limb.
Such a setup makes the lower cam the power cam, whereas the upper one only follows the movement—the cam’s co-dependence results in automatic synchrony. Another distinguishing feature of hybrid cam compound bows is their asymmetrically elliptical-shaped cams.
As previously mentioned, its design allows for eliminated synchronization issues and less overall maintenance requirement. Additionally, hybrid cam compound bows are faster and more accurate, making them the best compound bow for hunters.
Hybrid cam compound bows are exceptionally lightweight and easy to carry around. Moreover, you’ll find it impressively quiet and fast once you finish finalizing its setup. You’ll also be able to lock onto a target easier with hybrid cam compound bows.
Although it’s advertised as a maintenance-free compound bow, hybrid cam compound bows still need maintenance. Regular maintenance and bow tuning are vital to keeping the hybrid cam compound bow in stable working condition.
You must “time” the hybrid cam compound bow correctly to experience its overall efficiency and best features. Remember to have a bow technician set it up to reach the compound bow’s best performance.
Since a hybrid cam compound bow is ideal for the most experienced archers, it can confuse amateurs.
4. Binary Cam Compound Bows
Last on our list is the binary cam compound bows. It has the furthest development among the four compound bows, with two cams on each end of the bow. Even though it has a few similarities with dual-cam compound bows regarding the number of cams, its cable setup is different.
For instance, the upper cam’s cable goes to the lower cam, and the same happens for the latter. It means the lower cam’s cable goes to the upper cam, resulting in co-dependency on both cams.
Due to two cams regulating each other, binary cam compound bows generate enormous power. If there are any imperfections on the limbs, it gets smoothed out to achieve accurate and clean release.
Both cams in a binary cam compound bow are independent yet stable and not relying on the bow’s limbs. It also aids in balancing any cam inequality running throughout the arrow, referred to as a “free-floating system.”
Binary cam compound bow’s advanced and unique systems provide maximum accuracy and speed with less noise and clean arrow travel. In addition, it is the most precise compared to its counterparts.
Its self-correcting system controls cable lengths and automatically balances any string or limb defections. Therefore, there is a reduction in possible nock travel problems.
Lastly, it is best for bow hunters into big game hunting and those into competitive archery.
Binary-cam compound bows are the opposite of single-cam compound bows because of their complex design. Thus, the cams can get intertwined with each other. Moreover, it requires frequent bow tuning and maintenance.
It also has numerous patent issues that confuse buyers. For example, most bow manufacturers advertise their bow models as hybrid cam compound bows even though they have binary cam features. Therefore, manufacturers do it to avoid legal problems.
Binary cam compound bows are more suitable for experienced archers and large game bow hunters than entry-level skilled archers.
What should I look for in a compound bow?
You should look for the axle length, brace height, speed, limbs, and more in buying your compound bow. It is critical to identify your eye dominance, draw weight, purpose, and draw weight.
Suppose that you now know which compound bow type to select; it’s time to look for these factors before purchasing a compound bow:
Remember that if you want easy-to-maneuver compound bows, go for shorter axle lengths. However, shorter bows are more difficult to shoot than longer ones.
On the contrary, go for longer axle lengths if you want to shoot a more forgiving compound bow.
For instance, loud compound bows may startle the target before the arrow can hit, or inaccurate compound bows may affect your shooting skills.
Besides the factors enumerated above, it’s also crucial to identify the following beforehand for a better bow fit:
Your dominant eye
It is crucial to identify your dominant eye. It helps determine whether you need a right-handed or left-handed compound bow. Take note that some bows are ambidextrous while others are not.
Ensure to determine your draw weight since there may be a limit to how much poundage you can pull back. Another thing is the required minimum draw weight for each state you plan to bow hunt.
Nonetheless, look for a compound bow with a draw weight that you can comfortably pull back.
Compound bow designs differ from one another. For instance, some compound bows are for bowhunting; meanwhile, some are solely for target archery. Determine your purpose first so you can easily find which compound bow model category to start looking from to help narrow your search.
If you are uncertain whether to go for “more” or “lesser” draw length, always opt for “less.” The trick is that too much draw length can impact your shooting speed and accuracy negatively.
Why choose a compound bow?
There are many reasons why archers should choose a compound bow. Shooting a compound bow means more power and accuracy, better customization options, wider target distance, and a more advanced mechanical system. Nevertheless, it is always an ideal bow for hunting, target archery, or leisure hobby purposes.
Enumerated below are the reasons you should choose a compound bow:
- It delivers more power and accuracy compared to other vertical bow types.
- Compound bows are customizable. You can also replace defective parts or put add-ons much as you like.
- Its design allows for a greater distance from the target.
- Although similar to vertical bows, compound bows have a mechanical system advantage thanks to their cams and let-off.
- It requires less strength from the shooter to hold the bow at full draw.
- Relatively safe to use and more accessible to reload than crossbows.
Compound bows have been a preferable and popular bow type, may it be for bowhunting, target archery, or hobby purposes. Additionally, its power and advanced features improve as more modern compound bows enter the market at least annually.
You can choose from four compound bows, wherein one may be better than the other. Nonetheless, it all boils down to your needs and preferences. Whatever compound bow you choose, always ensure it can serve you well.