Video: Compound Bow Basics,
Part 2 Video: Compound Bow Basics, Part 2

Compound bows are used most often for bowhunting and 3-D archery. The compound’s system of cams, wheels and strings might make these bows look complicated, but they’re simple to shoot. Here, Archer Merritt, now 15, a four-time Virginia state champion 3-D archer, explains compound-bow basics for scopes, sights and stabilizers.

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Compound Bow Terms

Back bar (1): Back stabilizer bars are usually shorter than front stabilizers, but still counteract the bow sight’s weight and help reduce noise and vibration when the bow is shot.

Bubble level (2): Compound-bow shooters work to keep their bows perfectly upright so their arrows strike exactly where they’re aimed. Many sights, like Archer’s, have a bubble level to show if the bow is canting (tilting).

Front bar (3): Front stabilizers are typically rubber, which are mostly used by bowhunters; or rigid/long-rod, which are mostly used by target archers. When front stabilizers are longer than back bars, they don’t need as many added weights to stabilize the bow.

compound bow

Peep sight (4): The peep sight, or rear-sight, aids aiming and is mounted on the compound’s bowstring. Archers at full draw look through the peep sight – often simply called a “peep” – which is like peering through a dark tunnel. A peep performs the same function as a rifle’s rear sight. It allows archers to align their sights more precisely on the target.

Point of aim: The point of aim is the spot on the target that archers try to hit with their arrows.

Point of impact: The point of impact is where the arrow hits the target. Archers can adjust their sight to match the point of aim and point of impact.

Scope (5): The scope on a 3-D competition bow is the round part that’s called “the sight” on other compound bows. Scopes have a clear lens or no lens, and many have a bubble level for improved accuracy. Scopes have fiber-optic pins in the center to increase accuracy.

compound bow scope

A close-up of Archer Merritt’s Shrewd scope shows the bubble level (2), scope (5) and sight tape (7). Photo: Shannon Rikard/ATA

Sight (6): Sights fasten to the compound’s riser (handle) and improve accuracy by helping archers aim. Many bowhunters use round fixed-pin sights with fiber-optic pins set at various distances – typically 20, 30 and 40 yards. When the target is 20 yards away, the archer aims with the 20-yard pin, and so on.

Archer’s compound bow, used for 3-D competition, has a sight made of two metal bars that he adjusts to specific conditions using metal knobs. The sight has a white sight tape that indicates the yards for which the sight is set.

Sight tape (7): Also called “yardage tape,” sight tapes are marked in 1-yard increments. Based on distances they shoot, archers turn a knob on their sight to adjust its single sight pin to improve their accuracy. For example, when archers want to shoot a target at 20 yards, they set the sight pin to 20 yards on the tape.

Stabilizer: Stabilizers attach to the bow’s bottom portion. They add weight to stabilize the bow in the archer’s hand, and help reduce noise, vibration and torque (twisting) when the archer shoots.

Weights (8): Many archers add small metal weights to their long-rod stabilizers for added stability. Stabilizers and weights come in vibrant colors and patterns. Try various combinations to determine what works best with your bow instead of simply buying one that looks nice.

Windage adjustment: In archery and other target-shooting sports, the side-to-side or horizontal distance between the target’s center and where the arrow strikes is called “windage.” Adjusting the windage means moving a sight right or left.

Check out more compound bow basics about cams, wheels, limbs and strings.

Compound, recurve or traditional? Find out what bow type is right for you.

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