An important factor in being able to choose the right bow for the type of shooting or bowhunting you will be doing is knowing what all the different parts of a bow are and how they work.
The next essay will examine the various elements that combine to make contemporary compound bow the most streamlined, quick, and effective archery tools ever created.
There are two major types of cam systems found on compound bows. Dual cams and single cams. A dual cam bow uses two eccentric cams that are identical to each other at either end of the bow.
In most modern dual-cam systems, these cameras are connected directly to each other via two cables.
The cams are interlocked or slaved to make them more dependable and consistent by reducing the likelihood that they will run out of time. This particular dual cam system is called a “binary” cam.
While there are a variety of minor differences between manufacturers, the basics of a dual-cam system remain the same no matter who puts their name on it.
A single-cam system uses a single large cam on the lower body and an idler on the top. When the bow is drawn, a single cam sends the strings out of the track, while cables running from the single cam to the top limb compress the limb to store energy.
Many people believe that single cam bows are easier to tune and shoot than double cam systems due to their simple nature and lack of time issues. But like most things in archery, this is really a matter of taste.
Bow String & Cables
Although it probably goes without saying, the bow string is what the archer uses to pull the bow back and which ultimately propels the arrow forward upon release.
Most dual-cam systems use one rope and two cables, while single-cam systems use a longer rope and one cable. Modern bow strings are made from high-tech materials like dyneema, which is used in everything from commercial fishing nets to bulletproof vests.
Most bow technicians recommend replacing your bow string and cables every 2-3 years to keep the bow performing at its best.
String depressors are small rubber objects that can be installed either between or around the bow string. They are designed to help eliminate noise and vibration caused by the bow string after release.
Speed nocks are basically brass nocking points that are added to the bow at strategic points to give it a little more power, and speed up the arrow. These may not be in the same spot on every bow, but they are often in the same location, depending on the bow model and maker.
Many companies have recently been using speed nooks with shrinkable material to display company logos and give the string a more personalized look.
The peephole is placed between the edges of the bolstering, and is usually held in place by a projection material. On a full draw, you will look at the peep sight and line it up with the sight as another anchoring point for more consistent accuracy.
Peepholes come in many shapes and sizes. For precision targeting, a target archer will typically utilise a peep sight with a smaller diameter. But most hunters use one that’s a little larger because of the potential low-light scenarios, and the fact that animals tend to move around. Using a large peep sight allows you to be a little easier on your target.
Modern archers have adopted the use of a “D-Loop” or “String Loop” when using mechanical release aids to shoot compound bows. The D-Loop is where the arrowhead attaches to the string, and where the archer attaches the release aid to the bow.
Making ensuring the D-Loop does not shift or bind together is important. If it moves, it can affect accuracy, or create “tip punch” on the arrow tip. Tip punch occurs when the de-loop knots are too close together, thereby “punching” the arrow tip, and lifting it off the rest when the bow is drawn.
The “center serving” is made of serving material, which is slightly stronger and stiffer than regular bolstering material. The center string’s main function is to shield the bow string from damage caused by constant use. This not only protects the string in the main point of use, but also provides a better fit for the arrowheads.
A cable guard, or roller guard, is used to keep the cables out of the path of the arrow and the archer’s arm. This guard pulls the cables aside to provide clearance for the arrow.
Most cable guards are made from machined aluminum or carbon fiber rods and may use Teflon sleeves or metal rollers to allow the cable to move when the bow is drawn and fired.
The riser and bow cam system are joined by the bow limbs. The limbs bend when the bow is drawn to help store the energy that is transferred to the arrow when released.
Most modern bows are made of fiberglass or other composite materials, some of which are one piece and others made of multiple layers of different materials.
Some bow manufacturers use a single solid limb design, while others use a split limb design. While solid limbs are more prone to failure (breaking, cracking, or breaking), some critics of split limbs argue that they are differently prone to warping or wear, thereby affecting the arrow’s flight and accuracy.
Most hunting bows today feature “parallel” limb designs instead of the traditional D-shaped bows of years past.
The advantage of the parallel arm design is that each arm bends in opposite directions, helping to eliminate noise and vibration during and after shooting.
Axle to Axle Length
Although axle-to-axle length is not a physical part of a bow, it is commonly referred to when talking about a bow. Often referred to as the “ATA” length, this is the distance between the axes that pass through the cam and the limbs when the bow is at rest.
Most flagship bows these days are about 30″- 33″ ATA in length. Most tree stand hunters will prefer this length and something longer is possible as well. And most ground blind hunters and those who hunt out west where there is a lot of hiking and climbing will prefer a more compact bow, usually around 27″ – 30″ axle to axle.
Many target archers prefer to use a bow with an ATA length anywhere from 38″ – 42″. The reason for using that long bow is that a bow with a length of ATA will generally be more stable at full draw. So on the flip side, a smaller bow may be more compact and easier to hook on the hunt, but you’re losing a bit of stability when choosing a bow that has a smaller ATA.
Limb Pocket & Limb Bolt
The limb pocket’s primary function is to firmly retain the bow limb in place. Organ pockets are often made of machined aluminum, although sometimes they are made of durable ABS plastic or other materials.
The bow limb will rest inside the limb pocket, which is then spoke on the bow riser.
The limb bolt is the device that attaches the limb bag to the riser. Most limb bolts are adjusted using a standard Allen key. Tightening the limb bolts increases the weight of the bow, while loosening the limb bolts reduces the tension.
Both of these must be adjusted by the same amount when adjusting the limb bolts. Failure to do so may cause your bow to go out of tune.
The bow’s riser is the “middle” part of the bow that contains the grip and is attached to the bow limb. Most compound bow risers are made of aluminum, either forged or machined.
There are usually many cutouts that keep the bow’s strength and stability while reducing the overall weight.
In recent years several bow manufacturers have developed compound bows with carbon fiber risers that are said to be stronger than aluminum risers while being extremely light weight and warm to the touch.
Many bow accessories attach directly to the riser, including sights, arrow rests, quills, wrist slings, stabilizers, etc. All mounting holes on the bow riser are universally sized and positioned, ensuring you can use almost any accessory on any bow. The riser is really the basis of what is known as the modern compound bow.
The area just above the grip on the bow’s riser where the arrow rest is mounted is called the arrow shelf. Modern archery ranges use arrow rests to hold arrows in place before and during shooting, whereas in traditional archery arrows are usually shot directly from the rack, which is where the name comes from.
When shooting, you hold the bow in your hands using the bow grip. Grips can be made of wood, plastic, rubber or even metal.
Every bow grip will feel different so it’s important to try and find one that feels right in your hand. There are also a variety of custom grips on the market, offering flexibility in size, hand position, and color.
First popular in the mid-2000s, the air string suppressor is mounted directly behind the bow stabilizer and usually consists of either a metal or carbon fiber rod with a rubber bumper on the end.
The bumper acts to prevent forward string travel after shot which helps reduce noise and vibration.
Additionally, a string tensioner can help prevent the bowstring from slapping the archer’s arm unnecessarily. The majority of experts advise leaving between 1/16″ and 1/8″ between the rubber stopper and the bow string. Additionally, it is recommended that your bow wire is always projected where the bumper will make contact. This helps prevent unnecessary wear on your wire.
Most bows do not come with a stabilizer, but they do come with a mounting hole for the stabilizer. This universal fit allows almost any stabilizer to be used with most bows.
The purpose of the stabilizer is to stabilize the bow throughout the draw and absorb vibration on the shot. Most hunters will use stabilizers 4″-12″ in length. This allows for good stability while also maintaining the ability to maneuver easily in the woods or at full draw.
Target archers utilize stabilizers that are extremely lengthy, ranging in length from 24 to 48 inches. Having a long stabilizer in a hunting setup isn’t very beneficial, however, since a target archer usually has a small area, they need to hit, and no obstacles immediately in front of them. They can avoid using a long stabilizer.
Many archers choose to fire their bow while wearing a wrist sling. This sling fits between the bow’s riser and stabilizer, and serves to hold your bow in place if you lose your grip during the shooting process.
Wrist slings usually do not come with your bow from the factory and are an aftermarket addition. For the specific demands of the archer, they come in a variety of sizes, hues, and materials.
String height is measured as the distance between the bow grip (deepest part) and the neck of the string, and is often used as an indicator of speed and forgiveness.
Bows with shorter stand heights (less than 6 ½ inches) are generally considered less forgiving because they are more susceptible to imperfections in the archer’s shape. Bows with longer brace heights, greater than 6 ½ inches, are said to be more forgiving and easier to shoot.
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