Compound bows are a relatively young design that stemmed from the USA in 1966. The bow was designed for hunting but is now widely accepted in just as many competitions as recurve. Many of the unique features of this bow and its accessories are an engineers solution to the art that is archery. Does this make it something less than the self bow or the recurve? As much as we like to wind up compounders … No, it doesnt! but it does raise a whole new range of problems to be addressed although these are mostly psychological in the mind of the archer.
The compound bow is usually made from composite materials such as carbon fibre and aluminum. They tend to be quite compact and are stored as a single unit (limbs etc can be replaced or swapped but that’s for the workshop requiring a bow press). These bows tend to be in the higher poundage range of 40# to 60# for target and higher for hunting (WAAAY higher if its a big beast!). This is the peak draw weight – the maximum oof you need to draw the bow. The actually weight you hold when the string is drawn all the way back (called anchor point) can be as little as 15 to 25% of the peak draw weight. This is due to the pulley system called cams (aka training wheels to the rest of the archery world ;o) doing most of the work for you. This means aiming can be a lot more relaxed than the same process on a recurve.
Compounds are allowed 2 sights, fore and aft. The fore sight can be a magnifying lens and often includes a level bubble to help the archer get consistent alignment. (In other words telescopic sights!) The rear site is a peep hole on the string that allows the archer to line up his bow through the front sight. This can fit various strengths of ‘clarifier’ for a sharper image. This allows pin point accuracy even at 90m.
Compounders shoot with a mechanical release aid (it can literally be a trigger!!!). This makes for an extremely clean release of the string, doing away with lateral wobbly motion of the arrow as it leaves the bow. Yet another engineers solution to a problem that has plagued archers for thousands of years. As with olympic recurve bows, stabilizers can be added according to taste. Current trends have weights maximised to increase inertia and so resist extraneous movement but this in turn increases physical demands on the archer eroding some of the advantages of the bows engineering.
Massively popular in the USA, many are of the opinion that compounds popularity is on the rise worldwide and will become the most popular bow type even in Europe and the UK very soon. Even the recurve masters, the Koreans, are now fielding a compound team.
Editor: So a question I’ve been asked … Is compound easy mode? For all the banter aimed at compounders, while the features listed above make hitting the target/scoring higher easier, the expectations for each shot are much higher than other forms of archery. This puts incredible stress on the archer who could throw away an entire competition because they lost focus for just 1 shot. At the World Cup final in Edinburgh 2010, one of the archers shot a 7. The audience full of archers didnt make a sound apart from gasps. They knew that shot had probably cost the match. So while the physical demands on the compound archer are less, the psychological stresses might well make it the hardest to truly master.