Over the last 40 years, I have personally tested thousands of bows.
In addition, I have reviewed hundreds of test results and reviews written for articles.
In the early years of the compound bow, truth is many good recurves were faster than most compounds. In the early years compound bows’ let-off made it easier to hold at full draw. However, the durability and performance was not what it is today. It would be similar to comparing the Model T to cars of today.
An archer needs to consider several things when choosing between a traditional or compound bow. Many archers choose to shoot traditional bows for their simplicity and light weight, not to mention the tradition and enjoyment of shooting these classic designs.
Speed is great, however there is a price to pay. In early compound design, the energy was created by round eccentric wheels. These bows peaked at maximum weight for about 2 inches during the draw force curve of the bow.
Current cam have been designed so the bow draws with peaking almost as soon as you start drawing back and not letting off until almost full draw. This creates much more stored energy and a much faster bow.
Basically, the faster the bow the harder it will be to pull back. At full draw, however, the archer is only holding about 30 percent of the peak weight.
For comparisons, here are some examples of average speeds for different types:
- Longbow 160 to 180 fps (feet per second)
- Recurve 170 to 210 fps
- Early compounds 180 to 240 fps
- Current compounds with high performance cams 280 to 350 fps
Of course, it’s important to consider other changes made over the years like riser materials, better string material, improved limb technology, cam design, composite arrows and overall bow design.
Over the years, new bow designs, release aids and arrows have caused controversy.
I remember when I was 10 years old, many felt the bow sight was too much an improvement. The reality is you could tape a tooth pick on your sight window and have an advantage.
Release aids were an even bigger controversy. Some states banned release aids in the 1970s, but sales were as strong as states without a ban so the banning laws were quickly changed. The reality is the Turks used release aids hundreds of years ago.
You can imagine what a controversy the compound bow was. Many archers felt they would destroy archery. Some dealers refused to carry compounds. Since the traditional market died for several years after the introduction of compounds, shops that refused to sell anything except recurves and long bows did not survive.
Many manufacturers stopped production of traditional bows entirely. In the last 20 years, interest has returned and the traditional market has been increasing.
In today’s market, archers can choose whichever feels best to them and many shoot both.
Both have advantages — compound have more speed, which helps when judging yardage, they shoot flatter and allow the archer the advantage of misjudging the yardage by a greater distance and still hit the target; long bows and recurves have the advantage of simplicity and light weight.
You can have lot of fun no matter whatever you choose. Archery is a great family sport. Keep in mind, even if a bow is fast, if it’s not tuned or the archer isn’t able to handle the bow, you just miss at a faster speed! Visit a pro shop or watch the videos on www.ArcheryTalk.com to get started right.
Terry Martin grew up in the family archery business building arrows, accessories and shooting in tournaments from the age 6. In the early 1970s he began designing and patenting the first Martin compound bows. Many of the features are used throughout the industry today.
In 1997, he started Archerytalk.com the world’s largest online archery community.