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What Are the Parts of a Compound Bow? Anatomy Explained

WriterAubrey McShan
12 min read
Close-up shot of a hunter dressed in camo clothing while holding a modern compound bow

Compound bows appeal to most marksmen because of their impressive accuracy and modern mechanical innovations to archery. Understanding the anatomy of a compound bow can significantly help you learn how it works.

Each of the intricate components contributes to the precise performance you’d expect from using a compound bow. Keep reading to learn all about the smaller parts that work together to create one of the most thrilling experiences in archery!

Key Takeaways

Compound Bow Components

Compound bows may look intimidating at first. Compared to other types of bows, they are made up of a lot more intricate parts. Discover the different parts of a compound bow:

4 Main Parts of a Compound Bow

Compound bow parts diagram: A compound bow with arrows pointing to its limbs, riser, cams, and bowstrings.

Compound bows have four main sections: the riser, axles, cams, and limbs. Each of these sections has more technical or smaller parts we’ll cover further in the guide.

  • Riser: The riser is the central part of the bow that connects the limbs and provides a place to grip. It's usually made of a strong material like aluminum and is the foundation of the bow.

  • Axles: These are the pivot points on which the cams rotate. They help the bowstring and limbs achieve a smooth motion.

  • Cams: These resemble wheels and are at the end of each limb. They help multiply the force, which allows the archer to hold the full draw weight more easily.

  • Limbs: The limbs are the flexible, almost horizontal parts attached to the riser. They store the energy when the bow is drawn and release it when shot.

Compound Bow Accessories + Attachments

  • Sight: A device that helps the archer aim. It often includes pins or a scope to align the target.

  • Quiver: The quiver attaches to the riser and holds arrows, keeping them handy for the shooter.

  • Stabilizer: A stabilizer is a weighted device that reduces bow vibration and helps to balance the bow during a shot.

  • Sling: A sling is a strap or cord that wraps around the wrist or fingers: allowing the archer to release the grip upon release without dropping the bow.

Expert Tip:

Base sights on entry-level compound bow packages will get you by. However, if you want to upgrade, look for sights with 3 to 5 fiber-optic aluminum pins for the best accuracy assistance.

Compound Bow Bowstring Area

Bear Archery Prowess Ready to Hunt Compound Bow Package is drawn
  • Cables: These work with the cams to flex the limbs. They also store and transfer energy during the draw and release of the bow.

  • Bowstring: The bowstring is the part that the archer draws back and releases to propel the arrow forward.

  • D-Loop: A d-loop is a small loop that’s tied into the bowstring, where the release aid is attached. This loop ensures a consistent drawing position.

  • Peep Sight: The peep sight is a small ring inserted into the bowstring that provides an additional aiming reference point in line with the bow sight.

  • Speed Nock: Speed nocks are small devices that are attached to the bowstring to increase speed and decrease vibrations.

Expert Tip:

Each state mandates its own minimum draw weight (starting from 30-50 lbs). Always know your compound bow’s maximum draw weight before you hunt!

Compound Bow’s Functional Parts

  • Limb Bolts: These connect the limbs to the riser and can often adjust to alter the bow’s draw weight.

  • Cable Slide: Cable slides keep the cables apart and allow them to move smoothly as the bow is drawn and released.

  • Cable Guard: This is a rod that helps to keep the cables away from the path of the arrow, preventing any interference during the shot.

  • Arrow Rest: This rest holds the arrow in place, allowing it to be shot consistently.

  • Arrow Shelf: An arrow shelf is a small ledge or area above the grip where the arrow can rest while you aim.

  • Grip: The grip is where the archer holds the bow. It’s designed for comfort and control during shooting.

Compound Bow Parts Deep Dive

There are four essential components of a compound bow, which include the riser, axles, cams, and limbs.

1. Compound Bow Riser

A graphic highlights the riser on a compound bow.

The riser is the vertical centerpiece of a compound bow and is where the archer holds the bow. It is also the mounting point for various accessories: the sight, arrow rest, grip, stabilizer, and quiver.

  • Its design can vary, with some risers curving inward or outward.

  • Typically, risers are crafted from materials like carbon or aluminum.

  • Depending on the specific design of the bow, the riser can be long or short.

  • The riser is essential as it serves as the attachment point for the bow's limbs.

2. Compound Bow Axles

A line runs from the top axle to the bottom axle on a compound bow, demonstrating axle-to-axle length.

The axles play a significant role in a compound bow’s operation and performance. They resemble a pulley-like system that serves as the pivot points on which the cams turn.

  • The distance between the axles can influence the overall feel of the bow.

  • Axle-to-axle measurement, taken from the center of one cam to the other, is a key specification.

  • Longer axle-to-axle distances result in a smooth, slow draw, while shorter distances yield faster draws.

  • The axle-to-axle distance becomes particularly important when taking long-distance shots.

3. Compound Bow Cams

A single cam on a compound bow is shown.

Cams (often referred to as the ‘engine’ of the bow) are pivotal in the functioning of a compound bow. They enable the archer to sustain the full draw weight at a reduced effort level — typically around 70-80% of the full draw weight.

  • Cams are connected to the axles and resemble aluminum wheels or discs.

  • Most bows feature two cams, although different configurations are possible.

  • Cams are instrumental in lessening the force needed when drawing back the bow.

4. Compound Bow Limbs

Graphic of a compound bow with its limbs highlighted

Limbs (the flexible arms of the bow) help to transfer energy during a shot. The transferred energy goes to the cams, bowstring, and arrow to propel the arrow forward.

  • They are connected to the riser and flex inwards during the draw, returning to their original position upon release.

  • Limbs are typically made from durable materials such as carbon and fiberglass.

  • Bows may feature a single limb or split limb design, each offering unique performance characteristics.

Compound Bow Attachments + Accessories

The compound bow boasts a range of attachments that enhance its functionality. These include the sight, quiver, stabilizer, and sling.

5. Compound Bow Sight

A pin bow sight is shown on the left-hand side while it’s shown attached to the bar connecting to the riser on the right side

The sight is a key part of a compound bow that aids in aiming the arrow at the target. Some sights are fixed, while others offer adjustability for enhanced precision. All sights attach to a bar that connects to the riser of the bow.

6. Compound Bow Quiver

A quiver is shown against a white background.

The quiver serves as a holder for extra arrows. They provide easy access during shooting. Conveniently mount them directly to the riser of the bow.

7. Compound Bow Stabilizer

Compound Bow Stabilizer

The stabilizer is an essential add-on to your bow that significantly contributes to the quality of your shooting. They dampen the vibrations, give you a smoother shot, and enhance accuracy.

  • They attach directly to the bow's riser via a screwing mechanism.

  • It connects to the bow through a universally sized threaded hole (known as the stabilizer mount, which is located in the riser).

8. Wrist Sling

The wrist sling provides an added layer of security during shooting. They are a common accessory in archery. Mount them between the riser and the stabilizer to achieve a secure connection. The sling holds your bow in place and prevents it from falling should you lose your grip.

Parts of a Compound Bow’s Bowstring

The compound bow relies on a series of interconnected string components for precision and power. These include the cables, bowstring, D-loop, peep sight, and speed nock

9. Bowstring Cables

Two arrows point to the cables on a compound bow.

Cables are vital parts of a compound bow that contribute significantly to its functionality. But don’t confuse cables with bowstrings! They serve a distinct role in the compound bow's operation.

  • Cables traverse from one cam to the other via the cable slide — facilitating seamless operation.

  • They are specifically designed to avoid any interaction with the arrow to ensure an unobstructed shot.

  • Replace cables periodically following the manufacturer's instructions to maintain the best performance possible.

10. Bowstring

The bowstring is one of the most easily identifiable parts of a bow. It’s the main mechanism for launching the arrow forward by utilizing the energy accumulated during the draw.

11. D-Loop

The D-loop is shown on a compound bow.

The D-loop (also known as the string loop) serves as the junction where the arrow's nock connects to the string. It's the point where the archer attaches the release aid to the bowstring. The D-loop should always maintain its position since any shift can influence accuracy.

12. Peep Sight

The peep sight — a small yet significant accessory on your bow — assists in achieving accurate aim. It’s strategically positioned amidst the strands of the bowstring, acting as a reference point for your aim.

  • This tiny disc is interwoven onto the bowstring and functions like a viewing hole when the bow is fully drawn.

  • For a precise aim, align the peep sight with the bow sight to create a clear line of sight to your target.

  • Peep sights come in a range of sizes. Some hunters opt for larger variants to enhance target visibility: especially under low-light conditions.

13. Speed Nock

Speed nocks are compact, influential additions to your bow. They can significantly boost your shooting prowess. Affix these diminutive weights to the compound bow’s bowstring to minimize oscillation.

  • Their effect on oscillation can lead to increased arrow speeds, thus amplifying the bow's power.

  • For enhanced durability and performance, speed nocks are usually encased in rubber.

Functional Parts of a Compound Bow

On a compound bow, several functional parts can be fine-tuned for optimal performance. These include the limb bolts, cable slide, cable guard, arrow rest, arrow shelf, and grip.

14. Limb Bolts

The limb pocket is attached to the riser where the limb bolts are seen. 

Limb bolts are the connectors that secure the limbs to the bow and offer adjustability and control over the bow's performance.

  • They are adjustable and allow for customization of the bow's performance.

  • Tightening the limb bolts increases the bow’s draw weight poundage. Loosening them decreases it.

15. Cable Slide

Cable slides prevent your bow’s cables from coming into contact with each other when you draw the bow. Roller guards serve a similar purpose: ensuring smooth and safe bow operation.

16. Cable Guard

Cable guards on a compound bow are shown.

The cable guard ensures a clear path for the arrow's flight. As the name suggests, it creates a clear path for the arrow. This component runs perpendicular to the bow's riser — maintaining a specific alignment.

A cable guard keeps the bow's cable out of the arrow's path, ensuring a smooth and unobstructed shot. It can be used in conjunction with rollers or slides for enhanced performance.

17. Arrow Rest

An arrow rest is shown against a white background.

The arrow rest holds the arrow in place during the draw cycle and is available in two types: drop-away rests and whisker biscuits. Both types of arrow rests mount directly to the riser of the bow.

  • A drop-away rest securely cradles the arrow during the draw cycle, then cleverly drops out of the path upon release — facilitating a clean and unobstructed shot.

  • Whisker biscuits employ a system of bristles that grip the arrow shaft — ensuring stable positioning throughout the draw and release phases.

18. Arrow Shelf

The arrow shelf gives a resting point for the arrow. The arrow shelf extends from the riser (typically around the midpoint).

Expert Tip:

Position the arrow on the rest located within the compound bow arrow shelf. In traditional bows, the arrow rests directly on the arrow shelf itself.

19. Grip

The grip is what you wrap your hand around. You’ll typically hold it with your non-dominant hand. This component offers you control and stability.

  • Some grips are designed to overlay the riser, while others are intricately machined into the riser itself. Certain models even offer the flexibility of interchangeable grips.

  • Grips can be made from various materials — including wood, plastic, and metal.

  • Maintain a consistent grip position from the moment you draw to the point of release. A relaxed, neutral grip is key to ensuring accuracy and control.

Expert Tip:

Excessive grip pressure can lead to torque, which causes the arrow to veer off its intended course.

Have Fun Out There!

Ready to hunt some game or start practicing with a compound bow? Academy offers a wide selection of compound bows + accessories that can help you achieve the perfect setup. So have fun out there!