Just like the crossbow, the modern compound bow has undergone an amazing evolution in the last couple of decades with significant advances in arrow speeds.
Consequently, the process of choosing the correct draw weight for a compound bow is actually far more complicated than it is for a traditional bow due to significant differences in riser design, limb design, and cam design. In fact, any two different models of compound bows with the same draw weights may feel entirely different from each other when drawn due to those differences.
Therefore, choosing the correct compound bow draw weight is as much a matter of choosing the right brand and model as it is choosing a particular draw weight for a particular purpose.
Fortunately, there are some guidelines that you can follow to help you narrow down the correct draw weight for the particular compound bow that you choose.
Target Shooting & The Discliplines:
When choosing a compound bow for target shooting, you should first be aware that there are two different disciplines in formal target archery and the main difference between them is that archers who choose to pursue the sport of Field Archery always shoot at targets that are placed at known distances from the firing line whereas, archers who choose to pursue the sport of 3D archery always shoot at targets placed at unknown distances from the firing stakes.
Field Archers: Field Archers are far more concerned with shot-to-shot consistency and pin point accuracy than they are arrow speed. But, because arrows have an arched flight path, when firing them at targets at unknown distances, even a slight miscalculation of the distance of just a few feet can significantly, and adversely, affect the arrow’s point of impact.
3D Archers: 3D archers consider arrow speed to be a major factor when choosing a compound bow. Consequently, compound bows meant for Field Archery commonly range from 25 lbs. to 45 lbs. in draw weight and feature relatively smooth drawing cams. Compound bows meant for 3D Archery on the other hand commonly range from 50 lbs. to 70 lbs. and have far more radical cams with less smooth draw cycles but, they also deliver higher arrow speeds using the same draw weight.
Compound bows with moderate cams require more draw weight to equal the speed of the same bow with a more radical cam at the same draw weight. But, the more radical the cam, the less smooth the bow is to draw and thus, a lesser draw weight may be required to enable the archer to draw it.
General Guidelines to Draw Weight:
The best course of action is to find a model that you like and then choose the maximum draw weight that you can comfortably draw because most compound bows have a draw weight adjustment range of 10 to 15 lbs.
When choosing a compound bow for hunting, like the 3D archer, you will definitely want the maximum amount of draw weight that you can comfortably draw; regardless of what brand or model you choose.
Of course, the reason that it’s important for hunters to draw as much weight as possible is the same as it is for 3D Archers because increased draw weight results in faster arrow speeds.
Also, when hunting, you owe it to the animal you are hunting to make a clean, precise, shot which will end its life as quickly and humanely as possible and, faster arrow speeds result in better accuracy over unknown distances.
Therefore, because most states have a minimum draw weight restriction which is commonly 45 lbs., when choosing a compound bow for hunting, you will need to choose one that meets the minimum draw weight restriction for your state.
But, draw weights of 45 lbs. to 50 lbs. are good choices for youth and female hunters whereas most male hunters tend to prefer draw weights of 60 lbs. to 70 lbs.
On the other hand, it should be noted that while radical cams do significantly increase the speed of the bow, they also increase the steepness of the force-draw curve and thus, a bow with a radical cam can feel like it has more draw weight than a bow of the same draw weight with a less radical cam.
Wrap Up & Recommendations:
Therefore, once again, the best course of action is to find a model that you like, choose the maximum draw weight that you can comfortably draw, and then adjust the draw weight to suite your stature.
So, to reiterate, when choosing a compound bow for target shooting, you will likely want to choose a relatively light draw weight ranging from 25 lbs. to 45 lbs. depending on the physical stature of the intended archer. But, when choosing a compound bow for hunting, then you will need to choose a bow with as much draw weight as you can handle.
Thus, most youth and female hunters choose draw weights from 45 lbs. to 50 lbs. and most male hunters choose draw weights from 60 lbs. to 70 lbs. Also, it should be noted that most compound bows do have an adjustable draw weight range of 10 to 15 lbs. and as a result, it is wise to purchase a bow with the maximum draw weight the archer can draw, adjust it down, and then gradually increase it as the archer becomes accustomed to drawing it. That way, the bow can grow with the archer.