Compound Bow Parts Explained

If you’re in the market for your first compound bow, you might feel daunted by the presence of so many moving parts. However, if you’re new to hunting, a compound bow can be an excellent place to start. Unlike a traditional bow, compound bows are easier to learn and provide the hunter with enhanced speed and accuracy. 

Keep reading for a complete breakdown of the parts of a compound bow.

The hunter’s ultimate guide to the compound bow parts

Here’s what you need to know about the key compound bow parts to ensure you select the right bow for your hunting needs.

The riser

The riser is one of the bow parts in the center of the device, featuring the grip. The sight and arrow shelf are affixed to the riser, which is typically manufactured from aluminum. Some of the more premier compound bows sport carbon fiber designs to make them more lightweight for the hunter.

The riser also features some of the bow’s chief accessories, such as the quiver, stabilizer, and arrow rest. 


The limbs are compound bow parts situated at the top and bottom of the device and connected to the rise. The limbs are designed from fiberglass planks and attached to cams, which we will discuss in a moment. When you pull back your bowstring, the limbs are responsible for harnessing that energy to make your shot. 

Compound bows can sport limbs in a range of styles. Solid limbs are designed from a single fiberglass piece while split limbs feature two limbs attached to the rise. The advantage to split limbs is that they offer great longevity of use and reduce the shock to your hand when you shoot.

Parallel limbs are another style you could select and are the variety that most compound bows feature. Rather than the regular “D” bow design, parallel limbs sport a top and bottom limb situated parallel to one another. Parallel limbs make for more silent shooting and reduce the recoil you’ll experience too.


Cams are oval or round discs affixed to the end of the bow’s limbs. They are the differentiating feature that set compound bows apart from traditional ones.

In the case of a traditional bow, the more you try to pull the string back, the more difficult the action becomes. With cams, these devices alter the bow’s draw weight when you pull back the string. Once you reach a certain point, pulling the string back actually  becomes easier without affecting the stored energy you’d enjoy with a traditional bow. Cams come in all varieties, including:

  • Hard cams
  • Single cams
  • 1.5 hybrid cams
  • Round wheels
  • Soft cams

Cam systems

Cam systems are the wheels of the bow, so cam systems affect how the wheels operate as a unit. There are four varieties of cam systems: binary cams, twin cams, hybrid cams, and single cams. 

The majority of starter compound bows sport a single cam, and they are widely popular with newbie and pro hunters alike. A single cam has a round idler wheel situated at the top of the device and an egg-shaped power cam at the bottom. Single cam systems are pretty quiet and require little work to maintain. 

Headed on a hunting trip soon? Check out our top picks for the best hunting boots.


No guide to the parts of a compound bow would be complete without explaining the bowstring. The bowstring propels the arrow. Many bowstrings of today are manufactured from man-made components that reduce tension with extended use. 

If you opt for a mechanical release bow, the bowstring will come in a D-loop so you can attach it with ease.


The cables extend between the bow’s cams. The cables are responsible for moving the cams when you pull the bowstring back.

Cable guard

The compound bow cable guard is a single rod designed from fiberglass materials, extended perpendicular to the device’s riser. The cable guard works in congruence with the cable slide to ensure the cables don’t go near the center of the device and stay away from the arrow’s aim.

Cable slide

The cable slide is a small plastic unit connected to the cable guard and affixed to the cables. The slide and guard keep the cables secure from the path of the arrow.

Arrow rest

Another one of the primary parts of a bow is the arrow rest. As its name indicates, this part is where the arrow rests right before you release it. There are many different kinds of arrow rests available.[/su_highlight]Most starter compound bows sport a type of arrow rest called a containment rest.

 A containment rest completely encapsulates the arrow, securing it in position until you shoot it. Other varieties of arrow rest include the shoot-thru, drop away, and pressure. If you are new to bow hunting, a containment rest will be your best bet.

Peep sight

The bow peep sight is a plastic piece designed in a donut shape  and situated between the strands of the device’s string. When you pull your bow’s string back, you look into the peep sight and towards the sight to align your aim. 


Another one of the crucial bow parts is the sight, which is connected to the riser and  aids you in properly aiming the compound bow. A bow’s sight is very similar to the sight on a gun. There are an array of sights on the market, but the most widely used variety is the fixed pin. 

Fixed pin sights contain anywhere from three to five pins total situated in the sight circle, which adjust for a certain distance. For example, you can adjust the uppermost pin for 10 yards, set the middle pin at 20 yards, and the third pin for 30 yards. You have to identify how far away your target is in order to make the most of the fixed pin sight.

 Fixed pin sights are great for beginners. With practice and correct usage, even newbies can enjoy very precise shots. 

Pendulum pin and movable pin sights are a couple of other popular options. They feature a single pin and are easier to alter as needed if you’re unsure how far away your target is. The main disadvantage with either of these sights is that you have to have sharp accuracy when estimating your target’s distance to get the most use out of them. 

String vibration arrester

The string vibration arrester connects to the rise and is positioned near the bowstring. It bears the brunt of shock when you make your shot and helps muffle the sound.


The stabilizer is a completely optional compound bow piece. It is a rod affixed to the front of the bow beneath the grip. The stabilizer will help steady the device when you shoot and aid with noise and vibration absorption. It is advisable to try out a stabilizer before you purchase one to ensure it’s comfortable for your usage needs.

Mechanical release

Finally, the bow’s mechanical release is a hand and wrist device that helps you pull back the bowstring. You can use your fingers to pull the bowstring back if you prefer, but the mechanical release could be very helpful if you’re new to bow hunting in general.

The mechanical release features a small clip that you connect to the bowstring and pull back. Once you’re ready to make your shot, you just pull the mechanical release’s trigger which opens the clip and discharges the bowstring.

Related: Crossbows vs Compound Bows

FAQs About Compound Bow Parts

What type of material is commonly used for compound bow risers?

Compound bow risers are usually constructed from aluminum alloy, magnesium alloy or carbon fiber composites.

How does the axle-to-axle length affect a compound bow’s performance?

The axle-to-axle length of a compound bow affects the stability and accuracy of shots taken with it; longer bows tend to be more stable and accurate, while shorter bows are easier to maneuver in tighter spaces.

What is the purpose of a stabilizer on a compound bow?

A stabilizer on a compound bow is used to reduce vibration and movement when shooting, providing greater accuracy and control over the shot.

What are the different types of cams available on a compound bow?

There are several types of cams available for compound bows including single cam systems, dual cam systems, hybrid cam systems and binary cam systems; each type offers different advantages in terms of performance and ease of use.

How do draw weight and draw length impact shooting with a compound Bow?

Draw weight is an important factor that determines how much force is needed to draw back a compound bow’s string; generally speaking heavier draw weights require more strength but offer greater precision when aiming at targets further away, while lighter draw weights can make drawing easier but often result in less accurate shots at long distances due to less energy being imparted into the arrow upon release from the bowstring . Draw length also affects performance as it determines where an archer’s anchor point should be relative to their body position when drawing back a compound Bow’s string; shorter draw lengths require less physical effort but also limit an archer’s range due to reduced energy transfer from shorter draws.

Final thoughts

Compound bows are very user-friendly for beginner and pro hunters alike, easy to learn, and provide impressive, swift accuracy to the shooter. If properly maintained, your compound bow could last you for decades of hunting expeditions ahead.


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

Leave a Comment

Master of the Outdoors

© 2024 master of the outdoors