If you are just getting into archery you might want to buy a cheap bow. You might not know whether this is really the sport for you, and you might just want to try it out. A compound bow below $200,- seems really appealing, but many archers warn you for ‘’really cheap bows’’. I was in this exact same situation half a year ago when I decided to buy a compound bow on Aliexpress for less than $150,-. This article is based on my experience with this cheap bow. I will start with debunking a few myths about these bows. Then I will continue with a few points that you should consider before buying. Next I will discuss how I set up my bow. And finally, I will wrap up this article with my personal recommendation.
Short answer to the question in the title: Yes, cheap compound bows tend to perform almost just as well as their cheaper counterparts. Although expensive bows tend to be made out of more expensive materials, it doesn't influence performance. Therefore, these cheaper options are great for new archers.
In the remainder of this article, I will discuss my experience with cheap compound bows in much more detail.
Myths about cheap compound bows
There are quite a lot of people talking about these cheap compound bows on archery fora. For most people a compound bow below $150,- seems too good to be true. Although the manufacturers of the bows have to cut corners in some areas, these cheap bows are not unusable as some archers mention. Bellow I will debunk a two myths I saw on archery fora.
They won’t last long
In general the part that are most likely to break on any bow are the limbs. While shooting I have seen several limbs break. And no, they don’t broke because of dry firing, they broke while shooting the bow correctly. If I recall correctly, I have seen about 4 traditional and 5 recurve bows break. But I actually never saw a limb of a compound bow break.
You might ask, why is this the case? I believe this is the case because of 3 reasons:
- In general the limbs of the compound bows are more fat than traditional and recurve bows. I believe that this design makes the limbs of traditional and recurve bows weaker.
- Because compound bows have cams, the limbs have to bend less when at full draw. Therefore the limbs can be made more stiff, which increases the overall rigidity of the limb.
- Most compound bows have a string stopper, which catches the string when the string shoots forward. This makes sure that the string doesn’t shoot further forward, because this can damage the bow. Traditional and recurve bows don’t have this feature because there is less force involved, which makes that the limbs are under less stress when the string shoots forward.
- The limbs of compound bows are almost always made of carbon, which is less prone to breaking than materials as wood and bamboo. The compound bow from Aliexpress I bought also had carbon limbs and to be honest I am not aware of any compound bow that has wooden limbs. Of course all traditional bows are made entirely out of wood, but even most recurve bows have wooden or bamboo limbs.
The best counterpoint for this argument is my own experience. I have been shooting my $150 compound bow for over half a year now, and I haven’t noticed any damage to the limbs. On the other hand, my Core archery limbs (price $130 for just the limbs) for my recurve bow broke 3 times in one year. And those limbs where bought at an archery store and were certainly not the cheapest. This is of course under the assumption that you do not dry fire your bow. Dry firing your bow can always make your limbs break even if they are made of very flexible materials.
They shoot less accurate
Although I think there is some truth to this point, just stating: ‘’cheap compound bows shoot less accurate’’ is misleading. It is always easy to blame your gear instead of your own abilities. But I believe 99,9% of inaccurate shots are actually caused by the archer. I believe however, with enough practice, pros can even shoot a bow made from a bamboo stick quite accurately.
Although it’s the archers task to make sure that you have a consistent shooting stance and release, a ‘’good’’ bow can help with that. For example: your sight helps you aim more consistently, a stabilizer helps you reduce vibration and a bow release makes your release more consistently. In my experience however, if you have a good sight, stabilizer, release, grip and tuned bow, the actual price of the bow doesn’t matter that much.
Things to look out for
If you have read my article to this point you might think that you don’t have any negative points about these cheap compound bows. In the contrary I do believe there are some points to take into account when buying your bow on Aliexpress or Amazon. Below I will discuss these in more detail.
Do your research on what you need and want
When you go to a brick and mortar archery shop, you can always ask for advice. In webshops like Aliexpress and Amazon, you don’t have these options. Therefore it’s important that you do proper research on what you need, a few things to take into account are draw length and draw strength. On most compound bows these two are highly customizable but only to a certain degree.
If you have never bought something from Aliexpres, Wish or any other Chinese seller before, you might not be aware of the following things:
- They don’t pay import tax: on rare occasions you can therefore receive an additional charge from your customs department. The amount is dependent on your local rules, regulations and trade agreements between your country and China.
- They often send packages uninsured: this means that if something happens to your package during transport you often don’t get a full refund. Most sellers however will compensate you in any way because they want to avoid a negative review.
- Don’t expect a warranty: although I bought a few products on Aliexpress and received a warranty for it, most products I bought had no warranty what so ever, including the compound bow.
Since we don’t have Amazon in The Netherlands, Aliexpress was my only chance to get a cheap compound bow. So if you don’t like those risks and you could always try Amazon if it's available in your country.
Difference in materials
This is one of the main parts the manufacturers of these cheap compound bows cut corners. Most compound bows are made from metal, but their Chinese counterparts made out of polymer. This makes the overall bow lighter, which some archers like and others don’t. Heavier bows tend to vibrate less, but of course the advantage of a lighter bow is that it puts your muscles under less strain.
Most cheap bows are hunting bows
Most cheap compound bows offered are hunting bows. If you are a hunter or you like hunting bows than of course this is no issue for you. I use my bow for target practice therefore I didn’t necessarily need a hunting bow. For me it didn’t matter, but it is important to know that there are differences between hunting and target bows. If you want to know more about the differences between hunting and target bows I recommend this article of complete guide to archery’s article about this topic.
You might want to upgrade certain parts
Depending on your situation you might want to upgrade a few parts, some parts I upgraded are for example:
- Arrowrest: the arrowrest I got wasn’t really my taste. It was a bristle style arrow rest that is often used for hunting. Since I don’t use my compound bow for hunting I upgraded my arrow rest to a blade style (I actually made one myself, but I will talk about that later)
- Sight: I recently bought a more advanced sight since I want a one pin sight that is easier to adjust.
One thing that I do not want to upgrade yet is the actual bow itself, I am actually pretty content with how it shoots and I don’t think I will shoot much better when I upgrade to a more expensive bow.
Be prepared to DIY
If you really dislike to tune and modify small parts of you bow yourself, archery might not be the sport for you. When you buy a cheap compound bow expect a lot more DIY. For example the compound bow I bought was disassembled for shipping purposes. All tools were included and assembly required only the tightening of 5 screws, but it is important that you still have to tune the bow. For more information about bow tuning, I advice the bow tuning manual from PSE: http://www.psearchery.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/bow_setup_tuning.pdf
Apart from tuning the bow I also had to adjust the peep sight and apply some glue to the serving to prevent further unraveling.
A nice feature of cheap compound bows
Since you have to assemble the bow yourself you can easily replace the string. This is something that is not possible with most standard compound bows. With most compound bows you need a bow press to remove the string. A bow press is big device and is quite expensive, therefore most compound shooters go to an archery service center when they need to replace the string. I like to do all the maintenance myself and I don’t want to buy an extra device for it.
My current setup
Currently I am still shooting with my compound bow from Aliexpress since I don’t feel like I need better equipment. Therefore I am still working on my general stance and training my muscle memory. Let me show you my setup in a few pictures:
Update (one year later): I am still using this bow. I have made minor changes to the grip, and am now using a drop away arrow rest. but the bow still works like a charm and I haven't experienced any issues.
For a lot of people, the amount of money you have to spend on a compound bow can be a huge deterrence. Compound archery is really fun and therefore it would be a shame to not try it. Therefore, I would advise anyone who just wants to try compound archery for a few months to buy a cheap bow.
It is very important, however, to do proper research before you buy anything since compound bows are quite complex. An advantage for me is that I was already shooting with my recurve bow for three years and I know quite about archery in general. Below I have added the links to the compound bow I bought, both on Aliexpress and Amazon.
If you have any questions or opinions you would like to share, please add them below in the comments. I will respond to any questions you might have!