A Complete Guide On How To Adjust A Compound Bow

If you are into the sport of archery, you would appreciate the accuracy and power that a compound bow has to offer. Technological advancement has led to designing of bows which allows archers to accurately shoot small targets from a great distance.

One of the main advantages of a compound bow is that it doesn’t have a steeper learning curve for beginners compared to traditional bow. When you use a traditional bow, you will require a high level of skill to be able to shoot accurately. Unlike traditional bows, a compound bow will allow you to accurately aim and hit a 2-inch circle when you are 50 yards away, even without much practice.

Today, a good quality compound bow can start from a price of $299 or less and reach over $1000 for absolute top-grade bows. It is important for archers to know how to adjust a compound bow so that it can be able to meet their specific shooting needs.  In this guide, you will learn how to adjust a compound bow’s draw weight and draw length.

Compound bow parts

Before you start adjusting your compound bow, it is important you understand the various parts. Each part serves in a different way for your needs. In this guide, we’ll go briefly through the various compound bow components and their function. If you are interested in knowing how those parts work in detail, read our comprehensive guide on compound bow parts


The cams are the round disks that are attached at both limb ends. The cams acts by minimizing the weight of the compound bow when you pull the bowstring. Therefore, you will be able to achieve the same amount of energy as a traditional bow but with reduced weight.


Limbs are flexible planks that are attached at the top and bottom of the compound bow at the riser. When you pull the bowstring during archery, the limb is the part responsible for releasing and storing the energy generated.


This is the most central part of the bow, which contains a hand grip. This part is supposed to be strong and light but should not flex. This is what you need to look out for while adjusting your compound bow. This part is usually made of aluminium or carbon fibers to diminish the weight of the compound bow.


This is the part of a compound bow that releases an arrow. Today, bowstrings are made from composite fibres (such as a mixture of Vectran and Dyneema) with limited stretch and high durability.


The cables are the part responsible for moving the cam when the bowstring is pulled back.

Cable slide

A cable slide is responsible for keeping out the cables from the path of the arrow.

How to Adjust a Compound Bow

Now that you know the various parts of a compound bow and what their function is, you can adjust it so that it functions optimally. Let’s take a look at how to adjust a compound bow draw length and draw weight to fit your body size and frame.

Draw Length

Your compound bow draw length should be set at an appropriate length to be comfortable for you when drawing and releasing the bowstring. You can use the compound bow cams to achieve the desired draw length, which for some of the most flexible bows can go from 30+ inches all the way down to less than 15 inches, to fit both adult and children of all sizes and shapes. Most modern compound bows have modular cams or adjustable cams that make easier to adjust the draw length, even for beginners. However, some bows still use specific draw length preset cams, and in this case you will need to purchase a cam appropriate for your draw length separately. In addition, installing the cam can be a little complicated, and if you don’t know how to go about it (or the instructions aren’t clear enough), it is advisable you do the procedure at your local compound bow pro shop.

How do I know my ideal draw length?

If you’re not sure about the right draw length to use on your bow, try this method:  Standing normally outstretch your arms, with your palms forward. Keep your arms should be in line with each other, and have someone to measure your wingspan from tip of middle finger to tip of middle finger. Divide this number by 2.5 and set the bow at this draw length as a starting point. As you shoot the bow more often, you will get a feeling of whether your draw length needs further fine-tuning.

Draw Weight

The draw weight is defined as the force necessary to bring the compound bow to full draw. It’s crucial that you shoot a bow that is set at the right poundage, or your form (and in turn, shooting accuracy) can be affected. To do this, first locate the limb bolts on your bow. These are usually near the center of the bow, and lie in big circular knobs. The draw weight on a compound bow can be changed by adjusting both limb bolts, which are usually locked into the riser with locking bolts located just below the top limb or above the bottom limb. The draw weight is adjusted by tightening or loosening both limb bolts equally. You can do so by using the short arm of an allen wrench which should be included in your compound bow package.

If you want to increase the bow draw weight, you need to tighten the bolts (clockwise) to the riser.

If you are looking to lower the compound bow draw weight, first you need to raise it to the maximum (by tightening the limb bolts). Next, you should unscrew the limb bolts one 360° revolution (counterclockwise).
Use a bow scale to check the poundage, and continue loosening the bolts one 360° at a time, until you find the desired draw weight.

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How do I know my ideal draw weight?

If you want to know your ideal poundage, sit down on a high chair and pull back the bowstring with your feet not touching the ground. As you draw back the bowstring, try and identify the point which has the most resistance. If you feel comfortable on the poundage after the full draw, then the draw weight is at an appropriate level. It is always important that you aim for the draw weight which you are comfortable with.

If you are not sure which draw weight to start with, you can use the average standard weight as reference:

  • Smaller child (45-70 lbs) = 10-15lbs
  • Child (70-100 lbs) = 15-30lbs
  • Smaller frame women and boys (100-130 lbs) = 30-40 lbs
  • Larger frame women and boys (130-150 lbs) = 40-55 lbs
  • Men (150-180 lbs) = 45-65 lbs
  • Men (150-180lbs) bowhunting and 3D archery= 50-70 lbs
  • Muscular men and larger frame men = 65-80+ lbs

Remember that these are just guidelines: do not shoot a bow if you are not comfortable with the amount of force needed to draw, as this can affect accuracy and even cause injuries.

Depending on how your upper body strength, experience, and shooting style change, you may need to update your draw weight over time. A beginner archer growing into a bow will need to up the draw weight (and often draw length) as he or she becomes stronger and/or bigger in body size. Similarly, the draw weight of a bow used for target might need to be dialed up for hunting, especially to take down large size game.

Precautions while adjusting your compound bow

While tightening the limb bolts to adjust the draw weight, take care so that you do not tighten too much the limb bolt. Tightening the limb bolts too much could lead to breakage of the bowstrings or cams. It is important you check your user's manual to find out the maximum number of times you can tighten the limb bolt without damaging it. Once you are done adjusting your compound bow, make sure you the locking screws are safely secured. This will prevent the limb bolts from dangerously disengaging while using the compound bow.

Final remarks

In conclusion, it is important to remark that as you gain more experience in archery, you will need to adjust your compound bow several times until you find the right size. Also, compound bows are different and you will not feel comfortable at the same draw weight on different kinds of bows.

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