When you go to a local professional store to start looking for a beginner’s compound bow, you will hear a bunch of arc terms throws: riser, module, bus cable, branches, branch pockets and cams. If you are new to archery hunting, the parts of a compound bow can seem like a whole different language.

We are here to help you. The parts of a bow are sophisticated, but they are actually not complicated to understand. Below, I’ve outlined the nuts and bolts you need to know in order to start asking the right questions. The more you know about compound bows, the better your chances are of finding one that shoots and makes it look like it was made just for you.

Compound Bow Lifter

Jace bauserman

The elevator is the platform of the arch. It makes up the bulk of the arch and forms the middle section that connects to the pockets of the arch limbs. Most risers are made of aluminum, but many bow manufacturers offer carbon risers models as well. Carbon riser compounds are generally more expensive, but they are light, durable, and warm to the touch in freezing outside temperatures (aluminum risers are more affordable, but are icy to the touch on cold hunting mornings. ‘bow). Manufacturers have gone to great lengths to provide the archer with the perfect blend of strength and weight in riser design, which is a big reason you will notice so many cutouts in risers.

Good riser design adds stability and balance to your shot. Traditionally, arches with longer risers are more balanced at full draw, while those with shorter risers are more maneuverable in tight spaces. The riser will come with pre-drilled mounting holes for sight and rest. Flagship arches from PSE, Mathews and Hoyt now feature dovetail slots in the riser as well as a traditional Berger hole holder for attaching face-mounted brackets from Quality Archery Designs. The arrow shelf, where the resting thrower’s arm drops when the arrow is shot, is also part of the riser.

Compound bow handle

The handle of the bow will either be a direct handle to the riser or a prefabricated handle that attaches to the riser with screws or glue. Direct-to-Riser grips are typically thin, flat-backed, and narrow in the throat, which is the part of the grip that goes up and under the boom shelf. Many direct mount handles have side plates, but these are primarily for cosmetic purposes.

A prefabricated handle (even the thinnest) will add bulk. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and don’t look up on a bow that has a hilt attached. Bowmakers like Hoyt, Mathews, and Bowtech usually feature some sort of grip attachment, and I’m a fan of all of them. A pre-made grip can create a personalized fit and feel that lead to a consistent shot. Stay away from bulky handles with large side flares, these designs will cause you to exert inconsistent pressure on the handle as you pull, making you less precise.

Pockets for limbs

Compound Bow Pockets
Jace bauserman

The design of the limb pockets of a bow is crucial for its durability and ability to dampen vibrations. The limb screws that are in the center of the pockets secure the riser and the screw adjusts the draw weight. Some bows offer more pull weight adjustments than others, so be sure to read your owner’s manual. A bow will work best when it is set at maximum weight, that is, with the limb bolts screwed on. Made of aluminum or, in some cases, high-quality plastic, the limb pockets also keep the bow limbs securely in place.

Compound bow members

Compound bow members
Jace bauserman

The limbs are among the most important parts of a compound bow. If catastrophic failure occurs, it is usually in the limbs. The limbs consume a fair amount of energy when shooting and are subjected to constant flexion and flexion. In recent years, manufacturers have stepped up the design of the limbs, and most hunting bows feature limbs with wide, split limbs fitted with a rubber damper placed between them to absorb noise and vibration. While split limb designs are popular, several bow manufacturers offer solid limb designs. Most modern hunting bows feature a parallel or non-parallel limb design. This means that the limbs are parallel to each other instead of facing the elevator. This design allows each limb to shoot in the opposite direction of the shot, reducing noise and vibration after firing.

Parts of a compound bow: Cam and module

Parts of a compound bow
Jace bauserman

The cams of a compound bow are those wheel-shaped discs at the end of the limb. The cam system is the engine of the arc. Most bows have a dual cam design, but single cam bows are not uncommon. Double cam arches have an upper and lower cam which are exactly the same. Single cam bows usually have a big cam at the bottom and a idle wheel at the top. There are cams designed for speed and cams designed for smoothness and ease of shooting. The cam system dictates how the bow shoots and shoots. Generally speaking, a cam with a sharper angled design creates a harder pull, but a comparatively faster boom. Ask lots of questions about a bow’s cam makeup before dropping a coin on it, and be sure to test drive the bow. I’m going to take a camera that promises smooth draw, isn’t jittery, and provides solid arrow speed compared to a camera that’s difficult to draw and shoot, but delivers super-fast arrow speed.

The cams are also equipped with tension stop modules and pins. Some draw stops contact the internal cable of the bow (a cable stop) while others touch the inside of the limbs (a limb stop). Most bows have a draw stop on each cam, but some have a single peg on the lower or upper cam. Bow Modules allow the shooter to vary the length of the draw. Most modern bows are adjustable in draw length in ½ inch increments over a wide range. However, others come with a set draw length and require a complete module change to change the draw length. Mods also, on most bows, allow the shooter to modify their stall. Letoff is the reduction in holding weight at full draw (so with a 60 pound arc and 80% relaxation, you are holding 12 pounds at full draw). Most states require a dropout rate of no more than 80%, so keep that in mind.

Axle axles

There isn’t much to know here, and I won’t mention axis axes, except that the measurement between the upper axis and the lower axis is the axis-to-axis measurement of the arc. Knowing the pin-to-pin length of an arc, which all manufacturers publish, is critical is not the measurement from the top of the top cam to the bottom of the bottom cam. Most of the time, a longer axle-to-axle arc is easier to balance, hold on target, and shoot accurately. However, axle-to-axle long arches can be cumbersome to maneuver in woods or in a blind.

Compound bow strings and cables

ropes and cables of a hunting bow
Jace bauserman

The string or D-loop that a professional store attaches to your string is what you’ll hang your trigger on to pull the bow back. Most dual cam bows have one string and two cables, while single cam models have one long string and one cable. Today’s bow strings are made from an excellent material, which increases their longevity. Some chains will have silent devices designed to counteract noise and residual oscillations. Many strings will also come with a version of a quick notch. Most will be shrink wrapping material with the arc maker logo on it – the speed accelerates the arcs’ feet per second.

Roller guard or cable slider

Most of the flagship arc models have some type of roller guard that facilitates the movement of the arc cables. The job of this device is to pull the cables to the side to make room for the boom. A roller guard won’t chew cables as fast as a cable slider, which is essentially a piece of plastic with a pair of slots that cables pass through. Another benefit of a roller guard is that it reduces friction and most have some kind of anti-torque system.

Chain stop

chain stopper of a hunting bow
Jace bauserman

Most rope stops extend to the back of the riser and consist of a carbon rod fitted with a cushioning device. Most of the stops are adjustable. You don’t want the bow string to push hard into the string stopper when the bow is at rest. The job of the chain stopper is to stop the speed chain, which propels the boom in flight. The rope should rest right next to the rope stopper.

Bow Hunting accessories: shock absorber, stabilizer, bow sight, sight, quiver

Once you’ve covered the basics of a barebow, there are all kinds of fun compound bow accessories you can dive into. Here we will cover some of the accessories that you will need for your hunting bow.


Most bows are equipped with damping devices. Some are built into the riser while others, as mentioned earlier, sit between the limbs. The job of a shock absorber is to further eliminate noise and vibration. You can also purchase these aftermarket parts and add them to your bow.


It’s the long bar that screws into the front (and sometimes the back) of your riser and adds weight and stability to your bow. Longer stabilizers are more efficient, but they can be bulky for bow hunting.

Arc Sites

There are all kinds of archery sights that you can put on your hunting bow. But the key is to understand that a good bow sight allows you to have an accurate point of aim for shooting at a variety of distances. Find our guide to the best compound archery sites here.

Peep Sight

A sight is the small circle that you look through to line up your sight. The peep is tied to your string. Work with a pro from the bow shop to make sure you have the right diameter sight and it’s placed in the right spot on your string.

To shiver

The quiver contains all of your arrows and the options are almost endless. Pick one that will hold three to five hunting arrows (with broad tips) and attach to your bow without clicking or vibrating. Many hunters shoot with a quiver on their bow, so make sure the quiver you choose doesn’t introduce any additional noise or vibration.