If you’re new to bowhunting and you wander into an archery shop, you’ll probably suffer from a severe case of sticker shock. The top-end models from most compound bow brands will start at around $1,000 and go up from there. And that’s for a bare bow, with no accessories.
Relax. Breathe. And keep looking. What you want is the best beginner compound bow, and the same companies invariably offer entry-level and intermediate models that are perfectly capable of flinging accurate arrows and killing all the big game you care to hunt, for a fraction of the price. Even better, some of these bows come fully equipped and ready to shoot, eliminating the headache and expense of choosing and buying accessories.
What Are the Advantages of a Beginner Compound Bow
Beyond the obvious cost savings, the main advantage of a youth compound bow or a beginner model for a teen or adult, is enhanced adjustability. These models typically offer a wide range of draw weights and draw lengths that can be changed easily changed as the shooter grows physically or wants a little extra speed as his archery muscles strengthen. Also, the “kit” nature of a kids compound bow or beginner model really sets it apart. Most new bowhunters don’t know how to set a bow up, with all the accessories, by themselves. So it’s a big deal that these models often come all decked out with a rest, sight, quiver, and peep sight designed for that bow. That stuff gets expensive if you buy it all separately. On the other hand, if you buy a package bow, you can take it out of the box and hunt with it for the rest of your life if you want.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Beginner Compound Bow
So what are you giving up to save all that money? In most cases, performance. That youth compound bow or beginner model will not be as fast as a company’s flagship, and it might be slightly louder or vibrate a touch more. Companies are not going to throw their best cam or highest quality components into a bow that’s half the price of their top model. So yeah, you’re not going to have a bow as quick and quiet as the guy who spends two grand—not any more than a Chevy driver is going to have as nice a car as the dude who buys a Lexus. But you’ll have a perfectly suitable bow that’s going to give you plenty of enjoyment and totally acceptable performance. In fact, some beginner bows are only slightly slower than flagship models. You may want to trade up after shooting your entry-level bow for a while, but you certainly won’t have to shoot and hunt effectively.
What’s the Best Beginner Compound Bow?
So, what’s the best beginner compound bow? Well, that depends on how old the shooter is and how they plan to use the bow. So, let’s take a closer look at nine great youth compound bows and beginner models. You won’t go wrong by buying any of these high-value compounds.
Best Beginner Compound Bow #1: Bear Cruzer G2
It’s impossible to build a hunting bow that will satisfy every shooter, but Bear comes close to it with the Cruzer G2. Virtually every kid I’ve coached could pull 5 pounds on a 12-inch draw, and those are the bottom-end specs on this bow. The Cruzer G2’s cam system offers draw-length adjustments from 12 to 30 inches and a draw-weight range from 5 to 70 pounds, and that means a young shooter can start with this bow and stick with it all the way into adulthood. Or a beginner adult can start low and crank it up as he or she builds strength.
At at top-end 315 fps IBO speed, the Cruzer G2 offers plenty of performance for effective big-game hunting, and it comes with six quality Trophy Ridge accessories (sight, rest, stabilizer and sling, peep sight, quiver, and D-loop). In short, there’s plenty of serious stuff included in this beginner compound bow, and it will take a new shooter from his first group of arrows straight through multiple hunting seasons.
With bottom-end specs of 22 pounds of draw weight and 21½ inches of draw length, the Stinger Max is aimed at a slightly older shooter, compared with the Cruzer G2 above. It’s also a little longer, heavier, and has a more generous brace height, all of which should make the Stinger Max a little more forgiving—that is, a little easier for beginners to shoot well. The cam on the Stinger Max also offers a “performance” setting that adapts to a shooter with more advanced skills and desire for better speed. There are two versions of this beginner compound bow, one with a draw weight adjustment of 22 to 55 pounds and another with 30 to 70 pounds. The draw-length adjustment is 22½ to 30 inches on both models. With a top-end IBO speed of 312 IBO, the Stinger Max also has plenty of performance for hunting. (Trust me, when I started bowhunting, the very best hunting bows couldn’t shoot that fast.)
If you’re willing to pay a little more, the Bowtech Amplify offers another level of performance. At 335 fps IBO, this bow is actually as fast or faster than several of the 2021 flagship models available today. Still, it offers decent draw-length adjustability, from 22 to 30 inches, and excellent draw weight adjustability, from just 8 pounds all the way up to 70. What’s more, the Amplify is a sturdier, better-built hunting bow than some models aimed at younger shooters. The binary cam system couples with a split limb design for good stability, an Orbit Dampener reduces noise and vibration, and Powershift technology provides a gear on the cam that allows you to switch from Comfort mode, for an easier draw cycle, to Performance, for more speed. The Amplify is aimed less at very young shooters and more at beginners who want to work their way up to near-top-level performance.
The Switch’s cam system with Fast Fit technology is heavily inspired by the same CrossCentric Cam technology that has vaulted several of Mathews’ flagship bows to Best of the Best honors in the F&S bow test. Yet this version offers easy draw length adjustments—in half inch increments—from 18 to 30 inches. The Switch also has a draw-weight range of 11 to 70 pounds. Like several other models here, this one is aimed at younger shooters, but offers the ability to grow with your kid until they are big enough and strong enough to handle the Switch’s top-end big-boy specs. It’s a little slower than some at 305 fps IBO, but that is more than enough to get the job done, and keep in mind that this option comes at an especially friendly price.
5. Elite Ember
The specs of the Elite Ember are very much like those of all the other youth compound bows on this list. The draw length is adjustable from 15 to 29 inch and the draw weight ranges from 10 to 60 pounds, which means it can grow with a young shooter, just like the others. But there is something that sets the Ember apart, and that is its built quality. There’s hardly a piece of plastic on the entire bow; riser, limb pockets, cams and modules are all constructed of aluminum. And you get a Winner’s Choice bowstring and integrated limb stops for a harder back wall, making this one of the best-built beginner bows around. For those of you who have shot Elite’s flagship bows, you’ll also find something very familiar with the Ember: a pleasant, smooth shooting experience.
The original Diamond Infinite Edge became the company’s best-selling hunting bow ever and drove the popularity of high-adjustability beginner bows in general. The Infinite Edge Pro is an updated version. Most notable is the 31-inch maximum draw length, welcomed with (long) open arms by young shooters that just keep growing taller and taller. The hunting bow’s redesigned cam offers a smoother draw cycle while still coughing up decent speed. Draw length adjustments go from 19 to 31 inches and the bow provides an incredible 63 pounds of draw weight adjustability, from 7 to 70 pounds, no press needed. That makes the Infinite Edge pro one of the most versatile, best beginner bows on the market, and one of the least expensive to boot.
Like the other “infinites” in the Diamond lineup, the 305 is super-adjustable and has near-perfect specs for a youth compound bow, given the that mass weight is lower and should be easier for a younger kid to handle. The generous brace height and overall length results in more forgiveness with just a small drop in speed, another desirable feature in the best beginner compound bow.
Like the Pro, the 320 sports incredible adjustability, but a little more speed. This is an ideal bow for an intermediate shooter with some experience who prefers a high brace height and doesn’t mind a little longer bow. The Octane accessories (used on parent company Bowtech bows) include a Furnace quiver, Stryker 3-pin sight, Octagon brush rest, and Boost stabilizer—all well-made and rugged.
What sets the Quest NXT apart from some of the other best beginner compound bows on this list is that it is more specifically aimed at younger shooters, with a axle-to-axle length of just 26 inches and a weight on just 2.8 pounds. It is also especially well made, with a high-grade forged aluminum riser. The NXT offers easy draw-length adjustments, in half-inch increments, from 19 to 26 inches, and draw-weight adjustments from 15 to 45. The top-end IBO speed, with those specs, is 270 fps. So, this is a hunting bow you may want to replace eventually when your young shooter grows up some, but in the meantime is a great one to learn on.