Choosing a bow setup can be a challenging and tedious process. There are so many types of bows to choose from all of which have their respective advantages and disadvantages depending on their application and range. There are traditional bows (also known as longbows), recurve bows (which are their modern equivalent), and compound bows, which are the latest iteration of the hand-drawn bow. Compound bows are objectively the most powerful bow type you can purchase these days thanks to their ability to store an incredible amount of energy and release them with an impressive amount of accuracy. This being said, there are different types of compound bows out there for you to choose from, so let’s have a look at the two of the most common variants and see how they stack up against one another.
Dual-Cam vs. Single-Cam Compound Bows
Primarily there are two types of compound bows for you to choose from if you’re in the market for one. There are dual-cam compound bows and single-cam compound bows, and if you’re not sure what a cam is, it’s basically a little wheel that typically holds a belt or rope to distribute a load or act as a guide for the rest of the pulley system. Compound bows, there exist store more energy and make the bow significantly easier to draw.
This being said, let’s have a look at the dual-cam vs. single-cam bow debate to determine which one is right for you.
Single-Cam Compound Bow
Single-cam compound bows are arguably more common than dual-cam ones. Single-cam compound bows consist of one cam that guides and adds tension to the bowstring and one idle wheel that acts as a secondary guide for the bowstring. Single-cam compound bows are less powerful than dual-cam ones, but as a trade-off that they are a lot more accurate than the aforementioned dual-cam ones.
When shooting a single-cam compound bow the actual cam is usually at the top while the idle wheel is at the bottom. This makes the bowstring a lot easier to draw and makes the recoil far more manageable compared to the inverse position.
Single-cam bows are considered to be the better bow to own out of the two cam types for a number of reasons.
The first reason that many archers prefer single-cam bows instead of dual-cam bows is that single-cam bows are far quieter, which makes them ideal for hunting applications, or any other instance where you need to keep a low profile. Secondly, because they consist of fewer moving parts than their dual-cam counterpart, they are more reliable and require less maintenance.
If you’re looking for increased power without compromising on your accuracy, then we highly recommend this type of compound bow. How does it increase power without compromising accuracy? Well, because it only consists of one cam that requires no calibration, the only difference between a single-cam and a conventional bow is that fact the latter stores more power.
One notable point in the ongoing single-cam vs. dual-cam bow debate is that even though single-cam units are more accurate than their dual-cam counterparts, they have a less solid back wall, which means it can be more challenging to gauge your output. However, considering that single-cam units have less power this might be a good thing as overdrawing your arrow shouldn’t have that great of an effect on your shot overall.
Dual-Cam Compound Bow
If you’re in the market for a bit more power and don’t need to be pinpoint accurate, then we think you’ll find a dual-cam compound bow to be an absolute delight. The principle of a dual-cam compound bow is really straightforward, if a single-cam unit consists of a bow with one cam and one idle wheel, a dual-cam compound bow consists of two cams that work in tandem without the need for an idle wheel.
A good point that is brought up in the never-ending single-cam vs. dual-cam bow debate is that it’s not worth sacrificing power for accuracy, and depending on who you ask about this they may well agree. However, the argument can be made that if you were to spend enough time with a dual-cam bow, it’s entirely possible to develop the skill and accuracy required to fire on target just as you would with any other bow.
Dual-cam bows are a great choice for archers who need loads of power for long-distance shots. The dual-cam system stores loads of more potential energy, which makes for an explosive release, allowing the arrow to travel further, be it with a greater margin for error compared to conventional bows like recurve bows, long bows, and even single-cam bows.
On the other hand, dual-cam bows are far easier to draw because of the mechanical advantage provided by the cam system. This mechanism also ensures that you have a solid idea of where your draw wall is (the limit of your bowstring), this ensures that you always have a good idea of how much power you’re putting into the shot, which then allows you to compensate for things like distance, arrow type, game, footing, and even winds more accurately.
This being said, a dual-cam compound bow isn’t without its drawbacks. Both cams need to be adjusted and maintained to ensure your bow is in peak operating condition, which can be time-consuming and a potentially unexpected cost especially if you’re used to shooting with a bow with no mechanical assistance.
Are There Other Types of Cam Systems?
Are there other types of cam systems aside from single-cam bow units and dual-cam bow units? Well, yes there are but most of them wouldn’t be suitable for beginners, and because of this reason they tend to be used by more experienced archers to achieve rather impressive feats of archery. This being said, let’s have a look at a few different cam variations, how they work, what they’re used for, and how they stack up against one another.
Hybrid-Cam Compound Bows
If you like the power of a dual cam setup but don’t want to deal with the level of maintenance and tuning associated with them then a hybrid cam system might be just what you’re looking for. This is the closest thing you’ll get to a single-cam bow without having to commit to having less power, and even though these require some maintenance it is significantly less compared to a traditional dual-cam system.
What exactly is hybrid compound by system though? Simply put, a hybrid cam system is a lot like a single-cam system but instead of an idle wheel to support the single-cam, the bow has one large cam and one small cam. This cam ratio increases power and doesn’t affect accuracy or maintenance as much as a full-on dual-cam system. This system is far easier to maintain and is used with the larger cam sitting on top of the upper limb and the smaller cam sitting on the edge of the lower limb.
Typically, hunters that are looking for a little bit more power but aren’t willing to settle for a single-cam compound bow choose this bow type as a way of compromising. Objectively speaking, this is the ideal bow for hunting considering that it generates good power, is pretty accurate, and doesn’t produce much noise on drawback or release.
Binary-Cam Compound Bows
Binary-cam compound bows are the newest iteration of the cam-assisted compound bow design. These seem to have been designed to tackle many of the issues that are commonly associated with the dual-cam setup. They are less noisy, slightly more accurate, and eliminate the need for cam synchronization by connecting or “slaving” one cam to the other.
What exactly is a binary cam system? Put simply, while conventional dual-cam systems run independently of one another and need to be adjusted regularly, the binary cam system forces both cams to rotate and release the bow string simultaneously on drawback. This means less maintenance and an easier draw, but they are noticeably noisier than their dual-cam counterparts.
If you’ve never heard of this cam system before it’s likely due to them being relatively uncommon in the Northern US, but are quite popular in parts of Europe, Canada, and even parts of Asia depending on the region. These bows aren’t commonly used for hunting though, as the cams tend to make quite a bit of noise, which isn’t ideal when you’re hunting skittish prey.
Which Compound Bow Is Best?
With all of these different bows available to you, you might be asking yourself, which one is best. The truth is that each bow has its own strengths and weaknesses and is, therefore, best suited to a particular application. This is why we’ve listed a few common bow disciplines, and which bow we think is best suited to each task and why.
When it comes to any form of hunting, the more discreet the hunting instrument the better. Compound bows aren’t the quietest, and the more cam systems they have the more noise they tend to generate. This is why single-cam and hybrid cam compound bows are best suited for this application, but based on their low noise emissions alone.
Single-cam and hybrid cam compound bows are a good balance between power, accuracy, and low-noise production. They might not be the most powerful cam configurations around but they are capable of producing more than enough force to ethically kill most types of game in the Northern US without overdrawing at a reasonable distance.
If you aren’t into hunting game and love archery for the craft itself, then things like noise reduction don’t mean much to you. There are many kinds of target archery for you to choose from. You could try your hand at indoor archery, range archery, 3D archery, and/or long-distance archery. All of these require different approaches and techniques, but you could use any type of compound bow for them in theory.
Target-based archery requires different levels of power depending on the distance you’re shooting from and the conditions you’re shooting under. Therefore, double cam, single-cam, hybrid cam, or binary cam compound bow can be used depending on your skill level, preference, and what the shot at hand requires of you. This being said, most professional archers opt for double cam or binary cam setups to ensure that have a wide range of power available to them at all times.
Regardless of which sport you’re starting out in; the rule of thumb is to learn the basics first and then build on your skill and technique gradually. Most beginners get a feel for archery with recurve bow or longbow, but for those dead set on starting out with a compound bow one with the least moving parts, which gives the user a good feel for the draw weight, and has minimal assistance is a good fit.
In this case, a dual-cam bow would be out of the question due to how sensitive it is to even the most incremental difference in input. A single-cam bow or hybrid can be a good place to start, but this depends on the preference of the archer and what type of archery they’re looking to get into. It isn’t impossible to start off with a dual-cam bow, but the learning curve would be much steeper, especially for those who have never fired a bow before.
Now that you know the different types of compound bows available to you, what some of the key differences are between them, how they work, which applications they’re best suited for, and what they’re best at, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always wear the appropriate personal protective gear when shooting your bow and to choose one that suits your skill set and application.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Point of a Compound Bow?
What is the point of a compound bow? Essentially, the idea behind the compound bow design is to create more power while reducing the effort needed to draw the bow. It achieves this with cams placed at either end of each limb, which allow the bow to be drawn with much less effort but store and release much more energy.
Are Bows Better Than Guns?
Are bows better than guns? Well, bows take longer to reload and have a slower rate of fire per projectile than firearms. However, for stealth and ambush applications the low noise emission of a bow and arrow make it the superior choice.
What’s a Better Bow: Compound or Recurve?
This is a difficult question to answer. Compound bows are lighter, shoot arrows faster, and are capable of storing more energy than a recurve bow. Recurve bows on the other hand require no calibration and far less maintenance than a compound bow and are less noisy. Each bow is suited to a certain type of archery style and has different applications too.