For all its moving parts, a compound bow is a fairly simple machine. At its core is a block and tackle, first described by Archimedes in 250 BC. Limbs, risers, and other components complement the strings and pulleys, transferring user energy into arrows sent downrange. In the half century since Holless Wilbur Allen built the first compound, its mechanical efficiencies have improved year after year. However, without another major advancement in technology or materials, those efficiencies have reached their limit, and the 50-year foot-race for the title of “speed king” has come to a halt. Instead, engineers now endeavor to soften the compound’s demeanor and produce a bow that not only generates ample speed, but is also a pleasure to draw and shoot.


COMPOUND BOWS: 12 NEW MODELS, REVIEWED READ ON for the hits and misses from Bear, Bowtech, Cabela’s, Darton, Diamond, Elite, Hoyt, New Breed, Obsession, Prime, PSE, and Winchester.


On the crossbow side, refinement continues, from the quality of the components
(especially the triggers) to overall construction. CROSSBOWS: 11 NEW MODELS, REVIEWED READ ON for the hits and misses from Barnett, Cabela’s, Carbon Express, Darton, Exaclibur, Horton, Killer Instinct, Scorpyd, Stryker, TenPoint, and Wicked Ridge.


The methodology behind the most thorough and honest test in the business The overall scores of the compounds and crossbows are the sums of scores of three objective and seven subjective categories, each of which is graded from 1 to 10. The objective scores—for Speed, Noise, and Vibration—are determined through a data-gathering process that involves minimal human interference. Compounds are mounted to a Spot Hogg Hooter Shooter and triggered via a shutter release cable, while crossbow triggers are tripped remotely as the bows sit in a Caldwell Lead Sled. A sound-level meter measures peak decibels at the shot, while two accelerometers (mounted to the compounds’ risers and near the pistol grip on crossbows) measure vibration in meters per second squared. (With both, the smaller the number, the better.)The Velocitip Ballistic System measures arrow velocity, arrow drop at 40 yards, and kinetic energy at 20 yards. For compounds, the 100-grain Velocitip head was affixed to a Victory VForce HV V1 350 arrow (350 grains total), and crossbows fired a GoldTip Laser III (438 grains total). Once the data is gathered, testers shoot the bows and grade each on a number of performance- and design-related criteria. The bows with the highest overall scores get our Editor’s Choice award. Products that we feel represent an exceptional value earn the Great Buy badge.

Edited by John Taranto, product photographs by Nick Ferrari, test photographs and video by Natalie Krebs. Got comments? Leave them below or email Special thanks to Lancaster Archery Supply in Lancaster, Penn., for hosting our test.