In today’s bowhunting world, if a compound doesn’t wear a price tag of $1,000 or more, many believe it’s not a bow worth looking at. That’s not the case. There are plenty of quality hunting bows out that shoot fantastic and cost half as much as a flagship bow. That’s because most budget bows share the same features and technology as flagship bows from a few years ago. They have all the impressive performance, just without the high price tag. If you’re in the market for a bow that will get the job done, but won’t break the bank, here is a list of the best compound bows for the money.
The Bear Resurgence is a 32-inch long aluminum bow that weighs 3.9 pounds without any accessories. It has a 6.25-inch brace height—which is on the aggressive side—that helps the bow attain an IBO speed rating of 335 feet per second.
The Resurgence employs a rotating module for adjusting draw lengths from 25.5 to 31 inches. For the general consumer, I like the rotating modules. They allow the owner to adjust the bow for different users, if you want to share it with friends, and they allow for a wider audience if you ever want to sell it.
There are two draw weight options: 45-60 pounds or 55-70 pounds, both with 80% let off. We don’t see the 15-pound draw weight range much in compound bows. Ten pounds is more common. The 15-pound range offers more room for growth, if you want to start off light and build up to the maximum weight.
The Resurgence’s let-off is on the low side for hunting compounds these days. More often, hunting compounds feature 85- or 90-percent let-off. So the Resurgence is a bit under that, but that’s another feature that helps boost arrow speed. The lower the let-off percentage, the higher arrow speeds will be.
What it Does Best
The binary cam system. This is a powerful, well-designed engine for any compound bow, let alone one that’s budget friendly. And speaking of cost, the mid-range price for this bow makes it a solid choice for bowhunters of all levels. The fact that you get decent accessories with it for that price, makes it an even better choice.
What it Does Worst
The bow causes a lot of pin float because it’s so light—3.9 pounds bare—it doesn’t hold very still at full draw. The sight pin wanders. There are ultralight bows that hold well without adding a ton of weight. This just isn’t one of them. It benefits greatly from a good stabilizer setup.
I’m torn about knocking them for this one. Anyone can adjust everything about this bow and set up at home—except for timing the cams. You need a bow press for that if your cams aren’t timed properly—and that’s a piece of equipment many just don’t have. But that’s a casualty of having binary cams, which I will get to in a second. —P.J. Reilly
Hoyt introduces multiple new models every year and each new bow seems to be better than the last one. True to form, the Torrex and Torrex XT were introduced this year to replace the legendary Powermax in Hoyt’s lineup—two great compound bows for the money. The Torrex hits a respectable top-end speed of 327 fps, it’s fitted with a 7-inch brace height, and measures 30 ¾ inches between the axles. Those looking for a rig with a little longer riser can opt for the XT for an extra $100. The XT has a shorter brace height (6 inches), which ups its fps rating to 336 fps. It tips the scale at 4 pounds. Both rigs feature bombproof TEC risers, and Hoyt’s new, and much improved X-Act Grip. MSRP: $599 for Torrex and $699 for Torrex XT.
Quest is under the Prime umbrella, which means Prime engineers — known for producing accurate, dependable bows — have a hand in the design of each Quest model. The Centec is a 32-inch axle-to-axle bow that hits a top speed of 325 fps. Like many popular Quest models before it, this compound is uber-adjustable. Shooters can adjust draw length in ½-inch increments between 25.5 and 31 inches without a bow press, and you can have peak draw weights of 55 and 70 pounds. From the peak, archers can drop weight 15 pounds via the ultra-smooth limb screws. The cam system uses split-string tracks to make the draw cycle more comfortable, which is perfect for those frosty mornings (and times when severe buck fever hits).The grip is direct to the riser, and the 6.75-inch brace height is plenty forgiving. All those premium features make the Centec one of the best compound bows for the money. This bow can be purchased as a hunt-ready package at an MSRP of $579.99.
Bowtech’s Carbon Zion is one of the best compound bows for the money and shoots like a dream. At 3.3 pounds, the bow feels like a feather in your hands, and the synchronized Binary Cam system is a breeze to tune. The Powershift disc on the cam gives you a choice between Performance and Comfort settings, and those who cheered Bowtech’s popular Carbon Icon will love the Zion. The bow features a new tapered grip, which is an improvement over the Icon’s, and at 31-inches axle-to-axle is sure to be maneuverable in treestands, ground blinds, and spot-and-stalk missions. The Carbon Zion is fitted with a 6.25-inch brace height and comes with a no-bow-press-needed draw length range of 25.5 to 30.5 inches. MSRP: $749.99.
Bowtech’s Amplify is a great beginner’s bow, but don’t be fooled, it brings plenty of performance with a top speed of 335 fps. A grow-with-you-bow, the Amplify allows for 62 pounds of draw-weight and features a generous 9-inch draw-length range. The bow’s brace height is 6 inches, and with no accessories attached, it pushes the scale to 4 pounds even. Measuring 31.5 inches between the axles, the Amplify’s Binary Cam System is married with a wider limb design to up performance and provide the type of accuracy shooters demand. The new Orbit Dampener has been added to tamp down noise and vibration. MSRP: $599.
The latest member in an impressive series of budget PSE bows, the Drive NXT is a real shooter. A new machined aluminum riser paired with aluminum limb pockets boosts durability and stability. The ZF Quad Track Cam System is smooth and provides a not-too-shabby 330-fps IBO rating. The bow has a 7-inch brace height. The Drive NXT comes in peak draw weights of 60 and 70 pounds and is draw-length adjustable between 24 and 31 inches. The compound has a fighting weight of 4.3 pounds and utilizes PSE’s ComfortGrip System. MSRP: $699.
When PSE unveiled its original Stinger, it gained traction with legions of bowhunters and quickly became a tried-and-true classic best compound for the money. Now offered with shorter limbs and a more sizeable SS cam, this 30-inch brace-height killer is perfect for treestand and groundblind hunters. Offered in peak draw weights of 55 and 70 pounds (adjustable down 15 turns from peak) and featuring a generous draw-length range (21 ½-30 inches), the Stinger Max may be the last bow you ever buy. Hitting a top speed of 312 fps, this 3.8-pound bow is fitted with a 7-inch brace height, and letoff is set at 80 percent. The Stinger Max is smooth, stable, and it’s one of the most affordable rigs on our list. Get it for $479.99 at Cabela’s.
A Ready To Hunt (RTH) package, Bear’s all-new Inception is available in peak draw weights of 45-60 pounds and 55-70 pounds and is draw-length adjustable between 25.5 and 30 inches. Measuring 32 inches between the axles, this 4.3-pound rig hits a blazing 340 fps, but that speed doesn’t come with too much sacrifice. Fitted with Bear’s Hybrid Cam System, the Inception promises a smooth draw cycle, and attached ShockWaves are designed to dampen noise and vibration. The RTH package includes Trophy Ridge’s Fix 5 sight, Quick Shot Whisker Biscuit, Static 6” stabilizer, 5-Spot quiver, peep sight, and D-loop. MSRP: $619.99.
A new member to Bear’s Legend Series, the 31-inch axle-to-axle Whitetail hits a solid top-end speed of 320 fps. Draw-length adjustable between 23 and 30 inches, this 6.75-inch brace height bow is fitted with new draw stops that provide a super-solid back wall—a trait not often found in single-cam rigs. A tribute to Bear’s Whitetail Hunter, launched in the 70s, the Legend is ready for the woods and comes with higher-end Trophy Ridge accessories. The Whitetail Legend tips the scale at 4.3 pounds and comes in peak draw weights of 45-60 and 55-70 pounds. MSRP: $499.99.
When Mathews Archery is your big brother, you tend to get some great bow designs, and that’s the case with Mission’s new Switch. A sweet rig that comes in at $400, this compound is noted by Mission to be its most versatile bow to date. Mathew’s award-winning Crosscentric Cam inspired the cam system, and thanks to Fast Fit technology, the Switch ensures maximum performance across a broad range of draw weights and lengths. Measuring 31-inches between the axles and fitted with a 6 7/8-inch brace height, the Switch hits a maximum fps of 305. Draw lengths are adjustable between 18 and 30 inches, and this grow-with-you compound ensures a great string angle for archers on all ends of the draw length spectrum. MSRP: $399.
The story behind Elite’s popular Ember is one bow for the rest of your days. With variable draw weights that run from 10 to 60 pounds, it seems that the Ember is living up to that promise. It’s a 31 ¼-inch axle-to-axle compound that is draw-length adjustable between 15 and 29 inches. Branded with a fps rating of 310, the bow wears the Ember Cam, specifically engineered to have a defined backwall even when set at a lower poundage. The riser is caged, and this split-limb bow ships with Elite’s new Vibex dampening blocks and Winner’s Choice strings. MSRP: $500.
If you’re looking to jump into the Mathews family but want to save some coin, the Tactic is a great option. Priced in the mid-800s, this rig can’t be labeled a budget bow, but when you consider it’s branded with the Mathews label and fitted with the smooth AVS DYAD cam that is draw-length adjustable between 23 and 30 inches, it’s a bargain. The bow has a 7-inch brace height and an ultra-stable riser, which should make it an accurate shooter. The letoff is set at 80 percent, and the bow hits a blazing top-end speed of 335 fps. Available in peak draw weights of 50, 60, and 70 pounds. MSRP: $849.
How much does a good compound bow cost?
There are a variety of good hunting bows that cost between $400 and $800. Most people call these budget bows, but I’ve always had a hard time with that label. Sure, bows in this category hit a lower price point, but “budget” makes me think of a cheap build. That’s not the case with these; these are the best compound bows for the money and offer top-end features. However, go cheaper than about $400 for a hunting bow, and you’re likely not getting a quality product.
Affordable Bows vs. Flagship Bows
I’ve shot every brand of bow on the market from the most affordable to the most expensive. I’ve also tested top end bows head-to-head against affordable models. Expensive bows typically have more technology and features and a little more speed and performance. However for most average bowhunters who are looking for the best compound bow for the money, mid-priced bows in the $400-$800 range provide all the speed and performance required for hunting.
Q: What brand of bow is best?
There is no “best” bow brand. All top end bowmakers have made some great bows over the years. If you go back through Outdoor Life’s bow tests, Bowtech and Mathews have won the most Editor’s Choice awards in recent years. Their sister companies Diamond and Mission (respectively), make some great affordable hunting bows.
Q: What is a good bow for beginners?
The Elite Ember is a great choice for young, new archers because it is so adjustable. As young shooters grow they’ll want to increase their draw weights and draw lengths. For adult beginning archers, any of the bows on the list are great beginner options. For beginning bowhunters, go with a package bow for simplicity.
The best compound bows for the money all benefit from the leaps in compound bow engineering we’ve seen in the last decade. You simply can’t buy a bad bow these days. The key is going to be finding the best bow for you, and the best way to do that is try them out at an archery shop. Shoot a bunch of bows and choose the one that speaks to you.