The Best Youth Compound Bows of 2024

We review the top compound bows for beginner and advanced youth archers
Youth bow and youth archer

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My first bow was a fiberglass recurve that I found in my grandparent’s attic. It would barely stick arrows into the target, but you couldn’t pry that thing from my grimy five-year-old hands. Youth bows have gotten much better since then. With a modern bow, a youth archer will be able to get arrows to stick in the target, and with a little coaching they’ll all be in the middle. The best youth bows will ensure your kid has fun at the backyard target range, and will help them become a successful bowhunter.

Whether your child is a future bowhunter or the next world champion archer, finding the best youth compound bow for them is an important first step. I’ll help you do just that using data I’ve collected from the annual Outdoor Life bow test and experience from my time as an archery coach. Here are my picks for the best youth compound bows.

How I Chose the Best Youth Compound Bows

Outdoor Life staff and contributors meet at Lancaster Archery Supply each year to test the newly released compound bows. While flagship bows are the main event, we don’t forget bows under $800 and test several each year. We put the best compound bows for the money through the same rigorous testing protocol as the flagships, and they’re evaluated for speed, accuracy, and shooting characteristics. My picks for the best youth compound bows combine top performers at the 2023 Outdoor Life Bow Test and those I’ve had personal experience with while coaching.

Carefully consider bow fit while making your choice. A bow that doesn’t fit an archer is just as useful as clown shoes on a sprinter. An archery shop or coach can help you determine your child’s draw weight and draw length, which are the two critical measurements for bow fit. If you don’t have a shop or coach nearby, many of the bows listed below are highly adjustable and can be made to fit most kids that are about eight years or older. The lightest draw weight in the group is 7 pounds and the shortest draw length is 15 inches. Because these bows are so adjustable, they’ll grow with your kid.

The Best Youth Compound Bows Tested at the 2023 Outdoor Life Bow Test

Best Overall: Bear Legend 

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 32 inches
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds (w/ sight and arrow rest)
  • Draw Length: 18 to 31 inches
  • Draw Weight: 14 to 70 pounds
  • Let Off: 85 percent 
  • Price: $460

Test Results

  • Speed: 263 fps (Measured with a 420-grain arrow, 60-pound draw weight, and 29-inch draw length)
  • 50-yard Group Average: 6.75 inches Average of five, five-shot groups shot by two testers)

You will not find a smoother drawing bow for the money than the Legend XR. It’s one of those bows that feels lighter than its actual draw weight. That’s going to make it nice to pull back for archers moving up in weight.

The smooth draw cycle is the hallmark of the Legend XR, but it also has one of the widest adjustment ranges. It can fit a youth archer with an 18-inch draw length and pulling 14 pounds. With some quick adjustments, it can then fit a tall adult with a 31-inch draw length pulling a hefty 70 pounds. The Legend XR is a quiet bow, which is nice for hunting and it also makes target shooting more fun.

The grip is a little too rounded, but it didn’t stop us from shooting a 6.75-inch, 50-yard group average. The bow’s affordable price tag will help you look beyond any of its minor flaws. I think it’s the best youth compound bow available.

Best for Serious Archers: Elite Terrain

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 32.5 inches
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds 
  • Draw Length: 25.5 to 31.5 inches
  • Draw Weight: 45 to 60 or 55 to 70 pounds 
  • Let Off: 85 percent
  • Price: $700

Test Results

  • Speed: 270 fps (Measured with a 420-grain arrow, 60-pound draw weight, and 29-inch draw length)
  • 50-yard Group Average: 5.9 inches (Average of five, five-shot groups shot by two testers)

When I think of a youth bow, I think of huge adjustment ranges, slow arrow speeds, and a lot of hand shock. Those affordable bows are a great first step, but when a youth archer progresses to the point where their skills and commitment to archery are outperforming the bow, it’s time to upgrade. The Terrain is the perfect next step up from a starter bow.

The fit and finish is on par with the best flagships we tested this year. The Terrain doesn’t feel like a budget bow as you draw it and shoot it, which is just as impressive.

In accuracy testing, our test panel averaged a respectable 5.9-inch group average at 50 yards. Our biggest group average among the flagship bows tested was the Bear Execute ($1,200), which had a 5.43-inch group average. So this $700 bow is hanging in there with a bow costing $500 more.
A major contributor to the accuracy was the fantastic grip. It’s a similar grip that’s on Elite’s more expensive bows, and it promotes proper technique with very little torque. That’s a big deal for youth archers because it will help them learn good form, which they’ll use for the rest of their life.

An overlooked factor in buying a bow is how fun it is to shoot. Fun bows are shot more often, which makes for better archers and bowhunters. The Terrain’s draw cycle is easy, the back wall is solid, and it doesn’t rattle when you shoot—all the makings of a fun bow.

A lot of budget-orientated bows have a wide adjustment range, but that usually comes at the expense of performance and a smooth draw. Elite’s engineers have managed to hit the sweet spot between a bow that’s adjustable from 25.5 to 31.5 inches and has 15 pounds of adjustment. Yet we measured the bow’s speed at 270 fps. Like the accuracy test, we tested the budget bows with the same draw weight, draw length, and arrow as the flagships. Our editor’s choice winner, the Elite Era, shot 271.5 fps and is more than twice the Terrain’s price.

It’s exciting to see a bow provide so much value, and if you’re looking to spend less than $1,000, you must try this bow at an archery shop.

BlackOut Intrigue XST

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 30.25 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Draw Length: 19 to 31 inches
  • Draw Weight: 30 to 70 pounds
  • Let Off: 80 percent
  • Price: $350 (Ready to hunt package)

Test Results

  • Speed: 244.3 fps (Measured with a 420-grain arrow, 60-pound draw weight, and 29-inch draw length)
  • 50-yard Group Average: 7.15 inches Average of five, five-shot groups shot by two testers)

There were no surprises while testing the Intrigue XST. It shoots like an inexpensive bow, and it won’t win any awards for smoothest draw, most accurate, or least hand shock. A positive note is that the Intrigue XST has a light mass weight. That’s an often overlooked aspect for youth archers you can struggle holding a heavier bow on target.

While it doesn’t satisfy my refined taste in bows, it is a fine option for getting started in archery at a low price point. For $350, you walk away with a complete setup—you just have to add arrows and a release aid. 

Other Great Youth Compound Bows

Here are some other great youth bows that we didn’t test at the 2023 bow test.

PSE Stinger

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 32 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds 
  • Draw Length: 21.5 to 30 inches
  • Draw Weight: 50, 60, or 70-pound peak weight
  • Let Off: 80 percent 
  • Price: $500 (Ready to hunt)

When I was coaching archery, I suggested the PSE Stinger to students as a first bow after graduating from a Genesis. That’s because the PSE Stinger is known for being a high-value bow and a great shooter for the money. It will fit just about anyone and is a good option for youth archers who will need to adjust their draw length and draw weight as they grow. It has a single cam, which means it will draw smoothly, but be average in arrow speed. 

Diamond Edge 320

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 32 inches
  • Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Draw Length: 15 to 31 inches
  • Draw Weight: 7 to 70 pounds
  • Let Off: 85 percent
  • Price: $470 (Ready to hunt)

Most bows adjust from the mid 20s to low 30s in draw length. But, the Edge 320 can adjust from 15 inches to 31 inches of draw length and 7 to 70 pounds in draw weight. That’s a huge benefit because it allows you to find the proper draw length for your kid and start with a low draw weight. A proper draw length means steadier aiming and better accuracy. A comfortable draw weight that you can slowly increase means avoiding injury and bad form. If you’re looking for a bow with tons of adjustment, the Edge 320 should be on your list of bows to try. 

Bear Archery Limitless 

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Specs

  • Axle-to-axle: 28 inches
  • Draw Length: 19 to 29 inches
  • Draw Weight: 25 to 50 pounds
  • Let Off: 50 percent 
  • Price: $250

We’ve seen a lot of bows that can work for both adults and kids, but the Limitless is made specifically for youth archers. That’s important, especially for hunting, because bows that have a wide adjustment range will typically lack performance at short draw lengths. The Limitless adjusts from 19 to 29 inches, so the cam design is optimized for shorter draw lengths. It adjusts in draw weight from 25 to 50 pounds. For an adult, 25 pounds is pretty light and easy to draw. But it’s still a significant draw weight and not the starting point for a brand-new youth archer. Most young archers can comfortably draw 15 pounds and will be able to shoot 25 pounds and up as they progress. That’s why I would suggest a Genesis bow or something similar for a first bow, and then the Limitless would make a great first hunting bow. 

Genesis Bow

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Specs

  • Draw Weight: 10 to 20 pounds
  • Draw Length: 15 to 30 inches
  • Right or Left Hand
  • Weighs 2.9 pounds

The Genesis bow is the default starter bow and it’s the official bow for the National Archery in the Schools Program. It’s a compound bow, but the draw length doesn’t have to be adjusted and it doesn’t have let-off like most compounds. That makes it easy for the whole family to share one bow. I’d recommend the Genesis for kids from eight years old through high schoolers just getting started. For younger archers, the Mini Genesis is a better fit due to its smaller size.

How to Choose a Youth Compound Bow

Archery Lessons and Youth Programs

You don’t have to buy a bow to get a kid started in archery. Many youth programs and archery shops offer loaner bows that allow people to try the sport and learn the basics. Once they have a grasp of the fundamentals and you’ve confirmed they like archery, you can move on to buying them their first bow.

Go to an Archery Shop

I recommend using this review as a starting point to narrow your search to a few options. Then you’ll go with your child to an archery pro shop (not a big box store). The bow technicians will allow them to try out the bows you’ve selected, and that test drive will be the final decider. The bow techs will then make sure you leave the shop with a bow that fits properly and is tuned.

How to Guess Draw Length

Unfortunately, really good archery shops aren’t in every town, and if you don’t have a shop near you, you can still get your kid started properly. The first thing you’ll want to do is get a rough idea of their draw length. Measure their wingspan and divide that number by 2.5. That will give you a starting point to fine tune their draw length as they start shooting. Most youth bows don’t require a bow press to make draw length or draw weight adjustments. All you’ll need is Allen wrenches and the instructions that came with the bow.

Where to Start on Draw Weight

One of the worst things you can do is start someone off with too much draw weight—it causes bad habits and could cause injury. I’d recommend starting with the lowest draw weight setting and then slowly increasing from there. Drawing the bow should be easy, and they should be able to pull it straight back without any big movements.

FAQs

Q: What is a good draw weight for beginners?

The best draw weight for beginners is one they can easily pull back. An archer should be able to slowly and smoothly draw their bow without much effort. An easy-to-draw bow helps avoid injury, prevents bad habits, and is safer to shoot. 

Q: What is the best bow for a youth beginner?

The PSE Uprising and Diamond Infinite 305 have a wide range of adjustment to fit most young archers. 

Q: What is the best bow for a 15 year old?

A 15-year-old archer can begin to look at adult bows or bows that bridge the gap between youth and adult like the Elite Terrain. The bow still must comfortably fit the archer and be properly set up for the best shooting experience. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Youth Compound Bows

Archery is just a sport that kids can do from kindergarten through high school. It’s a sport they can do for the rest of their lives. So an investment in the best youth compound bow can set them up for a lifetime of fun. Just be sure that the bow you choose fits them properly, and consider a few archery lessons to help them learn the basics.

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