How to Set Up a Compound Bow Properly

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Owning a compound bow equals an exciting time, but it also means that you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Setting it up and tuning it can be just as much fun as shooting it. You get the satisfaction that you’re shooting with something you put together yourself.

Many times, you can do all the work in a home workshop or garage, though you might need a press. However, you may want to talk to a local bow professional to seek advice and help with anything you can’t do yourself. Learning how to set up a compound bow is the first step to becoming an expert in using it.

How to Set Up a Compound Bow

There are a variety of steps you must follow to set up your compound bow.  It can take a bit of time and may require some patience. However, you need to complete this step to ensure that it will draw and shoot correctly when you’re ready.

Of course, you can also go to a professional bow shop and have someone help you. Nonetheless, it is still a good idea if you do learn how to set it up yourself. For that, we’ve got your back.

Step 1: Check Draw Length

If you’ve got a brand new bow or you’ve put new cables and strings on an old one, it is essential to check your specs for the bow and you. First, confirm your draw length or find it with a simple calculation.

To do that, stretch out your arms and measure your wingspan. You may need someone to help you do this. Make sure to measure from middle finger to middle finger. Then, take that number and divide it by 2.5 to get your draw length.

For example, if you have a 70-inch wingspan, divide 70 by 2.5. You get 28 inches for your draw.

Step 2: Check Bow Specs

Next, you need to ensure that the bow is compliant to the factory-specified measurements. Tighten your draw weight to the maximum poundage. You can mark your tiller bolts using a pencil if needed to give yourself a visual guide if you must back off the weight later.

Now, measure the length between axles by using a tape measure and running it through from the top cam axle pin to its lower cam pin. In most cases, a 32-inch bow is going to measure within 1/8-inch of those 32 inches.

Many new bows are going to be spot on, but if it is off, you’ll need to untwist or twist the cables until it is right. Twisting will shorten the space between the axles while taking them off is going to lengthen it. You may need a press to do this, or you can go to your local bow shop and have a professional do it.

Next, you should check brace height. Measure from the grip to the string. If it is off, you can add or remove twists from your string to get it right. This can also be done by a professional if needed.

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Step 3: Check Cam Timing

Many modern bows have cam marks to make sure that the timing is right. They can vary widely from one manufacturer to the next, but they are usually hash marks or dots. If the cams are timed properly, the cables pass directly between them.

If the cable is off the mark, you could have a timing issue. Ask a friend to draw the bow and check the marks. The cams are going to roll off the peak draw weight and into the valley at the same time. If you notice draw stops on the bottom or top cams, they should touch the limbs or cables at the same time.

Bow makers aren’t off point on this in most cases, but it is possible that something went off during shipping. If your bow has a timing issue, you can’t fix it yourself. Take it back to the place where you bought it, and they can fix it for you.

Step 4: Centershot and Time the Rest

Next, you will need to bolt the rest and nock an arrow. Then, level it and try to get the arrow running straight to the flatter side of the riser. While centershot is different for every model, it’s best to start at 7/8-inch or 13/16-inch from the riser.

If you’re shooting drop-aways, you’re going to have to clamp, serve, or tie the rest cord to your downward buss cable. Make sure it goes into its full capture position during the last few inches of its draw cycle.

Step 5: Nocking Points and Tied D-Loops

Next, make sure your bow is leveled in the vise with the arrow and string level. You can purchase a string level to help with this. Many bows have an almost perfectly level knocking point, but others are 1/16-inch or 1/8-inch higher.

Research your bow’s model or make to make sure. However, proper tuning will fix any issues, so don’t worry so much about this step.

Step 6: Attach or Level Sight

Make sure to bolt the sight to the riser and secure it in a vise before attaching or leveling the sight. Use a carpenter’s and string level to make sure it’s straight. If the sight bubble is also level, then it’s good. If not, use the sight manual to learn how to make adjustments.

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Step 7: Tie Peeps

You need the right peep height, as well. To find it, draw the bow with eyes closed, find an anchor point, and open your eyes. Ask a friend to mark your string at eye level and work from there. When the peep is there, don’t secure it immediately. Shoot for a bit to adjust it until it feels good.

Step 8: Choose Arrows

Arrows are marked by spine (stiffness). Slow arrows need less spine to fly true, while fast bows usually need stiffer spines. Check the manufacturer’s website to help determine the right spine. Then, make sure you spin-test and weight all the arrows and remove any that deviate by over 10 grains.


Now that you know how to set up a compound bow, it’s time to tune and test it. Stand a little closer than usual to your target, sight it, follow the directions for shooting, and shoot.

If it goes where you wanted it to go, it’s set up. If not, you may need to go through the steps again or tune it accordingly. If you can’t figure it out yourself, you can go to a professional bow shop and ask for help. A professional can show you how to do it and tune it so that it works correctly.

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