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How Long do Compound Bows Last? And 5 Things That Kill Bows

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If you’re going to spend your hard earned money on something, you want to have a good idea of how long that THING is going to last.  Compound bows are no different and they are an investment of sorts so knowing the average lifespan of one is useful information.

With proper care and maintenance a compound bow can easily last 20 or more years.  The quality of the bow, how well it’s cared for, as well as how heavily it is used all play a role in its longevity.  However, most people will upgrade to newer technology long before complete failure of a bow is reached.

The caveats above are about quality, care, and maintenance but what does that really boil down to?  Well let’s take a closer look and I’ll even give you a few tips to give your compound bow a long happy life.

Be sure to check out my Recommended Compound Bows

What Determines How Long a Compound Bow Lasts?

Modern compound bows are made up of various parts and pieces, or bits and bobs as our friends across the pond might say.  These various pieces all have a different potential lifespan and some are easily and cheaply replaced while others are not.

Below is a table showing the average expected lifespan of the major components that make up your compound bow.

ComponentLife ExpectancyReplacement Type
Cables & String2-3 YearsCommon Maintenance
Cams/Axles15-50 YearsRepair or Upgrade
Limbs15-50 YearsRepair or Upgrade

As you can see some of these components have a large range and there can be outliers that fall outside that range.  Especially on the short side if you don’t take care of your equipment.

5 Things That Will Shorten the Life of Your Bow

Miscare and misuse are the downfall of many products including compound bows.  If you neglect your equipment it will fail prematurely.  The same can be said about improper use.

Here are some things that will surely lower the lifespan of your compound bow.

1. Dry Firing

Before you can avoid making this mistake you first have to know what it is.  Simply put, dry firing your bow means drawing and releasing the string without an arrow in it.

I actually wrote another more detailed article about why dry firing a bow is bad if you want more info on it.

The cliff notes version is that dry firing a bow causes the energy stored to be absorbed back into the bow which can cause damage to many of the bows components.

Especially susceptible to damage are axles and limbs which have been known to splinter or even break.

2. Poor Storage

This falls under the larger umbrella of take care of your crap and it’ll take care of you.  When you’re not shooting your bow, make sure it’s put away someplace safe.

You don’t want to throw it in a closet with things piled up on it, or hang it up by the strings somewhere.  Make sure it is hung properly or put away safely in a case or other suitable storage area.

3. Extreme Temperatures

If you’re old enough to remember VHS tapes, you might remember rental places warning you not to leave them in your hot car because they melt.

Well your bow won’t melt, but the extreme heat isn’t good for it.  In fact I have another article about extreme temperatures and how they affect your bow if you’d like to read more about it.

Bottom line is – don’t leave your bow in very hot places, and don’t’ leave it in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.  The cold has less of a negative effect than the heat but best to avoid it when you can.

4. Lack of Maintenance and Care

This one almost goes without saying, but I’m putting it here anyway because not everyone realizes that a compound bow needs maintenance.

A little love and care goes a long way to ensuring a long life out of your bow.  Failing to do simple tasks leads to corroded fasteners or axles, fraying cables, and more.

Take the time to learn how to care for your bow, you spent good money on it!

5. Shooting Arrows that are Underweight

Here’s one that may be lesser known, but shooting arrows that are too light for your setup can damage your bow in many of the same ways a dry fire can.  

The difference is that it’s likely to happen more slowly over time, making it harder to detect.

An old general rule of thumb is the arrow should weigh a minimum of 5 grains per pound of bow draw weight. Going above that is safe but going below it is the danger zone.

You can also choose your arrow with the help from manufacturers such as by using Easton’s Arrow Selector.

A few bow care tips from Bear Archery

How to Make Your Bow Last Longer

In contrast to the above list of things that will undoubtedly lead your bow to an early grave, there are also some things you can do to help it live longer.

Strings & Cables

These parts of your bow will need to be replaced regularly.  Think of them like you would the tires on your car.  Over time and/or shots fired they wear out.

You can help to slow this process by keeping the string and cables clean and waxed.  If you notice some fuzzies sticking out, wax on!

However, if you notice fraying or any of the serving coming undone it’s for sure time to replace them.

  Typically you can get 2-3 years out of a set of a string and set of cables, maybe a little more if you don’t shoot a lot and take good care of them.

Cleaning & Storing

Such a simple concept that can go a long way.  Many people have their bows out in the woods whether for bowhunting or 3d shoots or even just in their backyard.

You’re bound to pick up some dirt, dust, pollen, and debris along the way.  It’s a good idea to wipe your bow down before you put it away so that these contaminants aren’t sitting on your bow quietly wreaking havoc.

Speaking of putting your bow away, you should either hang your bow properly (by the riser or limbs) or store it in a case.  Even a soft case will help to protect your investment.

Bring your bow in for regular check ups

If you’re having a pro shop change your cables every couple years, this is a great time to ask them to go over it and check for signs of premature wear.

They can also check your cam timing and a myriad of other tasks if you ask them too.  But at the very least you should have a pro shop give it the old once over every so often.

Final Thoughts

If you buy a quality brand name compound bow you can get many years of use out of it.  The key is taking care of it properly.  

Even if you plan to upgrade, taking proper care of your bow means you can get a higher trade in or resale value and pass along a quality used piece of equipment to another archer.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.