Who & When Was The Compound Bow Invented?

The traditional bow and arrow have been around for several hundred years. From ancient times to the present time, the conventional bow has been used for hunting and sports. However, it’s precision and the strength required to operate it has always been a topic of concern. It takes very skilled archers to use the traditional bow with precision. It also involves a lot of upper body and arm strength to propel arrows to a significant distance. This has always been a huge limiting factor to those who wish to use a bow for whatever purpose. Luckily, in the 1960s, the modern compound bow came along, alongside several improvements. 

While beginner archers usually found the traditional bow a little challenging to get acquainted with, the compound bow can help first-time archers achieve better accuracy much faster. The compound bow stores more energy and shoots much faster than the traditional bow. Before outlining the compound bow’s improvement over other bows, let’s discuss the brain behind the Compound bow.

Who Is The Brain Child Behind The Compound Bow?

Holless Wilbur Allen 

If you haven’t heard the name before, then that’s the name to praise whenever you admire a compound bow. In the 1960s, Holless Wilbur Allen came up with the design for the compound bow.  Born in 1909 in Kansas, H.W Allen is famed for tinkering with equipment that he believed could have had better designs. He tinkered with cameras, built complex machinery that created baskets, and even designed his deep-sea fishing equipment. Several stories recount the Kansas-born inventor tinkering with a whole lot of tools and equipment. 

H.W Allen, who was a bow-hunter, wasn’t comfortable with the much simpler bow design of the time. He believed that there was room for improvement in the traditional bow’s accuracy and speed. He subsequently set out to create a new bow design. H. W Allen spent several years designing and adjusting bow designs without much luck. Despite coming up with several good designs, none had met his goal of crafting a bow that could shoot much faster with greater accuracy than what was currently available. He persisted and kept trying out new designs until he finally came up with the design for what is now called the compound bow. On June 23, 1966, H. W Allen filed a patent for his innovative design and was awarded around three years later in December 1969. Within the first few years of going public with his design, the compound bow became immensely popular and favored over the traditional bows by many archers and bow lovers. With the help of Tom Jennings, a bowmaker, H. W Allen became the first manufacturer of compound bows. 

The Compound bow would subsequently eclipse H. W Allen’s other inventions, becoming the most popular of them all. Today, the compound bow is regarded by many as the most effective bow for hunting. A huge number of hunters who use bows for hunting adopt compound bows as their preferred hunting bow. 

The Design Of The Compound Bow

The compound bow’s design is quite complex when compared to the good old traditional bows. It features a pulley system and a lot of moving parts. It utilizes cables and pulleys to bend the limb of the bow. The pulley system used in a compound bow involves one or two (or in some cases more) oval-shaped cams, on which the string travels around. This is what creates tension that translates into the energy that propels the arrow forward. 

The central part of the bow is the Riser. The Riser is what holds the bow’s limbs, stabilizers, quivers, and sights. Therefore, the Riser of compound bows are made of strong materials. They are usually made of magnesium alloy, aluminum, or carbon fiber to get the right amount of rigidity. The compound bow’s limbs are made of composite materials because of the need for flexibility. However, the material used is usually of considerable strength to ensure the limbs do not break when much energy is applied. 

Arrows fired using a compound bow could reach speeds of 46m/s to 113m/s). Initially, the cables and strings of compound bows were usually made of steel coated with plastic. However, high-modulus polyethylene is commonly used today. This is to ensure greater tensile strength with as little expansibility as possible. 

Arrows used with compound bows aren’t significantly different from those used with other types of bows. Compound bow arrows are made from carbon fiber, aluminum alloys, or a composite of the two. The major difference between arrows used for regular recurve bows and compound bows is the spine. The spine of an arrow is a measure of how stiff an arrow is. A stiff arrow which bends less could be said to have less spine.

On the other hand, those with more spine are less stiff and more flexible. Arrows used for compound bows are more rigid than those used for regular recurve bows. This means that they have less spine. It is crucial for arrows used with compound bows to have a considerable level of stiffness. This is because a compound bow has greater strength, and less stiff arrows could break easily under intense pressure. Wooden arrows are not usually used with compound bows because it is not strong enough to withstand a compound bow’s strength. It could break easily and could even seriously injure the archer.

Apart from an intricate design, enhanced accuracy, and speed, the compound bow’s working mechanism are also different from that of other traditional bows. There are some significant differences in the way compound bows store and release energy. However, when comparing compound bows with traditional recurve bows, the overall structure is still similar. 

Can Anyone Use it?

If you’re new to archery and interested in acquiring a youth bow and arrow, it’s very advisable to get proper training before using one. While compound bows are like recurve bows in different ways, you could hurt yourself if you use a compound bow without proper training.


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