Years ago, the newest technology saw bows spit arrows at a little over 200 FPS (that means the arrow is moving at a velocity of 200 feet a second). That’s slow by today’s standards! Now archers are getting caught up in the marketing of speed, with the newest compound bows claiming to shoot over 360 FPS.
Let’s get down to it: when it comes to bowhunting, is more speed better?
To put it simply, a fast bow produces flatter shooting arrows. Gravity likes to wreak havoc on an arrow and its trajectory—archers must accurately judge distance to put their arrow on target. A faster shooting bow with a flatter shooting arrow means there is more forgiveness in judging distance, as your arrow will travel farther before gravity has its impact.
When it comes to hunting, a flat shooting arrow extends the range you can shoot accurately and maintains enough energy to harvest game. Energy is key to arrow penetration, and is provided by speed and arrow weight.
But there is always a downside. When you maximize speed with most modern bows, stability becomes an issue. The fastest bows are jumpy and have short brace heights—making them unforgiving when it comes to shooter form and arrow release. Even a bit of misalignment, and you’ll be way off target.
Perhaps the biggest downfall with speed is stabilizing an arrow. With arrow speeds over 300 FPS, this can be frustrating and challenging. The good news is the archery industry continues to overcome tuning and stability hurdles with new add-ons and technologies.
How do you shoot game at an ethical distance? Your arrow may have enough kinetic energy to harvest game at greater distances, but those problems that can arise at the last second—wind or moving quarry—are what can spell disaster, no matter how fast your arrow travels.
A fast bow may help you put a tag on your next buck, but all the hype about speed can’t replace proper shot placement, sharp broadheads, and practice. Practice is key no matter what bow you shoot. Nothing but finetuning your skills to your equipment will ensure success in the field.
If you want to buy a speed bow, go to an archery lane and shoot the bow before spending the big money. You will know immediately if the bow is comfortable, and whether you will be consistent with it in the field.