Rebuilding an Old Compound Bow

Setting ordinary hex nuts against the spring steel inside the composite grip and securing them with five-minute epoxy gave me a strong mounting system for both sight and rest.

Compound hunting bows get so advanced and complex that I wonder why anyone wouldn’t just buy a rifle. I like the simplicity of a good longbow but I’m not really thrilled by the top notch compound hunting bows even though they technically are very good weapons. They seem like a difficult answer to a simpler problem. People long ago solved this problem with the crossbow, which will shoot farther and harder than any longbow.

Some years ago I was looking through a pawn shop’s offerings and saw a compound bow on the rack in between some guitars. This old 55-pound draw bow was stripped down to nothing but the bow and obviously had seen some hard use. Also the previous owner had tried and failed to mount some modern devices to it. The resulting damage looked only cosmetic and I got my bow for a good price.

Looks a little better from this side : ). Oh well, it works just fine.

I played around with this compound bow now and then but didn’t like it well enough to invest any more time or money in it. The pro at the local archery shop took a look at it for me and was horrified. I got a lecture about arrow lengths and weights and he insisted on attaching a cheap arrow rest, one of the flap types that folds on release. I never liked that rest and took it off about a month later. I went back to shooting bargain arrows off the shelf of the bow, which was very rough on the plastic vanes of the arrows but was at least predictable. I even patched some damaged arrow shafts with hickory rods and kept shooting in spite of that not actually being anywhere near the right arrow weight. I got an awkward bounce every time and the accuracy was not great. So I learned that a compound bow won’t shoot like a longbow even if you try hard. You need stuff. On a compound bow, the bowstring is offset from the bow itself, and with the proper sort of arrow rest the string drives the arrow forward cleanly and the vanes of the arrow never touch the bow. That folding arrow rest was never able to do this and I got that awkward bounce both with or without it.

This past summer I got the bow out again and decided to work it over and give it a fair chance to hit something. I bought a Safari Choice whisker biscuit arrow rest and a simple 3-pin bow sight, and then I had the same problem to solve that put the bow in the pawn shop to begin with. This compound bow was not designed to work with either the sight or the arrow rest. The original owner had tried to mount these things and had only managed to drill holes in the wrong places. I filled those in with epoxy putty and gave it another try.

In this bow I found two layers of spring steel and ruined several drill bits trying to get through that. It didn’t work out quite like the manufacturers of the sight and the rest had expected, so I had to find hardware that would compensate and cobble together bushings and locknuts. Both the rest and the sight adjust vertically and horizontally, and my guesstimate for mounting each of them was good enough that optimal settings were within the device limits, just barely. The result actually works fine and I’ve tuned the bow in to a four inch bullseye at 120 feet. The rig works so well that I actually like this bow now. I plan to add a reel to it and use it for bowfishing in the springtime.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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