4 Types of Compound Bows: Single, Dual, Hybrid, Binary Cam

Types of Compound Bows

The compound bow is the newest and most advanced type of bow available and it can shoot arrows at very high speeds and with better precision.

Its power comes from its leveraging design, which uses a cable and pulley or cam technology. All compound bows have these cams but there are also slight design differences between them.

The cam is a major part of any compound bow design because it helps in the storage of draw weight in the bow's limbs. There are 4 major cam configurations in a compound bow and this has given rise to the four major types of compound bows as follows:

4 Types of Compound Bows

Following is a closer look at the 4 types of compound bows and what makes them stand out, including their advantages and disadvantages over the other compound bow types.

1. Single Cam Compound Bows

Single Cam Compound Bows

A single cam compound bow features the presence of just one power cam to flex the bow's limbs and store the energy.

The power cam is usually mounted on the lower limb, with the upper limb hosting an idler wheel. This simplicity in the single cam bow's design has earned it a wide acceptance among archers who love it because it's easy to keep up.

Some single cam bows get optimized for smoothness, while others are more aggressive and edged towards speed. Some have level nock travel issues, while others don't, but they're all accurate to an acceptable level.

The major problem with single cams is nock travel. Since one wheel is idle while the power cam turns, there is unequal pressure acting against the arrow's nock and this is what leads to nock travel issues and what dual cam systems attempt to correct.

Advantages

  • High precision. Although the other compound bows are more precise than single cam bows, all compound bows, in general, are very precise, especially when compared to other bow types. This makes the single cam compound bow generally accurate.
  • Quiet Operation. Single cams shoot the most quietly among compound bows. This is because of their simpler design, which has less moving parts and generates less tension than the others.
  • No Synchronization Issues. Because there's only one working cam in a single cam bow, there are very little maintenance needs, unlike the other compound bow types with double cams, which need constant synchronization.
  • Easy to use. Single cam compound bows are smooth and reliable enough for most users, with its good combination of simplicity and accuracy.

Disadvantages

  • Lower power. As a compound bow, single cam bows are powerful, but when compared to other compound bows, they are the least powerful. This means that other compound arrows shoot faster arrows in general than single cam bows.
  • Nock travel issues. Another issue with single cam compound bows is that the fixed wheel and the single power cam both create unequal levels of pressure against the arrow's nock, thereby causing nock travel issues and reduced precision.

2. Twin/Dual Cam Compound Bows

Twin/Dual Cam Compound Bows

A twin cam or dual cam compound bow consists of two cams working together in a single bow to produce more draw weight to shoot an arrow with. The two cams can either be circular or elliptical but they both have to look the same, so they can synchronize.

When compared to single cam setups, dual cam bows offer more power and speed than single cam bows, but they're prone to suffer synchronization problems.

This comes as a result of their design. The two cams work independent of one another and so pose the risk that one can rotate slightly ahead of the other as a result of string stretch and this means the upper and lower limb forces not balancing, which then creates nock travel problems.

Modern dual cam bows, however, come with better strings and these do not stretch the cams out of sync easily. But you'll still need to get the bow checked at least once every season by a qualified bow technician.

Asides from synchronization issues, dual cam bows are quite enjoyable to shoot, including producing more power and precision, as well as offering more adjustment options than single cam bows.

Advantages

  • Better accuracy. Twin cam bows produce a better accuracy as a result of the two cams working in synchrony and producing level nock travel.
  • More Power & higher Speed. In addition to being more accurate, the two-cam system produces more power than single-cam systems by equally flexing the limbs to store and release the draw weight.

Disadvantages

  • Noisier than single cams. Dual cam compound bows are generally noisier than single cam systems.
  • Synchronization issues. There's the constant need to keep both cams synchronized since they function independently of one another. Although modern dual cam bows suffer less from this issue, it's still a problem.

3. Hybrid Cam Compound Bows

Hybrid Cam Compound Bows

Hybrid cams are a further development of twin cam bows, designed to solve their synchronization issues. Both types of bows have two cams each, but the hybrid bow has only one power cam and one control cam.

While the dual cam setup connects the cable from the two cams to the opposite limbs, the hybrid setup connects only the cable from the lower cam to the top limb. The cable from the upper cam goes to the lower cam and not to the limb.

This makes the bottom cam the power cam and the top cam follows its movements. Both cams are automatically synchronized in this way and the bow is easy to tune and requires less maintenance overall.

Hybrid bows offer a good speed and accuracy like a dual cam but they do not suffer the synchronization troubles of dual cam compound bows.

Advantages

  • Very precise. These bows are generally as precise as dual cam bows, with very little nock travel issues as well.
  • Very fast. Hybrid compound bows are also very powerful and they shoot very fast arrows because they use dual cams just like dual cam bows.
  • Easier to keep up. With a hybrid compound bow, you don't face the kind of synchronization issues that you'll have to face with a twin cam bow.
  • Quieter. Hybrid compound bows also shoot very quietly.

Disadvantages

  • Needs some maintenance still. Hybrid bows are not entirely as maintenance free as many manufacturers will have you believe because they still need proper orientation initially to reach their best performance. Then it's all easy after that.

4. Binary Cam Compound Bows

Binary Cam Compound Bows

The fourth type of compound bows are binary cams and these are a further development from hybrid cam bows. In a binary cam compound bow, there are two active cams just like in a dual-cam setup.

The cable from the two cams though, each goes to the opposite cam. So, the cable from the top cam gets attached to the lower cam while the cable from the lower cam gets attached to the upper cam.

Such an arrangement makes both cams slaves to the movements of each other, producing an entirely different dynamic from the other compound bows.

Binary cam bows generate plenty of power for high-speed arrows and since their two cams regulate each other, any imperfections in their limbs get smoothed out for clean and accurate shots.

Advantages

  • High power & speed. Unlike hybrid cam bows, binary bows have two power cams, which helps to produce more power and as you should know, more draw weight means faster arrows.
  • High precision. The unique cam configuration of binary cam bows makes them self-balancing and therefore cut down on nock travel issues, making the binary cam compound bow the most precise compound bow technology.

Disadvantages

  • Legal Issues. Patent issues have halted many manufacturers from marketing their binary cam compound bows as such. They sell their binary bows as hybrid bows, although the technology is actually binary, they label them as hybrid-bows to avoid legal issues.

​Summary:

Compound Bow Type

Features

Advantages

Disadvantages

1. Single Cam

  • One idler wheel gets mounted on the bow's upper limb
  • The power cam gets mounted on the lower limb
  • Single cams offer good precision
  • They work quieter
  • Easier to keep up
  • A single cam bow never goes out of synchronization
  • Produces less power than dual cams

2. Twin Cam

  • Two power cams work together to produce more power
  • One cam attached to the upper limb and the other to the lower limb
  • Offers improved accuracy of shots
  • Maintains a level nock travel because of the double cam system
  • Delivers more power and higher speeds
  • Suffers a lot from synchronization issues and needs constant tuning

3. Hybrid Cam

  • Includes a control cam on the upper limb and power cam on lower limb
  • Bottom cam connects to limb but upper cam connects to the bottom cam
  • More precise than twin cam bows
  • Straighter and more level nock travel than twin cam bows
  • Easier to keep up because synchronization is steady
  • They do need a level of maintenance, although much less than twin cam bows

4. Binary Cam

  • Top and bottom cams are slaved to each other and not to the bow's limbs
  • This produces a free-floating and self-balancing leverage system
  • Generates lots of power and very high arrow speeds
  • Shoots highly accurate arrows with perfectly level nock travel
  • Legal and patent problems prevent many manufacturers from marketing binary cam compound bows

Conclusion

You have seen the 4 major types of compound bows based on their cam configuration or technology and like many compound bow owners before you, your mind must probably be racing to choose a particular bow type by now.

It's necessary to remember that the compound bow got invented to use the mechanical advantage of pulley systems to make drawing and shooting a bow easier.

So, while you may choose a single cam bow perfect for a beginner, or decide that the binary cam technology is the best thing there is, remember that a bow is still a bow and that it's your archery skills that'll truly make the needed difference.