Do You Need an Arm Guard for a Compound Bow?

Archery, whether it is for recreation, competition, or hunting, requires a significant amount of equipment from your bow to your arrows to all the accessories in between. One piece of equipment many archers question if they truly need is an arm guard, especially if they’re shooting with a quality compound bow. 

Generally, it is always wise to wear an arm guard regardless of the bow type you are using. This piece of equipment will keep long-sleeved clothing out of the way when you shoot and will protect your forearm from bruises and lacerations caused by string slap or even an unexpected bow failure. However, form and skill can reduce these factors. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how necessary it is to have an arm guard on when shooting a compound bow, and our reasons for taking this stance. We’ll also describe ways you could reduce your reliance on an arm guard, in the event that you don’t have one on hand when shooting a compound bow.

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Why You Should Have an Arm Guard for a Compound Bow

As with any sport, there are pieces of archery equipment that are debated regarding their necessity, especially if you’re a beginner who’s just getting into the sport and unsure if they really need to acquire all of the equipment and accessories. While the arm guard is one of these highly debated pieces, we believe it is a non-negotiable archery necessity.

There are two overarching reasons why all archers should wear arm guards when shooting: arm protection and clothing restraint with a potential third being cost. 

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Whether you’re a professional archer who has won hundreds of archery competitions, even on the Olympic level, or you’re a new archer who’s just getting started with this sport, you should be wearing an arm guard when shooting your compound box, and here’s why.

Read the complete guide on how to get into competitive archery.

Arm Protection

All archers should have archery arm guards because they are your final line of defense should your shot not go as planned and your bow string snaps against your forearm. This can cause a series of bruises, welts, lacerations, and other painful injuries, particularly if you’re using a compound bow with a higher draw weight.

–> How to treat a bruise from bow string slap.

Next to ancient bows, such as the English longbow and the Mongolian recurve bow that helped build and defend empires, a modern compound bow is one of the strongest and most powerful types of bows you can shoot. This automatically increases your risk of injury should you misfire, or your bow’s string breaks free. 

Most states have a minimum compound bow draw weight of 45 pounds for hunting, resulting in children and women often opting for 45–50-pound compound bows and adult men leaning towards 60-70 pounds. Considering 40 pounds of kinetic energy is enough to kill a whitetail deer, imagine what your bow’s string can do to your arm with that much power behind it. It isn’t pretty.

Do you actually know the difference between a recurve bow and a compound bow?

This also brings us to our potential point of cost. Generally, archery arm guards will only cost you made $9-$20 if you’re buying a simple one. That’s a small investment to make on a piece of safety equipment that might save you a world of hurt someday. Yes, of all the times you wear it, you might only need it once in every 1,000 shots, but the cost isn’t unreasonable and the feeling of relief you’ll have when your 50+ pound compound bow string snaps against the arm guard on your forearm rather than skin is indescribable.

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Talking of safety and protection – is it safe to shoot an old compound bow?

Clothing Constraint

Safety is the primary reason why you should get an arm guard for your compound bow, but it isn’t the only reason. 

Many beginner and intermediate archers might find that wearing an arm guard helps improve their shot by containing any loose clothing, such as long sleeves, that might impede their shot.

While this isn’t usually an issue for more experienced archers, especially since you learn to wear more tight-fitting and archery appropriate clothing as you increase in skill level, it can still have its uses on a chilly day of shooting. 

How Can You Reduce the Necessity of an Arm Guard?

We’re going to be very up-front about this debate and tell you plainly that most archers, especially those of high-skill levels are going to tell you that an arm guard is unnecessary as long as you know how to shoot right. While we disagree that good form is a reason not to wear the arm guard, it is true that having proper form will reduce the necessity of this piece of safety equipment. 

The majority of string-related injuries in archery are caused by poor shooting form. Therefore, the best way to reduce your reliance on an arm guard to protect you from string snaps is to alter your shooting form to guarantee your string never contacts your forearm. 

Unsurprisingly, this is why most higher-leveled archers don’t concern themselves with arm guards because they are confident enough in their form to have minimal risk of bow snap. Beginners and intermediates, on the other hand, and archers under the age of 16 struggle a lot more with this, and so, it is crucial for them to wear an arm guard.  

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That being said, if you glance at professional archers who compete in the Olympics (7 things to know) and other competitions, you’ll notice they’re wearing arm guards. These people probably have the most flawless form you can find, and yet, they wear these pieces of safety equipment. The reason is that no one ever plans to hit themselves with their own bowstring, but they aren’t willing to risk the physical consequences of the off chance this happens, and you shouldn’t either. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to sports, safety equipment is often one of the first pieces to go. In ice hockey, it’s the helmet cages and neck guards, in roller sports it’s the knee and elbow pads, and for archery, it’s the arm guard and shoulder pads. However, we strongly urge you to wear one whenever you pick up your compound bow, regardless of this trend. Never mind how it looks on you or the minuscule chance you’ll need it; think about the damage your high poundage bow can cause to your body if you decide to leave your $10 arm guard off.

You might be interested in reading about why archers should wear shoulder pads.

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