Why Do Compound Bows Have Three Strings?

If you’ve never been around compound bows before, you may be curious as to why it has three strings on it compared to the more traditional-looking bows. Compound bows are fairly complex devices, so it makes sense to wonder what all the bits and pieces are for.

The truth is, a compound bow does only have one string, the bowstring. The bowstring shoots the arrows. The other two are actually called buss cables. They attach to the cam axels to create synchronization when a shot is fired. The cables affect draw weight.

If you are curious about compound bows or a beginner, I’ll cover some basic things. Such as how the cables and bowstring work and what their jobs are. I will also be going over how to know when it’s time to change your strings and cables to avoid injuries or equipment damages.


How do the Strings and Cables Work?

The bowstring is one of the most important parts of the compound bow. If you are unfamiliar with the anatomy of a bow, it’s where you’ll put the arrow in order to pull back and fire it. It is the most recognized part of a bow.

The cables hold tension by being attached to the axel cams. This is where you’ll get your draw weight from. They are equally as important as the string though. They also do take a beating and will need to be replaced along with the bowstrings. Even though you aren’t nocking an arrow on them, the cables can still get frayed and worn down.

Why are compound bows so complicated – 4 reasons why.

Compound Bow Cables and Draw Weight

So, the big thing with the cables is that they are what you change in order to increase or decrease the draw weight of the pull. Now, if you have never done it before, it’s recommended you take it to a professional. You will need specific tools in order to twist the cable properly.

When you look at your compound bow, you’ll see that there are two cables. The one you need to twist to draw weight is going to be the one that is furthest from the axel. You’ll also be able to spot the right one by applying pressure to them both. One of them will move the cam, and one will. The one that moves the cam is the one you’ll need.

If you need a visual for which cable is the necessary one, this video is a very good help for it.

The process looks like this (watch the next video). As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as it originally seems, which is why going to a professional shop is the best way to get it done because you really don’t want to miscalculate something. If it’s done improperly or you don’t know what the draw weight is, you can end up injured from it.

How Long do Compound Bow Strings Last

This is incredibly important to keep in mind. Shooting a bow with frayed or damaged strings/cables can be dangerous! You should maintain the entire bow, but with so much use, the strings/cables will suffer the most.

Realistically, for the average user, you won’t need to change them for 2-3 years. However, if you are a heavy user and have your bow on a higher draw weight, you will need to change them more frequently.

Bow String and Cable Quality

So, the quality dictates a lot about the bow. The default strings and cables will work when you are just starting out, assuming the bow is tuned to you.

However, as you advance with the use of compound bows, you might be looking for something that will last longer and be better for your needs. The strings will cost more than the basic ones you can find at a Cabelas or Bass Pro Shop, but the quality will be top-notch.

You can also customize string and cable colors, which is a nice touch when it comes to custom strings. Some places will also sell already made strings, for certain levels and disciplines. Those will usually run you a little cheaper than customs, but still more costly than generics sold at big brand name stores.

How to Know when to Change the Bow Strings

As I said before, every 2-3 years is a good rule of thumb. However, you should inspect your bow before you shoot it every time. It’s important to inspect the state of the bow and make sure it is actually safe to shoot.

Both the cables and strings can begin to splinter and fray. You may be able to get away with it for a little while, but it is best that you get them changed out once you notice severe degradation in the structure. A snapped string, while you are pulling back for a shot can result in severe injuries.

Please make sure to inspect your bow every time you go out for a shoot!

How to Change Compound Bow Strings

The process for changing bowstrings is a complex one. There are tutorials such as this video that can assist you. The cost for equipment needed to change the strings can be expensive and hard to learn. The costs range goes into the hundreds.

However, taking a bow into a shop that does restringing is going to be your best bet as a beginner. The cost to get it professionally done varies by area and by string type. Remember, safety is very important and until you are sure of your skillset, it’s best to leave it to those who have been doing it for a while. You don’t want to end up with an injury.

Final Thoughts

You now know that bows technically only have one string and two cables. The string gives you tension to shoot and the cables are responsible for your draw weight.

I’d just like to reiterate that you need to keep an eye on the quality of your strings, especially after they’ve been well worn. You can give yourself a severe injury and damage your bow completely.

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