The modern archer’s question: to cam or not to cam?


To cam or not to cam: That is a question people face when they visit their local archery shop to buy a new bow.

The question used to be fairly easy to answer. If a person wanted speed, he went to dual cams. If he wanted accuracy, he went with a single cam. Today, the technologies have bended somewhat in terms of performance, so what is a person to do?

Randy Smith, owner of the Pappas Trading Post in Arena said that while some rules with cams remain from years past, many have changed.

“You can still say that, in general, dual-cam bows tend to be faster than single cam, or no-cam, versions,” he said. “But the difference isn’t as drastic as it used to be. And while many people view single cam bows as more accurate, many of our target shooters prefer dual-cam bows.”

One focus on many archery advertising campaigns years ago was that dual-cam bows fall out of tune way too easily compared to single- or no-cam options. In theory, that can still be a point of sale, but not a predominant one like it once was just a decade or so ago. String stretch, for example, which causes timing issues on dual-cam bows, is less of an issue today.

“Yes, single- or no-cam bows have fewer parts moving so they won’t fall out of tune,” Smith said. “But, strings and cables today are made of much better materials so they are way more consistent. Today, when strings do stretch, they tend to stretch the same both ways so they stay much more tuned that in the past.”

Cams today look radically different then they used to but Smith said that the looks don’t always equate to the smoothness of the pull. Some archers simply prefer the “feel” of certain cams more or less.

“If someone is used to shooting a dual-cam bow and they come into buy a new one, they tend to like the feel of a dual-cam bow,” he said. “Same for the single-cam shooters. Now, when I get a person who comes in having never shot a bow before, they tend to lean towards no-cam bows.”

Speed is always a consideration, and in general, dual-cams bows can achieve greater speeds because there are two cams creating energy. Accuracy is on par with all the cam styles.

“Some people find dual-cam bows more accurate,” he said. “But it’s not because of the cam design; it’s because they can pull a lighter draw weight and achieve the same speeds as single-cam bows with heavier weights.”

The lighter weight means they can hold the bow longer at full draw and they don’t feel forced into a weight that is too heavy to achieve a certain speed, he said.

Mike Arts, a store manager for Shooter’s Sport Center in Racine, said that many people buy their bows based on preconceived notions on what cams are better for them.

“It’s all, honestly,” he said, “people will sometimes come in and not even look at other brands simply because of what they have read in a forum or seen in an ad. They think that one technology is better than another and it simply isn’t true.”

Arts said that ever since let-offs began increasing and consistency improved — thanks to new technologies — the gap between dual- and single-cams narrowed.

“A lot of the cam designs have been tweaks from other designs,” he said. “The only brand new technology was when Mathews came out with the No-Cam design.”

At first glance, a no-cam bow looks like it has a couple of round, idler wheels on it like vintage compound bows of yesteryear. The difference though, in layman’s terms, is that the camming move happens on the offset inner ring of the cam.

“Today all the quality bows stay pretty tuned,” he said. “If something goes out of tune, it’s generally because someone shoots a ton and they wear out their string. If a person takes care of the their gear, it usually won’t fail them.”

Instead of pushing a style of cam or the number of cams, Smith said his shop prefers to have customers shoot a variety of brands and let them choose for themselves.

“We carry Mathews, Mission, Hoyt and Bowtech,” he said. “These are all great brands and we offer to have our customers shoot the bows and decide what feels best to them.”

Staff members will ask them several questions and see what they are looking for in a bow, and what creatures they are hunting with that bow. Or are they only target shooting?

The cam on a bow, or lack of one, probably is no longer the determining factor when purchasing a new bow. All of the top manufacturers make reliable, tack-shooting models, with each having their spin on what cam is better at throwing an arrow.

The real key is shooting several models of bows from different companies and then choosing the one that fits best for you. After the purchase is made, then practice as much as you can prior to hunting.

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