How Much Bow Speed Is Needed For Hunting? 

For decades, bow hunters have seemingly been on a quest to own the fastest-shooting compound bow possible. While this may be a valid goal, we should never forget that the speed of a bow is not a good indicator of how well it will perform in a game. In fact, the speed of a bow does not even have to be the first feature that you look for when choosing a new bow. 

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How Much Arrow Speed Is Needed for Hunting? 

A fast arrow can be helpful for several reasons, especially when you are hunting at a longer range. A faster arrow can help forgive a misjudgment of distance and allow you to carry your shot further without the arrow drop. A fast arrow also provides a flat trajectory, which helps improve accuracy. 

The speed of the arrow is determined by a variety of factors, including kinetic energy, arrow weight, and bow efficiency. It is important to understand how each of these determining factors affects the speed of an arrow and how they can be changed to alter the arrow’s overall performance. 

Kinetic Energy 

This is the arrow’s stored energy, expressed in units of foot pounds. It is customary to measure kinetic energy at launch, but this number can be eroded by a wide range of elements, from improperly tuned arrows kicking and yawing downrange to fletching friction that wastes energy. 

Arrow Weight 

The arrow’s weight in grains is measured on a scale and is one of the most common determining factors for arrow speed. Depending on the arrow’s overall weight, it will change its raw arrow speed by anywhere from 15 to 20 fps. 

Type of Compound Bow 

In addition to arrow weight, a bow’s type of compound has an impact on its overall efficiency. The more efficient a compound is, the more energy it can transfer to the arrow with less effort (all else being equal). Some compounds are better than others at transferring this energy, and that’s what makes some bows shoot faster than others. 


The IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) and ATA (Archery Trade Association) standards are used by manufacturers to calculate bow speeds. Using these specifications, manufacturers obtain the highest ratings they can for their products. But in reality, most bows cannot achieve those IBO/ATA numbers. 

The main reason is that the IBO/ATA numbers are based on a lot of assumptions that most bowhunters just do not have or can use for their needs and applications. These assumptions include a 30-inch draw length, 70-pound draw weight, and a 350-grain arrow — all of which is not realistic for most people or bowhunting applications. The result is that many hunters who have IBO/ATA-rated bows often have them shooting slower than they should or want them to. For example, many bows that are rated at 350 fps often shoot 3-4 fps slower when adjusted to a 60-pound draw weight. It is also difficult for many bowhunters to fit into a 30-inch draw length, so this can have an effect on how quickly a bow shoots.