The Best Compound Bows for 2020

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.

The Best Compound Bows for 2020

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How do they do it? I have no clue. I’m just thankful they do it—and do it well. Each year, compound bow manufacturers seem to trump previous models, giving bowhunters and target archers more than they could ever imagine. We’ve almost come to expect marked improvement year after year. We know a new crop of bows is coming, and we simply can’t wait to shoot them—for good reason. With few exceptions, we’re going to be impressed.

The 2020 compound bow lineup doesn’t disappoint. If I had to pick an emerging theme for this year, it would be customization. Archery is a very personal sport, and bow manufacturers have recently gone to great lengths to design bows that allow archers to toy and tinker until they perfect fit and feel.

You’ll notice many of these adjustable features in the following ink and in future reviews of models to come. The presence of user-adjustable draw lengths, let-offs, grips, cams and more is a trend that’s here to stay. My advice: Take full advantage of it. If you take your time and fit your bow to you, you’ll experience accuracy and shooting joy like never before.

1. Mathews VXR 31.5

Compound Bows
Mathews VXR 31.5: 31.5" axle-to-axle, 343 fps

I was a fan of last year’s Mathews Vertix. It was balanced, quiet and accurate. I dare say its successor, the VXR, is even better. Though I’ve only spent time behind the riser of the 31.5-inch axle-to-axle version (the VXR is also offered in a 28.5-inch axle-to-axle model), I can pen without hesitation that the bow lives up to the hype surrounding it.


For 2020, Mathews went with an extended six-bridge riser, and while the riser reduces unnecessary weight, it also boosts strength and stability. The finished weight of my VXR (with accessories) is 8.23 pounds, and at full draw it holds and points like a dream.


Set at 80 percent let-off, the draw cycle is silky and let-off comes with an appreciated sense of gradual ease. This smoothness lets the shooter crawl into the anchor, and focus on aiming and letting the release fire the bow. When the shot breaks, it’s all smiles. This bow is ridiculously quiet—the quietest I’ve ever shot—and I can’t imagine many whitetails will be ducking the arrow. As for speed, the VXR 31.5 is branded with a 343 fps rating; it powered my 400-grain Easton HyperSpeed arrows plenty fast.

I popped a pair of turkeys with the VXR 31.5 this spring. It was very maneuverable inside a ground blind and when hunting with a bow-mounted decoy.

Hit: The VXR 31.5 is whisper-quiet, and its Silent Connect System (SCS) compatibility is a win. The SCS is an add-on that easily attaches between the top and bottom limbs to accept the new Mathews Genuine Bow Rope and Bow Sling.

Miss: Fans of uber-light bows may find this 4.66-pound model (without accessories) a tad heavy.


Mathews VXR 31.5

mathewsinc.com

  • Draw Weight: 60, 65, 70, 75 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 26.5" to 31"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 31.5"
  • Brace Height: 6"
  • Let-off: 80%, 85%
  • Weight: 4.66 lbs.
  • Speed: 343 fps (IBO rating)
  • MSRP: $1,199

2. Hoyt Carbon RX-4 Ultra

Compound Bows
Hoyt Carbon RX-4 Ultra: 34" axle-to-axle, 334 fps

An aluminum riser fan, I’ve struggled with tuning Hoyt Carbon models in the past. Not this year. The RX-4 is quite possibly the perfect combination of length, speed, balance and accuracy.


The new ZTR Cam—the third generation in ZT Cam technology—provides what I feel is Hoyt’s smoothest draw and most stable back wall to date. As the cams roll over, a small, oval, rubberized pad set into the draw-stop arm contacts the inner cable to provide a wall that allows the shooter to fall into anchor, relax and begin the shot process.

When it comes to balance and shootability, the Carbon RX-4 Ultra delivers. After tweaking the Adjustable Grip System to the left a touch to customize fit and feel to my personal preferences, I sent arrows from distances between 20 and 80 yards offhand and through my Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter. This bow is a tack driver. I credit its accuracy to the perfect riser-to-limb marriage as well as the undeniable performance of the ZTR Cams.

As far as speed, the RX-4 Ultra sent my 384.5-grain Easton HyperSpeed Pro arrows downrange at a respectable 298 fps. At the shot, there is silence. The arrow is just gone. The bow owes this to its pair of Shock Pods, which dampen riser vibration, and its adjustable StealthShot string-suppression system.

Hit: Balanced and quiet, the Carbon RX-4 Ultra won’t disappoint on the range or in the woods.

Miss: Price! You get what you pay for, but the $1,749 MSRP still creates a shock.

Hoyt Carbon RX-4 Ultra

hoyt.com

  • Draw Weight: 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 27" to 30", 30" to 32"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 34"
  • Brace Height: 6.75"
  • Let-off: 85%
  • Weight: 4.1 lbs.
  • Speed: 334 fps (ATA rating)
  • MSRP: $1,749

3. Hoyt Axius Alpha

Compound Bows
Hoyt Axius Alpha: 29.5" axle-to-axle, 342 fps

Part of Hoyt’s 2020 Alpha Series, this 29 1/2-inch axle-to-axle rig deserves a hat tip. This 4.3-pound bow holds like a dream, and when I crawl into my anchor, it sits like a well-trained Labrador. I fired hundreds of arrows offhand and through the Hooter Shooter at distances up to 80 yards. The Axius handled it all with no problems.

I typically prefer a bow that measures more than 30 inches between the axles. Although I understand the idea of supreme maneuverability, I will take balance and steadiness over compactness any day of the week. With the Axius, I can have my cake and eat it, too.

The bow tuned up like a dream. I appreciate the fact that Hoyt jumped on the Integrate Mounting System trend and added dovetail slits in the riser, which are needed to accept the QAD Integrate MX arrow rest. Another win is the adjustable cam system. With numbers representing draw lengths marked on the inside of the upper limb and on the cam module, draw-length adjustment is a breeze.

Hoyt wanted to offer a bow with maximum maneuverability. The company does it with the Axius. I took this bow to Oklahoma and smoked a Rio Grande tom from inside a cramped ground blind. The Axius is fast, accurate and easy to handle.

Hit: Maneuverability and balance make the Axius a go-to hunting model that will work as well in the Rockies as it does in an Eastern treestand.

Miss: I detected a twinge of noise at the shot. The bow isn’t loud, but it’s not as quiet as some of the other 2020 models.

Hoyt Axius Alpha

hoyt.com

  • Draw Weight: 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 25 to 28", 28 to 30"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 29.5"
  • Brace Height: 6.125"
  • Let-off: 85%
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs.
  • Speed: 342 fps (ATA rating)
  • MSRP: $1,199

4. Prime Black 5

Compound Bows
Prime Black 5: 35" axle-to-axle, 343 fps

The Black 5 is part of a new series from Prime that includes similar versions offered in axle-to-axle lengths of 31, 33 and 39 inches. All told, the Black Series gives hunters and shooters lots of options. I’ve only spent time behind the Black 5, which has a 35-inch axle-to-axle length, and truth is, it reminds me of Prime’s 2019 Logic CT5. This is a good thing. I loved the CT5.

In true Prime fashion, the Black 5 is built to withstand a nuclear attack, and wide limb pockets married with the 82X Aluminum Swerve Riser provide undeniable balance at full draw. The draw cycle is smooth, and let-off comes with an appreciate sense of easiness.

A first for Prime, the new Roto Cam System allows for super simple draw-length adjustments. The self-contained system of a rotating module means no bow press is required, and the module can be moved in 1/2-inch increments. Let-off can also be set from 65 to 90 percent.

What about accuracy? The Black 5 delivers it in spades. I shot the bow with field points, as well as mechanical and fixed-blade broadheads, out to 80 yards. Money.

Hits: Customization! The Black 5 allows for let-off and draw-length adjustments, as well as infinite adjustment of the cable stops. In addition, the bow's direct-to-riser grip is sensational.

Misses: The bow is not as quiet as I would like, and I detect a bit of vibration at the shot.

Prime Black 5

g5prime.com

  • Draw Weight: 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 25.5" to 31"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 35"
  • Brace Height: 6"
  • Let-off: 65 to 90%
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.
  • Speed: 343 fps (as advertised)
  • MSRP: $1,099

5. Bowtech Revolt

Compound Bows
Bowtech Revolt: 30" axle-to-axle, 335 fps

Last year I took my two biggest whitetails to date with Bowtech’s Realm SR6. That bow blended speed with smoothness and will forever be one of my favorite rigs. After weeks of flinging carbon with Bowtech’s latest vertical wonder, the Revolt, I’m considering adding it to my shortlist of all-time favorites as well.

The 30-inch axle-to-axle Revolt is a breeze to set up and tune, compliments of its new Deadlock Cams. Simply loosen the branded “Lock” screw and then manipulate the “Tune” screw left or right to move the cams on the axles. No twisting cables. I love it! Two shots through paper and I had achieved the perfect tune.

In addition to being a cinch to tune, the Revolt shot lights-out. The components of the Deadlock System, which include the limb pockets and cable containment as well as the cams, work in concert to create a platform that is balanced, quiet and fast.

I love the bow’s cable stops. They are padded and contact the cable in a way that provides a back wall that is firm, but not rock hard. I like the bit of valley that results. It allows me to pull into my cables and execute shots with my hinge release. Most shooters will applaud this wall.

Of course, the narrow, flat-backed Clutch Performance Grip can’t be ignored. I wasn’t a fan of this grip on the SR6, but regardless of how far I moved from the target with the Revolt, the arrow found its mark. (All these features are also available on the Revolt X, which has a longer, 33-inch axle-to-axle length and a 6 1/2-inch brace height.)

Hit: The Deadlock Cams are a serious win, and their design is one of the best innovations I’ve seen to date.

Miss: The Clutch Performance Grip takes some getting used to.

Bowtech Revolt

bowtecharchery.com

  • Draw Weight: 50, 60, 70 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 26" to 31"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 30"
  • Brace Height: 7.25"
  • Let-off: 85%
  • Weight: 4.4 lbs.
  • Speed: 335 fps (IBO rating)
  • MSRP: $1,099

6. PSE Nock On EVO NTN 33M

Compound Bows
PSE Nock On EVO NTN 33M: 33" axle-to-axle, 322 fps

For 2020, PSE joins forces with archery mastermind John Dudley to produce a 33-inch axle-to-axle bow with a litany of purposeful features bowhunters and target archers will applaud. I love the D.T. Rest Mount, which eliminates any chance of rest movement. I also cheer the widened riser shelf that better accommodates drop-away rests with large whale-tail-style launchers.

Another noteworthy feature: the Nock On EVO NTN accepts a kickstand designed to be shot on the bow (it’s also removable). I hate setting my bow on the ground when shooting. The kickstand (sold separately) also solves a problem with growing-in-popularity bow-mounted decoys. With this system, you can attach a decoy, deploy the kickstand and hide behind it.

Of course, the bow is a shooter. Dudley wouldn’t put his name on it if it wasn’t. Like other bows in this test, it hits the bowhunter sweet spot. A forgiving 7-inch brace height and a weight of less than 5 pounds will also turn heads.

Setup and tuning were a breeze. The grip felt good in the hand, and the bow consistently delivered field points, mechanical broadheads and fixed-blade broadheads into the 10-ring at distances up to 80 yards. The Nock On EVO NTN is smooth during the draw and on the shot, and post-shot noise is nil.

Hits: Lots of worthwhile features, such as the D.T. Rest Mount and Integrated Riser Ready Quickstand System, set this bow apart.

Miss: The cable guard is static. It can’t be moved like it could be on the original EVO 33. I like a moveable cable guard for tuning purposes.

PSE Nock On EVO NTN 33

psearchery.com

  • Draw Weight: 50, 60, 65, 70, 80 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 26" to 31.5"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 33"
  • Brace Height: 7"
  • Let-off: 80 to 90%
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.
  • Speed: 322 fps (ATA rating)
  • MSRP: $1,199.99

7. Bear Status EKO

Compound Bows
Bear Status EKO: 33" axle-to-axle, 344 fps

Adjustability is the big story with the Status EKO. Bear’s EKO Technology allows shooters, without a bow press, to customize let-off to 75, 80, 85 or 90 percent. In addition, draw-length adjustments can be made without a press.

Besides offering easy customization, the bow is a solid shooter. Bear’s shiny new penny measures 33 inches between the axles, which is a sweet spot for many bowhunters and target archers. Set with a let-off of 75 percent, the Status EKO drew smoothly and the transition to let-off was not at all abrupt. The cams didn’t feel like they were itching to unleash, even though the bow is fitted with limb stops. Shooters that put a premium on a rock-solid back wall with no valley will love the Status EKO. The narrow VersaGrip melted into my palm, and the bow felt balanced and controlled at full draw.

New Align Lok Technology works in harmony with a bow sight to help align second- and third-axis sight levels, which saves time and headaches. A level integrated into the riser sits perpendicular to the sight mounting surface. The Status EKO also ships with a NaroGrip for those looking to tinker and swap grips to a more hand-filling design.

Hit: Lots of customization options will provide the shooter with a do-all hunting and target bow.

Miss: Though the Status EKO is outfitted with a number of noise-squelching devices, it produced a slight hum and transferred some vibration to the hand.

Bear Status EKO

beararchery.com

  • Draw Weight: 45 to 60, 55 to 70 lbs.
  • Draw Length: 26" to 30"
  • Axle-to-Axle Length: 33"
  • Brace Height: 6"
  • Let-off: 75, 80, 85, 90%
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs.
  • Speed: 344 fps (as advertised)
  • MSRP: $999.99

Two More to Consider

Other bowhunters found these models noteworthy.

Sadly, I couldn’t give every new bow on the market a test drive. However, I reached out to some of my bowhunting compadres—guys who I trust, and who can tune and shoot with the best of them—and they brought these models to my attention.

Obsession Lawless 4T

Compound Bows
Obsession Lawless 4T

Capable of speeds up to 356 fps, the Lawless 4T (MSRP: $999.99; obsessionbows.com) is fitted with an all-new OB Adjustable 4-Track Cam System. This system allows the shooter to achieve a perfect tune, which leads to excellent arrow flight and accuracy that regularly deflates lungs. The rotating cam module is adjustable for draw length in 1/2-inch increments between 24 1/2 and 30 inches. The 4.1-pound bow measures 33 1/4 inches between the axles and has a 5 1/8-inch brace height.

Elite Ember

Compound Bows
Elite Ember

With a 31-inch axle-to-axle length and a 6 1/4-inch brace height, the Ember (MSRP: $499; elitearchery.com) boasts a draw-weight range of 10 to 60 pounds and is adjustable for draw length from 15 to 29 inches without the need of a bow press. This means the 3.6-pound Ember will fit all types of shooters: men, women and kids. The Ember’s back wall receives praise for being firm, even when the bow is set at a low poundage. The price makes this adaptable compound attractive as a starter bow that can grow with the shooter over many seasons.

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