I just received a number of emails from a concerned new compound archer as to whether a “soft case” would be adequate to protect his bow on bus rides, etc. Well, there are bus rides and there are “bus rides” if you know what I mean. In Costa Rica I saw potholes the size of Volkswagens, so bus rides can be perilous. (Heck, some of the larger ones in Chicago can swallow motorcycles.) But allow me to address ordinary, civilized bus rides and car rides, and so on and what kind of bow case you might want.
Right off let me say you do not need a bow case … at all. I have carried bows around naked in my car. I have carried takedown recurves in pillow cases. This is not a “must have.” I would call the purchase of a bow case, a “prudent purchase.”
I do not recommend that my students carry a naked bow on public transit as that act can attract the wrong kind of attention. So, a bow case serves to mask the contents of the case and people who are not familiar with them might think it was a case for a musical instrument or something.
Bows receives some bouncing around traveling in a bus or car, so a bow case protects your investment in a fairly expensive sporting good. So, it has that merit, also.
When traveling by plane I put compound bows in a plastic “hard” bow case. This is because luggage is stuffed into cargo holds in airplanes and then a hired gorilla jumps up and down on it to make sure it is packed tight. (Just kidding! It just seems that way!) I honestly do not want the cargo in an airplane I am traveling it to shift around, so I want them to pack it in safely. But that means you have to protect your bow from having a small mountain of luggage piled on top of it. If you expect to be traveling by air, consider a hard case for your compound bows.
When I travel locally, I always use a soft case. They are lighter, easier to pack, and can take quite a beating. I prefer padded bow cases, as the ones that are not padded don’t provide much protection. Bows have become quite a bit shorter over the last 20-25 years. When I first got into archery, compound bows were 44˝-46˝ axle-to-axle in length. I found a good supplier of high quality bow cases on the Internet that were 52˝ in length and all of my bows fit. Today, bows are much more likely to be less than 40˝ ATA and so bow cases sold today are considerably shorter. The only “long” one I was able to find after a quick search was 46˝ long which would fit a bow of about 42˝ATA. If you put an old bow in one of these cases, one end of the bow sticks out. That end is not protected at all.
So, measure the full length of your compound bow, not just ATA, and make sure the case you are buying is 1˝-2˝ longer than that. If it is padded, it will protect your bow on car or bus trips. Most of these cases have a large side pocket that will accept arrow tubes and stabilizers.