Types of Recurve Bows

Archery is historically significant as a military tactic and hunting method and still retains prominence in most cultures. 

Traditional archery remains popular as a competitive sport today, and one brilliant thing about traditional archery is the variety of traditional bows available. The type of bow you use is essential, with each having differing construction, appearance, and, more importantly, performance. It is a good idea for beginners to experiment with different bow types and find what works for them. 

Today we’re going to take a look at the different types of bows and discuss their advantages to help you decide which is ideal for you.


 The longbow is one of the oldest types of wooden bow.  It is simple in its design, consisting only of a long piece of curved wood and a bowstring. As its name suggests, the longbow is very long and offers an equally long full draw length. 

The longbow, like the recurve bow, is also a traditional bow. It is one of the oldest types of bows and only comes as one piece (usually made from yew), making them cheap and easy to find. Longbows are very quiet and offer you impressive stealth.  

A longbow is fast and comfortable to use and very forgiving for beginners who haven’t yet perfected their release technique. It also offers enhanced stability due to its length. 

Longbow pros 

  • Longbows are simple in their design, making them cheap to make and subsequently purchase. 
  • Longbows are easy to use and are a popular choice for beginners. 

Longbow cons

  • There’s not really any way to upgrade or customize this bow type. 
  • They can be difficult to transport and aren’t as portable as other options we’ll be looking at. 
  • Since the longbow isn’t as popular as its compound and recurve counterparts, finding ranges and competitions that cater to longbow archers are harder, meaning you’ll usually need to graduate into using other bow types in time. 


The crossbow has been in use for a very long time; it was a popular weapon historically and played a key role in many wars in Asia and Medieval Europe. 

Crossbows can be made from different materials, including aluminum, wood, alloys, and carbon, and could be said to represent one of the most popular hunting bows. 

Crossbows are brilliant and can quickly bring down big game. 

Crossbows are easy to use and don’t require much physical strength but loading them is pretty time-consuming, meaning if you miss the first shot while hunting, you might not get another window of opportunity. 

When choosing your crossbow, you should be aware that they have higher poundage and smaller draw length compared to other bow types.

Crossbow pros 

  •  You can delay your shot; crossbows allow you to load your bow and wait until you have an opportunity to shoot. Other bow types don’t allow you to do this. 
  • You can use a powerful crossbow without being limited by your upper body strength. It’s easy to shoot accurately – even over long distances. 

Crossbow cons 

  •  Crossbows can be quite loud. It’s difficult to get a second shot in because of slow reloading. They’re not particularly portable and can be incredibly heavy. 
  •  Some states and countries restrict the use of crossbows. 

Compound bow 

The compound bow is not a traditional bow – having been developed sometime in the 1960s. Modern technology means that some archers prefer it to the traditional options, which may be more difficult to use. It is operated with the use of pulleys, cams, and cables. 

Compound bows are most commonly made of carbon, fiberglass, or aluminum.

Compound bows are categorized by their cam classification. The single-cam variant is recommended for beginners though there are also the double cam and hybrid cam versions for more experienced archers. 

Compound bows are usually preferred by hunters because of two reasons; firstly, these bows are often silent. Secondly and perhaps, more crucially, there is the “let-off” benefit to consider. 

The “let-off” is the point at which you’re only holding a percentage of the draw weight in contrast to having to hold the entire draw weight. This” ‘let-off” ‘will allow you to perfect your aim, increasing accuracy. 

Compound bows pros 

  • The quiet, light nature makes it easier to avoid startling prey. 
  • The pulley system can help you conserve energy.
  •  It is easy to practice your aim with this bow type due to the let-off. 

Compound bows cons 

  •  The array of mechanical parts makes it costly to maintain and upgrade. 
  • Compound bows are often the most expensive bow type. 

Recurve bow 

Modern recurve bows resemble the traditional recurve variants in design and appearance, differing only in having metal risers. All modern recurves are  takedown recurve bows that are designed to be taken apart quickly, featuring carbon fibers. This quick takedown allows them to be easily broken down into parts for easier storage and transportation. 

The recurve is the only bow currently used to compete in the Olympics. It is also the most popular bow type for target shooting. 

When strung, a recurve bow’s limbs curve back toward the archer from the riser and then curve again near the tips, so they’re parallel to the riser. 

One trait differentiating recurves from other traditional bows is that the bowstring sits against the limbs for a couple of inches after looping over the tips into the string grooves.

Recurve bows also have a larger riser with a sculpted grip that neatly fits the hand. Their limbs are wide and flat and usually made of layered wood, fiberglass, and/or carbon fiber in addition to composite materials. 

 Recurves are popular for both target shooting and bowhunting.  They are available in lengths from 48 to 72 inches have draw weights going up to around 60lbs. 

Recurve bows pros 

  •  Easy to upgrade and repair. 
  • Easy to find and usually quite affordable.
  • It shoots with impressive speed. 
  • Increased mobility. 
  • Takedown recurves are easy to transport and store. 
  •  Suitable for use anywhere. 

Recurve bows cons 

  • Some recurve bows may not be best suited for long-range shooting. 
  • It can be louder due to a pronounced “string slap” on release. 

Reflex bows 

A reflex bow is constructed with limbs that curve away from the archer, forming a unique shape when unstrung. 

Some may have limb tips that touch or even overlap. 

 A reflex bow is different from a recurve in that the entire limb curves or “flex” away from the archer, while in a recurve, only the tips do. 

An extreme reflex allows a much smaller bow to achieve a higher draw weight than a larger bow of other types. 

Reflex bows pros 

  •  Much smaller in size, particularly when compared to the English longbow or compound crossbows. 
  • It packs a powerful punch for a much smaller weapon. 

Reflex bows cons 

  •  Harder to find. 
  • It may be expensive. 

FAQs about Recurve Bows

What is the difference between a recurve bow and a compound bow?

A recurve bow is a type of bow that has tips that curve away from the archer when unstrung. This allows for more energy to be stored in the limbs which makes it easier to draw and shoot with. A compound bow is different in that it uses a system of pulleys and cables which can store more energy than a traditional recurve.

What type of material is used to make a recurve bow?

Recurve bows are typically made out of wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber depending on the model and manufacturer.

How much draw weight should I choose for my recurve bow?

The draw weight you choose will depend on your strength level as well as what type of shooting you plan on doing with the recurve bow (target shooting versus hunting). As a general rule, most people should start with something between 20-30 lbs but this may vary depending on individual preferences.

How do I choose the right size recurve bow for me?

To choose the right size recurve bow, measure both your draw length and arm length then consult a chart to determine what size is best for you based on those measurements.

Is it necessary to use special accessories when shooting with a recurve bow such as stabilizers or sight marks?

While accessories such as stabilizers or sight marks are not necessary when shooting with a recurve bow they can help improve accuracy by counteracting against torque caused by arm movement while aiming or reduce vibration caused by releasing an arrow both factors which can negatively affect accuracy at greater distances.

Summing up 

There are many things to consider when you decide to buy a new bow – or your first bow. Precisely which meets your needs will vary depending on what you’re looking for.   Compound bows are usually recommended for hunters on account of their “let off” capacity, and crossbows are brilliant for taking down larger game. If you’re looking for some beginner-friendly target practice to get used to archery, a longbow is advisable. 

However, an excellent overall option that is good for hunting, target shooting and comes in takedown variants for easy transportation is the modern recurve bow. 


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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