1.2 The Recurve bow

In this post, I would like to consider the recurve bow. This topic is a little more convoluted than my discussion of the compound bow (see here). Recurve bows come in many forms and I’ll try to limit the discussion to what I think are the most important and salient points.

 First off it is necessary to describe the basic form of the recurve bow. Recurve bows have a very distinct profile. The tips, to some varying degree, will curve away from the archer when unstrung. This is a very old bow design and was favoured by Middle Eastern and Asiatic cultures in ancient and medieval periods. The recurve design enables more efficient storage of energy in the bow limbs when compared to a similar-sized straight, longbow. So, let’s jump in and consider the main types of this highly popular bow.

Entry Level Recurves

These bows are designed for the first time archer. They tend to be ‘barebow’ and of lowish draw weights (18lbs - 35lbs). These bows are free from the fripperies of more advanced bows and have a simple cut out area on the riser which acts as an arrow rest. As said, these bows are marketed to novice archers and therefore are priced toward the cheaper end of the market. Typically the riser is made of wood and carved in an intricate and attractive manner. The limbs consist of a wood core sandwiched between two thin layers of fibreglass. The tips of the bow (nocks) are often reinforced with an overlay of wood or additional fibreglass. The length of the bows varies markedly. As a rule of thumb the longer your draw length the longer the bow you should choose- but this is subject, as always, to personal preference. Recurve bows come in two flavours: the one-piece bow and the takedown. The one-piece bow is self-explanatory while takedown bows are designed so that both limbs can be removed from the riser. Obviously, this design aids portability and is particularly favoured by hunters.


These bows are often seen as a transition to more advanced bows. After basic archery skills are obtained the archer may hanker for a more sophisticated and versatile design. But this is not invariably so and many archers will be satisfied with this type of bow. If you are only interested in back yard shooting, this bow is all you really need.

Target (Olympic) Recurves

These are considered as intermediate and advanced bows depending upon the materials and accessories involved. Typically these bows will be relatively long with sports sights, sophisticated arrows rest, clickers and stabilisation rods. Effectively, these bows are designed for the serious target archer and they can achieve consistent and accurate shots up to 70 and 90 metres depending on the skill of the individual archer. Universally these bows are takedowns and the limbs can be removed and swapped. These bows utilise the ILF system (international limb fitting). This allows the archer to grow with his equipment without discarding the riser. In this way, it is possible to upgrade to more sophisticated limbs and/or limbs with a greater draw weight whilst retaining the original riser.


The difference between ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ bows lies with the materials used in the construction of the limbs and the riser. At the cheaper end of the market, the limbs are made of wood and carbon fibre. The more expensive limbs contain an internal foam core encased in carbon fibres. Supposedly, these advanced limbs facilitate a smooth draw with reduced vibration and torque. Lower end risers are made from aluminium and magnesium alloys. Expensive risers are made of carbon and are lighter, more stable, and better balanced than the cheaper metal risers. That said, it is likely that only the highly skilled archer can obtain the full benefit from high end, expensive limbs and risers.

Hunting Recurves




I’d just like to say a few words concerning hunting recurves. Clearly, large target bows with their paraphernalia and garish colours are totally unsuited for hunting. Hunting recurves are much smaller than target recurves and are typically within 50 to 64 inches while target recurves may be as long as 72 inches. Another difference concerns the power of the respective bow types. Hunting bows are more powerful than target bows and may go as high as 60lb in draw weight. This power is required in order to kill large prey at distances typically no longer than 20 yards. Hunting bows are not designed for accurate long-distance shooting. In addition, hunting bows don’t have many of the features of target bow such as stabiliser rods, although they may have sights.

 Okay, this concludes my summary of recurve bows. In the next post, I’ll consider a rather mixed bag of bows: The Traditional, or Trad Bow.