Recurve and Compound Bows Compared

Compound vs. Recurve Bows: What’s the Difference?

 If you’re thinking about getting into archery, you might have spent some time looking at bows online or visiting your local outdoor store. While on the web or in the archery section, you might have noticed the two major types of bows: recurve, and compound. The major difference between these two types of bows is immediately apparent: recurve bows are much simpler than compound bows, and seem to be more basic.

 Really, though, what are the actual differences between recurve bows and compound bows? Which bow is better for what situations, and what are the pros and cons of each? These are actually very important questions, and knowing the answers can help you get farther into archery and bow hunting, as well as help you find the right product for you.

 Recurve Bows

A Typical Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are the simpler of the types of bows, featuring between one and three pieces that make up the frame, and a single string. Though not required, many recurve bows are made from wood, so if you’re looking to feel like Robin Hood when you go to the range, a recurve is most likely your best bet. They also feature a single string that’s much shorter than the string used in a compound bow.

 The reason for the name “recurve” comes from the shape of the bow’s frame. The tips of a recurve bow curve out towards the target, which give the bow more power when pulled back. Large recurve bows, depending on the draw, can fire several hundred yards at an arc. However, his also means that a recurve with a larger frame is harder to pull the string back. The required effort to draw an arrow and hold it in place while aiming depends entirely on the size of the bow.

Recurve bows are lighter and easier to transport than compound bows, which often makes them great hunting bows. They’re also easier to maintain in most compound bows, due to less parts. However, though recurve bows are usually cheaper to get at the start, they can also be a bit pricier if they break: recurves that are made of wood or of a single piece of material must be replaced in the event of a fracture.

Another downside of recurve bows is the strength required to use them. Child’s recurves are small enough to handle, but most adult recurve bows require anywhere from 20 pounds to 50 pounds of force to pull back an arrow. For the untrained shooter, this can wear them down quickly, and might also throw off their aim. Many beginners recurves are designed to be lighter and easier to use, but if you’re planning on shooting the far targets, you’ll probably have to hit the gym a bit.

Compound Bows


Compound bows are the modern cousin of the recurve, and have become very popular in recent decades, both for hunting and shooting. Compounds use a pulley system that takes strain off of the bow and provides slack for the archer, making it easier to shoot with accuracy.

What makes compound bows so popular is the ability to customize the bow for the archer. Recurves can have scopes and other small accessories, but for the most part, they are a full-piece as is. Compound bows, however, are made to hold a number of tools for the wielder, from scopes (including laser point) to small quivers and everything in between. This adaptability allows the archer to create a mobile setup perfect for whatever use they have, whether for target practice or bow hunting.

The tradeoff for picking up a compound bow is the starting price. A good compound bow usually starts at around $300 and goes up depending on the quality. However, the maintenance of a compound bow in the event of a break is much simpler than that of a recurve, as all it takes is a simple replacement of most pieces, depending on where the break occurs.

Another downside of the compound bow is the size. Compound bows are much bigger and more elaborate than recurves, which means that a good case might be necessary to protect it when going on a hunting trip. It might pay off in the long run, though, as a compound bow has the technology to improve your aim when trying to bag that boar or deer you’ve spotted.

Which One is Right for Me?

So, with all of this information in mind, which type of bow is the right choice? That depends on what you want out of your archery experience. Beginners who are just trying out the sport might be better going with a recurve (in fact, most archery ranges allow shooters to rent a bow, which means you don’t have to drop the money on the bow if you’re not interested), as they are cheaper and easier to use. Recurves are also good for muscle training; some of the best ways to get fit come in the form of recreation, and consistently shooting will get you those ripped arms and shoulders.

 On the other hand, experienced shooters and hunters, or people who know they’ll be in the hobby for a while, might do best with a compound bow. Compound bows offer the shooter a long life with adaptability, and someone using a compound bow won’t tire out as fast, especially if he or she is untrained in shooting. Compounds are also a great choice for the shooter who wants to excel at both archery and bow hunting, as a compound’s adaptability can be worked to fit a shooting range setting as well as the deep woods.

 While these bow types are very different, as well as hold different strengths and weaknesses, both are great for getting into the sport of archery. It doesn’t matter whether you favor the raw power of a classic recurve or the adaptable technology of a compound; with either one, you’ll be hitting targets and bagging bucks in no time.

Add Comment

0 Items