Compound versus Recurve Bows

Archers today mainly use two types of bows: recurve and compound bows. Each type of bows has its advantages depending on what purpose you intend to use your bow for.

Recurve Bows

Recurve bows are closest to the traditional long bow that most people picture. Recurve bows can easy be taken apart for transport, are ultra simple to work on in the field and are very adaptable as the archer grows in size or skill. The limbs on a recurve bow are curved toward the back of the bow. This recurving allows for the same draw weight that can be found in a longer bow, but in a shorter over all length.

comparing compound and recurve bow
Bows are typically around 68” long and are the traditional bow that most people are familiar with.

Many major tournaments including the Olympics only allow archers to use recurve bows. Recurve bows can be used for hunting, however a recurve bow that has the 50lbs or more draw weight necessary for killing an animal is a beast to shoot at the best of times. Most target shooters use a lower draw weight of between 20 and 40lbs as they will be required to draw the bow many times during a tournament and if the draw weight is too high they run the risk of fatiguing or injuring themselves from the repetitive motion of constantly drawing the bow.

Recurve bows can be fitted with sights of all types, stabilizers of all lengths, v-bar stabilizers, clickers for draw verification, and kisser buttons. Quivers can also be attached to most recurve bows as well.

compound vs recurve bows
Compound Bows have higher draw weights and shorter lengths. They should be fitted with sights, stabilizers, and use a release for drawing the bow.

Compound Bows

Compound bows are the modern evolution of archery. Compound bows are very powerful with speeds over 300 feet per second becoming the norm. Compound bows are usually shorter than a recurve.

A compound bow has cams on the ends of the limbs which when the bow is drawn turn over, giving mechanical advantage to the archer. The mechanical advantage means that while the bow is at full draw, the archer only has to hold about 50% of the actual draw weight. By only having to hold about half of the draw weight the archer can easily take his time to draw and aim rather than straining to hold the full draw weight that a recurve or traditional bow has while aiming. The cams also allow the archer to shoot a higher draw weight bow repetitively without straining his or her muscles.

Compound bows have very little vibration when the arrow is released making for more accurate shots. Recurve bows tend to have more vibration which can cause the archer to shake on release which will affect accuracy of the shot. Compound bows are mostly used for hunting and 3D tournaments; however compound bows are often used in tournaments.

The only disadvantage to a compound bow is they are not easy to service. If something breaks down in the field then a trip to the bow shop is likely going to be necessary. Compound bows can be fitted with all kinds of sights, stabilizers, arrow rests, and quivers. Compound bows are most frequently drawn with a release rather than bare fingers. Recurve bows are usually drawn with a finger tab or bare fingers, but releases can be used as well.

Before purchasing any equipment, visit a bow shop and try out the different styles for yourself. Choose a model that you feel most comfortable with and can easily shoot time and time again. Make sure the shop you are buying from can service the bow when the time comes and has access to any replacement parts you may need in the future so the fun of shooting can go on for years to come.

Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson