Updated: Feb 14
When most people think of bows, they think of the simple bow and arrow that Robin Hood, Katniss Everdeen and his Merry Men used. But there are different types of bows, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The Recurve bow, Longbow, and Compound bow. The recurve is one type that is growing in popularity, thanks to its combination of power and portability. If you're considering buying a recurve, here's what you need to know about them.
What is a recurve bow
Who uses them
Why get one
Where to get one
How does it differ from other bows
Differences between traditional bows
Can a recurve bow be used for hunting
Recurve Bow Frequently Asked Questions Answered
What bow is better recurve or compound?
What are 2 types of traditional bows?
How powerful is a longbow?
Is a recurve bow better than a longbow?
Is traditional archery hard?
What is a recurve bow?
Before we answer what it is you must first know what a traditional bow is. Traditional bows are one of the oldest tools in existence, and they have been used for thousands of years. They’re typically shot by traditional archers without any sights by pulling back on their strings with your fingers to ensure accuracy at a distance up close or far away from you; this is what we call “shooting blind." These kinds of traditional bows can be found everywhere.
Some of the regions they can be found from ancient tombs such as that located at Procession Road (which also houses Tutankhamun's funeral tomb) all over Asia Minor countries -including India-, Afghanistan & Pakistan. In more recent centuries traditional bows can be found in Europe during Renaissance times where archers were extremely popular because it allowed them better mobility while still being able to fight off enemy warriors who were typically equipped with plate mail and cumbersome weapons, to modern video games such as the popular "Shadow Of Mordor" and "Assassin's Creed" where the protagonist often uses a traditional bow and arrow that you can purchase throughout the game.
Now, what is a recurve? It is a type of bow that curves away from the archer as it heads towards its target. Usually, this means that the ends of the bow curve away from the person using it. This design is used by many hunters because it can be very powerful while still being fairly portable and easy to carry around. Traditional archery mostly uses recurves because the length is shorter, accuracy is better, and has faster arrows than other traditional archery bows. The general definition for this type of bow is limbs made of flexible materials like wood or fiberglass that curve outwards until they meet in an inverted "V" shape or at least until their tips are at or past parallel, meaning that they bend about equally up and down.
Who uses a recurve?
Recurve bows made out of composite materials were used by, among other groups, the Persians, Parthians, Sarmatians, Scythians, Alans, Dacians, Cumans, Hyksos, Magyars, Huns, Bulgars, Greeks, Turks, Mongols, Koreans, and Chinese. The recurve bow spread to Egypt and much of Asia in the second millennium BC. Perhaps the most ancient written record of the use of recurved bows is found Psalm 78:57 ("They were turned aside like a deceitful bow" KJV), which is dated by most scholars to the eighth century BC.
During the Middle Ages composite recurve bows were used in the drier European countries because the laminate glue would not moisten and thereby lose its adhesive power; the all-wooden straight longbow was the normal form in wetter areas. Recurve bows depicted in the British Isles may have been composite weapons, wooden bows with ends recurved by heat and force, or simply artistic license. The bows of many Indigenous North Americans were recurved especially West Coast Indian bows. Recurve bows went out of widespread use in warfare with the greater availability of effective firearms in various nations at the end of the 19th century.
Early 21st century recurve bow
Self bows, composite bows, and laminated bows using the recurve form are still made and used by bowyers, amateurs, and professional archers.
The unqualified phrase "recurve bow" or just "a recurve" in modern archery circles usually refers to a typical modern recurve bow, as used by archers in the Olympics and many other competitive events. It employs advanced technologies and materials. The limbs are usually made from multiple layers of fiberglass, carbon, and/or wood on a core of carbon foam or wood.
The modern Olympic-style recurve is a development of the American flatbow, with rectangular-section limbs that taper towards the limb tips. Most recurves today are "take-down" bows; that is, the limbs can be detached from the riser, for ease of transportation and storage as well as interchangeability. Older recurves and some modern hunting recurves are one-piece bows. Hunters often prefer one-piece bows over take-down bows, because the limb pockets on take-down bows can make unwanted noise while drawing.
Why A Recurve?
There are many reasons why this bow might be the right choice for you. Perhaps you're looking for something that is both powerful and portable. They are smaller and lighter than other types of bows, making them easy to transport and store. They also require less strength to draw, making them a good option for people who are not as physically strong as some of the other options available.
Where To Get One
If you're interested in competitive archery, the Olympic-style recurve bow is probably the best option for you. This type of bow is widely used in competitive events all around the world. It is also the only type of bow permitted in the Olympics.
If you're interested in leisure shooting the osage orange and bamboo laminated bow is best for you found here.
If you're interested in hunting with a recurve then osage orange hunting is best for you found here. Whatever your reason is, there are many different types of recurves available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So take your time and find the bow that is perfect for you.
How does it differ from the other options?
A recurve is different from other bows by virtue of its limbs, which are curved outwards. This design allows it to store more energy as it is drawn back. Traditional archery enthusiasts often prefer recurve bows because they are easier to use than traditional longbows and compound bows.
Recurve Bow Considerations
When choosing one, there are several things you should consider before making your purchase decision. First, you will need to decide how much money you want to spend on your purchase and then choose an appropriate draw weight and draw length for yourself. There are very few traditional archery supply shops as well one rebound archery supply shop is KMC archery. You will also need to pick a suitable arrow length depending on the width of your bow limb tips, draw weight and draw length. Finally, you will need to choose one that is comfortable for you to shoot.
Differences between bows
Where the technology of a compound bow really begins to shine is, in its performance. Their efficiency and mechanical advantage allow them to impart much more energy into an arrow than an equivalent draw-weight/draw length traditional bow. There are different ways to quantify the results of that increased energy, all being factors of the mass weight of the arrow, and how fast it can fling the arrow through the air. In a nutshell, the same arrow will be shot much faster out of a modern compound than a modern traditional bow of the same draw weight and draw length. Just how fast depends on several factors, but many compounds are capable of shooting over 300 feet per second with a relatively light arrow, whereas anything over 200 fps out of a traditional bow is considered blazing. Utilizing heavy-weight hunting arrows, a more realistic average for most setups might be 280 fps for a compound and in the neighborhood of 170 or 180 fps for a traditional bow (this is just a general estimate and depends on many factors).
All the praise of compound bow technology isn’t to say that more arrow speed is always better, or that some traditional bow designs don’t perform better than others. There are constant developments in limb design, and many modern recurve and longbow limbs shoot faster and harder pound-for-pound than ever before. Ultimately, nobody who gravitates to traditional archery does it to get a raw increase in performance over a compound—when it comes to harnessing the energy and putting it into an arrow, they have the advantage.
However, aside from direct performance advantages, many shooters find that traditional bows give them some practical advantages over compounds, especially when shot distances are shorter. For all their accuracy-increasing advantages like sights and release aids, compounds can take a little longer to draw and aim than a recurve or longbow. Another indirect performance-related issue is maintenance. With a much more complex design, typically has a lot more that can go wrong with it in the field than a traditional bow, and problems can be much more difficult to fix. Traditional archers also prefer using traditional archery-type bows over modern bows to practice instinctive shooting techniques.
Because the longbow can be made from a single piece of wood, it can be crafted relatively easily and quickly. Amateur bowyers today can make a longbow in about ten to twenty hours, while highly skilled bowyers, such as those who produced medieval English longbows, can make wooden longbows in just a few hours. If you would like to make a longbow today sign up here for our in-person bow-building class.
One of the simpler longbow designs of the longbow is known as the self bow, by definition made from a single piece of wood. Traditional English longbows are self-bows made from yew wood. The bowstave is cut from the radius of the tree so that sapwood (on the outside of the tree) becomes the back and forms about one-third of the total thickness; the remaining two-thirds or so is heartwood (50/50 is about the maximum sapwood/heartwood ratio generally used). Yew sapwood is good only in tension, while the heartwood is good in compression. However, compromises must be made when making a yew longbow, as it is difficult to find perfect unblemished yew. The demand for yew bowstaves was such that by the late 16th-century mature yew trees were almost extinct in northern Europe. In other desirable woods such as Osage orange and mulberry the sapwood is almost useless and is normally removed entirely. If it is kept on the longbow then it will most definitely result in the bow cracking and breaking in a short period of time while under tension.
Longbows, because of their narrow limbs and rounded cross-section (which does not spread out stress within the wood as evenly as a flatbow’s rectangular cross-section), need to be less powerful, longer, or of more elastic wood than an equivalent flatbow. In Europe, the last approach was used, with yew being the wood of choice, because of its high compressive strength, lightweight, and elasticity.
Best wood for building traditional archery bows
Yew is the best widespread European timber that will make good self longbows, (other woods such as elm can make longbows but require heat-treating of the belly and a wider belly/narrower back, while still falling into the definition of a longbow) and has been the main wood used in European bows since Neolithic times. More common and cheaper hardwoods, including elm, oak, hickory, ash, hazel, and maple, are good for flatbows. A narrow longbow with high draw-weight can be made from these woods, but it is likely to take a permanent bend (known as "set" or "following the string") and would probably be outshot by an equivalent made of yew.
Wooden laminated longbows can be made by gluing together two or more different pieces of wood. Usually, this is done to take advantage of the inherent properties of different woods: some woods can better withstand compression while others are better at withstanding tension.
Examples include hickory and lemonwood, or bamboo and yew longbows: hickory or bamboo is used on the back of the bow (the part facing away from the archer when shooting) and so is in tension, while the belly (the part facing the archer when shooting) is made of lemonwood or yew and undergoes compression (see bending for a further explanation of stresses in a bending beam). Traditionally made Japanese yumi is also laminated longbows, made from strips of wood: the core of the bow is bamboo, the back and belly are bamboo or hardwood, and hardwood strips are laminated to the bow's sides to prevent twisting. Any wooden bow must have gentle treatment and be protected from excessive dampness or dryness. Wooden bows may shoot as well as fiberglass, but they are more easily dented or broken by abuse. Bows made of modern materials can be left strung for longer than wood bows, which may take a large amount of set if not unstrung immediately after use.
Can a recurve bow be used for hunting?
A recurve bow is capable of taking down a deer, but it is important to choose the right draw weight for your needs. A bow that is too powerful can be dangerous and difficult to use. Be sure to choose a bow that is within your capabilities and that will be safe and effective for hunting deer. Typically a recurve or longbow with 50-60 ibs pullback is more than sufficient for taking down a deer at 25-50 yards away.
So, should you buy a recurve bow? If you're an archer who wants to invest in something that will last and be easy for your kids or grandkids to use as well, then the answer is yes. The versatility of this type of bow makes it perfect for those who want power with portability. Of course, there are other types of bows available on the market if a recurve isn't what you need. But if buying a traditional bow is more your style, don’t forget about wood bow building! We offer classes all over Germany where people can learn how to make their own wooden bows from scratch – no prior experience necessary. If any of these sound interesting to you reach out to us today!
If you liked this article please leave a comment below!