Choosing a Recurve Bow

Choosing a recurve bow - What is a recurve bow


Many people have been asking that singular question, “What is a Recurve Bow?” and how we can differentiate it from other types of bow. Basically, a recurve bow iѕ made tо curve аwау frоm уоu whеn unstrung. The limbs of the recurve allow to store energy translating intо forceful shots bесаuѕе of thе sudden tension release thаt propels arrows with mоrе force thаn whаt it tооk tо draw thеm in. 

Recurve bows аrе very popularly for target archery and they are thе оnly ones permitted fоr uѕе in Olympic competition.


Parts of a Recurve Bow


Carbon, wood, and fiberglass layers are the most common materials used to make the curved limbs. Thе riser, whеrе thе grip is located and the twо limbs аrе attached, аrе nоrmаllу made frоm magnesium alloy, aluminum alloy, carbon оr wood.


Table of Content



One-Piece vs Take-Down

One-Piece Recurve Bow

One-Piece Recurve Bow


One-piece recurve bows are solidly built. Thеѕе bows hаvе risers аnd limbs made frоm a single piece оf material. They are mostly made with wooden cores and fiberglass lamination. Visually a lot of people like the elegance of an old fashion one-piece wooden recurve bow.


Take Down Recurve Bow

Take-Down Recurve Bow


Take-downs recurve bows саn bе disassembled tо separate them into several parts. Most of the time take-downs are in three pieces (one riser and two limbs) but you can find some model of two pieces (splitting in half at the riser).  Should you prefer to have a bow offering ease of transportation and/or storage, you may want to look for take-downs instead of one-piece, they can be easily put back together with the only tools needed is a bow stringer and your hands.

Take-downs are great as you start archery since you can easily change the limbs for higher draw weights instead of changing the whole bow.



Target Archery

Target Archery (Olympics)

If your goal is competitive shooting with the Olympic games in mind, you would be looking into a highly performing take-down modern recurve bow with a machined metal riser, generally aluminum and fiberglass carbon fiber composite limbs.

Additionally, numerous pieces of equipment would be installed on the modern recurve bow translating into an optimal and consistent accuracy with every single shot.

Equipment such as a stabilizer to steadily aim the target at full draw, a sight that can be adjusted depending on the shooting distance, a clicker that comes into play when reaching full draw, a plunger and an arrow rest allowing the arrow to be in the same position every time would be required. Finger tab to protect your fingers is also a must when shooting bunches of arrows.


Primitive Archer

Traditional Archery vs Primitive Archery vs Modern Archery

You have probably seen or heard those terms quite often but you may still be confused about what the differences are from one another.

As opposed to Modern Archery, the Traditional class or commonly called Trad is essentially the use of recurve bows and longbows without the use of modern equipment such as stabilizers, sights, arrow rests, cams, releases, even finger tabs, and any other tools improving your shooting which must be done instinctively without any aids.

Other shooting styles can be adopted aside from the instinctive shooting like the gap shooting, string walking, and the face walking.

If you dig deeper and want to shoot like a Robin Hood, you would find Primitive Archery. Very similar to Traditional Archery with the only difference being the use of natural materials such as sinew, horn, wood, feathers, and a few others, made as a one-piece bow like the old style, no take-downs as this is a “modern evolution”.

There are several definitions out there that may look the same or slightly different to those given here. Some might say that the confection of Traditional bows may not use any synthetic materials like aluminum, carbon and other “modern” materials.

Arrows are another important point and the same aspect of the material used is defining the class. Some trad shooters use carbon or aluminum shafts while primitive shooters would only use wooden arrows. Although, some purists would say that a traditional archer should be using wooden arrows all the time as well.


Essential things to remember:

  • If you shoot a recurve for target archery with accessories such as an arrow rest, a stabilizer, and a sight, you fall into the modern archery class.
  • If you shoot a one-piece or a take-down recurve bow or a longbow without accessories along with aluminum, carbon or fiberglass arrows, you fall into the traditional archery class.
  • If you shoot a one-piece recurve or a longbow, made from natural materials only, without accessories along with wooden arrows, you fall into the primitive archery class.

Now that you have the guidelines of each class, which one are you into?


AMO Length 

You may already be confused by now on what size of recurve bow you should pick. Am I right? You may have even come across several different measurements about which bow size would fit your actual draw length the best.

Let's suppose that you have the average draw length of 28". You looked it up a chart and found that the recommended recurve bow size you should choose was around 68 inches.

Everything was fine so far!

You have started to look at the different recurve bows you were interested in and told yourself: "Where the heck are those 68" bows? The only bows available are for small people or what?" 

Well, not exactly. The thing is that you might not be into Olympic take-down recurve bows for which most of the charts are for. If you are into Traditional recurve bows, one-piece or take-down, those charts become kind of useless. 

The following information explains why and shows you some charts so you can know what size you must pick according to your interest and draw length.


Choosing a Recurve Bow - Take-Down Modern Recurve Bow 

Take-Down Modern Recurve Bow


For an Olympic style recurve, the size of the bow is quite important because the longer the bow, the more stable it will be, as long as it suits your draw length as recommended in the charts. 

A longer bow usually means longer brace height which results in more forgiveness and slightly less speed. The more forgiving the bow is, the less you are likely to notice the minor flaws of the archer in the accuracy of the shots. Characteristics that are very important when optimal accuracy is the one and the only thing that really matters when you are steadily going for the bullseye at a specific distance on an archery field.


 Choosing a Recurve Bow - Traditional Take-Down Recurve Bow

Traditional Take-Down Recurve Bow


For recreational, traditional, hunting or for any other purpose than Target Archery (Olympic Style) for that matter, most recurve bows have shorter sizes, 60 and 62 inches are probably some of the most commonly widespread across the industry.

As opposed to a longer bow, a shorter one will have a shorter brace height, causing sharper and stronger shot to happen, resulting in more speed but less forgiveness, slightly magnifying the minor flaws of the archer.  

With that being said, let's have a look at some recommendation charts I have for you. The first one is the recommended size for Olympic style take-down recurve bows and the second chart represent the recommended size for any other one-piece or take-down recurve bows for any other purpose than Target Archery.


Recurve Bow Length


Note that these values are only guidelines from my end and could greatly vary depending on your preferences and needs. Hunting recurve bows from Bear Archery, for instance, are usually made quite small, between 48 to 60 inches are the most available sizes, allowing for shorter brace height hence more powerful shots, plus a shorter bow can be maneuvered more efficiently in bushes, tree stands or ground blinds. 

That does not mean that if you have a longer draw length than the one suggested for a certain bow size that you can't use it. Simply keep in mind that it may have you pull more weight to reach your anchor point. The opposite would happen if you are using too long of a bow as you would not be using its full power potential.

Remember that you can use smaller or longer bows depending on the intended purpose and that no matter what you pick, it won't hold you back from safely using the recurve bow as you should.

Of course, if you are 7 foot tall with extremely long draw length, I would not recommend using a 48 inches bow but within close the average height, more or less a couple of inches won't do any harm. If you are going for target archery, then use the right bow size.


Brace Height

Brace height may still be vague for you even though I mentioned it a couple of times so far. Totally normal, I have not been in depth on that subject yet.

The brace height is the distance between the deepest portion of the grip and the string (as you could see in the image "parts of a recurve" at the beginning of this post).

Unlike compound bows where the brace height is a fixed distance, you will often see recommended brace height for recurve bows, given by the manufacturer.

The recommendation is given in relation to the AMO length of the bow, the longer the bow is, the longer the recommended brace height will be.


How to adjust the brace height

The brace height can be controlled; you can increase the brace height by twisting the bowstring which will slightly pull the limb tips away from the riser. To decrease the brace height, you guessed it, you must untwist the bowstring.


What is the influence of brace height?

If the brace height is shorter, the arrow will be in contact with the bowstring for a longer period of time when released from its anchor position (full draw). Therefore, the force is transmitted to the arrow for a longer period of time as well, generating more speed. The downside is that with a longer period of contact may arise some inconsistencies caused by the archer’s minor flaws. The bow is, then, unforgiving. Shorter brace heights will often be adopted by bowhunters who want more power.

The opposite happens for a longer brace height; the arrow will be in contact with the bowstring less long, generating less speed. The minor flaws of the archer are less likely to affect the shot, hence delivering greater accuracy. This is called forgiveness. Longer brace heights will favor target archers who want optimal accuracy without much care about power.


Tips when choosing your first recurve bow

When choosing a recurve bow, lооk at a lower draw weight, to begin with. The learning process might become unpleasant with too high of a poundage.

 As you start, you may consider a take-down recurve bow in three pieces and change the limbs to increase poundage and keep the same riser.

This option might be more budget wise instead of replacing a whole one-piece or two-piece recurves to increase poundage.

This is only a recommendation and nothing is wrong with choosing a one-piece if your budget allows, though note that most one-piece recurves start at higher poundage, commonly 30 or 35 pounds and above.

You may want to consider a beginner package to start with so you don’t have the hassle to pick everything individually.

Also, if you want suggestions about getting a good beginner recurve bow, you may want to look into October Mountain Products, such as the OMP Adventure 2.0 or the OMP Explorer 2.0. Great entry level recurves without breaking the bank.

Now that you are pretty well set to choose your first recurve bow, you definitely need to know how to choose an arrow that matches your bow setup. Note that this post mostly refers to compound bows but the principle of an arrow remains the same. Most arrows specifically made for recurve bows will often specify up to which draw weight a certain arrow can be used. The Gold Tip Fiberglass arrows, for instance, can be used with bows up to 30 lbs, which is plenty for a beginner to start with. If you opt for arrows that can also be used with compound bows, you will need to understand what is the arrow spine so you can identify the value that will suit you best.

I hope this post gave you a better understanding of the recurve bow and the associated aspects, shooting styles, options, and classes.

Thank you for reading! Do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions or leave a comment below.

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