Recurve vs Longbow: 2021 Traditional Bow Battle

Jeff
| Last Updated April 13, 2021

Perhaps you have watched movies like The Brave Archer and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Reasons aside, you are intrigued by archery as a sport and want to try it for yourself. 

But there are so many factors to consider when choosing a bow. We will look at all of them and determine which bows are best for beginners, youths, hunters, and competition-goers. 

We will start by looking at what each bow is, its advantages and best uses, and how they are similar or different. This knowledge will help you to decide which bow is the best for you.

Recurve vs Longbow

Recurve Bow

Longbow

PROS

PROS

  • More power and speed

  • Smaller, lighter, and you can break it down           into constituent parts

  • Readily available in many different sizes
  • More accurate

  • Silent operation

  • Smoother release

  • More comfortable for taller archers

CONS

CONS

  • Noisy due to string slap

  • Less accurate because of thinner limbs
  • You can’t repair it when broken

  • Large size makes them clumsy to carry                when hunting

BEST FOR

BEST FOR


  • Beginners looking to experiment

  • Hunters looking for power and speed

  • Participants in competitive and target                  shooting bouts
  • Beginners practicing proper posture and             form

  • Hunters looking to perform stealth shots

  • Youth who admire archers in movies

  • Traditionalists who prefer the classic                   version

What is a Recurve Bow? 

A simple way to identify a recurve bow is by the curved tips at both ends of the bow. The recurve bow is the only type of bow allowed in target archery and the Olympics. It is also popular in field and 3D archery, as well as bowhunting. 

Manufacturers often make them solid pieces, but you can also break them down into three parts. They make the riser using metal, wood, or carbon. Materials such as wood, fiberglass, and carbon are used for the limbs. The unique number three curve is the main characteristic that makes this bow so powerful.

Photo credit: bow-international.com

You should consider a recurve bow for its power, portability, and straightforward repairs. It is an excellent bow if you like to experiment. You can adjust it by using different limbs for power, accuracy, and shooting ease. Archers recommend this bow if you are planning to become a professional and enter target shooting competitions.

It is not the best bow for a beginner. The thinner limbs and longer draw lengths limit the accuracy, and you need extensive practice to use it effectively.

What is a Longbow? 

As the tall archer’s friend, the longbow is the tallest bow, and you can identify it by its half-moon or D-shaped curve. Most longbows today are made from laminated wood or layered fiberglass. It can also have a carbon center, which makes it much more robust. 

It is an excellent bow for beginners since it is easier to use and more accurate. The bowstring barely touches the limbs, which causes less friction and vibration, making it perfect for stealth shots when hunting. The appeal of this bow for traditional archers is the classic structure and traditional design. It consists of only the bowstring, bow, and arrow rest. 

Longbows have less power, and their arrows fly more slowly. Due to its size, it is not easy to carry around. Their construction is their most significant disadvantage. Longbows are made as a single piece, which makes it difficult to repair when it breaks. Most of the time, repairs will negatively affect its performance. 

Longbows are not as sought after as they used to be, and there are not many competitions for these archers. Apart from hunting, you need to find specific ranges to shoot with this bow.

Longbow Variations / Styles

You can choose between five different types of longbow grips.

  • The straight or Hill-style is a deep and narrow grip with the same thickness from top to bottom. With this grip type, you use a dropped wrist hold with the palm’s heel holding the grip.

  • A dished style grip tapers in the middle. It is also deep and narrow, and your hand cradles it in the center of the grip.
     
  • The rounded humped-style grip is thicker in the middle and thinner at the ends. It is very comfortable to use with a sleek and classy look.

  • With a pistol grip shape, the locator grip is the most popular style. It provides an indentation or locator for the thumb and middle finger to wrap around. 

Similar to the grip on a recurve bow, it is shaped to fit the hand. It has an extensive point for the hand’s web and a palm swell to support the palm. 

Relevant Characteristics Between Recurve and Longbow

Recurve Bow

Longbow

Fast - 225 fps

Speed

Slower - 149–177 fps

Instinctive, without sights


Accuracy is influenced by thinner limbs and more vibration on the string

Aim / Shooting

Instinctive, without sights


More accurate due to thicker limbs

Children: 10–25 lb

Women: 25–35 lb

Men: 30–60 lb

Power / Draw Weight

Children: 10–20 lb

Women: 30–50 lb

Men: 55–70 lb

Louder from string slap

Noise

Quiet operation

Smaller: 48–72 inches

Size & Portability

Taller: 66–72 inches

Carbon fiber, wood, metal, fiberglass

Construction

Laminated wood, layered fiberglass

Basic: $100–200

Experienced: $300–600

Handmade: $8000+

Cost

$100–200

Similarities and Differences 

Even though recurve and longbows look very similar, there are definite differences that affect their use, accuracy, and speed. We will examine these similarities and differences, look at their advantages, and determine which bows are best for beginners, youths, contest-goers, and hunters.

Recurve and Longbow Differences 

Speed

The curved tips of the recurve bow hold more energy, increasing power, and speed. It makes them faster with speeds up to 225 fps. The longbow is slower, with speeds ranging from 149–177 fps.

Power/Draw Weight

Draw weight is the amount of pressure in pounds you need to pull the bowstring back before shooting. It determines your power output and speed.

On recurve bows, the draw weight for children starts from 10 lb and ranges up to 25 lb. Women can pull from 25–35 lb while the draw weight range for men is 30–60 lb. 

With longbows, children can manage 10–20 lb, women 30–50 lb, and men 55–70 lb.

Photo credit: tacticalsmarts.com

Noise

String slap is caused by contact from the string with the end of the limbs. It gives the recurve that distinct twang when releasing the arrow. There is no contact between the string and the stems with the longbow, meaning a more silent operation.

Size/Portability

Recurve bows are smaller than longbows. Recurve bows range from 48–72 inches, while the smallest longbow starts at 66 and goes up to 72 inches. Due to its smaller size and takedown models, recurve bows are more portable. 

Cost

Longbows are the most simple and basic bows you can get, and so they are also the most affordable option. Prices for longbows range from $100–200. Recurve bows are more expensive due to the breakdown models available and interchangeable parts. 

A basic recurve bow ranges from $100–200, while a bow for an experienced shooter can range from $300–600. Out of reach for most archers, a handmade recurve bow will set you back with $8000 or more.

Recurve and Longbow Similarities

Aim/Shooting

Since the recurve and the longbow have a similar design, aiming is intuitive without using sights as in compound bows. There are two different types of intuitive aiming: gap shooting and the see and shoot approach.

Intuitive aiming refers to how you close your one eye to aim while lining up the arrow with the target. It is a conscious process and helps you to establish your range by sight. You will use this technique if you have a straight view of your target.

See and shoot is a subconscious process, where you see your target, lift, aim, and release in one fluent motion. This method is best when hills, trees, or brush obscure your view.

Proper form, a light bow grip, and your draw hand grip influence this technique’s effectiveness. It is also essential to practice a consistent shot sequence consisting of the following steps:

  1. Check if your stance is correct.

  2. Nock your arrow.

  3. Draw the bow to your anchor point.

  4. Look at the exact spot you’re aiming for.

  5. Release the arrow.

Practicing this sequence will fix it in your subconscious so that it happens automatically with time.

Photo credit: myarcherycorner.com

Construction

Both the recurve and longbow use a simple design consisting only of the limbs, bowstring, and arrow rest. They use familiar materials in their construction. 

The primary materials used in recurve bows are carbon fiber, wood, metal, and glass. Combinations of fiberglass and wood, carbon laminations, and metal create a more modern look and increase accuracy and performance. 

Manufacturers use wood and fiberglass to make longbows. Wooden longbows sometimes have a carbon center to make them stronger and lighter.

Photo credit: myarkansaspbs.org

Advantages of Recurve Bows

  • The curved tips are what give the recurve bow the advantage of speed. These tips hold more energy which is then pushed into the arrow, resulting in increased power and speed. But this speed also proves to be the biggest challenge to your accuracy. You need proper training and a lot of practice to master the skill of shooting this bow. 

  • The recurve bow is much smaller and lighter than a longbow, which means it is more mobile. You can disassemble some models into their respective components: limbs, arrow rest, and bowstring. It makes the bow easier to transport and store. It also makes it simple to upgrade limbs and customize weights as your shooting improves and you get stronger. Interchangeable limbs allow you to experiment and discover how they influence accuracy, ease of shooting, and power. 

  • Because the recurve bow is so popular, you can buy them at most archery shops. They often offer special sizes for younger archers ranging from 54 inches to 70 inches. Most events, tournaments, clubs, and ranges provide shooting opportunities for recurve bow archers. They are ideal for competitions since they can match your eye dominance and draw length and draw weight. You can use a recurve bow for field archery, 3D archery, and bowhunting.

  • Recurve bows are available in many styles, but the breakdown models don’t sport the traditional form. New material combinations like fiberglass and laminated wood, carbon laminations, and metal give these bows a modern look and increase their accuracy and performance. 

What is a Recurve Bow Best For?

The recurve bow is a good option for a beginner to experiment and determine what type of archery they are interested in pursuing. With the breakdown models, it is easy for beginners to upgrade the limbs and weights as they improve. 

Photo credit: bowsightguide.com

Its power and portability make it the ideal choice for hunters. It is the only bow allowed for competitions and the Olympics but is also great for 3D and field archery. 

Because of their popularity, they are readily available in many different styles. You can find the perfect size for younger archers. 

Advantages of Longbows 

  • The design of the longbow makes it the ideal choice for beginners. If you are shooting with improper form, it is easy to twist a bow’s limbs. It doesn’t only affect accuracy, but can also damage your bow. Due to the thickness and strength of a longbow, it is almost impossible to twist the limbs. This bow’s length means less friction, making it more gentle on the fingers and aiding in a smoother release. A longbow is more stable and gives beginners more leeway when aiming because of the thicker and deeper limbs. 

  • The D-shape of the longbow, together with its size, means that the bowstring barely touches the limbs. It means less friction and vibrations, thereby avoiding the twang sound heard when firing the arrow. A quieter bow provides you with greater stealth when hunting.

  • Tall archers feel uncomfortable with regular or shorter bows. A shorter bow is harder to shoot and requires more upper body strength to draw the bow to its full draw length. As long as you can handle the draw length, you can get a bow as tall as you are. The increased stability in the body makes it easier to shoot. An exciting option can be the Japanese yumi, with a length that can range from 72 to 96 inches.

  • Warriors have used longbows in battles for many years, and archers used to be hunters and warriors. You also find them in movies like The Hunger Games, Brave, Marvel’s The Avengers, and Lord of the Rings. If you are interested in traditional archery and the bow’s history and evolution, the longbow will give you that historical feel. Modern longbows haven't changed much from the original versions. Using one gives you a feeling of nostalgia; mastering the technique for shooting it gives you a sense of accomplishment.

What is a Longbow Best For?

It is a good choice for beginners to practice proper posture and form. Since the limbs are thicker and more robust, they can’t easily break them by twisting the stems.

Its length lessens vibration on the bowstring, resulting in higher accuracy and a smoother release. 

Hunters use them for stealth shots. Less friction and vibration limits noise and improves your chances of making the shot before your prey takes off.

Photo credit: archerytopic.com

Longbows appeal to youths who have seen their heroes using them in various movies. Traditional archers like the feel of this bow, which hasn’t changed much from the original versions. 

What About Compound Bows?

Another popular bow is the compound bow. How does this factor in?

How is a Compound Bow Different from a Recurve or Longbow?

Structure

The recurve is a shorter bow and shaped like a number three. As its name indicates, the longbow is longer with a D-shape. A compound bow, on the other hand, is designed with a highly complex form. Its name comes from the wheels at the end, which compound the forces within the bow once it is fully drawn. 

Power, Aim, and Shoot

A longbow has less power but is more accurate. The recurve bow is more accurate, but only for experienced shooters. The compound bow is the most powerful due to the wheels, and you can hold a draw for longer before releasing. 

Maintenance

A longbow is easy to restring, but once broken, you can’t fix it. Recurve bows are easy to maintain since the limbs can be replaced or repaired depending on the damage’s extent. Maintaining a compound bow can be costly because it needs to be done by a professional. 

How is a Compound Bow Similar to a Recurve or Longbow?

Style 

The different bows each have a unique shape but are graceful and elegant, each in its own way.

Noise

A recurve and compound bow are loud, but dampeners and string silencers can limit the noise.

Accessories

Even though these three bows’ accessories differ, they all have accessories that you can buy from any dedicated archery shop.

Construction

Even though they use different materials for each, the manufacturers use similar techniques to ensure durability and functionality. 

Advantages of Compound Bows

Compound bows use a leverage system of cables and pulleys to bend the limbs of the bow. The resulting stiffness in the compound bow improves accuracy and energy efficiency. It doesn't require a specific draw length, and the low draw weight prevents fatigue and injury. 

There are many sights available for compound bows to help you improve your aim and accuracy. Hunters and archers can use this simple multipurpose bow. It is also easy to personalize your bow by adding accessories according to your taste.

What are Compound Bows Best For?

Hunters often need to hide and wait for the right opportunity to take down their prey. Compound bows are ideal for hunters who can draw and hold for an extended period. They are small, and you can attach them to your backpack when moving through the bush.

Photo credit: bowhunting.com

Younger archers benefit from the adjustability of the compound bow. As they grow, it is simple to adjust the draw length according to their size. It makes it an excellent long-term choice as it grows with the child, and you won’t need to replace it often. 

Bottom Line

Recurve or longbow? Each has distinct characteristics and advantages. And features like accuracy, power, size, portability, construction, noise, and cost. Each bow is unique and has different benefits. 

The greater accuracy of the recurve bow makes it the recommended bow for target shooting, archery competitions, and the Olympics. It is more portable and less demanding for beginners to master.

Traditional archers favor the longbow, as well as bowhunters because of its silent operation. This bow is better for experienced archers since it requires practice and skill to shoot it accurately.

You should now be able to make an informed decision about which one is the right bow for you.

People Also Ask

Now that you know about recurve and longbows, their similarities and differences, advantages and best uses, let's have a look at questions people often ask about these bows. Questions range from historical to precision and effective range of these bows.

When Was the Longbow Invented?

Longbows have been around since Neolithic times. However, the Welsh first developed the longbow into the deadliest weapon of that time. Records confirm that longbows played an essential part during Edward III’s reign, especially during the Hundred Years Wars from 1337–1453.

How Many Arrows Can a Longbow Fire in a Minute?

An experienced archer can shoot up to six arrows per minute. It is why a force of archers could shower the enemy in a hail of arrows in about three minutes. 

Photo credit: thefinertimes.com

Is a 40 Pound Recurve Enough to Kill a Deer?

A 40 pound recurve is the minimum requirement for deer hunting. Although it also depends on the experience of the hunter and his distance from the animal.

Can You Kill a Deer with a Longbow?

Being successful in hunting deer with a longbow boils down to muscle memory and practice. Because you can’t draw and hold before releasing, shooting is quick and intuitive. The effective range for hunting deer with a longbow is 20 yards, the maximum scope most hunters are comfortable shooting.

What is the Effective Range of a Longbow?

The effective range of a longbow depends on the shooter’s experience, arrow type, and draw weight. A six-foot bow with a draw weight ranging from 80 to 150 pounds has an effective range of 350 yards, using the heavier war arrow. 

How Far Can a Recurve Bow Shoot Accurately?

The effective range of a recurve bow is determined by the draw weight, draw length, and arrow weight. It refers to the maximum capacity an archer can constantly shoot with precision. Few archers will be able to reach the potential distance their bows can shoot. The effective range for beginners is about 15 yards, while experienced archers can shoot up to 35 yards.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.