Longbows vs. Recurve vs. Compound Bows – Informational Guide

| Last Updated June 6, 2021

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If you have been into archery for very long, you probably know your way around different kinds of bows and own the right one for yourself, as well.

But if you are a beginner who has recently found their way into the world of archery, this article is perfect for you.

It will break down the basics of different bows for you and help you decide which one you need.

What is a Longbow?

A longbow is one of the oldest types of bows. It is the shape that typically comes to mind when you first think of a bow. As the name implies, these models are pretty long. They are more or less the same as the height as their user. Since it is that long, it does not feature a significant recurve. These models have narrow limbs, so when viewed from the side, they produce a circular, or D-shape.

These are very simple devices in terms of their construction, form, and use. This makes them perfect for all beginners. The advantage of using these bows is they allow a fairly long draw to the archer. When it comes to aiming and shooting, you will find these units are less likely to shoot your arrow more sideways than you intend to. In fact, these units are the easiest to shoot with, which is why most beginners would prefer this type.

What is a Recurve Bow?

A recurve bow is a little more complex than the standard longbow. It features a shape that is close to the number 3. The ends of the limbs of this bow are designed to curve away from the user. This curve of the limbs is known as the recurve, after which the bow is named.

The special design of these bows allows them greater power while shooting. But since one needs to be more precise with aiming with this bow, it may not be the best choice for beginners. But again, practice makes perfect. You won’t learn to shoot accurately with any bow unless you’ve tried over and over again.

What is a Compound Bow?

A compound bow, right from the first look, is complex, to say the least. It is designed with a very complicated form. It includes wheels at the very ends of its limbs which allow the bow to compound the forces held within the bow once it has been drawn. And that is where it gets its name.

In contrast to what they look like, compound bows are fairly easy to use. Aiming with this bow doesn’t require a high level of accuracy or precision. Along with ease of aim, they will also offer you a great shooting power.

Longbow vs. Recurve vs. Compound - Similarities and Differences

Basic knowledge of different types of bows is necessary in order to acquaint yourself with the world of archery. But it is certainly not enough to make the right choice.

It is essential that you understand the differences and similarities between these models. In order to help you understand those better, here is a side-by-side comparison of all these models.


Let's start with the main differences between the three models:


The most basic difference between the three models is that of the structure. The three different types of bows have considerably different structures, all enabling them with different features.

The longbow features a long design. It is heavy and long, shaped like the letter D or a semi-circle. The ends of the limbs in this bow are toward the archer, since the bow curves only from the center.

The recurve design is the shortest and is in the shape of the number 3. Its limbs curl away from the archer. So it basically features two curves, one in the center and the other at the ends.

The compound bow has the most complex structure of all, one that can’t be compared to any basic letter, number, or shape. The ends of the limbs of these units feature no curves, but wheels that allow the forces to compound.

Power, Aiming, & Shooting

These three are the main features that play a crucial role while shooting your bow. The performance of the model based on these factors can be the deciding factor.

A longbow may not prove to be the most powerful bow. It was one of the first bow types but is no longer commonly used and the lack of power is one of the main reasons. However, when it comes to shooting, the bow can be said to be forgiving. It is easy to shoot with, given the fact that the unit doesn’t require much precision.

A recurve bow is designed to be more powerful than a longbow. With its recurved limbs, the model is capable of storing much more energy when drawn, and as a result, the arrow is shot with more power. The shot, however, presents with a little more torque, meaning it is likely to sway from the path that you set it on.

A compound bow is the most powerful of the three. The wheels on the limbs compound the forces, and with the ‘let off’ mechanism of these models, the unit can fire with equal power to any other bow with half of the work. Even with its shooting, the bow doesn’t require the precision that a recurve bow does and proves to be fairly easy to use.


This factor plays no role while shooting with bows, but is important after use. Any product with a high maintenance cost is a greater hassle and should be bought if only its function is worth it.

A longbow is easy to restring if ever necessary. But once it’s broken, it’s gone. There is no way to fix it. All that can be done is to buy a new one.

A recurve bow is perhaps the easiest to fix. The limbs of this bow can easily be replaced and fixed, if the damage isn’t too extensive.

A compound bow can neither be stringed by the average person nor be fixed if something were to go wrong unless you are a professional. Since it is an assembly of a number of parts, there are more things that can go wrong with these models. But most of them can be fixed with the right knowledge and skills.



All three bows feature a unique shape, but when handled the right way, they will be sure to look sleek and stylish. Their use exhibits grace and elegance that will be sure to make you look good.


When it comes to the noise made while shooting, a longbow might be best, since it’s considerably quiet. A compound bow and recurve bow are, however, the same. They both are loud but  limb dampeners and string silencers can be used to help reduce the noise.


There are a number of accessories available for all three types of bows. The accessories used for these units may or may not be the same. But what they all have in common is the easy availability of the required accessories. Any shop dedicated to hunting or archery, in general, will have the right kind of accessories.


Bows are made up of different materials. Then, how does this count as a similarity? The construction of the bows is based upon the same manufacturing techniques. This gives them similar durability and functionality.

Compound Bow Shooting Tips, Tricks, and Hacks For Success

A compound bow has many features and has a more complicated design. This is why it can take some time to learn all the details. Here are some of the things that might help you get started.


Using a compound bow requires a lot less strength on the archer’s part. All the mechanisms that go into making it, especially the two cams at the ends, are responsible for storing energy. 

When you draw the bow, you have to put all effort in but when you are holding it for aiming, you only apply a fraction of the draw weight yourself and the rest is kept by the cams and cables. This reduced holding weight is referred to as let-off. Most of the time, this let-off is 80%.  

Draw Length

Draw length is very important in getting the right aim and being efficient in your shooting. Technically, draw length is the measure of length from the nocking point on the string to the pivot point of the bow grip plus 1¾ inches when in full draw. 

Getting the right size to draw for you is important. If it is too short, your elbows will bend and your aim will suffer. Similarly, a too-long draw length means there won’t be enough energy stored. Compound bows often have adjustable cams that let you change the size according to your preference.  

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow

Target Distance

Although the exact distance from your target depends a lot on your experience, bows can help with it too. Good compound bows are fast and easy to aim and don’t require a lot of upper body strength compared to traditional bows so you can get a good shot from farther.

How Does a Compound Bow Work

A modern compound bow uses a combination of pulleys and cables to improve aim and accuracy. There are two rotatable cams at either end of the bow which has two tracks, i.e., inner and outer. The cable runs through the inner tracks and connects the two cams and the bowstring runs through the outer track.

As you pull the string back to its full draw length, the cams and cables store the energy, letting you relax and aim better. The most common construction of compound bows has two cams at both ends of the bow while some other designs also have more than two.

The commonly used construction material involves fiberglass, aluminum, and carbon fiber.

What Size of Compound Bow Do I Need 

The size of the bow depends on the draw length. Draw length for everyone differs, depending on their body size. The way to determine your draw length is to measure the distance between your middle fingers on either hand. Open your arms to the widest length and then measure. Dividing this by 2.5 gives you your draw length.

Generally, the bow size should be double the draw length. When reading bow measurement charts, you will come across the abbreviation AMO. This simply means that the bow length is 3 inches larger than the string needed for it. For instance, a 68-inch AMO bow needs a 65-inch string.

Recurve Bow Shooting Tips, Tricks, and Hacks For Success

A recurve bow is a type of traditional bow which means that there are no extra elements that will help you aim better. All the skill and strength is yours. A recurve bow has a very simplistic design with outward curves at the ends of both limbs and a ‘3’ shaped design at the riser. Some things to keep in mind when shooting with recurve bows are given here.   


You will require a considerable amount of upper body strength to use a recurve bow properly. There are no cams and pulleys to distribute the weight. When aiming, you have to maintain full weight in the string. The better you pull, the more speed and power the arrow will have.

Shooting Distance

Since recurve bows require more strength on your part, it might not be the best to shoot from too far, especially if you are a novice user. You will have to get closer to the prey to get the kill shot. However, this also requires experience as you will have to master the arts of stealth and camouflage for not scaring the prey off. 


As you might have guessed, experience is important for recurve bow (although you also need it for compound bows). Even though compound bows are simpler, they take more time to master. So, practice is the key. You might want to start off with compound bows, make your aim better and then switch to recurve.   

What Size of Recurve Bow Do I Need

Determining the size and draw length of the recurve bow is similar to the compound bow but the weight varies depending on what you will be using it for. 

For hunting, you will need more power and speed so you need bows that have a draw weight of 50 plus. Most used bows are the ones with 70-pound draw weight. Target shooting, on the other hand, can be done with any draw weight that you find comfortable.  

Longbow Shooting Tips, Tricks, and Hacks For Success

Longbows are the oldest type of bows. If you have ever seen medieval period movies, then the design will be familiar to you. They are not so commonly used these days. People looking for a simple design and a nostalgic feel opt for recurve bows instead. Here are some things you need to keep in mind about these if you are planning on using them.


A longbow is very large, i.e., almost the same height as the shooter. Because it is so deep and also very thin, it requires a lot of strength, even more than recurve. You need to be in your best shape to master this type of bow.

Draw Length

The longbow has a fixed draw length. As the size matches your body, so does the length and you cannot customize it.

Think Again

If you want to use the longbow, then you need to see if you are in the proper shape to do it. Can you even handle the strength required and do you have the time to put in the effort? Go for a recurve bow if you feel like challenging yourself as you will not find a lot of variety in styles and sizes of these bows anyway.    

Top Pick Between Longbow vs. Recurve vs. Compound Bows

Longbows are pretty outdated and can’t be titled as a top pick since recurve and compound bows perform a lot better. With that said, the competition lies between the latter two options.

If you are an absolute beginner, a compound bow may not be suitable enough for you. It does provide easy aiming and shooting, but the working mechanism is hard to understand. And knowledge of that is necessary in order for you to make the best out of the model. So for beginners, a recurve bow might be the best choice.

However, if you have been into archery for a while, and know your way around these models, even a bit, then compound bows are the ideal option since they provide the best power and shooting, along with easier aiming.


Archery is a great sport, whether for beginners or experts. The type of bow you use has a great impact on the results of your shooting. In order to ensure that you get the best out of this experience, you have to make sure you are using the right sort of bow, with the right sort of accessories, and you’ll be good to go.

People Also Ask

Feel like getting more insight on bows before settling on one? You can read these frequently asked questions by other readers trying to make the same decision as you.

Who Invented the Compound Bow?

An American man from Missouri named Holless Wilbur Allen was the inverter of the compound bow. He made it in 1966. 

How to Adjust Draw Length on a Compound Bow?

To adjust the draw length, you need to have adjustable cams on the bow and enough string if you want to increase the length.

Remove the screws from the cams and rotate the mod in the number one position. Then remove the post and insert it back in the number position.

If you don’t have an adjustable cam, you can replace it with a different one.

How to Store a Compound Bow?

You need to keep your bow away from areas that get too hot or have direct sunlight. Keep the bow in its case in a horizontal position and don’t keep the broadhead in the case as it might accidentally damage the string.           

How to Tell if a Compound Bow is Left or Right Handed?

A right-handed bow will be drawn from the right hand and the arrow will be on the left sight. The opposite is true for a left-handed variant.

When Was the Longbow Invented?

The name of the person who invented the longbow is lost to history. The oldest found longbow is as old as 2700 BC.

How Far Can a Longbow Shoot?

If you go really far back, then skilled archers of medieval times could shoot as far as 400 yards, but nowadays, 200 yards is common. A lot of it has to do with your own height and strength as well.

How Far Can a Compound Bow Shoot?

The effective range of a compound bow is around 40 to 60 yards.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. 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.