Recurve vs Compound, Which Bow is Better

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Recurve vs Compound Bows Pros and Cons:

Recurve vs Compound, When I think of Recurve Bows, I have thoughts of old school archery and the traditional bows and arrows from the past.

The old school traditional LongBows and Recurve bows and Crossbows were bringing down animals and feeding families long before the Compound Bow was ever invented.

Recurve Bows have not only been around for a very long time, but Recurve Bows can also be very formidable weapons.

Native American Indians and early frontiersmen were bringing down large game such as elk, moose, deer and buffalo with these traditional bows in the 30 and 40 lb. Range.

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However, they were very well skilled in arrow placement. They most likely practiced alot. They knew their survival was directly related to how acurate they could be and how quickly the target animal would bleed out.

A well placed arrow that penetrates the vital organs means a much shorter tracking and recovery time. Which in turn, means you could get more hunting done.

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Advantages of a Recurve Bow:

Recurve vs Compound Bows
Recurve Bows

The first and most predominate advantage of a recurve bow is the fact that they are lighter and easier to carry while on the hunt. Ease of transport is a big issue for some people.

The second advantage is the fact they don’t have any pulleys or wheels that will require maintenance as time goes by.

I’m not going to say that recurve bows are virtually maintenance free. However, they are much more so than their compound counterparts.

Recurve vs Compound

Recurve bows and longbows are simple enough to require virtually no tools or at least a very small number of tools to maintain and re-string if you need to do so.

I honestly do believe a recurve bow is more durable than a compound bow. Recurves are able to take more bumps, bangs, and drops without damaging any moving parts

More traditional: A recurve bow definitely requires practice. However, Once you become skilled with a recurve bow, you are ready to start hunting bigger game.

A Recurve Bow shoots faster than a traditional old school Long Bow but requires more upper body strength than the newer Compound bows.

The distinguishing feature of the recurve bow is the tip of the limbs. The recurve bow is shaped somewhat like the number three. The tips of the limbs are curved back and away from the archer towards the target. Take notice of the image above and see how the tips of the limbs point away from the archer.

Disadvantages of a Recurve Bow:

Recurve Bows require more upper body strength to draw back and hold the arrow in a prepared to shoot attitude.

They require a lot of practice to really become skilled at arrow placement.

Recurves don’t have the longer range like their Compound Bow counterparts.

This requires you to get closer to your prey and learn different skills like stalking, camouflage, concealment and tracking. All of these skills will evolve over time as you get more and more experience, but it takes time. The more bow hunting you do, the better you will get at it.

Advantages of a Compound Bow:

Recurve vs Compound
compound bow vs Recurve bow

Compound bows shoot farther and faster than Recurve Bows and have plenty of power to bring down bigger game like deer and elk from greater distances than recurve bows.

All of the compound bows I have ever used require less upper body strength to draw and hold in the ready position. This means that younger and newer hunters including many women can now enjoy hunting and target shooting and not be sore and hurting afterward.

When you consider the fact that compound bows have a greater EKR. (Effective Kill Range), the oher skills like stealth, camouflage and concealment become less of an issue.

They are also as acurate as a hunting bow can get. You still need to site your bow in and practice with it to get acurate enough to take smaller game such as rabbits, squirrels and some birds.

However, the accuracy is there, You just need to put in the time and effort to become proficient with your bow of choice.

Recurve vs Compound, Right out of the gate, Compound bows have a bit of an advantage, as they are designed to accommodate several different types of accessories. These accessories include different sites, sighting systems, stabilizers, fishing reels as well as scopes and rangefinders.

Disadvantages of a Compound Bow:

Compound Bows are maintenance intensive. The ability to re-string your compound bow in the field is almost impossible. You need a variety of tools to adjust the cams and wheels and a Bowpress to re-string the bow if needed.

Compound Bows look more complicated than the traditional longbows and recurve bows because they are. Compound bows need to be adjusted and tuned to fit the individual using it. You can adjust the draw length and draw weight to fit your individual needs however, this takes time.

I can’t stress this enough. Practice, Practice, Practice! In order to become extremely proficient with any kind of hunting bow, You definitely need to find the time to get use to your bow of choice. Before you head out to the woods to actually try and shoot an animal, You need to know that you can actually make the shot.

Recurve vs Compound, Effective Kill Range

For me, bowhunting is all about stealth and getting close enough to hit my target with a rock. My maximum range with a recurve bow is approximately 20 to 25 yards and 30 to 35 yards with a compound bow. I am not saying that longer shots can’t or should not be taken. I just won’t take a shot that I may not make.

This part of the article is going to speak to the Ethics of Bow Hunting. Just because you can, don’t mean you should.

You really need to think about this before taking a shot at any animal. How are you going to feel if you seriously wound a deer but don’t kill it, and even worse, can’t find it when it does finally lay down and die?

Effective Range boils down to the distance a bow can deliver a lethal, life-ending shot.

Maximum effective range is determined by arrow speed and the kinetic energy it has at impact. this kinetic energy translates into penetrability. The arrow needs to penetrate vital areas in order to bring down your prey. There is an excellent article
at Outdoor Life and can be found here about how to find your effective kill range

Compound bows will have a greater kill range than Recurve bows do. They shoot at defined speeds at defined distances. It’s very important to find the effective kill range of your bow before you go hunting and take a shot you most likely will not make. Here is another Great article about hunting ethics and effective range

Recurve vs Compound Ease of Use:

Where a Recurve bow is considered, The ease of use is pretty straight forward. Recurve Bows have no moving parts or mechanisms to mess with. Although, some Recurve Bows also will have removable limbs that can be changed out to make the bow harder or easier to draw back as you grow and progress with your archery skills.

A Recurve Bow with the removable limbs is commonly referred to as a Takedown Bow. This feature makes the bow a little more versatile because you can break it down and stuff it into a hunting backpack and hike your way deep into the woods where the game is hanging out.

Ease of Use: Compound Bow

The one thing that I have found about using a Compound Bow, is the fact that the Let Off makes the compound bow much easier to draw and hold in the ready position for a much longer period of time without my arm feeling like it is going to fall off from the strain of holding it there.

This also makes it easier to use a site on your bow, as it will give you more time to zero in and place the arrow into a vital organ and drop your target quicker. This is where the Upper body strength comes into play when using a recurve vs compound bow.

Compound bow vs Recurve bow for beginners:

A Recurve Bow is typically the type of bow you would be taught to use as a beginning archer. Recurve Bows are less expensive as well as easier to maintain and transport.

When just starting out, your bow will need to grow with you. As a Youth or a beginner becomes more familiar with archery the need for adjusting Draw Length and power will become more evident.

It is important to consider draw weights and lengths when purchasing the first recurve bow. A draw length that is too long, or a draw weight that is to high could possibly cause a soft tissue injury to the youth.

As you progress you will eventually want to increase the power and distance that you can shoot. This can be accomplished by acquiring new limbs that provide more power.

4 thoughts on “Recurve vs Compound, Which Bow is Better”

  1. This article is written really from the perspective of a hunter. There are target shooters that also shoot solely for the purpose furthering the Target sport and their perspectives are much different. Barebow and Olympic freestyle are two setups that are alternative to a compound setup for target archery. Olympic Freestyle and Barebow; I would say rely more on the archers form than Compound since a compound bow is more accurate by way of technology and requires less conditioning to hold the bow at full draw. IMHO compound draws in people because they get quick results but often I don’t see them shooting actually much better than a recurve at similar ranges because many compound shooters just don’t work on their form. For hunting you only get one shot for your target so of course I get how compound is the way to go 9/10…

  2. Speed of an arrow also affects time an animal has after it hears a release to move a ditch that shot. big factor.


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