Recurve VS Compound Bow

For most beginning bow hunters the choice of bow comes down to a mental image they have in their head of what a bow is. If they have seen a cool bow in a movie, on T.V. or in video games then oftentimes they want to try that type bow.Two of the most popular bow types are the compound bow and the recurve bow. Each has their advantages and disadvantages that as a beginning archer/bow hunter, you should be aware of. To help new bow hunters confidently make their choice of bow, today’s post will discuss: recurve vs compound bow.

Old VS New?

Recurve bows have been around for thousands of years and compounds were first developed in 1966. Compound bows have quickly become the best-selling bows today.

One of the reasons for the compound’s success is that the compound bow is well suited to advances in technology. Each component of the modern compound bow is easily adapted to the latest and greatest development in accessories, materials and design.

While the modern recurve certainly takes advantage of improved materials and adaptations of accessories, the recurve bow is rooted in tradition and that is a big part of its appeal. The use of modern materials make the recurve just as durable as a compound. Maybe more so.

Recurve bows have a fairly simple design compared to a compound bow. No pulleys or cables and fewer moving parts mean the recurve is less prone to breakage and easier to repair for the archer.

Compound bows, while they do have a lot of moving parts are still tough and durable. The learning curve for maintenance and repair is a lot steeper and a little more complicated it isn’t a huge leap from using a recurve it is just different.

What About Size and Weight?

An elegant recurve bow is longer than a compound but usually a bit lighter because there are no cables and pulleys to add weight. The trade off for the weight difference is that in the hunting field the compound bow is a lot more compact and if you sling it over your back it is a lot less likely to snag in the brush. Lighter weight or better maneuverability is going to be another personal choice.

The whole reason for the compound bow is that all of those pulleys and cables on the compound offer a mechanical advantage called, let off. Just like pulleys are used to make lifting things easier, they make drawing back the bow easier. The eccentric shape of the pulleys is where let off comes from. Once you pull past a certain point, the draw weight drops dramatically.

To draw back a recurve bow rated at fifty pounds draw weight, You have to be strong enough to pull that weight all the way back to your anchor point. The farther you draw back the harder it gets. At that anchor point you still have to hold the whole fifty pounds. If your target starts moving after you draw then you may have to hold that tension for too long.

The compound bow starts hard to pull but unlike the recurve, at a certain point the let off happens and the force you are pulling can reduce by as much as 70%. This wonder of modern technology allows you to hold your shot longer and refine your aim before your arm fatigues and you have to either shoot or let down. It can make a difference to a hunter if the animal starts to move and the shooter has already drawn.


One place where there is a distinct advantage of a compound bow over the recurve is the speed at which the arrow flies. With speeds exceeding 340 feet per second (fps) the compound outshines the recurve. Once again those pulleys and cables add another advantage. Speed relates to how flat the arc of the arrow is ARC-ARC-HERY… yep. So, the faster the arrow the flatter the arc the easier to aim.

Don’t get this wrong. An arrow moving at 240 fps from a recurve is no dog. Ancient bows barely reached 100 fps and early man has killed billions of deer and bigger animals down through the millennia. A recurve is capable of killing the biggest animals on land and they are as accurate as any compound bow in the right hands.


Top of the line bows are expensive. Some go as high as $2000 or more. But you can buy very inexpensive beginners bows for a lot less. Because so many manufacturers make youth bows and beginner bows the field is very competitive. A lot of bows come as sets complete with arrows, arm guards, sights and releases.

As a beginner, you should consider your budget. What if you decide archery is not for you?

I strongly suggest you go to an archery range that rents bows and try out a few different types and manufacturers. If you are able to take introductory lessons then by all means do it. Ask the instructor and your class mates which bows they like. And last but not least be sure to search on the web or in bow hunting magazines for reviews and ratings before you buy anything.

The Final Choice Is Yours.

No matter what is written here, If you have your heart set on a certain type of bow, then by all means, make that your first bow. Some people love the extra physical challenge of using a recurve and others appreciate the challenge of hunting with any bow. Either way you should choose the bow that makes you happy right now and have some fun. Who knows? As you mature as a bow hunter, your tastes may change and you might consider owning and shooting both types. For now choose your favorite and go practice.

When it comes down to recurve vs compound bow, I hope you have found some nuggets of information that can help you choose.

Be sure to read this article I wrote called   Archery Arm Guard – Prevent Injury And Improve Accuracy  Your arm guard is an important piece of safety gear.

If you have a question or want to leave a comment, please do so below in the comment section.

Have fun and be safe,




  1. Thanks for this great article on Bow Hunting Tips For Beginners… it’s not easy to find good information out there about Bow Hunting and we appreciate it. It’s really helpful the way you outlined the strength required to pull the actual weight back.

     It’s given us much better insight into the gear we need to purchase so it will be effective for both of us. We will be taking your advice and visiting an Archery Range so we are more clear on what works for equipment before we actually buy.

    • Hi, Judy.

      I’m glad you are inspired to find out more about archery. It is really helpful to have someone introduce you to the various bow types and other archery equipment.

      Since you can get bows with very low draw weights there is no need to worry about not being able to get into archery, It’s just like any other sport. As you get better, stronger and bigger, you can get better equipment when and if the need arises.

      Good luck in your archery pursuits.
      Stay safe and have fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *