Looking to go bow hunting with your friends? Trying to find an ideal bow for your child? Or just want to try some target shooting in a nearby range?
Whatever the reason – we know it can be hard to pick the right bow. Especially when it comes to choosing between recurve & compound models – it can be pretty baffling.
But don’t worry. Whether you want a new bow for bow-fishing, target-shooting, or even just learning to use one for the first time – here we’ll tell you everything there’s to know about each.
You’ll get a complete insight into these two types of bows so you can eventually pick the right one.
Ready to tackle all the info we have for you? Then let’s start by explaining what each type of bow offers briefly.
What Is a Recurve Bow?
So, what makes the bow a recurve bow?
Well, as its name says, it is a bow that curves away on the ends. It has the traditional design of a bow, but with little curvatures on the two ends of the limbs.
These ends are not like regular ends on most bows. Instead, they have small limbs that curve to the opposite side of the natural bow curvature.
Manufacturers use this curve or “re-curve” on the ends to provide higher power capacity. This happens because the string attaches to the ends that go out.
So it ends up in a farther point away from the user. This adds up more pulling distance to the string when the user pulls the arrow backward while aiming. Of course, this adds a little more strength to each shot.
The difference from other types of bows is not easy to perceive, but it is there.
However, the actual factor that sets a recurve bow apart from others is the size. Most recurve bows tend to be decently sized & easy to handle, which allows users to shoot faster and more efficiently.
As an extra, the recurve bow allows easy aiming, both for the size and the weight. They don’t have many accessories or parts to consider – so they’re often versatile to use.
In short, you could say a recurve bow focuses on adding strength, aim, and agility.
Advantages of a Recurve Bow
Now, let’s go over a few benefits of the recurve bow that we found when analyzing several models:
Light & small; allows almost any user to carry & bring them around
The traditional design enables users to have more fun & challenges when using
They offer the chance to add extra power to each shoot without wasting energy
A simple easy-to-handle design allows fast & effortless learning on how to use them
Disadvantages of a Recurve Bow
While they have several advantages going for them, recurve bows also have a few drawbacks. Here are some of them:
They don’t have wheels or pull gears, so they don’t add up too much power to shots
Drawing on a recurve bow requires some strength because of the traditional design
Aiming is often easy, but reach is limited, and accuracy is hard to achieve
While easy-to-use – it requires several years to master proper aim with a recurve bow
Now that you’re familiar with what recurve bows offer, their ups & downs, and a little more – then let’s explain compound bows.
What is a Compound Bow?
This type of bow gets its name from the wheels and pulley it has.
The “wheelies” or “cams” as they’re often known, also sit on the ends of the bow. When the user pulls, the wheels allow the string to go back further without much strength. And when the user releases the string, the wheels unwind and accelerate, so the string moves faster & stronger.
These wheels allow the user to pull the string, aim, and shoot smoothly. So, the focus of a compound bow is to help users save time and effort.
But let’s still explain with a little more detail.
Most bows require a specific strength to pull the string. Let’s say you have a compound bow of 50 pounds.
With a traditional bow, you’ll have to exert those 50 pounds of force to pull the string back. But with a compound bow, you’ll have to only use 25 pounds as the wheels wind to help you in the pulling process.
Apart from that, once you shoot or release the string & arrow, the wheels unwind. This unwinding helps to shoot the arrows with more strength than regular bows can achieve.
To make compound bows even better, you can add accessories and extras. This could help to aim, mount, and shoot more quickly.
So, compound bows require low strength to use, demand little aiming time, and still manage to shoot arrows fast & powerfully.
Advantages of a Compound Bow
Learning about the strengths of a compound bow will give you an even better idea of what it offers:
Doesn’t require much practice or aim time to shoot correctly
Pulling the string back demands less strength which helps aim & accuracy
The unwinding of the wheels often shoots arrows with force and far away
Compound bows allow users to mount scopes, stabilizers, and other tools
Disadvantages of a Compound Bow
Yes, compounds bows seem fantastic – but they also boast a few negatives. Here are some of them:
Maintenance, tuning, and setup of a compound bow requires more skill, experience, and time
It loses the classical string-pulling operation of a traditional bow which can be fun to do
You can’t (usually) change the string weight or capacity which reduces convenience
Compound bows are heavy & sturdier which makes them less versatile
As you see, they come with several advantages – but they’re not exempt from disadvantages. Now that you learned about both compound and recurve bows let’s go into more detail.
Recurve vs. Compound Bow: Features to Consider
Learning the significant features each type of bow offers will undoubtedly help you pick the ideal one for your needs. Here’s everything these two kinds of bows differ or comply with:
So, you want a bow that offers tons of arrow power so you can reach farther distances? Well, you should go for a compound bow then.
Why does this happen? As we explained before, recurve bows are decently strong and can throw arrows with power. You will need to exert 70 pounds of strength to draw a 70-pound line. That will throw the arrow far away, but maybe not as strong as you may want.
Instead, you can always arm a compound bow with the regular 70-pound draw weight. But you won’t have to draw the 70 pounds yourself. You will only have to pull 35 pounds thanks to the wheels. And once again, the wheels will help you unwind, throwing the arrows farther away.
Then, yes – a compound bow demands less yet produces more power than a recurve bow. And it shouldn’t be a surprise – the pulleys, wheels, and other mechanisms make it so.
What about aiming? Which type of bow is easy to prepare a shot with? Well, again – the compound bow takes the lead.
This happens because the drawing of the string tends to be harder with a recurve bow. As we explained before, you will need 70-pounds of strength to pull a 70-pound draw weight line. And that can be a lot of force to use when pulling the string with arrow back.
With a compound bow, the 70-pound line will become a 35-pound line. What this does is reduce the amount of strength the user has to use, which prevents exhaustion and allows the user to aim calmly.
So, a compound bow is way easier to aim with.
Many people confuse aiming with accuracy. But they shouldn’t.
Aiming refers to when the user is trying to find the perfect shot. Accuracy refers to how well the aiming translates after shooting.
Whatever they mean – compound bows are still a step farther from recurve bows.
This happens because compound bows, again, require less strength to pull the string, but also less force to control.
The winding process of the wheels in a compound not only helps to reduce the pulling force to be exerted but also increases the stability of every shot once the user releases the string.
This is called the “unwinding” process. Instead of letting the string move back and forth with the end of the bow, the string moves inward, which increases the stability. So controlling the shot becomes a piece of cake, making it easy to achieve proper accuracy.
Recurve bows, in contrast, use the traditional pulling & controlling method, which doesn’t help much to control arrow shots.
All this means that achieving accurate shots with a compound bow is way easier.
The adjustment of a bow comes mainly from how comfortable you feel when using, and how much accuracy and strength you can achieve with it.
With a recurve bow, you can always get limbs of different shapes to either increase or decrease the power it offers. You may also change the string and adjust it according to your force & comfort needs. All that will improve how well you aim and shoot.
But compound bows offer all that and more. You can always change the wheels for smoother ones, replace the pulleys for ones that increase strength, and add accessories for accuracy & stability.
While a recurve bow is not a bad option, it doesn’t have the same level of adjustability as a compound bow.
Here, again, the compound bow takes the lead.
Ease of Use
Using a recurve bow and using a compound bow are two different things.
With a recurve bow, for example, you will need to pull the string as far as you can to get potency on the shoot. You will also need to learn how to aim correctly so your shots can be accurate. And sure enough, you’ll have to practice a lot to get sharp, precise, and effortless shots.
With compound bows, you won’t have such difficulty. Yes, you will still have to learn how to aim, shoot accurately, and practice several times. But the strength you’ll need to pull the string is lower, the effort to aim will also be less, and practicing won’t be so much of an issue.
Still, it is essential to remember that recurve bows tend to be lighter than compound bows. So, while they’re somewhat harder to use and learn to shoot with – recurve bows can also be easier to handle.
Generally, though, compound bows are easier to use. But their heavier weight can be sort of a problem. So both require some effort, but compound bows still win.
The materials used in recurve and compound bows don’t differ too much. In fact, you are likely to find them with pretty similar constructions, often using even the same types of strings.
But of course, there are so many materials that making a comparison becomes even harder.
We’re just going to say that most bows have wooden limbs. And their risers are often made of aluminum or carbon. In recurve bows, however, you may find laminated wood risers.
You won’t find a clear advantage between them, though. So in terms of build, it’s all about your preferences as they don’t differ much.
While the materials of the bow will affect the weight, it is often the shape and design that truly makes a difference.
For example, recurve bows are the more traditional of the two. This means that they have an often larger body than the compound bows.
But recurve bows are still not the heaviest. Compound bows are actually the heaviest ones, and not because of the shape or design, but from the many different accessories, components, and features they offer.
A compound bow usually boasts cams or wheels, stops, extra string, pulleys, and sometimes accessories like stabilizers and scopes. All those features add up to the weight of the bow – which makes compound models heavier.
So, if you are going for lightness over anything else – then a recurve bow will be your best option.
We said before, so there’s not much else to explain here. Recurve bows are often the larger of the two – and it all comes down to their traditional shape.
While a 70 pounds recurve bow can measure 60-inches in total length, a compound bow will only measure 30-inches at the same weight.
That’s a 100% difference in size that makes it clear that compound bows are way smaller.
Now that you went through weight and size, it is time to use that info and compare the portability of both bow types.
But there’s still an additional factor to consider: storage.
So, we already know that recurve bows are larger but also lighter. That would mean that you can handle one of these without problems, yet it won’t be the most comfortable to bring around.
Luckily, you can always break down a recurve bow – especially the newest and sleekest ones. They offer a “takedown” or collapsible design that allows the user to separate each bow into 3 parts: bottom, top, and riser.
That will make it way easier for a recurve bow user to bring the product around when needed.
In contrast, compound bows stay built. You can’t break them down unless you’re willing to piece it up together again – which can take several minutes up to an hour, and a lot of work.
While they’re smaller, they’re also more cumbersome and difficult to store – so they’re not as portable as expected.
Here, recurve bows take the advantage. You will find them way more comfortable to bring around than compound models.
Maintenance & Repair
Everyone loves shooting again and again without exerting any type of strain into the bow. But sadly, that’s not how it works.
Every bow has limited usage, especially when it comes to strings. They tend to break or simply wear out over time, which demands maintenance or repair.
So, how do a compound and a recurve bow differ here?
Well, it all comes down to their builds. Similarly to portability, you can always take a recurve bow down and separate its pieces. So, if the riser or any of the limbs break – you can still get new ones and replace the broken ones.
For a compound bow, it won’t be that easy. It is totally built-in and doesn’t usually offer the “takedown” feature that can be so helpful. So if any limb breaks, you will probably need to replace the entire bow or fix using traditional methods that won’t ensure a long-lasting repair.
As for maintenance, compound bows are also way more complicated. The different parts, including wheels or cams, the pulleys, stops, and so on – tend to be hugely annoying to maintain. With recurve bow, is only the riser, the string, and the limbs. There’s nothing else – which ensures an easy time maintaining and repairing.
So a recurve bow is the clear winner here.
There’s a common misconception that you can’t add attachments to bows. But that’s not true. In fact, you can add all kinds of extras such as stabilizers, string silencers, arrow rests, sights or scopes, quivers, limp dampeners, and more.
The difference, though, is that the riser of compound models tend to have more space and drilled holes that make the addition of accessories easier.
You are likely to find both types of bows using all kinds of accessories, but compound bows are often the friendliest in this category. And they often have way more accessories and variety to choose from.
We could say that the compound bow is better at using accessories.
Bows don’t have to be dull and straightforward. You can actually pick among different designs and stylish quirks that could add up to a beautiful and unique bow.
But of course, it also comes down to overall design.
While you can choose different designs in both types of bows, it is the recurve bow that offers the most stylish experience.
This happens because compound bows often come with so many components and parts that they lose some appeal.
In contrast, recurve bows look simple, yet you can make them super interesting, depending on what you prefer. And that adds up to a way more appealing product overall.
If you love using uniquely good-looking products, then a recurve bow will be your best option.
There’s no apparent difference in terms of sound the bows make.
While recurve bows tend to be larger, so they produce more sound, but they don’t have the complex mechanisms that compound bows have – so they’re almost the same.
Apart from that, you can add limb dampeners and silencers to both types of bows – so they can be similarly quiet if you know how to use them.
So, there’s no winner here. You can achieve super-quiet or extra-loud results with both.
When considering whether one will be cheaper than the other – then it is evident that compound bows are the more expensive.
This happens even though recurve models are often larger; they have fewer parts, require less assembly, and usually have no maintenance cost and effort.
That’s why you’re likely to find mid-range recurve & compound bows with widely different costs. The recurve model will probably be way cheaper, and that’s something to consider if you’re on a budget.
But we couldn’t say that’s a win for recurve bows. It just means that they’re cheaper for their simplicity.
Pairing everything we’ve said before about both types of bows, let’s now assimilate and explain which one is better for hunting.
It won’t be too hard, though. This happens because compound bows are easier to use and offer more “let-off” (less strength pulling the string so more time and less fatigue while doing so for extended times).
This translates into a comfortable experience waiting for prey, and more accurate & easier shots overall. The only drawback is that compound bows are heavy, so they can be a little difficult to bring around.
Recurve bows are larger, don’t offer as much “let-off” and often require better aim and more strength to use. This means more time preparing every shot, which ends up damaging the experience. But they’re lighter, so they are somewhat comfy to hold.
Having said this, you can guess that the compound bow is the go-to choice for most hunters. While it can be heftier, they are still a piece of cake to bring around, aim with, pull the string, and wait when needed. And that makes it the better performer when hunting.
Similarly to hunting, bow-fishing relies heavily on the user waiting for the right time to release the string and hit the target (this time fish).
So, at first sight, a compound bow looks like the better option. But remember, hunting and bow-fishing are way different.
You will probably need to hook up a stabilizer, so every shot is as accurate as possible, while also attaching a line to the arrow to make it work as a spear.
For the stabilizer, both models work well enough. Yet, for attaching the line – the complicated mechanism of compound bows can be a little problematic.
So, they are similarly ideal for bow-fishing. A compound model offers the chance to wait quietly and patiently without getting exhausted, but a recurve model provides the opportunity to retrieve arrows more quickly once they’re shot, so you can shoot again as soon as possible.
There’s no winner, then. They have both advantages and disadvantages for bow-fishing – so it all comes down to your preference.
Target Shooting Performance
Not everyone wants to hunt or go bow-fishing. Some people just want to test their skills without abusing animals – and that’s where target-shooting enters into place.
In fact, target-shooting with bows is a pretty popular sport, and many people compete worldwide. So, it is an excellent measurement of quality when it comes to bows.
Here, however, it all depends on your preferences as well. Target-shooting in competitions relies heavily on the type of bow people use, and in free-range, you’ll have to pick the one you feel more comfortable with.
But overall, the accuracy of a compound bow tends to be a little better than a recurve. That can be a telling factor about which one is better, but recurve bows are the ones used in most competitions, including Olympic games – so that’s a thing to consider.
In short, you’ll have to be the judge here. For us, there’s not much to compare. It all depends.
If you don’t want a bow for hunting, bow-fishing, or target-shooting – then you may want it for your children, a friend’s child, or just any kid that you want to teach archery to.
Well, in that case, you’ll have to give away the right bow as well. And here, we can’t recommend compound bows enough.
They are easier to use and smaller, which makes them ideal for kids. The only disadvantage is that recurve bows will give children more fun and will polish their skills better in contrast. So, compound bows fall a little behind in terms of ability improvement.
But if you aren’t teaching the child to become a recurve archer, then a compound bow is the way to go.
Similarly to picking a bow for a child, beginners of any age also need something easy enough that can be fun to use.
And sure enough, the compound bow enters into the game as the best option at first. The ease of use, the small design, and the possible adjustments will ensure that first-time archers will have a fantastic time.
But with compound models, the user will have to be more attentive to the parts and mechanism. This won’t happen with a recurve bow, which is often simple and only requires pulling the string back and releasing.
If you’re starting and want to try your luck – we recommend compound bows at first. Once you feel comfortable enough, go for a recurve bow. But if you’re feeling like taking on a challenge, then go directly to a recurve model – you won’t regret it.
Recurve Vs. Compound Bow: Which One Is Right for Me?
After going through every piece of info in this article, you’re probably wondering which option is the best one for your needs.
Well, this won’t be the easiest thing to know. There are so many features to consider that you’ll have to dive deep into each one so you can eventually pick the right model.
Compound bows consist of a modern design with several parts and components that ensure a smoother operation. This makes them ideal for beginners and young users.
They’re also small and provide excellent accuracy. And pulling the string backward doesn’t require too much strength. Users who don’t want to make much of an effort while aiming or carrying the bow will find compound models better. However, they’re somewhat heavy and challenging to maintain.
On the other hand, you’ll find recurve bows more straightforward. They are large but simple. Using them requires little effort, but mastering them requires skill and experience.
Luckily, recurve bows are super light, so bringing them around is super easy – especially when you add the “takedown” feature so you can break them down in pieces for storing. If you prefer a simple product over complex ones, then a recurve model is your best bet.
Still, let’s dive deep a little deeper.
Why Choose a Compound Bow?
It is small & easy to use
Requires less effort to pull the string
Offers excellent strength and tons of accuracy
Makes it easy to attach accessories & add-ons
Performs well enough for hunting
Why Choose a Recurve Bow?
Simple design makes it simple to operate
Light design with the break-down feature allows easy carrying
Provides a more stylish & traditional design for a fun experience
Requires little effort to maintain or repair
Works super well for target-shooting & bow-fishing
Make a Final Choice Now!
As you can see, compounds bows and recurve bows are so different from each other that choosing the right one is more of a personal choice.
But we can make it simple for you by saying:
If you prefer simplicity and strength – go for a recurve model.
If you prefer adaptability and ease of use – then go for a compound.
Choose accordingly, and you won’t regret it!