Recurve bow – what you need to know

You can identify a recurve bow by the curved tips at either end of the bow, which increases the speed of the bow and the smoothness of the release. This bow is known for its widespread use in target archery and the Olympics, where it is the only style of bow allowed in competition.

What is special about a recurve? 

Recurves can be one solid piece, but most competition recurves on the market today are known as ‘takedown’ recurve bows. Once unstrung, the bow breaks down into three parts to allow for easy transport and adaptability. You grip the middle part of the bow, which is called the ‘riser’ and is made of metal, wood or carbon. The top and bottom parts are called ‘limbs’ which are made of wood, fibreglass, carbon, or other materials. The recurve bow gets its power from the unique curve at the limb tips, a design first developed by Egyptian archers thousands of years ago.

Parts of a recurve bow

This diagram shows the different parts of a modern takedown recurve bow.



What to look for in a recurve bow

The bow should be slightly shorter than the archer, but the main considerations are draw weight and draw length. This makes the process of finding the right bow a little more complex than simply ordering one online or picking one up at your local shop.

Sizing for recurve bows

It is always best to ask a coach or more experienced archer to help with measurements.

Because archers come in all ages and sizes, here is a basic size chart for matching draw length to recurve bow length:

Recurve Bow Length to Draw Length Chart 

 If my draw length is….

…then I should shoot a bow this size.

 up to 25″

 54″ to 62″

 up to 27″

 64″ to 66″

 up to 29″

 66″ to 68″

 up to 31″

  68″ to 70″

31″ and over

 70″ to 72″

The bow should also have a relatively low draw weight, regardless of the archer’s natural strength. Take down recurve bows have an advantage in that you are able to change the limbs to move up or down in draw weight.

Most archers begin with a simple, affordable recurve that will help them learn the basics of the sport. They then transition to a more advanced bow as they become more comfortable with shooting form and are ready to begin competing.

Your first recurve bow should:

• Match your eye dominance

• Be matched to your draw length

• Have a light draw weight

• Be affordable

• Be able to sustain the archer’s increasing ability for the first 6-12 months of shooting