Recurve vs Compound Bow

Posted by Andy Ryan
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Recurve vs compound bow. They are both great and they both have their disadvanatages. The compound bow is a easier to aim with because of the let-off. There are more types of compound bows and they are more available than the recurve.

The recurve is the bow that is most often recommended to beginners, but that doesn’t make it an easy or a bad choice for experts either. The recurve bow is easier to maintain its simpler built giving you are more natural feeling when using it.

If you are wondering which type of a bow you should buy or which one is best we will help you out to find your answer. This article is going to break down all the aspects of each bow and compare them up against each other. We are going to mention everything from cost to aiming capabilities.

We are now going to just mention brefily the basic difference between the recurve bow and compound bow so if there any beginners among our readers you guys will know what I am talking about later on in the article.

The difference

Recurve bow

The recurve bow is a simpler built bow, but not the simplest. The reason it has gotten the name is recurve is that of the limbs. (If you don’t know what the limbs are please check the picture below and locate the name and part.) The limbs on the recurve is bent in the opposite direction of the archer.

The limbs are bent because it creates a lot more pressure resulting in more shooting power. There are bows that dont have that curve, the standard D shape bows. An example of such a bow is the long bow. If you are interested in looking at the different types of bows here is an great article on the topic(Link)

Recurve vs Compound Bow


The compound bow

The compound bow is a little more advanced. The significant difference between the recurve and the compound bow is the let-off. The let-off helps you to hold power. If you own an 80lbs bow with an 80% let-off, you will be holding only 16 lbs when you have completed the draw.

This can be very helpful in both hunting and target shooting. When you are hunting, there are times where you need to hold the string for a more extended period to get the shot you want. The let-off makes this a much simpler task.

The reason the letoff is possible on a compound bow is because of the wheels often called “cam” helps out. In addition to this the recurve has a more complex string system which because of this.

Recurve vs Compound Bow 1
Here is an illustration showing the effect of the let-off


Both the recuve bow and the compound bow has enough power to execute most tasks within archery. The power that covers nearly everything is 70 lbs. Both bows can go higher, but there are no practical point in doing so in most cases.

Since bows are capable of shooting 70lbs, you would think that they both had the same amount of power, but they dont. The shooting system on the compound bow is slightly more effective than the recurve bow making it a little dominant and faster than the recurve bow.

Funfact: The heaviest draw that has ever been made was 200lbs by Mark Stretton.

Power – Compound Bow


Both bows can be both pricy and cheap, but you would get a better quality recurve bow for the money compared to a compound bow. A good example of this is the Samick Sage recurve bow which is around the 100 dollar mark and is a great recurve bow for a very low price.

The reason the recurve bow can be produced more cheaply is that of its simplicity. The compound bow has more parts and has a mechanism that has to be perfect to have to make a great compound bow.

So who is the cheapest?

Cost – Recurve Bow

Easiest To Aim

Recurve vs Compound Bow 2

Both the recuve bow and the compound bow can shoot very accuratly. If you are looking for either target shooting and hunting both can do a very great job, but the one that is the easiest to aim is the compound bow. This is because of the let-off.

The let-off makes the aiming part a lot easier because you don’t have to hold the entire weight of the bow at the same time you are trying to control your breath and aim.

If you want to shoot very accurately with the recurve you want to have a weight that you can handle. If you are used to the compound bow don’t expect you can handle the same drawing power on a recurve bow. The typical draw weight they are using in the Olympics is about 50 lbs depending on the archer.

Easiest To Aim – Compound Bow


The recurve can quickly be taken apart making it a great bow for travel and portability. Combining a small recurve case with a taken down recurve and you have yourself a very easy portable luggage. The compound bow can be taken apart as well but it’s not recommended because it is not simple and can be very time-consuming.

Portability – Recurve Bow


Recurve vs Compound Bow 3

There is a difference between the recurve bow and the compound bow in size. The compound bow tends to be a lot smaller for most models. If you have the same draw for the compound bow and the recurve bow the size can be doble on the the recurve bow.

If you have a 70 lbs compound bow the size of will usually be around 30″ comparing that to a 70lb recurve you can see the difference in size very quickly. A 70lb recurve is usually sized around the 60″ mark which equals to double the size.

The reason is the compound bow can be so small, but yet have so much power is because of the draw system that we have talked a lot about throughout this article. It adds very much to the bow and adds slight edges to many aspects of the bow.

Size – Compound Bow

The compound bow can be 1/2 of the size of a recuve bow with equal drawing power


Since the compound bow is the smallest in size it makes sence that is the lightest aswell right? But its not. The reason for this is the extra equipment and the way the compound bow is constructed. It usually has a thicker riser to manage the strain from the let-off. The wheels “cams” on the limbs adds some weight as well in addition to this the extra string adds some weight to the calculation as well.

Taking everything in to count the compound is a smaller, but yet a heavier bow. The simplisity of the recuve results in a very light bow. The reason we want a light bow is because you need to hold the bow with your left hand when you are aiming, the lighter the bow are the more steadily can you hold your arm resulting in a cleaner shot.


Both the recuve bow and the compound bow can very silent. If they are not there are several adjustments that can be made in order to achieve the silence that we desire. There are silencensers and limb dampers that can decrease the sound made by a lot.

Both bows makes makes sounds, but the amount of it depends on the tuning and the adjustments made in order to achieve the most silenced bow.

Noise – Equal


The compound bow offers a great variety of adjustability! The cams on the limbs makes it possible to adjust the draw weight by simply using a tool. There are several bows where the draw weight can be adjusted down to 5 lbs up to 70lbs by just adjusting a screw. This makes the compound bow very versitle and adjustable.

The recuve offers some adjustability, but not as well as the compound bow. Actions you can take in order to change the draw weight and lenght on a recurve bow is to change the limbs. In order to have different types of draw weights you need several sets of limbs to switch between.

In most cases you only need one, but for example if you are target shooting a lot and something you go out hunting you would neeed a different types of limbs for hunting and one pair for target shooting.

Best Material and build

Maintenance And Repair

Best For Target Shooting

Best For Beginners

Best For Hunting

Best For Bow Fishing

Best Overall bow


Andy Ryan is the founder of ArcheryPower and has been in the archery industry for many years. He is an instructor and maintains a certification. His mission is helping more and more people each year with archery and bow hunting.

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