Types Of Bows – Complete guide

Archery is a complex sport that has existed for decades, in that time there have been a lot of upgrades to the original bows. This article is going to tell you all the different types of bows in a detailed manner. You can walk through the table of content to find the bow that you are interested inn.

This article will go through all the types of bows starting from the most basic and primitive bows up to the most modern bows.

A recurve bow laying out side on an archery range with a archery case besides it

Traditional Bow | Self-Bow

A picture of man shooting with a traditional bow on a outside archery range.

A Traditional is basically a longbow carved out of a single piece of wood. The material that is most used in these types of bows is osage. A traditional can be very quiet, but it’s not as strong and fast as the modern bows, but the customizability makes up for it.

Since this is a bow that is either made for you or one you make yourself you can shape it and make it however you want. The making of a self-bow is an art and a craft of love. It takes a lot of time and skill to craft a unique self-bow. The traditional bow is the most primitive bow you can find.

When a traditional bow is crafted it can either be made with a backing or without. The backing is an extra layer on either the sider or outer side of the bow that is made to support and make it more durable during the draw.

  • Material commonly used for the self bow is osage.
  • Weight and lenght depends purely on your preference and how you want to make you own longbow, but around 60″ is recommended to ensure enough power and making it easier for you to shoot.
  • Price can be free if you use natural material if not you are not going to exceed 20 dollars. But you will spend a lot of time making it. Buying one can also vary a lot on the work put in to it and the look. On ebay range from 50-500 usd, I would recommend you to find one that you like the look on and has a good lenght.
  • Maintanace Generally you want to unstring a traditional bow to ensure its lasts a long time, the material and the way a traditional bow is made does not meet the quality and sustainability as the modern bows.


a man shooting with a long on a outside range

Reflex Longbow

The longbow comes in two varieties with D-Flex and reFlex and standard D shape. The D-shape longbow is a simple longbow that looks like a D, there are no bends on the limbs. This gives the bow less power, but its easier to make and was used in historical times.

The bend of the limbs creates improves the current power in the power making it a lot fast and more precise than the standard D shape bow.

Since there are so much pressure on the limbs its a lot harder to string a reflex longbow than a standard D shape longbow, this applies to all reflex bows out there. If you struggle to string your, buying a stringer is a good choice! It will prevent you from damaging the limbs when you are strugling.

The material most common material used for longbows is wood. But you can get or use any material you like.
Weight and length. The longbow is pretty similar to the selfbow. The weight and length cant be set because of the huge variety of options there is on the market. But I would not suggest going small on these.

Standard D-shape longbow

In recent years the Re-flex has been added to most bows. The reflex is a curve on the limbs. You can see this on the ends of a bow if its curved or not. If the tip of the bow is curved against the bow its a standard D shape longbow if it bends in the opposite direction of the bow its a reflex.

The reflex will add speed, but make the bow a litle laoder. Most competition organizations requires the bow to be a D shaped bow without a reflex.


A picture showing every detail of the bow. Start with the tip of the bow, string notch, upper limb, back, face, tiller, sight window, arrow rest, grip, brace height, arrow shell, grip, bow string, lower limb. These are all the parts of the recurve bow and is important to know.

The recurves is one of the most popular types of bows still in today’s date. There is not just one type of recurve bows, but two. The sinle piece recurve and take-down recurves. Let me explain to you the differences between those.

Single piece recurves

The one piece recurves is typically lighter which is a great benefit expecially if you decide to go on a hunt and is planning to walk a long distance its nice to have a light bow that you can carry with you.

The recurve bows are great bows for any activity in archery. If you look for a more traditional bow a recurve bow is the way to go. I will now explain to you the takedown recurve which I recommend over the one piece recurve.

A picture of a single piece recurve bow with a white background

Take down Recurves

The takedown recurves provides many of the same similarities as the one piece recurve, but it has a few additional features making it my favorite bow choice of all time. The takedown recurve usually comes as three parts. That is the limbs and the riser.

You can takedown the bow to three pieces when you need to. Its very practical for travel and hunting those are the two I feel had most benefit of the takedown.

In addition to great portability the takedown recurve is easy to upgrade and downgrade.

How so? Because the limbs are detachable, meaning you can change the limbs to a heavier or lighter once. You have the option to use different limbs for hunting and target shooting. It just gives you more options while shooting the same riser all year round.

Different limbs positions on the recurves

You will notice that a few recurve bows attach the limbs in the front of the riser and some manufactures attach the riser on the back of the riser. It’s a difference, so you need to test each out to see what you prefer. Same goes with the riser.

The difference of risers is something you want to keep in mind when you are buying your first or any bow for that matter. The difference I am talking about is the weight.

Some risers have phenolic stripes in it to make it more sturdy and robust, but it adds some weight to the bow. So keep that in mind when you go shopping.

My preference is aluminum risers instead of wood. I prefer the feeling and the stabilization it provides for my shots

  • Material. All material is fine to use and buy. All modern recurves are made of really good quality, or atleast most of them. They are built to last for a lifetime and nearly all wheater conditions.
  • Price. The price for a good beginner recurve is around 200 dollars. You can find bows that are cheap, but 200 dollar mark is what we usually recommend to ensure you get a quality beginner bow that can last you for years.

Compound Bow

A picture of a compound bow on a white background

The compound bow has become the most popular to use for hunting, but it also used a lot of target shooting as well. The compound bow takes advantage of two wheels that will help the archer to hold the weight, this is called the “let-off”.

As a hunter you need to hold the string back for a while until you have your clear shot, the let-off helps you to do so by helping you with the weight. Some compound bows help you with 80% even 90% at times. Times means if you have a 70-pound draw compound bow you only need to hold 14 bounds if you have used an 80% let off.

The first compound bow was developed in 1966 by Holles Willbur Allen 

The compound bow is still not allowed to be used in the olympics.

  • Material. Most compound bow materials are aluminum, magnesium alloy and carbon.
  • Price range for a beginner compound is pretty similar to the recurve bow, around 200 dollars. You can find cheaper, but you want to ensure you get quality gear that can last for a long time.

Yumi Bow

a man shooting with a yumi bow

The yumi bow is a historical bow that has been with the japanese culture for decades. The Yumi bow can be compared to a long bow, but its unique in its own way. The orginial Yumi bow was made out of wood for a long periode of time, but in the 1970 they started to make them out of glass fiber with a wooden core inside to make the bow more robust.

The first Yumi bow that were found was traced back to the 900.C. The bows in this time and age where made out of wood and the string was made out of hemp. The string has also been upgraded in the lastest years to synthetic materials like kevlar.

If you take care of the Yumi bow it can last for generation, but because of the bow material you have to take proper care of it in order to make it last. The modern recurves and longbows we have in our day and age is a lot stronger and we dont need to do much work in order to maintain them.

You have to unstring the Yumi bow after use and dry it if it has been in contact with bad wheater. Some Yumi bows is left strung after use in the start to bend the limbs in the position they want them to be.

  • Lenght, The lenght of a yumi bow is really interesting. The bows are so large. For a man or a women that has a height of 170 cm is suggest to own a 204 cm Yumi bow. Yumi bows are taking advantage of all the height you can have to ensure as much power and usability as possible.


a picture of a crossbow with a white backgroudn

The crossbow has also been around for a long time, you have probobly seen one either in real life or war movies. The cross bow is based on the same mechaincs as the bow, but its still a lot different. The cross bow shoots bolts primarly and can be used for both target shooting and hunting.

There are a lot of different crossbows as well. Here are the different categories ; recurve crossbow, pistol cross bow, rifle crossbows, bullet crossbows, repeating crossboaws and compound crossbows.

They vary in both size, power efficany and aiming tequniques. If you are interested in reading about the different crossbow types and each categories purpose you can go to this website (Tbotech)

Using the crossbow you have to draw back the string with your hand like the bow, but you can attach it to a pin which will hold the string back for you. This will make it easier for you to aim because you dont need to tension your muscles by holding the string throughout your shot.

There are a lot of different material that are used for crossbows, but carbon and alumiun is the most commonly used to create modern crossbows.

Picking your bow

A picture two kids shooting with a bow torwards a target.

there are a lot of different bows to choose from and it can be hard to decide which one to choose if you are into buying one. The main thing you need to keep in mind is to know what bow you need and the purpose you are going to use it for.

If you are going to hunt than I recommend you to go for a compound bow, but personally I like the recurve bow that much that I even use it for hunting as well. All bows works for nearly everything, but some are easier to use for certain things.

If you are going to compete in archery and planning to go for the long shot, Olympics than recurve bows are the way to go because they are the only bow allowed to be used there.

If you like the historical bows than a traditional bow should be your go to, there are actually a lot of people using them still if there are updated versions out there.

The reason for this is simplicity. It’s not easier to shoot, but harder. And this can be a fun challenge for a lot of people to use minimalistic equipment and rely on your self to shoot well.

My favorite one is the takedown recurve bow as I mentioned earlier. There are so many great advantages of a takedown recurve and I find it to be the perfect middle bow between modern and historical bows. You can get the old age feeling, but at the same time shoot very precisely with a lot of power. when you have found your type of bow make sure to use a bow case in order to protect it, making it last for a lifetime.

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About Andy Ryan

Types Of Bows - Complete guide 1Certifications: Sc. Kin. - Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
Education: University of Denver
Lives In: Denver

My name is Andy and I am the author and creator of Archery Power, I have been in the archery industry for many years and it’s my true love and passion. I am an instructor and maintain a Certification. It all started as a kid where me and my dad used to go hunting with a crossbow, since that time I have been obsessed with the sport.