What is a Recurve Bow (Traditional, Takedown, Longbow)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
archery bow and arrow

A recurve bow is a bow with limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. The tension of the string holds the limbs out (called “drawing”) and, at full draw, this lack of tension or rigidity A recurve has been used as a hunting tool by archers for thousands of years. Here we will go through some of the details you need to know.

The first most obvious and basic thing when looking at a recurve bow is seeing the top and bottom tips are curved back on this type of bow.

A recurve bow is one of the oldest types of bow in the world. Of note was its first use by Egyptian archers thousands of years ago. This type of bow was reintroduced in the Olympic games in 1972 and has been one of the most-watched sports ever since.

The most common type is known as the takedown bow and has the ability to be compacted by taking down the edges for easier transport.

The recurve bow is usually not made of a single type of material and has many different pieces. Commonly being made from composite materials such as fiberglass and wood components and the handle being made of carbon fiber.

A typical Arrow can travel at over 200kph from a recurve bow.


Different Types of Recurve Bows and Their Uses


Barebow Recurve



This is a recurve bow that does not include the usual extras in technology today which means it won’t include a clicker, sight, stabilizer or high tech arrow rests. This is more of a purist bow that just has the basics.


Olympic Recurve Bow



This is a recurve used for competition and includes a few equipment extras. Of note are the clicker, stabilizer, and sight.

The Sight is used to improve shooting accuracy and allows you to have a dot or pin to see through and align your shot but not have it magnified.

The stabilizer is a piece of metal that sticks out from the rod and adds balance and stabilization and the clicker is a small piece of metal that is placed above the arrow and provides a clicking when the arrow is drawn helping the archer make sure they draw the same way to provide a point of reference and increase overall accuracy.


Is a Recurve Bow the same as a Traditional Bow?


Technically there is no difference because they are one and the same however there is some minutia.

  • Traditional bows sometimes have recurve limbs and some do not
  • More of a purists type of bow and won’t use any sights or stabilizers

Traditional bow types include the:




Shape sets it apart from a recurve as it has a D shape, usually made from a single piece of wood.


Takedown Bow



The name given to bows that can have their limbs taken apart can be recurved bows.


Benefits of a Recurve


  • They are cheaper than compound bows meaning they are great for a start and act as good beginner recurve bows
  • Easy to transport and light in weight
  • A favorite for purists as you get a much more traditional old-school experience in archery
  • The upkeep is much smaller as there are much fewer moving parts and pieces than a compound bow allowing you to learn the basics easier


Parts of a Recurve Bow



Riser – A handle in the center that is used as a base

Limbs – Can usually detach for easy carrying and transport, are the main tension parts of the bow

Bowstring – Loops around the limbs to provide the tension

Sight – Put above the riser and grip and usually holds the pin

Sight Pin – Used to aim at the target

Stabilizers – Protrude from risers used to held stability as per name

Long Rods – part of the stabilizer

Short Rods – part of the stabilizer

Dampers – reduces vibration and balances the bow


Common Accessories


Nocking Points – Dimples between the bowstring where an arrow fits

Clicker – Checks the draw length

Arrow Rest – Where an arrow rests before shooting usually under the clicker

Pressure Button – A spring that is depressed when your arrow is released and makes sure that the arrow goes straight towards its target and reduces horizontal oscillation from the fingers (1)




Finger Tabs – protects from the pressure of the string

Armguards – Protects forearms from string hitting it

Chest Guards – Protects the bow from clothing getting caught or stuck in it

Finger Sling – Worn to make it easier to control follow-through from the wrist.


How to Choose the Right Weight for your Recurved Bow



One of the biggest things to keep in mind when considering a recurve bow is the draw weight since if you purchase a bow with a draw weight that is too high for you will have problems firing the bow. A good rule of thumb is using lighter poundage as a beginner and then progressing to a higher one as you get used to your improved form and you can adapt.

Below we have a chart to help you make your decision on good draw weight.


Youth (Age 7-10) 10-14lbs
Youth (Age 11-13) 10-18lbs
Teenagers (Age 14-17) 12-22lbs
Young Adults (Age 18-22) 16-26lbs
Adult Females 16-32lbs
Adult Males 22-38lbs


How to Choose the Right Length Recurved Bow for your Build and Style


The length of a recurve bow will depend on your height and arm length. If you are taller than six feet (183 cm) or if you have long arms, then consider getting a longer bow. If not, then you may want to get a shorter one that can be easier to drawback. 

To determine the correct size you need to stand with your arms extending out and at shouldn’t height without stretching and extending out naturally. Have someone then measure your arm length and the distance from your finger (middle finger) to the toe other and take that number dividing it by 2.5. This will be your draw length and it’s usually very close to the actual length. You can then use the chart below to determine the length of bow you’ll need.


14-16 inches 48 inches
17-20 inches 54 inches
20-22 inches 58 inches
22-24 inches 62 inches
24-26 inches 64-66 inches
26-28 inches 66-68 inches
28-30 inches 68-70 inches
31 inches and longer 70-72 inches



  • Easy to shoot well but requires practice
  • Archery draws the bow and the limbs begin to harness the energy from the draw as the limbs bend
  • Archer will aim at the target and make the shot which involves a) releasing the string that’s in their fingers and letting the arrow fly.
  • The shot is completed by keeping a good follow-through and position when the arrow is let out from the bow

The biggest usual detriment to shots are shooting distractions these can include…

External distractions – Voices, wind, weather, noises

Or internal distractions like – Lack of confidence, stress, lack of focus


Recurve Bow Speed


Recurve bows are not made for speed like compound bows are but they can still provide a decent speed for those that are more practiced. A lot of people will say that speed is overrated as you can still get a great penetration with your arrow shooting at the average recurve bow speed.

The way to measure the speed of a recurve bow is to use an arrow. The bow is fired at a target 20 yards away. The arrow has a metal-tipped point that sticks in the target, so it can be measured how far the projectile traveled in one second.

Recurve bows can shoot arrows at speeds of up to 250 feet per second. Speed for bows is measured in FPS and your typical archer will shoot between 140-160 FPS with a recurve bow. (2)


Final Words


A recurve bow is our personal favorite and one of the great pure forms of archery. It’s great for beginners and an excellent way to enjoy archery. We highly recommend you pick up a recurve or read some of our buying guides to help you make a purchasing decision. As always if you have any questions feel free to drop us a line and will help you choose a great recurve bow.


(1) oscillation – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/physics-and-astronomy/oscillations
(2) FPS – https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-see-your-frames-per-second-fps-in-games