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Recurve Bow Vs Longbow: 6 Essential Factors to Remember!

Recurve Bow Vs Longbow
Written by Catherine Weeks

The names of the longbow and recurve bow types pretty much describe them. A longbow is the longest of all that currently exists. The key difference between the longbow and recurve bow types is the size. It is often said that longbows can be characterized as “more forgiving”.

On the other hand, a recurve bow is louder but more powerful than a longbow. Let’s explore more differences between recurve bow vs longbow.

I became interested in the difference between the longbow and recurve bow as I wanted to get a longbow a few years ago. He used to use his recurve bow. I witnessed his metamorphosis to a very good intermediate-level shooter after he had gotten his first longbow.

However, there are some myths regarding both types and I wouldn’t like you to believe that recurve bows are not suitable for non-professionals at all. They have their pros but are not recommended for the beginners.

In this article, we will compare recurve bows with longbows to provide information on the key differences and similarities between these two types. We will also talk about their origins, design, material, uses, limitations, and benefits.

In addition, we will try to resolve the ambiguity regarding the above-mentioned myths and help you choose the right type for your needs. Let’s begin!

Recurve Bow vs Longbow – What to Choose

Recurve Bow Vs Longbow

There are many differences between these two bow types. Those include their origin, design, material, uses, and benefits, as well as draw length and limitations. Care and maintenance requirements are similar but also include some peculiarities. Let’s learn more about these two bow types, step by step.

Factor 1: Design

Design is a very important factor defining the longbow vs recurve difference. It directly affects the performance of the bow, not only its appearance. The following sections bring you the key design differences on the longbow vs recurve list.

i) Recurve bow

The main design peculiarity you can immediately notice on a recurve bow are the ends of the limbs curved away from the archer. How does this key design difference affect the performance of the bow? Recurve bows are more powerful than longbows, thanks to this curve.

In addition, these bows are significantly smaller (shorter) than longbows. At the same time, they are wider than longbows. They are thinner when it comes to the bow depth.

ii) Longbow

The key design feature of a longbow are the limbs that form letter “D” with the draw line. You can also think of it as a half-moon, i.e. crescent shape. There are no curves. Also, their characteristic peculiarity is their length. These are the longest bows of them all. It is not unusual to see a longbow that is as tall as the archer!

Let’s give you an example that will depict the length of this type of bows. If you get a 60 lbs. longbow, don’t be surprised if it measures the amazing 64 inches!

Moreover, the peculiarities of the longbow design include thinness in its width and thickness in its depth.

iii) Recurve bow vs longbow Testing the difference

Some beginners might be confused when it comes to recognizing the different types of bows. The easiest way to understand if a bow is a longbow or a recurve bow is to check if there is contact between the string and the limbs. If there is no contact, you’ve got a longbow. If there is, it is a recurve bow. Also, you can get the underlying differences between them once you can calculate their delivery of energy into the arrows.

Factor 2: Material

Material is another factor we are going to analyze on our today’s comparison grid. However, there are not many differences when it comes to this factor. In the past, both types were made from exactly the same materials – wood and leather. Those were the only available materials.

However, today, we have lots of different materials at our disposition. Let’s see, which materials are used for which bow type.

i) Recurve bow

Today, recurve bows are made from four main types of materials. Those are:

  • Carbon fiber
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Fiberglass

There are differences between various producers and types of recurve bows as well. Namely, more traditional ones among them opt for laminated wood. Others choose a combination of fiberglass and laminated wood, carbon laminations, and metal. The use of new materials did not only make these bows look more modern, but has also increased their accuracy and overall performance.

ii) Longbow

Most longbows are made from laminated wood or layered fiberglass. In addition, those made from wood, sometimes have a carbon center. As a result, modern longbows are stronger than ever. They are also lighter, which makes them more suitable for contemporary use.

Factor 3: Uses and benefits

Here we come to the part that depicts the differences between a recurve and a longbow the most – uses and benefits. Pay attention, as understanding this section will help you choose the most suitable model for your own needs.

i) Recurve bow

First of all, recurve bows are more powerful. Thanks to their specific, curved design, you can make very powerful shoots. In addition, the winner of the longbow vs recurve speed competition is the recurve bow. Its arrows will go faster.

Secondly, you should use a recurve bow if you want a highly portable bow. As this type is significantly shorter than a longbow, you will handle and carry it with ease.

In addition, one of the benefits of recurve bows is easier repair process. We will talk more about this feature in the Care and Maintenance section.

Recurve bows are better choices if you like to experiment and try new things. Namely, they can be adjusted as you can buy different types of limbs that affect its precision, shooting ease, and power.

Last but not least, the recurve bow is the best choice for competitions. If you plan to improve yourself and if you are an aspiring professional archer, we definitely recommend the recurve bow. It is used in international target archery competitions and the Olympics.

ii) Longbow

If you are doing your research on longbows and the longbow vs recurve bow comparison, you’ve certainly heard the term “a forgiving bow”. What does this actually mean? Namely, it is slightly easier to use and it ensures that the arrow flies in a straight line. This is why even beginners and inexperienced users can get good results with this bow.

The second benefit of this amazing bow is quiet in operation. No one likes noisy bows. Also, the longbow is a better choice for hunting thanks to less noise. There is significantly less string-limb contact. As a result, you don’t even have to use string silencers if you own this type of bow.

Moreover, you should definitely choose this type of bow if you are keen on historical, traditional, or classic bow styles. This is an attractive and appealing bow that will satisfy your vintage archery preferences.

Also, experts say that this bow type is better for beginners, as it is easier to learn the basics of archery properly with the longbow.

iii) Recurve bow vs Longbow for hunting

When it comes to longbow vs recurve for bow hunting comparison, even experts may get confused. Namely, both types have their pros and cons regarding this topic. The recurve bow is easier to carry around, especially in the forest, thanks to its smaller size.

On the other hand, the longbow is more precise and it is significantly quieter than the recurve bow.

Factor 4: Draw length

The difference between the longbow and recurve bow types would not be complete without mentioning the draw length. It is very important to precisely determine your draw length. It will help you become more accurate and learn how to use the bow correctly.

Also, a draw length is usually similar or the same to the required arrow length. Let’s learn more about recurve bow vs longbow draw lengths.

i) Recurve bow

To determine the recurve bow draw length, we recommend you to use the following method. Measure your arm span. Divide the result by 2.5. You will get a result in inches and this is your perfect draw length determined based on your arms.

ii) Longbow

It is the length you get when you measure the distance between the throat grip and the nock point and add 1 inch and ¾ of an inch to that value.

Factor 5: Limitations

We have pointed out the advantages, uses, and benefits of both types. Now, we have to talk about the limitations and drawbacks. Even though experts on bows sometimes have different opinions on certain factors, we will provide an insight into the most common and widely accepted statements on the recurve bow and longbow.

i) Recurve bow

The most obvious limitation of the recurve bow is limited precision. Even the best recurve bows are less precise than the standard longbows. In addition, these bows are very precise only if the archer is very experienced. This limitation is the result of thinner limbs and the fact that you must draw the string far back to generate more power.

In addition, another limitation of the recurve bows is the noise they generate. If you don’t have string silencers, this will limit your performance when it comes to hunting. This is the consequence of lots of contacts between the limbs and the string.

ii) Longbow

There are also several limitations to longbows. First of all, the Achilles heel of longbows is power. Of course, longbows are very powerful tools, but they are beaten by the recurve models. This is why the longbow arrow flows more slowly than the recurve bow arrow.

Other limitation peculiar for this bow type is portability. As longbows are large unlike shortbows, i.e. long, they are not very suitable for carrying around all day in the woods. Also, takedown models are rarely seen.

Factor 6: Care and maintenance requirements

Bow Care and maintenance

No matter if you use a recurve bow or a longbow or a compound bow or even a crossbow, you need to take good care of it in all cases. Neither the recurve bow nor the longbow is very demanding regarding the re-stringing. You can easily do it yourself.

In addition, you don’t need any special machines, devices, nor tools to complete that task. You can re-string both bow types by hand.

When it comes to repairs, the situation is more complex. Let’s see why.

i) Recurve bow

When it comes to repairs, the obvious winner is the recurve bow. Why? Simply put, you don’t have to worry much if your recurve bow is broken. You can buy new limbs and use your bow again. This is especially true if you have a takedown model. Therefore, the easiest one to repair is the recurve bow.

ii) Longbow

Unfortunately, once a longbow is broken, there is no much you can do. They’re often single-piece bows and it is not very easy to repair them. Even if you do, the quality and performance is questionable.


It is not easy to understand the difference between the longbow and recurve bow without actually putting them into action. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Some important factors you must consider before choosing your bow type include the intended use, preferences regarding style and tradition, as well as aspirations toward international competitions.

If you value accuracy, style, and quiet operation, we recommend you to get a longbow. It is also recommended for beginners. On the other hand, if you want to join competitions and value faster and more powerful bows, the recurve type is the most suitable pick.

We hope that the information provided in this article will help you decide whether longbow or recurve type is the best choice for you.

About the author

Catherine Weeks

Cathy believes that hunting is not about downing an animal; rather, it’s about enjoying the purity of this challenge and making a connection with nature.

She loves country music, horses, shooting, and hunting; and spends her weekends in the great outdoors with her husband and two kids.

Though Cathy has hunted most of her life, it was not until her partner gave her a bow that she realized she had finally found her passion.

She is always determined to share her missed opportunities, dedication, emotions, and small details that people often forget to mention when they talk about their hunting experiences.

Cathy also works to promote wildlife preservation and protect natural resources. She thinks “patience” is the most important thing that can make a big difference.

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