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Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
Due to their shape, recurve bows can store far more energy, leading to far stronger draw strength. This leads to the question, how far can recurve bows shoot?
A recurve bow can shoot hundreds of yards. The upper limit will be affected by draw strength and bow size, assuming a lightweight arrow and suitable environmental conditions.
The world record for the furthest recurve bow shoot is well more than the 400 yards. Getting such long shots is almost definitely down to the custom arrows and bows being used, however, and it would be more typical to see something in the area of 300-400 yards for the maximum range on a standard recurve bow.
What is so Important About the Shape?
At the beginning of this, we mentioned in passing that the shape of the recurve bow is one of the most instrumental factors in the range that the bow can fire.
As you can imagine from the name, a recurve bow is shaped in concrete design, with limbs that curve away instead of standard bows whose limbs are straight.
The significance of this is that when drawing the bow to full strength, the strings can lift in such a way that it will be conserving and harnessing far more significant amounts of energy for higher draw weight and draw strength.
This works because when the string draws across the curve, it simulates a far longer length of the bow but with all of the energy squeezed into a smaller space.
What is the Draw Strength of a Recurve Bow?
The draw strength of a recurve bow has a huge amount of variance. Recurve bows can range all the way from 10lb to 80lb draws.
The draw strength is essentially how much power the bow can fire with, which will affect the speed and travel distance of the arrow.
The downside of higher draw strength bows is that they will be harder to control and accurately fire.
This is the determining factor when it comes to attaining the longest shot possible. However, because of the incredible amount of strength and control required at higher draw strengths, getting an accurate long-distance shot is far harder.
When looking at accurate long-distance shots, it’s not so much the draw strength that is the issue. It’s how well the bow controls as well, and it’s about using the shot’s speed to be accurate.
What is the Longest Accurate Shot?
It’s perfectly possible to make an incredibly long shot with a recurve bow as we’ve established. If we are talking about the longest accurate shot, then the numbers change significantly.
For an experienced archer, the expected range of a recurve bow will be somewhere between 30-40 yards. For a beginner, it’s far less, at around 15-20 yards.
Looking at some of the records for barebow accurate shots show the record ranges as being somewhere in the ballpark of 200-300 yards. Although these shots are possible at such long ranges, they are likely to be inconsistent.
The world record for consistent shots with a normal recurve bow is around 80~90 yards for the top world record holders in recurve bow archery.
In one of the categories of this kind of competition, there is a potential of 1440 points.
Being accurate over this distance is such an incredible feat that only a few people have ever scored the maximum amount of points on this competition.
The Guinness World Records holder for the longest shot with a recurve bow is Matt Stutzman, who managed to achieve a shot distance of 310 yards.
This was the longest shot where the target was also successfully hit. Not only did he break the record, but Stutzman also did it without arms due to congenital disability, using his feet and shoulders in order to operate the bow.
Are There Competitions for Longest Shot?
There are multiple competitions and record holder organizations to keep track of who has the longest shot. One of those organizations is the Barebow division of the World Archery.
This competition determines the longest shot without any sights or stabilizers to assist the archer. One of the best things about this is not only does this category create a standardized set of testing rules, but it also measures what the bow and the archer alone are capable of.
Although the competitions held aren’t specifically about the longest shot, they measure how consistent a score can be achieved over very long distances.
As previously mentioned, only a few competitors have ever scored perfectly in the longest range competition. These competitions usually function in how each archer is given a set amount of arrows and then tasked with getting as high a score as possible to achieve the most amount of points.
The recurve bow is also the accepted bow for usage in the Olympics. This is because the Olympics regard the recurve bow as being the most readily available and easy to learn bow world-wide.
There is also the issue that the addition of multiple bow types would skew the decision-making process, where judges would have to attempt to judge whether scores based on the bow used.
History of the Recurve Bow
The recurve bow and its ingenious design goes all the way back to many historical civilizations. The fact that the bow was so compact compared to longer straight-limbed bows meant that they could use the bow in a far easier and portable manner.
Due to the shape of the bow and the draw strength mentioned earlier, a horseback rider could fire the bow with the same kind of strength and power that a normal standing bow user would muster.
Due to the fact that so many different civilizations all simultaneously developed this style of bow, it’s hard to say exactly what its roots are. Needless to say, the bow would prove to be popular through much of history.
The recurve was a particular favorite of horse archers because of the shape. The shorter limbs meant it was not only far easier to take on horseback, but also allowed the rider to switch which side they were shooting from easily.
In addition to having a quick-fire time, this made them a prime candidate for horseback archery.
Probably one of the most famous uses of the recurve bow in this way was its usage by the Mongols since their style of warfare revolved almost entirely around the horse archery that they were famed for.
The Turkish empire was also well known for using these types of bows, building an empire upon their usage.
Supposedly, the Turks claimed their archers were capable of firing at distances similar to what world record holders can manage today.
Can a Recurve Bow Fire Further Than a Longbow?
Longbows were famous in the medieval period for their usage in military scenarios. Of note especially were English longbowmen, trained from a young age to fire as accurately as possible.
Do they fire faster than modern recurve bows or recurve bows from the time period? The answer to both questions would appear to be “no.”
A recurve bow would still possess a greater potential draw strength and arrow velocity, meaning they would have had a further firing range than the longbow.
Although the recurve bow fires slightly further than the longbow, the problem would be accurate. The shape of the longbow allows it to fire more accurately at its maximum range.
The other bonus of the longbow is that they are well known as forgiving and easy to use. Because of their design and the relatively low strength required to use one, a beginner who isn’t yet used to the rigors of archery will perform well with this bow at acceptable distances.
Compared to the recurve bow, which will require a lot of strength to be able to use efficiently. Even someone who has used a bow before may struggle at longer distances because of the far greater strength required to make the most use out of a recurve’s draw strength.
The other difference between a longbow and a recurve bow is that the longbow has a far quieter noise when releasing the strength. In contrast, the recurve is extremely loud due to the huge amount of tension in the string.
Can a Recurve Bow Fire Further Than a Compound Bow?
A compound bow, because of the incredibly complex system of strings and pulleys that it has, is able to contain and generate an unbelievable amount of power with far less of a strength requirement.
This means that a compound bow will typically have far greater range than a recurve bow, with high accuracy as a bonus.
However, certain powerful recurve bows with the highest draw weights available will have the potential to almost match the compound bow.
When you combine this with the fact that a recurve bow is significantly smaller and more portable than a compound bow, it adds an extra dimension.
If you are an experienced bow user, most of the compound bow’s advantages will be mitigated by the fact that you will be able to compensate for the otherwise difficult to use nature of the recurve.
Additionally to the lack of portability that a compound bow has, a compound bow is also significantly heavier, longer, and more complex, making it a difficult and high-maintenance piece of equipment compared to the recurve bow that is a survivalists dream.
The recurve will keep its long-range, powerful, and fast arrow velocity and be easily carried around if you are doing something that requires a lot of movement.
Can a Recurve Bow Fire Further Than a Crossbow?
A modern crossbow will outstrip almost every single other bow when it comes to the total firing range. A crossbow can achieve ranges of up to 500 yards, although hitting anything at that range will be impossible.
This is far beyond what the recurve bow can accomplish, and top it off. The crossbow is also incredibly simple to use. A crossbow will often have the option of having a scope attached to it will increase the accuracy even more.
Compared to a recurve bow, which requires a great deal of skill and training to use, even a novice can pick up a crossbow and meet some success hitting targets.
The only real downside to a crossbow over a recurve bow is that if noise is an issue to you, then a crossbow will make even more noise than a recurve will.
One large bonus that a recurve bow has is that it will be far cheaper than a crossbow and will also likely be slightly cheaper to repair depending on the issue.
The only bow device that comes anywhere close to the range of the crossbow is the foot bow.
Both of the world records for crossbow and foot bows are held by Harry Drake, who managed to achieve firing ranges of 2000-2100 with them.
What is the Significance of the Turkish Flight Arrows on Recurve Bow Shot Distance?
Some of the most informative research and experimentation on the shot distance of recurve bows can be taken from records of the Turks usage of recurve bows and flight arrows.
Some of these records date back hundreds of years and apparently managed to attain shot distances that are still in excess of anything achievable today.
The distances that Turkish archers were able to achieve were shots close to 1000 yards, far beyond anything achievable with modern recurve bows.
A part of this was to do with the arrows that were being used. Turkish flight arrows were arrows that were specially designed for being able to travel great distances.
It’s important to note here that when determining total distance for the shot from a recurve bow, almost all of the time that significantly large numbers are being achieved it’s the work of the fact that the arrows being fired are designed to travel great distances, so are made to be lighter.
When using an arrow that is actually designed to pierce or damage a target, such as in competition shooting or hunting, the arrow’s weight will play a huge role in the final distance that the shot is able to achieve.
Historians noted this when looking at the Turkish flight arrows, seeing that they had been designed with the specific purpose in mind to achieve the longest shot possible, yet may not have been much help in anything else.
Why Does Bow Quality Matter for Shot Distance?
Due to the enormous amount of force that the high draw strength of a recurve bow requires, a large strain is put on the bow and the string.
Bows made from inferior materials or have had their string damage by either overuse or repeatedly stringing and unstringing the bow can cause the recurve bow to lose shot distance over time.
This is especially true of bows with higher draw-strength, as they will need to be made from high-quality materials that can handle the amount of tension they are being put through.
Can a Beginner Achieve Similar Shot Distances?
If you are a beginner or newcomer to archery, it’s generally expected that if you are using a recurve bow, you won’t be able to achieve anything close to the numbers discussed here.
You will need a perfect form in order to be able to fire at maximum range, not to mention the huge amount of experience that is required in using similar bows.
Also, because these numbers are only achievable with a high draw-strength bow, you will need to not only have the control and the poise with the bow but to have both of those qualities whilst exerting the strength required.
If you wish to have a more reasonable chance of attaining some of these shot numbers, you will either need to have a lot of practice with beginner recurve bows or try using a longbow to start yourself off.
Comparison of Recurve, Compound, And Longbow Distances
To help you find the right bow for you, let’s take a closer look at the distances that each bow can fire at. As we do this, it’s important to note the weather conditions, as this can have a big impact on the type of distances that your arrow can travel.
For example, to get an accurate shot on a windy day, you’ll need to switch to a heavier arrow to minimize wind disturbance. It’s best to use these figures as a guide, testing your own equipment to understand better how your bow performs.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. He has been hunting and fishing since a child and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.
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