Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
In an experienced archer’s hands, both recurve bows and longbows make for a useful hunting tool. Even a novice archer can use both types of bows as great tools for target practice, refining accuracy along with improving shooting form.
Choosing between the two comes down to preferences.
If it’s sheer raw power you want, then go with the recurve bow. Their ‘recurved’ limbs are designed to store and provide more energy to an arrow than a longbow of comparable size. A recurve bow merely is more efficient at giving power to each shot than the simple D curve of the longbow.
If you’re unable to decide between a longbow and a recurve, we’re going to give you the lowdown on all the differences between each type of bow in different areas.
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What are the Differences between Recurve Bows and Longbows?
Recurve bows tend to be much louder than longbows. This makes ‘covert’ operations more difficult. All those limbs and ILF fittings rattle with each movement, and the magnetic rests make a loud noise when you release the arrow.
On the other hand, there is less contact between the limbs and strings on a longbow.
Some archers prefer to shoot with quiet bows. If you prefer not to make any noise, consider choosing a longbow. They’re soft enough even without string silencers, which are used by professionals to minimize the bowstring twang further.
Muffling recurve bows is a different task altogether because they require string silencers and precise tuning.
Longbows can be extremely big and typically range from five to over 6 feet long. This makes it incredibly difficult to store longbows, even if you’re going for a quick trip or shooting. A modern longbow with a draw weight of 60 lbs clocks in at 64” in length, whereas a 60 lbs recurve bow will measure only 58” long.
If you don’t have storage capabilities or don’t like carrying big and bulky items with you, choose recurve bows.
The Nostalgia Factor
History buffs are aware of the documented evidence that confirms the vital role that longbows have played in various wars waged centuries ago.
Many people crave that classic, historic appeal of longbows. This isn’t to say that recurve bows are a ‘new-age’ invention. They have a fascinating history of their own that will captivate many historians. For example, many empires in Asia used the devastating effect of recurve bows to good use.
And of course, recurve bows are the choice of many Olympians, much to longbow fans’ chagrin.
Did you know that speed is directly proportional to power?
This means that more power equals more speed.
And we already know that recurve bows pack a ton of power. So if you want a bow that shoots fast, no questions asked, then go with the recurve bow. Its speed comes from the curved tips, which can store far more energy than straight limbs.
This isn’t to say that longbows are slow. Some of the higher-end longbows will rival the fastest recurve. Their limbs are designed to generate similar arrow speeds. But even then, the recurve bow takes the cake in the speed department.
It is worth mentioning that slower arrows are more prone to veering off course against huge gusts of wind. Faster bows can easily handle the wind as long as they have the right weight to them.
Most manufacturers offer recurve bows with adjustable draw weights that can be attached to the bow. This means you can choose the most appropriate draw weight depending on the type of target, distance, and the arrow.
If you find that the bow’s draw weight is either too light or too heavy, you can always buy new limbs for your bow, which is much cheaper.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about longbows because you’ll be stuck with the default draw weight. If the longbow’s draw weight is too high or low for you, you’ll have to buy a brand new bow altogether.
Of course, this confusion can be avoided by doing test runs with each bow before buying it or having more knowledge about draw weights that you find more comfortable.
That being said, we always recommend starting with a lighter draw weight before working your way up to higher draw weights.
Ease of Aim When Shooting
Longbows are easier to control than recurve bows due to their deeper and thicker limbs. While the downside to this is their heavier weight, there is less chance of sideways movement or torquing in the string when released.
It is imperative to stay still when throwing off an arrow; otherwise, it will not reach its target in the intended line.
Longbows are easier to use straight out of the box since you won’t have to worry about buying supplemental accessories. This makes longbows the tool of choice for beginners if they’re new to archery.
The same cannot be said about recurve bows, some of which may require assembly upon purchasing them. Many beginners often spend too much time choosing the right accessories, which often leads to poor technique. Between the simplicity and ease of use of longbows, removing accessories’ option promotes better technique, which can then be further refined later on.
Longbows are excellent tools to build a solid archery foundation before moving on to more advanced bows and learning how to use their accessories.
Since most longbows don’t have the room for attaching accessories, there isn’t room for customization. This makes recurve bows the preferred choice for users who are deep into bow customization.
There are thousands of attachment options available for recurve bows in different varieties other than wood.
Common Accessories for Recurve Bows
Open ring sights are generally suited to beginners and often have a smaller price tag. Pin sights are an upgrade over open ring sights and allow the user to make shot adjustments to cover large distances without directly interacting with the sights.
Target sights are a bit more advanced and used by veteran archers competing at a high level. They also feature high price tags. Professional archers often use a combination of target sights with pin sights to improve performance.
Product recommendation: Archery Recurve Bow sight by Isport
This bow sight does not significantly overburden the archer because of its lightweight, aluminum construction. The product’s highlights include a universal mounting solution that is compatible with most recurve bows.
Installation is easy, thanks to mounting screws and brackets. The bow sight is compatible for use with both right and left-hand archers.
Click here to check prices.
Stabilizers serve two important functions; they improve the bows’ forward and backward balance when drawn and absorb the vibration from the string when it is released.
Product recommendation: Carbon Stabilizer System by Sharrow
This stabilizer measures at a sizable 30” from end to end can play an important role in reducing bow vibration. It’s main product features are the durable carbon stabilizer, adjustability, and durability. It can be used on both recurve bows and compound bows.
Click here to check prices.
Arrow rests are invaluable tools that are ideal for archers facing difficulty in shooting off the shelf. They make it easier to hold the arrow in position. The result is improved accuracy and consistency with performance.
Product recommendation: Magnetic Arrow Rest by Sharrow
This basic arrow rest is a must-have for beginners and advanced users alike. The arrow rest sticks on your riser and prevents your arrows from falling off easily when drawing. It supports both types; left hand and right-hand types.
Click here to check prices.
Put simply; a clicker aims to reduce inconsistencies in the shooting. Every time an archer shoots their arrow, they pass it through the clicker. When the arrow’s tip passes beyond the clicker’s magnetized arm, the arm promptly snaps back into place with a satisfying ‘click’ sound.
Advanced archers train to release the arrow just as soon as they’ve heard the click.
This improves consistency in performance. Clickers are used by advanced archers who are competing at high levels. To properly use the clicker, the archer must first master the correct technique during the beginner and intermediate growth stages.
Product recommendation: Clicker by Decut
This little addition to your recurve bow can really help you ace those long-distance shots. Every top Olympic recurve archer uses the clicker to gain a competitive edge. Make sure you’re not missing out. This product comes with screws for easy installation on most recurve bows.
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
Another significant factor we will analyze in this showdown between recurve bows and longbows is the choice of material. The construction material of choice for recurve bows include carbon fiber, metal, fiberglass, and wood.
These are differences between various types of recurve bows as well. For instance, traditional recurve bows are typically made of limited timber. In contrast, others choose a combo of carbon laminations, metal, fiberglass, and laminated wood. These materials make the recurve bow look more modern and can improve its accuracy as well as performance.
On the other hand, longbows are made from layered fiberglass ore laminated wood. Moreover, those made from wood often have a carbon center to strengthen their structure.
Care and Maintenance
It is relatively straightforward to clean and maintain both these types of bows. For the most part, you won’t have to worry too much about them, buy individual machines, tools, or devices to clean them. But when it comes to repairing damage between both bow types, things become a little different.
In recurve bows, you can always buy a new limb and reuse your bow again. This is true in the case of takedown models.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about longbows. Once they are broken, there isn’t much you can do. Even if you do manage to repair them, your performance won’t be the same anymore. It is simpler and better to buy a new longbow.
Two Types of Recurve Bows
Because recurve bows are more complex than longbows, you will find many variants of them when you shop for them. The two most common that you will find are traditional recurves and Olympic recurves.
An Olympic recurve bow is mostly used by archers competing in events. You may also run into archers who would bring their Olympic recurve bows for hunting, but this is relatively rare. An Olympic recurve bow uses accessories to improve accuracy, consistency, and power. The most common fixtures include things like stabilizers, clickers, and sights. These have been discussed in our comparisons above.
As the name suggests, traditional recurves are more old school and have been in use for thousands of years. While traditional recurves have the same shape as other recurve bows, they are mostly made from a solid piece of wood and do not have any equipment attached. In many ways, they share the same similarities with the longbow.
To give you a summary of the primary differences between longbows and recurve bows, we’ve created a helpful box below.
|Longbow||Traditional recurve||Olympic recurve|
|Nostalgia Factor||Historic||Less historic||Modern|
|Draw Weight||Very high||High||Medium|
The differences between longbows and recurve are not easy to understand. But understanding them can be the difference in competitions and sports events. If you want to go with raw power, choose the recurve bow. But if you prefer stealth and tradition, go with the longbow.
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.