Archery Bows Used in The Olympics

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Competition among archers is almost as old as the sport of archery itself, dating back hundreds if not thousands of years.

This competition allows one to establish bragging rights and encourages camaraderie among archers from various walks of life.

Regular competition also encourages continual improvement in the craft of archery as a whole.

Those archers disciplined enough in their endeavors can even find themselves earning a spot on their country’s Olympic team, competing against other top-tier archers from around the world.

This notion alone captivates many archers who wish to learn more about the sport of archery on the world stage, especially in regard to the type of equipment used.

What Type of Bow Is Olympic-worthy?

Unlike archers competing at the amateur level, Olympic archers are restricted in the type of equipment that they are permitted to use.

More specifically, Olympic archers are tied to a particular style of bow when entering a competition.

Currently, only recurve bows are permitted for use in Olympic-level competitions, with the use of compound bows or longbows being strictly forbidden.

This has been the overall standard for Olympic competitions since archery’s initial debut in the Olympic games in 1900.

At the time, the compound bow had not yet been invented, and the recurve bow was more universally employed for use around the world than the longbow.

This tradition of acceptance continues today, though significant technological advancements have been made in the realm of bow development in the intermediary.

The vast majority of recurve bows used in Olympic competition fall within a relatively narrow range of draw weights.

For male archers, this draw weight averages approximately 46-54 pounds. On the other hand, most female Olympic archers draw approximately 46-50 pounds of draw weight.

These tend to be rather reasonable figures when one considers that target archers are in search of maximum accuracy rather than optimized downrange kinetic energy.

Why Are Recurve Bows Used?

As we touched on above, the selection of the recurve bow as the bow of choice for the Olympic competition largely stems from the technological constraints of the day in which archery debuted as an Olympic sport.

At the time, the development of the compound bow was still more than 50 years from coming to fruition, and longbow use was somewhat geo-specific in terms of popularity.

For these reasons, the recurve bow was the most logical benchmark to be used as a means of measuring an archer’s proficiency.

This benchmark was widely accepted due to the universal nature of the recurve bow itself and the overall degree of popularity surrounding this type of bow.

Simply put, the use of the recurve bow in competition effectively leveled the playing field.

Though technology has changed since the earliest days of Olympic archery, the acceptance of the recurve bow as the medium by which an archer’s abilities are measured at this level of competition has not.

This can primarily be attributed to the fact that the compound bow is yet to gain as much popularity across much of the far east as it has in many Western nations.

The current general consensus is that adopting compound bows for Olympic use would favor Western countries where compound bow use tends to be much more prevalent.

However, this should eventually become less of a concern with the passage of time as compound bow use becomes more widespread across the globe.

In recent years, there has been a certain degree of petitioning by numerous parties for the compound bow’s inclusion in the Olympic archery competition.

However, to date, these petitions have been met with some amount of skepticism and opposition. Only time will tell if these petitions will eventually gain traction in the future.

How Much Does an Olympic Recurve Cost?

Many archers find themselves watching the Olympics, questioning how much is actually spent purchasing the particular recurve bows that are used in competition.

While these bows are certainly expensive, one might be surprised at their actual retail price, which is cheaper than some might initially anticipate.

Top-tier Olympic-grade recurve bows, such as those manufactured by Hoyt, often exceed $1,200 in price.

Though this is quite a bit pricier than the average recurve bow ($250-$500), it is still largely on par with today’s premium compound bows.

This is rather promising when one stops to consider that a recurve bow of this level is attainable to most anyone who is willing to pinch a few pennies and save over the course of a year or two.

For those shooting and partaking in “Olympic style” competitions, there are also several more affordable options to be found on today’s market.

Recurve bows of a general Olympic-spec configuration can be purchased for as little as $250-$300, for those seeking a decent recurve bow, at an absolutely phenomenal price.

Alternatively, one can order a recurve riser and limb set separately, thereby further dialing in their overall expenditure.

This also allows an archer to experiment with different combos to obtain the highest degree of accuracy for the price.

What Accessories Are Allowed?

a recurve bow with an arrow

Olympic rules are rather stringent regarding what accessories are allowed to be mounted to a recurve bow during competition.

One of the strictest of these rules centers around sight use. Sight aids are allowed in Olympic competitions, though any sight used must meet certain criteria.

A sight used in competition cannot feature any optical enhancements or magnifiers.

Additionally, recurve bows used in Olympic competitions are allowed to utilize stabilizers of a specific length.

Most main stabilizers in use measure between 29″ and 36″, while the bulk of top and bottom stabilizers measure between 12″ and 15″.

Counter-balance weights are also permissible for use in competition.

The type of arrow rests used in Olympic competitions are relatively limited and restricted by overall configuration.

Most archers opt for a competition-grade plunger, accompanied by a simplistic rest of a modified drop-away design. Some archers prefer bolt-on arrow rests, while others tend to lean toward stick-on rests.

Form aids can be used in Olympic competitions as well, assuming that they are pre-approved by the Olympic rules council.

Examples of these devices include kisser buttons and clickers. Devices of this type are not said to provide a strategic advantage to a particular archer but rather allow an archer to shoot in an identical manner to the way that they practice.

Additional Gear for The Olympic Archer

In addition to their recurve bow and accessories of choice, there are also several other pieces of equipment commonly employed by the well-disciplined Olympic Archer.

Some of the most vital of these pieces of equipment center around safety and comfort. Of this equipment, little is as widely used as the arm guard and/or chest protector.

These assemblies not only protect an archer from spring recoil but allow an archer to shoot all day in comfort.

Most will also quickly notice that most Olympic archers choose to utilize a string tab of one particular type or another.

This being said, some do opt for the use of a shooting glove. However, finger tabs are far more prevalent and are preferred by the bulk of today’s top-tier competition archers.

Nonetheless, this does come down to a matter of personal preference.


I'm Josh Boyd, and I've been a passionate hunter for over two decades. I strategically manage several properties and proudly serve as the Branch President for my local chapter of the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association). The following article was written by me, and I hope you find it both informative and engaging. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspects of it, please don't hesitate to reach out.

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