Are Compound Bows More Powerful Than Recurve?

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Power is essential in archery. It gives arrows speed and distance, projecting them at their target with lots of force. Most archers use either compound or recurve bows, both of which are powerful in their own ways. But which one is more powerful?

Which Bow Is More Powerful?

Compound and recurve bows are two of the most popular bows on the market. Both feature designs that will add to their power.

Namely, the recurve bow is curved so that it can store more energy, resulting in its shots being more powerful than for example made from a regular longbow of the same size.

Meanwhile, compound bows are given increased power due to their mechanical systems. A lot of cables, cams, pullers, and other moving parts work together to create a powerful bow.

When it comes to power, both bows have their advantages.


The maximum draw weights available for recurve bows are somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 pounds. Bear Archery has the Super Kodiak available on their website available with a maximum draw weight of 65 lbs.

If you are looking into takedown recurve bows – Bear even offers take-down limbs with a draw weight of 70 lbs.


Draw weights of up to 80 lbs. are available. Manufactures like Hoyt or PSE offer several models (ex. Evoke 31) with a peak draw weight of 80 lbs!

So if you look at the numbers, it’s clear that compound bows are more powerful. And not only that, modern compounds have a let-off of up to 90%.

What does that mean? Well, if you draw your bow and hold it at full draw, you actually need to hold only 10% of the peak draw weight! Let’s do some quick math – if you have a bow with an 80 lbs. peak draw weight and 90% let-off, at full draw you will be holding only 8 lbs. of weight!

This is one of the reasons why compounds are so popular among hunters or competitive archers. You´re able to hold the bow longer at full draw – and possibly can place an accurate shot.

If you draw a recurve bow that has a draw weight of let’s say 70 pounds – you need to be strong enough to hold this weight all by yourself. No let-off, no mechanical devices to help you here. And believe me – that’s quite some weight to hold steady.

What Are The Differences Between Them?

What Are The Differences Between Them?

Aside from the power and speed differences between compound and recurve bows, there are also a few other essential properties that separate them.

These include:


One of the main differences between these two bows is their design. Recurve bows are curved, with the limbs pointing away from the archer.

Meanwhile, the main design feature of compound bows is that they use a pulley system. No such system is present on a recurve bow.

This not only affects the looks of these bows but also how they are used. Due to the design, compound bows tend to feel stiffer.


Another quality that separates these bows is that they have been around for different lengths of time. While recurve bows were used by ancient cultures, compound bows are more of a recent development.

The first model was created by Holless Wilbur Allen in 1966.

The modernity of the compound bow reflects its more mechanical construction. In contrast, the recurve bow is more simplistic in design.


Also, compound bows are usually more customizable than other bows. This means that you can alter them depending on the needs of the archer. More basic bows, such as longbows and recurve bows, are less adaptable.

Strength Requirements

Due to the fact that compound bows rely on a pulley system, less upper body strength is required to use them. This puts less strain on the archer. In contrast, a somewhat high degree of strength is required to use a recurve bow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Compound Bows More Powerful Than Longbows?

Longbows are one of the oldest forms of bows. Yet, like recurve bows, they are still used today. In terms of their power, longbows tend to be somewhat limited.

In terms of speed, longbows can only reach about 180 fps. This impacts the speed of the longbow, resulting in compound bows being much more powerful.

This is likely a consequence of their designs, with longbows being rather basic.

Are Recurve Bows Accurate?

Yes, most recurve bows have high levels of accuracy. But let´s not forget, the main thing that affects the accuracy of a bow is the skill of the archer!

Other things, such as the weight and length of the arrow can also affect this. But in general, recurve bows are as accurate as other bow types.

Final Thoughts

So, are compound bows more powerful than recurve bows? Generally speaking yes! Other factors such as let-off, weight, and draw length also play a role in this.

However, it is important to remember that the power of a bow is not everything. Different types of bows have different benefits. Ultimately, the best bow for you will depend on your needs and preferences as an archer!

I am the founder and chief editor here at BowAddicted. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors! It's been an amazing journey so far with some ups and downs, but it's worth it to spend time outside with friends and family.