Longbow vs Recurve Bow Which is Best?

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Throughout time, numerous varieties of bows have existed, each one offering its own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages. Some of these bow designs have faded into obscurity as centuries have passed by. Others have stood the test of time and are still prominent within the world of archery today.

What follows is a comprehensive comparison between two such bows that have remained popular despite the passage of many years; the longbow vs. recurve bow.

The history of both the longbow and recurve bow dates back thousands of years, with their basic design remaining essentially unchanged since their inception.

Instinctive Archery - Recurve Bow / Longbow differences explained. - revised

These bows have both bridged the gap between primitive weapons within the combat landscape, into their current following as beloved possessions of traditional archers worldwide.

Recurve vs Longbow

Although similar in their intended use, there are many differences between the longbow and recurve bow. Each of these two offerings is distinct within their subtle variances, with each carrying immense value to the archer’s that wield them.


When comparing the level of nostalgia attached to both the longbow and recurve bow, each features their deep-rooted rich history (Read more about a good bowstring wax here)

While the exact inventor of the longbow is often disputed, it is commonly thought to have originated in Scandinavia or Germany, with later renditions appearing in Wales around 1000 A.D.

The recurve bow is believed to have been developed in Asia; with some accounts stating primitive versions appeared in approximately 1000 B.C.

Though both bow varieties will certainly make you feel as if you have traveled back, far into the days of old, the longbow holds an unparalleled level of nostalgia in the eyes of many.

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In nearly every rendition of a primitive archer in any number of forms of print, a longbow can be found. With a longbow in hand, you will find it difficult to not feel like Robin Hood himself.


When comparing the speed of a longbow to that of a recurve bow, there is little dispute as to which has the definite edge. Due to a recurve bow’s sharply sweeping limb tips, a much more substantial amount of energy can be stored in its limbs, as opposed to those of a longbow.

This additional storage of energy equates to increased speed. The standard longbow and its far more conservative limb design can simply not match this level of speed.

Though this is typically the case, modernized longbows with more aggressive limbs do exist for purchase on today’s market, by those that seek speed but shun the idea of a recurve bow.


When comparing the level of noise made by both longbows and recurve bows, a longbow is definitely the quieter of the two options. Although, as previously mentioned, a recurve bow has the edge when speed is in question, all of this speed does not come without a tradeoff.

As the excess energy from a recurve bow is expelled upon the release of an arrow, a notable amount of sound can be heard.

There is also a certain level of audible string-to-limb slap that occurs when a recurve archer releases their arrow. This occurs as a direct result of a rebounding bowstring making contact with the curvature of a recurve bow’s limbs.

A recurve bow can be quieted to levels similar to those of a longbow with the installation of string dampeners.


When discussing which bow has the longest effective range, a recurve bow surpasses the performance of its longbow cousin. This is due to a recurve bow’s superior energy storage within its limbs, stemming from their obvious heavy curvature.

Longbows, on the other hand, feature lengthy sweeping limbs that do not have the propensity to store energy to the level of a recurve.

This energy equates into increased range as a byproduct of the relationship between speed and trajectory. The faster an arrow shoots, the flatter its trajectory of flight becomes.

This, by default, makes the trajectory of a recurve bow fired arrow far superior to that of a longbow, thereby reducing arrow drop and extending range.


The way that a bow handles during every portion of the shot sequence is critical, as a smooth shooting bow helps to cement proper form into an archer’s muscle memory, thereby leading to improved consistency and accuracy in the long run.

This is an invaluable trait for a bow to possess, thus it can become a determining factor in the enjoyment of your archery experience.

In general, a recurve bow is known to feature a much smoother draw cycle, in part due to its moderate-sized limbs. The lengthier limbs of a longbow often lead to less consistency in draw weight during the draw cycle itself.

However, with ample practice, these discrepancies can be overcome, allowing a longbow archer to shoot with a high degree of efficiency.


When attempting to decipher which variety of traditional bow (read more about the PSE archery oryx 68 longbow) is most cost-effective, there is no clear winner. Both longbows and recurve bows come in a wide array of price ranges, with an individual being able to spend as much or little as they want when purchasing either.

The takeaway from this information is that longbows and recurve bows are both highly affordable options for those looking to get into archery. Either of these lines of traditional bows offers numerous models for a prospective archer to choose from, with many costing as little as $200.

The Winner Is…

Best For Beginners: Recurve Bow

The vast majority of new archers will find that a recurve bow is the most applicable choice when attempting to suit their needs. One advantage of a recurve bow for a beginner is that they are more common than a longbow, allowing for a wider selection of bows to choose from.

The prominence of recurve bows often makes the acquisition of needed gear less tedious as well.

Best For Hunters: Recurve Bow

Although a longbow definitely has its place when hunting, especially due to its quiet shooting characteristics, a recurve bow tends to be the better selection overall due to its superior level of portability.

From hunting in a heavily concealed treestand to remaining tucked away within the confines of a blind, the size of a longbow can easily become impractical in a number of hunting situations.

Best For Youth: Recurve Bow

A recurve bow makes the best selection for youth archers for two reasons. The first of these reasons is that the sheer size of a longbow can create difficulty for individuals of small stature, leading to a less than enjoyable overall experience.

Additionally, parents should consider starting their child with a recurve bow as most youth leagues and events utilize recurve bows within their competitions. By allowing your child to become familiar with shooting a recurve bow, they are better prepared for what is ahead.

Better selection due to

  • Size of a longbow
  • Recurve bows are utilized with most youth leagues

Longbow Or Recurve?

Though both a longbow and recurve bow are time-honored classics within the realm of archery, it appears that the recurve bow has a slight edge between the two varieties.

With quick and precise arrow flight and the improved shot trajectory that results, a recurve bow makes the perfect companion, whether in the field or at the range. However, never underestimate the value of the highly nostalgic and inherently quiet shooting longbow, as its merit are also well deserved.

No matter your personal preference, by choosing a bow specific to your needs, you will be well on your way to years of endless archery enjoyment.

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.

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