In archery, there are a lot of confusing names and technical terms when it comes to the equipment involved. However, one of the most commonly known pieces of archery equipment in the modern day is certainly the recurve bow.
This is the kind of bow that is used in Olympic archery events, as well as just about every archery competition in the world. It has a wholly different set of characteristics from a traditional longbow and there are plenty of reasons why it’s so popular.
But you might be wondering why it’s even called a recurve bow. After all, don’t all bows have some kind of curve in them?
Well, the name actually comes from the tips of the recurve bow. Because the tips curve away from the archer, in the other direction to the larger curve in the frame, they are called ‘recurve’ bows.
In this article, we’ll be going over what design features and characteristics set recurve bows apart from the rest and help you work out which one is best for your archery.
What Is A Recurve Bow?
We’ve already established why recurve bows have their name. They have a main curve just like any other kind of bow but then also another ‘re’-curve at each tip, in the opposite direction.
However, there’s a lot more to these kinds of bows than just the shape of the frame. Recurve bows are able to store much more energy during the drawback and deliver this energy more efficiently than other bows.
The recurved tips also work harder than they would with a normal bow, meaning they are a little more susceptible to wear and damage.
However, this can easily be combatted by good craftsmanship and durable materials. With this in mind, it’s clear to see how an arrow fired from a recurve bow would be different from other bows. Let’s take a look at the recurve bow compared to some other popular designs:
Recurve Bows Vs Longbows
While recurve bows have been around for thousands of years, longbows have been used by humans for even longer, dating back as early as around 4000 BC!
The simple design involves a piece of wood with a single curve in it and a bowstring between the two tips. Despite its ancient history, the longbow is still used by some archers today As you might expect, it has quite a few differences from the standard recurve bow.
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In terms of drawback smoothness, longbows aren’t quite as nice to use as recurve bows. They require more effort to build up the same amount of energy and generally require more physical exertion from the archer.
However, you might find that you can draw the string of a longbow back even further than you can with a recurve bow. Longbow frames are often more flexible and will allow the archer to achieve a similar amount of total maximum energy output with each shot.
This results in an overall equally fast arrow with every shot. The key difference is that longbows just require more effort to achieve these speeds.
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Another distinct difference between the two is the noise that each makes when firing a shot. Because recurve bows tend to store a lot more energy through the bow itself, it produces a louder noise.
Longbows, on the other hand, are relatively quiet when firing. Finally, the difference that sways most longbow users is the nostalgic design and feel of the bow.
If you look at medieval tapestries and paintings of soldiers using bows and arrows in combat, you’ll most often see them using longbows. This makes the bow very popular among modern-day war reenactors.
Recurve Bows Vs Compound Bows
If the longbow is a blast from the past, compound bows are certainly a modern-day advancement in archery. These bows use levering systems made up of pulleys and cables to bend the limbs of the bow and produce an altogether more powerful shot.
Basically, the frame of a compound bow does more of the work for the archer, resulting in less physical exertion for the same amount of energy generated with each shot.
Interestingly, this high-tech construction also results in compound bows being less sensitive to environmental factors like temperature and humidity affecting their usefulness. The benefits of using a compound bow over a recurve bow are pretty clear to see.
Compounds are generally more accurate and powerful than recurves. This is because they can build up more energy during the drawback, resulting in faster-flying arrows.
This also equates to longer shots, meaning archers can more accurately hit targets from a greater distance.
However, as with all things in life, this type of bow isn’t perfect. One of the downsides of using a compound bow is that they tend to be heavier than recurve bows.
All of the extra components and materials equate to more overall mass that you’ll have to carry around with your other equipment.
Also, because they are so much more technologically advanced than other bows, compounds tend to have a lot more that can go wrong with them. They, therefore, require a higher level of maintenance to keep them in good working order.
There you have it, that’s why recurve bows have their name. There’s no dramatic historical story behind it, it’s simply due to the shape of the limbs! Despite recurve bows being the most popular in the world, there are still plenty of other constructions and designs out there.
Each bow variety has its own set of pros and cons, each of which will suit them better or worse to your own personal needs. Ask yourself what kind of archery you want to do, how often you’ll need your bow, and what your budget is.
Then, you should be able to decide which kind of bow is best for you!