Are you new to archery and trying to decide on exactly what type of bow you should buy to start out with? Should you go with a recurve bow or a traditional longbow, and what are the pros and cons of each type of bow.
You’ve come to the right place, in this guide we’re going to go through all of the most important details of both recurve bows and longbows – to give you all of the facts to choose the right bow for you and your archery style.
So if you’re ready to get started, let’s get right to the details:
Firstly, if you’re new to archery you’re definitely going to need one of these, regardless of which type of bow you end up shooting. You can thank me later.
The next thing that you need to consider when you’re thinking about what type of bow to pick up is what exactly are you going to be using it for? There are several different types of archery, and it’s important to figure out exactly which of these that you’ll most likely be shooting with you new bow.
The most common types of archery are target archery, field archery, hunting, traditional archery and 3d archery, respectively. Chances are that you’ll want to practice more than one of these different styles of archery.
Depending upon which of these styles of archery you’re planning on shooting, some of these specify what type of bow you’ll need to compete in them. For instance, Olympic target archers can only shoot with recurve bows.
While some types of archery do have strict rules like the Olympics, there are other types that allow different types of bows to be used. As an example, many 3D archery shoots and tournaments have a special longbow or traditional archery class – which allows archers to shoot longbows in their own special competitive division.
So I’ll start by giving you the short and to the point answer, and then you can continue reading for all of the more in depth details. So let’s start with a quick run down of both longbows and recurve bows to see which type of bow is better for you:
Longbows are great for casual backyard shooting and traditional archery applications. They can also be used in target, field and 3D archery – although they’re not a common as recurve bows. They can be used for bowhunting, but special attention must be paid to the draw weight of the bow.
- Longbows are generally more forgiving.
- They tend to be easier for beginners to use.
- Are much easier on the archer’s fingers and joints.
- Longbows shoot more quietly than recurve bows.
- Longbows can have more hand shock on the bow hand.
- They’re not normally as good for bowhunting (must have a higher draw weight).
- Longbows are larger, and therefore harder to store and transport.
Longbows are great for beginners, they’re much easier to shoot with accuracy for inexperienced archers and offer a great way to get into archery. If you’re thinking about getting a longbow, I would recommend this killer longbow, it’s a great bow that’s currently selling at over 30% off the retail price.
Probably the most versatile type of bow, recurve bows can be used for target archery, field archery, 3D archery and bow hunting. Recurve bows excel at power, speed and accuracy. While they have a bit of a learning curve, if you put in the practice you’ll be rewarded. If you decide on a recurve bow, you’ll want to get one of these to keep it tuned up.
- Recurves offer both more power and speed than longbows.
- They are generally much more accurate than longbows.
- Takedown recurve bows allow you to shoot at a lighter draw weight and then increase the draw weight by simply buying new limbs – instead of having to buy a whole new bow.
- Recurves can be better for bowhunting (provided the correct draw weight is used).
- (Especially takedown) Recurve bows are much easier to store and transport.
- Are the most versatile type of bow, and can be used in several different types of archery.
- Recurve bows are more challenging to shoot than longbows.
- They will require more practice to shoot accurately than longbows.
- May put more stress on muscles and joints.
- Recurve bows shoot louder than longbows.
If you’re considering picking up a recurve bow, you should really check out this beginner’s recurve set. It’s got all the accessories that you’ll need, and then some. If you’re only interested in the bow itself, have a look at the Samick Sage – it’s one of my favorite bows on the market.
Here’s a quick and simple run down of the most practiced different types or styles of archery:
Probably the most commonly thought of type of archery today, target archery is what most people think of when you ask them about archery. Target archery uses the typical circle within a circle type archery targets that most people are familiar with.
Target archery is the Olympic form of competitive archery that most people have seen on TV. While target archery could technically be shot with any type of bow, it’s most commonly shot with compound-bows and recurve bows. The latter of the two being the only type of bow shot in the Olympics.
Target archery is simply shooting at still targets and various distances, then the shots are scored. If you’re serious about target archery you’ll most likely want to buy a recurve bow.
Similar to target archery, field archery involves shooting at stationary targets at various distances. Some of the differences between the two are:
Field archery can be shot indoors and out, three different types of targets are commonly used and it can be done on a walking course of targets. While indoor field archery doesn’t differ all that much from target archery, outdoor field archery is vastly different.
Target archery is simply shooting in a straight line standing still, while in field archery you could be walking an outdoor course and shooting at targets in the woods uphill and downhill from you. I wrote a guide on everything you need to get started in field archery, check it out if you’re new to the sport.
Both recurve bows and longbows can be used for field archery, so you can pick whichever one feels best for you. Just be sure to check the rules of any local field archery clubs or organizations that you’d like to shoot in before you commit to buying your bow.
Bowhunting is pretty self explanatory, hunting wild game with a bow and arrow. While compound bows are the most commonly used type of bows for bow hunting, any type of bow could be used. If you do decide to use either a recurve bow or longbow for hunting, you should only use a bow with a draw weight of forty pounds or more.
For those of you who like the idea of doing things the historic way, traditional archery may just be the thing for you. For the most part, traditional archery involves shooting only wooden bows with wooden arrows, fletched with real feathers.
While there are no “rules” when it comes to traditional archery (at least not as far as I’m aware of), most people tend to only use historically accurate gear. There are however some people that will use a wooden bow with carbon arrows as well, it’s more just down to your own personal preference and how historically accurate you wish to be.
Here’s a post I wrote as a beginner’s guide to traditional archery, be sure to have a look if you’re thinking about getting into the sport. The two most commonly used bows in traditional archery are longbows and one piece, wooden recurve bows.
My own personal favorite type of archery today, 3D archery is similar in some ways to field archery, while having it’s own unique differences. 3D archery is often shot on a walking course, shooting at different targets at each stop. The targets are life sized, 3D representations of different animals.
The 3D targets are normally placed at unmarked distances from the archer throughout a walking course in the woods. The targets may be uphill, downhill or partially obscured by trees and brush. It’s a great way to practice hunting, and a great sport in and of itself.
If you do decide to invest in a 3D archery target, be sure to read my guide on the best 3D archery targets for the money, it covers which of the targets on the market today are the highest quality and are available at the lowest prices.
Both recurve bows and longbows are great for 3D archery. If you want to be able to compete in the most 3D shoots and tournaments, you’ll probably want to pick up a recurve bow – as some tournaments will only allow longbow archers to compete in a special longbow or traditional division (called a “class”).
You may find that more than one of the above styles of archery interests you. If that’s the case, you could go with whichever type of bow is the best match for shooting both styles. Or, if you’re far more serious about one style over the others – you should get the proper bow for that style first. You can always try other styles of archery that you’re not as serious about at a later time.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the different types of archery and their bows, let’s check out both the longbow and the recurve bow in a little more detail…
If you’re brand new to archery, it’s important that you know that longbows can be more forgiving to newbies that recurve bows. For a beginner, longbows are typically much easier to shoot with more accuracy.
The reason for this being that the body of the longbow is thick, which in turn makes it harder to twist the limbs of bow (also called torquing). When you’re new to archery, bad form will cause the thin limbs of a recurve bow to torque – causing your shots to be off target.
Longbows prevent this, especially for new archers that have yet to develop proper form. Quite simply: Since the limbs cannot be torqued, the arrows will fly much straighter to the target.
Another benefit of the longbow is that the long length of it causes less tension on the fingers of the archer when the bow is pulled back and held at full draw. Additionally, this also means less force on your fingers when you release the arrow. Longbows are just all around more gentle on your fingers and your joints than most other types of bows, which makes them easier for most newbie archers to learn how to shoot.
On the downside, longbows can have more “hand shock” than most other types of bows. Hand shock is a term for an uncomfortable shock that is sent through the body from the string hitting it’s standing point when the bowstring is released. Some longbows have this, and depending on the bow, it could be quite annoying.
There are some longbows that have a little hand shock, which is easy to ignore. While there are some bows that have a lot of hand shock – which will make you want to throw out your bow. If you’re buying a bow online, be sure to read the reviews before you buy.
I’ve also recommended a couple of good longbows here, which have received plenty of good reviews.
If the idea of traditional archery, and shooting in the way that archers did thousands of years ago really appeals to you – you will probably want to get a longbow over a recurve bow.
Longbows are great for beginners, great for backyard shooting and somewhat versatile. You can hunt with them if you buy one with enough draw weight (at least forty or fifty pounds), and they’re alright for both 3D and field archery. Oh, and they’re perfect for those medieval and renaissance fairs and festivals, too.
For those of you who may not know, the ‘recurve’ in recurve bow refers to it’s shape. While traditional longbows have that classic letter D shape, recurve bows curve back away from the archer at the tips of the bow’s limbs.
Because of the unique shape of the recurve bow, more power is directed into the arrow – causing recurve bows to shoot both faster and with more power than most longbows.
In fact, if you were to shoot both a recurve bow and a longbow of the exact same draw weight, the recurve bow would shoot faster than it’s longbow counterpart.
Recurve bows (when shot with proper form) tend to be more accurate overall than longbows. While longbows can range from alright to good when it comes to accuracy, modern recurve bows are engineered for accuracy.
It’s for that exact reason that recurve bows are the only types of bows shot in Olympic target archery.
Recurve bows are an all around great choice of bow if you’re serious enough about archery to put in the time to learn to shoot properly. Over time you’ll develop good form, which will make a recurve bow a really good bow for most types of archery.
Recurve bows are great for target archery, field archery and 3D archery alike. They can also be used for hunting, again just be sure you buy a bow with a draw weight of at least forty pounds or better if you plan on going hunting with it.
Also, recurve bows (especially take down recurve bows) are easier to store, pack up and hunt with than longbows. You can move through the woods and brush far easier that you could with a six foot long longbow.
Storage and Travel
That brings us to what you could expect when it comes to both storing and traveling with your bow. Longbows typically range from five and a half to six feet long or more. That makes longbows a bit more of a pain to transport, even if we’re just talking about a quick trip in the car to go shooting. You’ll need more awkward room in that car with a longbow than you would with a recurve bow.
Unlike recurve bows, longbows don’t have a bow string that makes contact with the limbs of the bow when the arrow is released, that makes them pretty quiet to shoot. Even if you were to use string silencers on a recurve bow, they would still be louder to shoot than a longbow in most situations.
Overall, longbows win in the stealth department, and a longbow with string silencers borders on Ninja stealth!
While you’re stuck with the draw weight of a longbow once you’ve bought one, take-down recurve bows are not limited in this way. Most companies that manufacture take down recurves offer limbs of different draw weights that can be attached to your bow.
So if you find that your bow’s draw weight is either to light or too heavy for you, you can just buy new limbs for your bow – instead of having to buy a brand new bow altogether.
Plus, this allows beginner archers to start by shooting a lower draw weight, and then move up once they’ve developed proper form. As the strength of your draw muscles increase over time, you can increase the draw weight of your bow.
When it comes to a bow’s draw weight, always start lighter and work up to higher draw weights.
The Bottom Line
Deciding whether you should go with a recurve bow or a longbow is decided by a lot of different factors. What will you be primarily using your bow for? What are your second and third areas of interest? Are you more into accuracy, or the feel of a traditional bow?
If you look at the information that’s been provided by lots of tests (in the form of records of national and international archery tournaments and competitions): Recurves generally out shoot longbows when it comes to speed, accuracy and distance.
Knowing this, does this make you want a recurve more than a longbow? If it does, you’ll probably want to pick up a recurve bow.
If it doesn’t, a longbow may be for you. Remember, longbows do have certain advantages over recurve bows. Plus, if you’re not competing in any tournaments, who can shoot faster or longer may not matter to you at all.
Those numbers won’t determine which type of bow that you’ll enjoy shooting more, nor will they affect your backyard shooting, hunting or casual shooting with friends.
Hey, you could even get one of each and use them depending on what type of shooting you’re doing, or what kind of mood your in. I know I did.
So I hope this has helped you figure out what type of bow is better suited for you. Good luck with your purchase and get out there and get shooting.