It seems that everywhere we look these days there’s a battle between tradition and modernity. In most cases, we have a hard time letting go of old things that have worked well enough in the past, in favor of adopting modern alternatives which are objectively better. This struggle translates to the archery scene too, where many archers are faced with whether the longbow (which is traditionally used) or the recurve bow (which is its modern alternative) is better for their hunting and competition needs alike. This being said, let’s have a look at the longbow vs. recurve bow battle and see what the deal is with each one.
Longbow vs. Recurve Bow
The longbow and the recurve bow are typically used for the same applications even though they’re inherently different. This is because one existed before the other (although, there is evidence of primitive recurve bows being used before the invention of the longbow), and even though longbows have been around for longer, recurve bows are objectively better in certain instances. Let’s have a look at each bow type and discuss their composition, applications, as well as their strengths, and weaknesses.
Longbows are known and easily identified by their long stick-like appearance. Until a bowstring is attached, the longbow is extended at a 90-degree angle. Once the string has been attached to both ends, the longbow staff is bent to its iconic, wide, D-shaped angle.
Due to the wide angle at which the string attaches to the ends of the bow, and the gap between the apex of the curve, the bow string never touches the bow itself, making this by far the quietest bow type out there, which is ideal for hunting scenarios.
Torqueing a longbow can be a strenuous exercise, which is why it’s often frowned upon by beginners. Although, learning to torque a bow without aid is a useful skill, especially in emergency situations. The primary grip of a longbow is easy to get used to though, and this in combination with its forgiving nature makes the longbow the ideal beginner tool in the opinion of most professional archers. The primary difference between recurve and longbows then, is the ease of use and artificial aid.
The Recurve Bow
Recurve bows are pretty much all the rage right now aside from compound bows. These bow types are most commonly used for hunting thanks to their ease of use, how compactly they can be folded and carried, and the fact they are more powerful than most other bows.
Recurve bows are characterized by the curve on either side of the bow arm that curves away from the archer. While this might seem like the key difference between recurve and longbow units, they also differ considerably in power and sound. The curve in the opposite direction allows the recurve bow to store more potential energy, which is why arrows fired with this bow type travel faster and subsequently with more force compared to ones fired from a longbow.
Keep in mind that the recurve bow creates more noise than the longbow, and thanks to the bow and string coming into contact with one another more often, it also means that you could get stung with a recurve bow a lot more than you would with a longbow. On the upside, recurve bow parts are readily available and cheap, whereas if a longbow were to break, you’d need to buy an entirely new unit.
Longbow vs. Recurve Bow Comparison
In the interest of simplicity, we’ve prepared a few short comparisons detailing the performance differences between longbows and recurve bows. We’ll have a look at how each handles when you’re learning to shoot, and what each is like in terms of speed and power, adjustability, and mobility. So, without further ado here are some of the most commonly asked about comparisons between longbows and recurve bows.
Hunting performance is one of the things that can be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing a bow. However, it’s pretty difficult to choose which one is the best considering that they are both so closely matched, but depending on what kind of hunting you’re doing, there are certain advantages to having a longbow or recurve.
If you’re doing your thing from behind a pop-up blind, then the recurve bow would be the best choice. Because they’re typically lighter and easier to move around than longbows which makes them ideal for spaces that aren’t particularly big. If you think that the longbow wouldn’t be good in a tree stand or ground hunting, there isn’t that much of a difference between it and the recurve bow in terms of maneuverability.
By now, you know that the longbow is longer and slightly louder than the recurve. However, even with the recurve being lighter, many only use it because it fires arrows faster, which is needed for certain applications. On the other hand, the longbow is far more forgiving and feels a bit more organic, which many archers prefer. At the end of the day, the recurve bow is objectively better but it’s really about your personal preference, or you could simply get yourself one of each!
Learning for Beginners
When you’re starting out arching, there isn’t really a right or wrong way to go about it. Whatever feels most natural, comfortable, and allows you to perform best, should be what you choose to shoot with. If you started off shooting with a compound bow, you’re going to have a hard time with the strength it takes to draw the string of a recurve bow, but you’ll be impressed with its speed and maneuverability.
If you’re looking to move from a compound bow to a traditional longbow, you might need a bit of time to adjust. Although longbows are far more forgiving when it comes to accuracy and positioning, they don’t have anywhere near the same speed and power that the recurve or compound bow does. However, the simplicity and range of a traditional bow make for a less stressful shooting experience which requires noticeably less focus.
Comfort when learning how to shoot is important too. Not just the grip that you have on your bow, but any potential sting from the string itself while shooting should be avoided. Not only can this result in some nasty bumps on your forearms but it can cause you to flinch when releasing your arrow, which doesn’t really set the right tone for the start of your archery journey.
It’s for this reason that if you’re going to start out with a longbow, we recommend you invest in an arm guard. Remember that a recurve has a bit more of a natural curve to it to prevent you from being stung by your bowstring. Longbows on the other hand don’t have as much of a curve, which leaves you a bit more vulnerable to the odd, unexpected sting, especially when little ones with short arms are learning the ropes with these traditional bows.
Recurve bows tend to shoot faster than most longbows, and this is usually because it’s easier to adjust their draw weight. However, this isn’t the best thing for beginners. Heavy draw weights can distract newcomers from developing their stance, technique, and environmental awareness during the learning process. It’s best to start with a light draw weight, and then to progress to heavier ones as your technique and confidence develop.
Speed and Accuracy
Speed and accuracy are things that you should consider if you’re interested in developing your skills to a point at which you will be able to compete in competitions. When it comes to both speed and accuracy, the receive bow is hands down the best, objectively speaking. Since the recurve bow is capable of storing more energy and has a more refined design overall, it produces more power and shoots more accurately than most longbows.
This being said, it doesn’t always mean that a recurve bow is the best choice for everyone. Beginners will find the longbow more forgiving and easier to manage compared to the recurve bow, but this has a lot to do with the material your bow is made of and its draw weight too. It is significantly easier to shoot with added weight on a recurve unit compared to a longbow one though.
You should also keep in mind that users of longbows claim that the likelihood of pinch when loading or releasing an arrow is far less compared to that of a recurve unit. What is a pinch you ask? A pinch is essentially when your finger gets pinched between the bow or bowstring when pulling the arrow back, which can upset your shot.
Recurve bows can also be a bit sensitive during the shooting process. Remember, recurve bows are lighter and shorter in length compared to longbows, so there isn’t any mass compensating for slight errors in positioning or grip. This can lead to a reliance on things like sights, which allow you to properly line up your target before releasing your arrow. However, sites can take away from the feel of a properly prepared shot since you have the option to rely on the sight instead of your stance, positioning, grip, and string tension.
Size and Mobility
Whether you’re doing field archery or target archery, the easier it is for you to move your bow around and load up your arrows, the better you tend to perform. Ergonomics, as with any sporting equipment, is important, and will often play a huge role in what type of bow you end up with. This decision shouldn’t be rushed either, as newcomers typically have their first bows for a year or two.
Which bow type is better in terms of size and mobility then? Well, longbows, as the name suggests, are pretty long and challenging to transport. This is because traditional bows consist of a single solid unit, which makes them a bit tricky to store when traveling or traversing 3D archery courses. Although, modern longbows weigh significantly less than their ancestors, and tend to be easier to lug around.
Recurve bows are the bow type you should consider if you travel around a lot and want to keep your archery skills sharp. One of the key characteristics of this bow type is that they are designed in a modular fashion, which not only makes them easier to take apart and put back together but also makes it a lot easier to replace parts that have broken or been lost in the field.
Recurve bows are also a lot lighter and smaller than their longbow counterparts which is why they’re arguably one of the most popular bow types. Their short length and light weight make them the best tool for traversing terrain and any other situation where you’d need to constantly adjust your stance or change elevation frequently.
This being said, if you’re a person of smaller build and don’t want to waste a ton of energy lugging around a bow that’s practically the same size as you, then the recurve bow might be a good fit for you. If you’re a large or moderately-built individual who enjoys the look and feel of a traditional bow and who doesn’t mind carrying it around like Legolas from Lord of the Rings, then there really isn’t a reason for you not to.
Availability and Culture
Surprisingly, archers who stick to a certain type of bow aren’t relegated to their own camps. Archers tend to mingle, practice, and compete with one another regardless of the type of bows, or even the type of archery they’re interested in. This might be because it’s easy to see the benefit of a bow type that isn’t your own, even if its characteristics don’t benefit you directly.
In actuality, most avid archers have more than one type of bow. This is because there are applications where a compound bow, longbow, and even recurve bow would be the best tool for the job. While they can all be used for the same applications, there are certain facets of each archery type at which they excel respectively.
Besides things like price and comfort, most people tend to go with a bow type that is most readily available. These days, compound and recurve bows are some of the most readily available bow types out there, which comes as no surprise considering so many new and young archers tend to hone their skills with them. However, this doesn’t mean that longbows are entirely uncommon.
Longbows (or traditional bows) can be found and handcrafted, which gives them sort of a cult following, but in a non-creepy way. Longbows can be custom-made, and there’s a sense of nostalgia and a smooth natural feel to longbows that other bow types like recurve and compounds simply cannot replicate. This is why many archers swear by the long bow, even if they own other bow types, and this is part of the reason it hasn’t been entirely replaced over the years.
When it comes down to it, every bow not only has its positive characteristics but a subset of the archery sport which has been devoted to it. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference, and which bow allows you to perform best and develop your skill along your journey. We would recommend that you give each bow type a try at least once, though.
Which Type of Bow Is Used for Which Type of Archery?
By now you know that there are different types of bows that are used for different parts of archery. This being said, which types of bows are best suited for which types of archery? Let’s have a look at the different types of archery and which bow types are best suited for practicing in them. Keep in mind that certain bow types are just objectively better, and this doesn’t mean that you won’t have a better experience personally with another type of bow in the same setting.
Target archery usually takes place indoors either recreationally or in a competitive setting. Archers will compete for points based on accuracy and distance in various competitions. These can be group-based events or single participants competing for first place. Being that the events usually take place indoors, a recurve is best suited as it’s easier to set up, maneuver, adjust, and carry without tiring yourself too much. This doesn’t mean that a longbow is out of the question, but it certainly wouldn’t be the ideal choice for an indoor scenario.
Field archery is basically any type of archery that takes place outdoors, but there are subsets of field archery that you can participate in. Field archery requires a lot more attention to detail when setting up a shot, as you will have to account for things like wind speed, direction, elevation, obstacles, and even wild animals (although not very often for safety reasons).
In this instance, a longbow and recurve bow are good options, as a longbow is more forgiving in terms of its sensitivity to your input, and a recurve bow tends to shoot more accurately because it is so sensitive to your input. A recurve bow also shoots arrows faster, and with more power, which is ideal for hitting targets over large distances.
Think of 3D archery as a field archery expedition. Essentially, you are free to explore the environment of the field archery course and shoot targets which usually consist of Styrofoam animals. Points are awarded for hitting parts of the cutouts where the animals’ vital organs would be located, so it functions as a good practicing environment for hunting game.
In 3D archery, there isn’t really a good choice between a recurve and longbows. It comes down to which bow type you are most comfortable with, as unlike conventional field archery events or target archery you’re going to be walking around quite a bit, and probably calibrating your bow, string, and any add-ons such as sights and stabilizers on the fly.
Recurve and longbows are both perfectly fine choices for bow hunting. Since bowhunting is essentially 3D archery with live targets, the same principle applies. You’re going to want to use whichever bow type makes the most sense to you, with the only difference being that we recommend you use a draw weight with more than 40 pounds.
The debate about using recurve vs. longbow for hunting is purely subjective then. Sure, recurve bows are more powerful and are generally more powerful, but they’re pretty much useless unless they’re in the hands of someone skilled in their use. It takes a lot more practice to use a recurve bow effectively, and that’s why there are tons of hunters that prefer using a longbow instead.
The difference in using a recurve vs. a longbow for hunting comes down to precision and power then. While the longbow might not have the power or inherent precision of a recurve bow, it is far more forgiving, consists of fewer components, requires less maintenance, and provides a natural feel to the operator. You might need to use a larger draw weight when working with a longbow to achieve the striking force conducive for hunting though.
Is a Recurve Bow Better Than a Longbow or Vice Versa?
Is a recurve bow better than a longbow? Is a longbow better than a recurve bow? This depends on how you define “better”. While a recurve bow is more powerful and tends to be inherently more precise, longbows require less maintenance, are more forgiving, and are easier to learn with in comparison.
It also depends on your level of skill, after all, if you were to compare an archer with six years of experience with a longbow to an archer who’s spent two years with a recurve unit, it wouldn’t exactly be a fair fight. Proficiency and practice often play a bigger role in the performance of a bow in real-life scenarios than the bow itself does.
Now that you know what a longbow and recurve bow are respectively, what both their strengths and their weaknesses are, which applications they are best suited for, how they compare under certain conditions, which one is best for hunting, and which one is best overall, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always consider which bow type makes you feel most comfortable, what type of shooting you’ll be doing, and whether you will be doing the majority of your shooting indoors or outdoors when making your choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Recurve Bow Better Than a Longbow?
Longbows might be less inherently accurate and powerful than a recurve, but they are more forgiving. This means that longbows are better for use by beginner archers are little adjustments won’t affect their shot too much, and since it’s more comfortable to hold and consists of fewer parts, it is ideal for kids too.
Why Is a Recurve Bow More Powerful?
Recurve bows are more powerful than traditional bows because they store more energy. This is thanks to their edges that lean away from the archery, which alters their draw strength and enables you to fire arrows much faster compared to using most longbows.
What Is a Recurve Bow Good For?
Recurve bows are one of the most versatile bow types. They can be used in most archery events including field archery, target archery, 3D archery, and even bow hunting. Recurve bows are known for their speed and accuracy, but there is quite a steep learning curve for beginners looking to use this bow type.