How to Choose a Recurve Bow: Ultimate Guide

showing all types of different recurve bows inside an indoor archery range

If you’re new to recurve bows, or looking to replace your current recurve with one that’s more thrilling, you need to know the nitty-gritty of finding a good bow.

The brutal truth is without some basics, you’re at the mercy of the salesperson at the archery shop.

And he/she may not be of much help especially if he/she is after making a quick sale.

Luckily, choosing a recurve isn’t that complicated even if you’re very green.

Read on to see how to approach the process:

Don’t obsess about the brand name

To begin with, today the market is saturated and it’s much, much harder to know the brands that make the cut and who doesn’t.

Funny enough, most of them claim to have the best recurve bow in the market.

You will meet big names such as Hoyt Archery, Bear Archery, and the increasingly popular Great Plains Traditional Bow Co.

There are also tens of smaller names vying for your attention.

Of course, there are those who believe in buying the ‘devil you know’ meaning known manufacturers.

However, I personally believe that a name has little to do with the quality of the bow.

Then, most of the so-called industry leaders tend to price their bows expensively (makes sense since they have the market).

Yet, from my experience, some of the emerging players could have some excellent bows at more affordable prices.


Don’t lose sleep over the name. Focus on the quality and your needs.

Recurve Bow Fit

A bow that fits you well will make you fall even deeper in love with the sport.

How to size a recurve bow

Sizing a bow generally comes down to focusing on three major factors..

1. Your draw weight

Draw weight is, in short, the amount of force you will need to pull the bow. We measure it in pounds (commonly denoted as #).

In ordinary circumstances, a recurve’s draw weight grows heavier the farther you pull it- unlike compound bows which tend to ‘ease’ the farther it’s drawn because of the pulley/cam system.

The question is: how do you determine your ideal draw weight for a recurve bow?

Here is what you need to know.

First, most traditional bows – longbows and recurves- average draw weights of between 15 to 55 pounds.

Then, manufacturers publish draw weight charts depending on factors like your body strength, age, height, and more.

On the whole, draw weight fit as follows..

  • Children weighing below 100 pounds: Use bows with 10-15 pounds draw weight.
  • Small to medium built females:  Start with bows between 25 – 35 pounds
  • Males of average height: Choose 40-55 lbs draw weight.
  • Larger males: Use 40-60 pounds draw weight.

I recommend that you examine the charts provided by the manufacturer and pick a bow that fits your range.

In addition, if you’re totally lost, start with low poundage. It will help you learn and improve form.

You can always change to a serious option when you’re dialed in.

2. Your draw length

To get your draw length, you measure how long your arm span is (in inches).

It’s a value very simple to get..

You simply place a measuring tape at the tip of your first hand’s middle finger and pull it all the way to the tip of your other hand’s middle finger.

For accuracy, ensure that your arms are fully outstretched –both sides- and that your palms are facing forward.

Now you can read the value on the tape.

But that’s not the answer..

To get the draw length, divide it by 2.5.

That now is your draw length.

Better still, you can request a friend to help you take the measurement.

Next, you’ll match your draw length with your bow’s length as you will learn next

3. Bow length

Regarding your best bow length, the rule of the thumb is quite simple:

Take your draw length and multiply it by 2.

Mathematically, Bow Length= 2 X Draw Length.

Just that!

Your last step is to look up the draw length vis-à-vis the best possible bow length size.

This chart should help.

Draw length (inches)Recommended Bow
26– 2866″-68″
28– 3068″-70″

Also note that longer bows happen to be generally more accurate.

I have to add that sometimes you may find your most comfortable bow length to be slightly different but all in all, this is the way to start.

How important are these measurements?

Well, factoring in the above measurements is super important.

Let me ask you..

Have you ever jogged with an ill-fitting shoe? Well, the feeling is almost the same if you miss the above numbers.

In a nutshell, you’ll suffer poor form, weird shots, and you’ll be very uncomfortable with an ill-sized bow.

What type of shooting will you be participating in?

If you think there’s a single bow that fits everything, you’re totally wrong.

You see, some of us are passionate hunters and there are some true gems

It’s hence vital that you select a bow that’s built for your specific needs.

Let me take you through the general guidelines..

· Target archery

If you’re venturing into target shooting, nearly all recurves will excel.

That said, you will find most target shooters quite at home with bows with 15-70 pounds draw weight.

Still there, majority of the 3D archers shoot recurves having draw weights between 50-60 pounds.

Lastly, I don’t think that you need a superpower recurve at all in target practice so other questions like your budget (more on this shortly) might be more fundamental.

· Hunting

You will need to be more selective if you’re into game hunting.

Specifically, the lowest you can go is 40 pounds otherwise the arrow will fail to sufficiently penetrate your quarry’s thick skin to hurt the vital areas.

You don’t want this to happen since it’s unethical.

Actually, most states have set a minimum draw weight of 45 pounds so you are restricted to bows from 45 lbs. upwards.

Bigger games will need more power – 55 pounds and higher.

The question of accessories

If you’re ambitious, you want a bow whose abilities you can expand the future.


The secret is the accessories and the more it can accommodate, the higher it’s potential. The thing is some come ready to take in handy accessories like sights while others don’t.

At the bare minimum, I believe adding a basic accessory like a peep sight can take your game a notch higher though it’s upon you decide.

Fortunately, most advanced recurves are designed to hold a large number of additional tools to help you reach your potential in the sport.

Sometimes you may not have much choice.

Let’s say that you are buying a recurve for competitive shooting, for instance.

Do you think you can triumph with a basic bow that won’t accept helpful items like a clicker and stabilisers?

I might be wrong but I think it’s pretty difficult.

Your budget

Your pockets will have a huge say on the quality of bow that you’ll get in the final analysis.

So, how much do recurve bows cost?

Well, it depends on where you’re buying.

Nevertheless, online shops are a bit cheaper and I have encountered recurves priced as low as $40.

High-end models can set you back as much as $400 (sometimes more).

When all is said and done, you can only buy what you can afford.

And yes, you can land an amazing bow at half price on eBay or Craigslist if you play your cards right.

Other considerations

  • Bow weight– you want a bow that you can comfortably haul around the field so its weight can also be an issue. I propose you select one weighing not more than 3 pounds if it’s your first time.
  • The riser– If the riser is made of wobbly materials, you will be experiencing lots of vibrations during shots. The best quality risers are made of materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum.
  • The limbs– fiberglass limbs are more resilient. That being so, they rarely break/ bend even after consistent shooting.

Takedown recurve bow vs one piece

You have one more decision to make…and that’s selecting either a takedown(TD) or a 1-piece bow.

I don’t want to leave you behind so let me explain.

Now, a TD is nothing else but a recurve assembled from a riser and twin limbs. You can subsequently disassemble it and pack it into a case.

As a result, TDs are super easy to transport.

Besides, you can upgrade the limbs to stronger types to raise a bow’s performance due to the greater draw weight.

You can as well alter the configuration to match your abilities and make the bow smoother and stable to shoot with.

To cut a long story short, a TD is way more versatile.

I guess you know what a 1-piece is….

It’s the regular bow which you can’t dismantle as highlighted above.

And it also has its own goodness.

For instance, in terms of total mass, one-piece bows are naturally a little lighter.

They also have cleaner lines and look cute.

In other words, you have a big decision in your hands.

Let’s compare further.

LimbsCan have numerous limb setsImpossible
ShockLess hand shock due to the riser mass and extra weightMore
shock/vibrations unless tweaked
Often shorter- good for tight hunting situations.
SpeedHeavier limbs=slower shotsLighter limbs= flatter, faster shooting


Select a TD if you desire easier travel. They’re also the go-to bows if you prefer to frequently shoot different weight limbs.

I would, on the other hand, pick one piece if their finer lines are a huge attraction.

But that’s me. I don’t know about you.

Caring for your recurve bow

Like every other equipment, maintaining your recurve in top-notch condition depends on how well you care for it.

Here is a check-list of regular maintenance procedures for your bow.

The bow string

  • Be sure to unstring it after every session particularly if you have an older bow. Modern-day bows are, however,  made tougher thanks to materials such as  fiberglass  and will not be harmed if left unstrung.
  • Wax it regularly: This is not negotiable. The frequency depends on humidity, presence of dirt, how frequently you shoot, etc.
  • Replace the string once it becomes frayed. Also, watch out for broken strands.

Observe proper storage criteria

Wrong storage can also spell doom for your bow.

To begin with, avoid storing it in climatically non-controlled areas. For example, your bow’s limbs may warp from the absorbed moisture if you store it in the basement.

Various metallic parts might also rust.

Storing it in too hot areas will similarly cause it to stretch leading to errant shots when out there.

Also important is cleaning of the bow before storage. That’s because incremental dirt will mess up the looks besides slowly damaging the components.

Don’t leave your bow in the car

For transportation, it would be unwise to leave your bow in your car boot because the cables and strings will not take it kindly.

Moreover, you can consider investing in a suitable bow carrying case.


That’s was epic, wasn’t it?

All in all, I hope I have kept my promise of showing you how to choose a recurve bow.

The draw weight, draw length, and bow length are some of the key factors.

We have also looked at a comparison of takedowns vs one-piece recurves to help you choose.

Your local shop, as well as members of your club, can also share some additional tips.

As usual, we look forward to your comments.

Good luck.

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