If you are thinking of getting into archery as a sport or want to become a hunter, you will probably spend a lot of time looking at bows online or trying them out at your local archery store.

While at it, the chances are that you will end up getting stuck between two popular options like most archers do which are either to go for a traditional recurve bow or the more modern compound bow.

Both bows are fun and interesting to shoot, and they work fine for both hunting and archery sports. However, they are two different bows with distinct features, pros, and cons.

The differences in these bows go beyond their appearance and design, and understanding them is the only way to ensure that whatever you pick suits your needs.

Recurve Bow

The recurve bow is a traditional type of bow that has been in use for survival, hunting and warfare for thousands of years. And in its most basic design, it will consist of a single string and frame.

But, the most distinctive feature of the recurve bow and what sets it apart from other traditional types like the longbow is the re-curve on the tips of the limb which curve away from the archer towards the target.

The re-curve on the bows is not just for aesthetic purposes as it helps to store more energy which translates to faster arrow speeds.

Recurve bows will come in either one-piece or takedown. The takedown types are the kinds that you can take apart for easy transportation.

And while the traditional recurve bows were made from wood, modern ones are now made from various other materials like PVC and fiberglass.

Unlike the compounds bows, recurves do not have a let-off. And this means that they are relatively harder to draw than compound bows, and this is more so if you are using the adult size recurve bows that will on average require at least 50 pounds of force to pull back.

However, recurve bows are still lighter and a lot easier to transport than the compound bows, and this makes them great for hunting. Also, they have fewer parts than the compound bows which makes them a lot easier to maintain.

Recurve bows will also require less initial investment as they are relatively more affordable but the cost might be higher in the long run. And this is particularly so with the single piece types that will require you to replace the entire bow if it breaks.



  • Relatively more affordable. Price is one of the first things that many people will look out for when shopping for anything, and a bow is not an exception. When it comes to choosing between a compound and recurve bow the latter is relatively more affordable, and this is mostly because it is a less complicated and easy-to-build bow.
  • Easier to maintain. There are fewer parts in a recurve bow than on a compound bow and this means that it is significantly easier to maintain.  For example, if the string breaks on your compound bow it will take a lot of time to repair if you know how to do it. But, for many archers, this will mean taking it to the archery shop but restringing a recurve is a quick and almost effortless process.
  • Lighter and easier to carry. Generally, recurve bows are lighter and easier to carry than the compound bows. This can have a significant advantage, especially for hunters as they will still have a highly reliable weapon without adding a lot of weight to their luggage.
  • Traditional sportsmanship. If you are on the hunt for a bow that provides a more traditional appeal then the recurve bow is a much better option than the compound bow. And this is not only due to the appearance but also the history behind it.




  • Harder to draw. There is no let-off on the recurve bow and so you will have to draw the entire weight. If you are using a 50-pound draw weight recurve you will need 50 pounds of force to pull back the string but with a compound bow, you will use less than this depending on the amount of let-off that it has.
  • Requires archers to be close to the target. If you are hoping to shoot animals from a distance, the recurve bow will not be a good choice as it requires you to be close to the target to get an accurate shot. This will involve a lot of technique and talent that can take many years to hone.


Compound Bow

The compound bow is a more modern type, and it is designed to make up for the shortcomings of the traditional bows like the recurve and longbows.

Compound bows have been around for just over half a century now but they are now more popular and more widely available than most other bow types.

Although the compound bows still have the traditional traits of the bow which are a string and frame, they are also fitted with a cam or pulley system.

The pulley system helps to take the strain off the bow and provide slack for the archer. And this makes it easier to shoot with accuracy.

However, what makes the compound bow so popular is the ability to customize it to suit the archer’s particular needs. Compound bows can have smaller accessories like scopes and are also made to hold a number of tools for the archer.

Drawing the string on a compound bow when aiming is often much easier than the recurve bows because most have a let-off. A let-off lets you hold the bow at full draw easily. For example, a 60-pound compound bow with 80% let-off means that you will only need to hold 12 pounds.

The starting price of the compound bow is its greatest shortcoming because most tend to be pricier than the recurve bow.

But, they are cheaper to maintain in the long run because unlike the recurve bow, you do not need to replace the entire bow if it breaks as most repairs only entail changing a particular piece or part.

Another significant drawback of the compound bow is that most are larger and more elaborate than the recurve bows. This means that you need a good case to carry and protect it when going for your hunting trip.


  • More accuracy and power. Because compound bows will not rely a lot on physical strength like the recurve bows, they will allow for more accuracy and power and from greater distances. Also, the system of strings and cams on the compound bow is often more efficient at flinging the arrows, and this results in a more powerful bow.


  • Highly customizable. With a recurve bow, the only thing that you can change is the limbs to increase the amount of power, and this is only so when using a takedown model. A compound bow, on the other hand, does not require you to change anything as you can adjust the power or draw weight by using a tool to tweak the cams’ position. Also, with a compound bow, you can include various tools and accessories for the perfect setup to suit your specific needs.
  • Easier to aim. Aiming with a compound bow is much easier than when using a recurve bow, and this is mostly thanks to the let-off. The let-off ensures that you do not have to hold back a lot of weight, and so you can focus more on your target.




  • Requires more maintenance. There are many parts and pieces on the compound bow than the recurve bow. The bow is also generally more complicated and what all this means is that it will require more maintenance than the recurve. Stringing and tuning the compound bow will also require more tools and skills.
  • Relatively heavier. The compound bow is a considerably heavier and bigger bow than the recurve bow due to the more complex design with more parts. Hence, it is harder and more tedious to carry on your hunting trips, and it will in most cases require you to invest in a good case.



The right type of bow for you will ultimately depend on your hunting style, experience, and preferences. But, your budget is also an important factor.

However, the recurve bow is a much better option for beginners as it is a cheaper and easier to use. Also, recurves can be good for muscle training as they do not have any let-off.

Compound bows, on the other hand, are the ideal choice for the experienced hunters and shooters or individuals that are getting into archery for the long run. Their adaptability also makes them the perfect choice for those that wish to excel in both bow hunting and archery.