Best Archery Bows

Updated November 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
14 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best archery bows

According to archeologists, humans have used bows for defense and hunting for over 70,000 years! These days, archery may no longer be used much by the military (it is still taught for survival), but it remains hugely popular for target shooting, hunting, and fishing.

The choice of archery bows is staggering. The general types of traditional, recurve, and compound bows can be subdivided in several ways, and within each section, there are hundreds of variations in terms of performance and price. Choosing a bow — particularly if you’re new to archery — can be confusing, to say the least.

Solving that kind of problem is why BestReviews was created. We’ve been looking at the various styles, uses, and technical issues to bring you the answers you need. The results of our research can be seen in the diversity of our recommendations, which offer premium solutions for many buyers. They are a great place to start. In the following archery bow buying guide, we look more closely at the areas that have the biggest impact on your decision.

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Longbows and recurve bows in particular will acclimate to how the archer draws and fires, developing a very personal balance. Sharing your bow, even for a relatively short period, can upset that, so it’s not recommended.

Key considerations

Types

There are three main types of archery bow: traditional, recurve, and compound.

Traditional bows: These range from horn bows, which date back to the Egyptian pharaohs, to English medieval longbows, which historically were made from a single piece of wood and the same height as the owner, to Native American horse bows, which, depending on the tribe, were made of wood, sinew, and bone. A few skilled artisans still produce faithful copies of the originals, and numerous modern versions are available. Many archers like to try them for that authentic experience, but outside of historians, reenactment groups, and back-to-basics enthusiasts, they aren’t particularly popular. Modern versions are simply easier to use and maintain.

Recurve bows: These can be considered the first major development in the traditional bow. Though some use wood, most take advantage of metal alloys and modern laminating techniques. Recurve bows can be quite uncomplicated. They are smaller and lighter than compound bows, so they’re easier to carry. However, they require more physical strength to draw and hold on to a target and have less range. For some people, that’s a challenge they enjoy; others want things to be easier.

Takedown bows: These are a type of recurve bow that is very popular because the limbs (the parts that curve away from the riser, or grip) can be detached, making it much more compact for storage and easier to take from place to place.

Compound bows: These have a complex cable-and-pulley system that maximizes your power. Balance weights help take muscle movement out of the equation, thus increasing accuracy. The range can be as much as twice that of a recurve — it depends on your skill level — but they can be accurate at 60 or 70 yards. However, compound bows are considerably heavier and more complicated, which equates to higher prices and more maintenance.

Uses for archery bows

Target shooting: Any bow can be used for target shooting. Power isn’t particularly important: the targets don’t move and are set at an acceptable range for a particular kind of bow. All types are used at a competitive level and participating in a local archery club can be a lot of fun.

Hunting: If you want to hunt, your choice will largely depend on the type of game and the style of hunting you prefer.

  • Recurve bow: Being smaller and lighter, recurve bows have an advantage if you’re stalking, especially in rough cover. However, you’ll need to get closer to the prey than with a compound bow, and thus a recurve bow offers a greater test of skill. A recurve bow is quite capable of taking whitetail deer, but you’ll need a powerful model, and that means you’ll need more strength. Experienced hunters claim to take bigger game, though, in our view, considerable experience is required.
  • Compound bow: Combined with a mechanical broadhead arrow, a compound bow produces a tremendous amount of lethal power, enough for bighorn, elk, moose, and wild boar. However, you’ll probably be shooting from a static position in open ground.
  • Bowfishing bow: This can be either recurve or compound. Basic ones come with a spool for line, but fish retrieval has to be done by hand. More advanced models have a mechanical reel, often called a winch.

Don’t leave a longbow or recurve bow strung if you’re not using it. Constant tension will shorten the life of the bow and the bowstring.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Elsewhere on BestReviews, we’ve taken a closer look at recurve and compound bows in detail, and you might want to refer to those articles. However, there are a couple of important technical considerations that apply to both and help you tailor your archery bow to your height and strength.

Draw length

This is how far you pull back the bowstring from the bow. This needs to be within your normal comfort range for you to use the bow properly. To work out your draw length, hold both arms out horizontally and get someone to measure your span from the tip of one middle finger to the other. Divide that by 2.5. Young archers grow quickly and can soon outgrow their first bow. Don’t make do — change the bow or they could lose interest because their performance declines. Some bows are adjustable, but the amount varies.

Draw weight

This relates to the power of the bow, rated in pounds. The higher the draw weight, the greater the range and arrow speed it’s capable of, but the more effort it requires. In general, an archery bow’s draw weight is assessed at an equivalent draw length of 28 inches (whether the bow can actually draw that distance or not). The result can be anywhere from 5 pounds on a child’s bow to over 70 pounds on a compound bow. As you withdraw length, some adjustment may be available, particularly on compound bows.

What draw weight should you look for? You can find useful charts online to help you decide. Because recurve bows require more physical strength than compound bows, draw weights are typically around 10 pounds lower. For example, an adult archery beginner would want a draw weight of around 30 to 40 pounds on a recurve bow and about 45 to 55 pounds on a compound bow.

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Did You Know?
Traditional English longbows were made from a single piece of yew wood, carefully selected to be one-third sapwood (new growth that works under tension) and two-thirds heartwood (older wood that works under compression). It provides perfect, natural flex.
Staff
BestReviews

Accessories


Archery glove and arm guard: Toparchery Arm Guard and Protective Glove
To maintain proper grip and control of the bowstring, archers use either tabs or gloves. An arm guard protects your forearm from painful injuries. You usually need to choose these items separately. This combination is comfortable, effective, and low cost — ideal for beginners.

Archery practice arrows: Keshes Carbon Hunting Arrows
High-quality target and hunting arrows are expensive, so many people use a cheaper alternative for practice (though it’s good to have something that offers similar flight characteristics). These arrows suit compound, recurve, and longbows, up to 60 pounds, and have removable tips, a cost-effective way to customize them to suit your needs.

Archery target: Longbow Targets
There many different archery targets to choose from, but if you’re looking for a cheap option to pin to a hay bale or fresh paper for a traditional straw target, Longbow has a very affordable range of different diameters, ring designs, and pack quantities.
 

Whatever kind of bow you have, humidity or excessive heat can cause problems. When storing your bow, you should keep it in a dry area and away from direct sunlight.

Staff
BestReviews

Archery bow prices

Inexpensive: You can get children’s and youth bows from quality makers — both recurve and compound — for as little as $25 up to around $60. We’d look at spending around $60 to $70 for the cheapest adult longbow or recurve bow.

Mid-range: Between $80 and $150 you’ll find a tremendous array of standard and takedown recurve bows. Good compound bows start at around $150, with huge choice up to $300.

Expensive: The most versatile and powerful target and hunting compound bows cost $350 and up, with a few at over $450. Competition target bows are a whole other thing. They start at around $800 and can top $2,000.

Premium: Traditional handmade archery bows are the most expensive. These range anywhere from $1,600 for an English medieval war bow to around $3,000 for a copy of an ancient Persian horn bow. These are not just showpieces but fully usable replicas.

Tips for archery safety
 

  • Never use an archery bow when you’re not 100% fit and focused. It should go without saying that archery bows are not toys.
  • Find an instructor. When you’re new to archery, we strongly recommend working with an experienced tutor. Not only does it reduce the risk of accidents, but you’ll also improve your technique more quickly and get more fun out of your sport.
  • Never “dry fire” your archery bow (pull and release the bowstring without an arrow). The energy that should be transferred to the arrow is absorbed in the frame and mechanism. It can cause catastrophic failure, breaking the bow and sending components flying in all directions. That’s not only expensive, but it’s also very dangerous to you and anyone near you.
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You don’t need a case to store your bow, but don’t just leave it on the floor. You’re putting unnecessary stress on it and it will get dirty. A couple of hooks or a cheap rack keeps it in good condition and out of reach of inquisitive young hands.

FAQ

Q. Do archery bows need a lot of maintenance?

A. No, though the mechanical assistance offered by compound bows means they require more than longbows or recurve bows. Frequent tasks are applying wax to bowstrings (and cables on compound bows) every two or three weeks, lubricating wheels and cams on compound bows (following the manufacturer’s recommendations), and general cleanliness. A quick once-over before each session should catch problems before they become serious.

Q. How often do I need to replace my bowstring?

A. Properly looked after, a bowstring can last two or three years (depending on frequency of use). Some “hairiness” is common (usually a sign the bowstring needs waxing), but if individual strands start to come loose, it’s time to change it.

Q. Do I need a case for my archery bow?

A. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it’s worth thinking about. Soft bow cases are an inexpensive way to keep all your gear together when traveling. Hard cases offer better protection, especially for the complex mechanism of a compound bow. The case interiors often have arrow racks that keep them from banging together.
 

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