Best Archery Recurve Bows

Updated April 2021
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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 
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How we decided

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

65 Models Considered
30 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
133 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 recurve bows

The archery recurve bow was history’s first major improvement in basic bow design. Instead of a single length of wood tensioned with a cord, the tips bend away from the user (hence “re-curve”). This seemingly simple change makes a tremendous difference in the available power. Instead of needing a longbow the height of a man, the bow could be much shorter, and archers could use them on horseback rather than on foot.

Good modern recurve bows are still uncomplicated and easy to use, making them ideal for beginners. They’re also popular with more experienced archers, whether for target shooting or hunting. In the right hands, the recurve bow is a formidable weapon that’s perfectly capable of taking down large game. However, the wide choice available can make selecting the right bow difficult, especially for those new to archery.

We at BestReviews have been looking at the different styles and performance options so we can help you decide. Our recommendations cover a number of popular alternatives. In the following buying guide, we look at the construction in detail and offer suggestions on how to select the right model for your physique.

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I1 
Never dry fire your bow (pull the string and release it without an arrow). The force that would normally be released through the arrow will go into the frame instead and could cause serious damage.

Key considerations

Materials

Archery recurve bows are made of all kinds of materials in different combinations: wood (solid or laminated), leather, fiberglass, aluminum, and modern composites. Some archers think natural materials make for a better feel, but synthetic alternatives are often stronger and are certainly less susceptible to damp conditions. That said, it’s not unusual to find wood and fiberglass in a laminate that combines the benefits of both.

Design

Designs vary from traditional horse bows to modern skeleton frames. Which you choose is a matter of personal taste. One important choice is between a one-piece (or solid) recurve bow and a takedown model.

A takedown bow has limbs that can be removed from the riser (the central portion). It makes the bow easier to transport, and, in the event of damage, you might only need to replace a limb, not the whole bow. It also means you can change the draw weight (which we discuss below). Takedown bows can be a little more expensive than one-piece bows, and they are frequently heavier, but it depends on the maker.

A takedown bow is generally accepted as the better bow for learning the sport. Many archers choose a one-piece as a second bow after they’ve gained some experience and know the specifications that suit them.
 

Nobody is sure when the recurve bow was invented, but it was probably around 1000 BC. Early examples are horse bows, used in central Asia quite possibly by the Mongolian tribes of Ghengis Khan.

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Features

Fit

There are several measurements to consider when buying a recurve bow, but the two most important are draw length and draw weight.

Draw length: This is basically the maximum distance you can pull back the bowstring. It’s the distance at which you’ll be most accurate and generate the most power. To calculate your draw length, stand with your arms held out from your sides, parallel to the floor, hands and fingers extended. Measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the other, then divide that by 2.5. Most people have a draw length between 26 and 30 inches, though there are exceptions.

Draw weight: This is the force required to pull back the bowstring. It’s rated in pounds but often written as 30#, 40#, and so on (for 30 pounds, 40 pounds, for example). The lightest is 10#, which would be a bow for a child. Adult bows run from 25# to 70#, though few go beyond 60#.

There are charts that show you the recommended draw weight for people of a particular height and build, and they’re a good place to start. However, two people 6 feet tall, for example, will almost certainly have different musculature. Strong individuals may prefer a heavier bow than suggested. That’s okay, but you need to beware of getting a bow with too high a draw weight. If you can’t control the draw, your accuracy will suffer.

Any bow from 25# and up is fine for target shooting. A 40# bow will stop a deer (and is a good all-round draw weight). A 60# model in the hands of a skilled archer with the right arrow is capable of putting down a grizzly.

Bow size

This can have an impact, too. A longer bow can increase accuracy up to a point. As a general guide, you want a bow that is around twice your draw length. If your draw length is 29 inches, for example, a good bow length would be 60 inches or so. There are always exceptions, and traditional one-piece horse bows tend to be shorter, though typically their range is less.

Brace height

This is the distance from the bowstring at rest to the frame of the bow (the grip). This isn’t always mentioned because it’s more of a concern for experienced hunters than novice archers or target shooters. Brace height affects the arrow speed. Shorter usually means faster, although the arrows usually make more noise, too, which isn’t something a hunter really wants! The solution is vibration dampers fitted to the bow, but that’s probably more complexity than you need right now.

Weight

Bow weights vary from around 1.5 pounds for a child’s recurve bow to about 3.5 pounds for a large, powerful takedown model for adult use. Weight is more a product of the materials and construction than something you need to worry about. Even if you’re hunting all day, the difference in weight will have little impact.
 

FYS1
For Your Safety
Stringing and unstringing a recurve bow can be done by hand — and many archers do it — but a slip could cause injury. A bow stringer makes the job simple and safe.
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Accessories

Arrows: Keshes Archery Carbon Hunting and Practice Arrows
A bow isn’t much use without arrows! While they can be quite a personal choice, and there are usually different models for target shooting or hunting, these have removable tips so they can be used for either discipline. This 12-pack should be plenty to get you started.

Bow stringer: SAS Archery Recurve Bow Stringer
Designed to give you the control you need for quick and easy bowstringing, this model is made of tough, long-lasting nylon and has a rubber friction pad for a more secure grip. It’s reliable and very affordable.

Bowstring wax: Allen Company Bowstring Wax
While some bowstrings are still made of natural fiber, synthetic versions last longer and perform better in all weather conditions. A good wax is an absolute necessity for any archer, and Allen’s is cheap, effective, and made in the United States.
 

It’s not a good idea to share your recurve bow. As you use it, it becomes acclimated to your pull and grip. Someone else could upset that balance, particularly if they have a greater draw length than you.

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Safety tips

  • Find a teacher. We strongly recommend that beginning archers get some qualified instruction, at a local club, for example. It’s not just safer; your technique will improve more quickly, too.
  • Never point a bow with a nocked arrow at anybody. This should go without saying. Nor should you have the bow in a ready position if there’s anyone between you and the target, even if you don’t intend to fire. An accidental slip can be potentially fatal.
  • Never fire an arrow high into the air. You don’t know where the wind will carry it.
  • Remove any necklace, scarf, necktie, or watch. You don’t want to wear anything that can snag the bowstring.
  • Check your bow for damage before each session. If you see cracks in the limbs, or it sounds odd, stop immediately.
  • Never practice archery when you’re not 100% fit and alert.

Archery recurve bow prices

Inexpensive: You can get a cheap archery recurve bow for $40 or $50. These aren’t very powerful, and you may not get a lot of choice in terms of draw length and weight, but they’re fine for a bit of target shooting.

Mid-range: Better-quality bows, available in a range of different draw weights, start at around $70. From there up to around $160 you have many choices, including many excellent takedown recurve bows. We expect most people buying their first bow can find what they want in this price bracket.

Expensive: Spend more than $160, up to about $400, and you can find recurve bows of exceptional quality and power. In this same range are comprehensive recurve bow sets that include arrows, stringer, arm guard, and case. If you’re new to archery, it’s worth considering a set rather than buying those items individually.

Premium: A few craftspeople still make authentic replica recurve bows using original materials. These regularly exceed $1,000. Persian-style bows made from horn can cost as much as $3,000.

I2 
A glove and arm guard are by no means necessities, but many archers prefer to wear them. The glove gives a secure hold on the bowstring and the arm guard stops the bowstring from grazing or burning your forearm.

FAQ

Q. Is a recurve bow better than a compound bow?

A. It’s not really a question of “better” but of personal preference. Most people learn with a recurve bow because of its comparative simplicity. These bows remain popular with many who feel they’re a more direct reflection of an archer’s skill. A lot of hunters prefer them because they’re more portable (particularly the takedown style) and easier to use in rough cover. Compound bows take less effort to fire because of the mechanical assistance: you’ll typically be able to shoot a 20% to 30% more powerful compound bow than recurve. However, they’re more expensive and more complicated to maintain.

Q. How do I look after my recurve bow?

A. The bow maker should provide instructions, but in general it’s pretty straightforward:

  • Wipe the bow with a soft cloth after each use, particularly if the bow is damp.
  • Keep the bow somewhere dry and out of direct sunlight.
  • Unstring the bow when not in use so it’s not under constant tension.
  • Put the bow on a bow rack or shelf. Don’t leave it standing in a corner where its own weight will cause compression.
  • Wax the bowstring every few weeks if the bow is in regular use.

Q. How long will my bowstring last?

A. It depends on usage, of course, but a couple of years isn’t unusual. You can expect some minor fraying (often an indication the string needs wax), but if strands start to unravel, it definitely needs to be replaced. Bowstrings aren’t expensive, so it’s not worth risking excess wear. If it snaps under pressure, it could injure you and break your bow.
 

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