How Far Can A Recurve Bow Shoot?

How Far Can A Recurve Bow Shoot?

One of the most important things you should figure out early on is how far your arrows will fly when shot out of the bow. This is especially important for mobile archers, like 3D archers and bowhunters. You have to make sure you’re actually able to properly make the shot.

Luckily, figuring out how far your recurve bow can shoot is pretty simple. We’re going to dive into the details in this post.

Recurve bows are typically capable of shooting hundreds of yards, but the range depends on the specs: draw weight, draw length, and arrow weight. The actual limiting factor is the archer’s ability to aim. The effective range of most archers is between 10 to 35 yards, depending on skill level.

In this post, I’m going to dive into the topic of finding the range of your recurve bow, what’s an effective range, and how to increase your range. Let’s go.

The effective range of a recurve bow

When discussing the average range of a bow, people usually refer to the effective range of the bow. Arrows lose speed while traveling through the air, and your shot becomes less accurate the larger the distance is.

So the maximal distance your bow can shoot isn’t really interesting. We’re only interested in the range in which you’re able to aim the shot, and the arrows keep enough momentum to penetrate the target. The maximal distance these conditions apply to is your maximal effective range.

An archer’s effective range is the maximal distance where they can repeatedly shoot with precision. Most advanced archers have an effective range of around 35 yards, while beginner archers will usually be able to aim up to 15 yards.

This range is obviously way more limited than the actual distance the bow can shoot the arrow to.

The main reason is that the farther you shoot, the more accurate you have to be. A small aiming error will manifest as a major error the farther the target is.

For example, if you aim 0.1 degrees off the center at 10 yards, it’ll manifest as 0.6 inches. Not too bad. At 35 yards the error will be 2.2 inches. The farther the target is, the more off-center your arrow hits.

So now that we’ve discussed the basic information you need to know, let’s consider how to calculate and measure your bow’s range.

How to find your effective shooting range

To find your effective range you’ll need to find the point where you can’t aim consistently anymore. It’ll involve shooting at different ranges until you’re not able to group your arrows on the target anymore.

So the simplest way to find your effective range is to start shooting in a distance you’re comfortable with. Each time you’ll shoot a few arrows at the target and see how you do. If you find the distance comfortable, move back a few yards and shoot again. The point where you’re not able to properly aim anymore is your effective range.

Make sure to shoot in a standard plane range, and try to avoid taking this measurement on a windy day. Since the equipment you’re using can affect your accuracy, use the gear you’re usually shooting with. You’ll probably find it best to shoot in 5-yard increments and try shooting a few times for each increment to eliminate the temporary errors you might make.

How to calculate the actual range of the bow

I’ve made the point that you shouldn’t really care about the actual maximum range of your bow, because it’s significantly larger than the effective range you’ll actually be able to shoot at. But let’s do some calculations to show you this is actually the case. Well, my physics graduate degree is finally somewhat useful.

This is a bit more complicated and involves some physics, but I did the math and arrived at a simple equation. It’s an estimation that is only relevant as a rule of thumb and not an exact number because I made a lot of assumptions calculating it, some might not be exactly accurate. I did assume that the shooting angle is standard and not 45 degrees.

The equation that approximates the distance your arrow will travel, assuming perfect conditions, is

$latex distance\approx(speed)^2/29.4$

Most manufacturers actually list the speed of the bow in its specs. It obviously depends on the draw weight, draw length, and arrow weight, but a good rule of thumb is that the speed is around 200 fps.

This will result in a range of over 300 yards. Obviously, this case is only relevant in an ideal situation and doesn’t perfectly apply in real life, but it helps drive the point that you shouldn’t care about the range of the bow itself, because it’s much larger than the effective range.

You can watch this great video I found where they actually measured the real distances arrows fly using modern bows. Note that they shoot the arrows at about 20 degrees, which means arrows will travel farther than at standard shooting.

With the recurve bow the travel distance was around 100 yards. Still, much higher than the effective range of almost all archers.

Does the environment affect how far your arrows go?

There are many environmental conditions that affect an archer’s range. The main factors are wind and height differences. Wind can slow your arrows down and change their path, lowering your effective range. Shooting uphill will decrease your range while shooting downhill will increase it.

The first thing you should consider regarding environmental factors is the wind. It can both slow your arrows down, and move them from their path, reducing your overall effective range.

The main reason for that is that the longer the distance to the target is, the more time the wind has to affect your arrow. This means that for close targets the effect of the wind is minimal, while on larger distances it’s a factor that should be considered.

If you’re shooting on a windy day, make sure to note the fact that your effective range is lower than usual.

Many 3D archers and bowhunters shoot at uneven terrain. Shooting uphill or downhill changes the effective range of your bow.

If you’re shooting downhill, your arrow gets more kinetic energy from gravity. With the added kinetic energy is can travel farther, thus increasing your range. Arrows that are shot uphill lose energy while traveling upwards, reducing the effective range.

When people discuss the effective range of a bow, they usually eliminate external factors. This means that when you’re doing the calculating, consider yourself to be shooting in windless planar terrain.

Can you increase your range on a recurve bow?

You can definitely work to increase your range on a bow. Since the major limiting factor of your effective range is accuracy, the most important thing is to work on your aim and general shooting form. While at it, increasing your draw weight can help as well. Some accessories might speed the process up.

The main thing you should put your effort into is improving your shooting form. This will enable you to improve your accuracy, so you’ll be able to shoot at higher distances.

This is quite a complex topic with a lot of different aspects, but luckily I already wrote a whole piece about properly shooting a bow in a previous guide. Develop a good shot sequence and you’ll improve your effective range.

You can also consider training and increasing your draw weight. This should be done gradually and with a lot of thought because shooting a draw weight that you’re not comfortable with is counterproductive. It’ll ruin your form and thus your aim.

I’d recommend reading my guide about measuring your draw weight, where I also detail some great exercises you can do to increase your draw weight.

If you’re not shooting with accessories, you might find them useful. I don’t recommend getting too involved with bow accessories if you’re just starting out, because they wouldn’t do much for you if your shooting form isn’t good. But if you’re already comfortable with a bow, consider adding them to your setup.

For example, getting a stabilizer can significantly increase your accuracy, and thus increase your effective range. You can read more about stabilizers in the detailed guide I wrote about them. But again, don’t invest in more equipment if you’re just starting out.

How does recruve bow effective range compare to other types of bows?

Now you might find it interesting to know that other types of the bow aren’t really different from recurve bows. Because your effective range is typically limited by your ability to aim, other types of bows are pretty much the same as recurve bows.

Of course, the actual range of other compound bows is much larger than for recurve bows, because archers can use much higher draw weight on compound than on recurve.

Since compound bows have more technical systems, archers typically find it easier to aim with compound bows, meaning the effective range of compound archers is typically slightly larger.

While the effective range for recurve archers is typically between 20 to 35 yards, compound archers can typically shoot between 30 to 40 yards, and some competitive compound archers can shoot for up to 60 yards.

What’s important to remember is that other types of bows, like compound or traditional bows, aren’t really different from recurve bows. The major factor is always the ability of the archer to aim. Some systems just make it easier than others.

If you’re wondering what’s the effective range of a compound bow, I actually did very complex calculations and formulated the compound bow effective range chart. I think you’ll find it informative.


In this post, I’ve explained what effective range is and why it’s the main thing you should consider when discussing a bow’s range. I also detailed how to measure your effective range, and what you can do to increase it.

The main thing I want you to remember is that if you’re just starting out, don’t stress too much about your range. After learning proper form and improving your skills, you’ll be able to begin shooting at larger and larger distances.

The Best Recurve Bows I’ve Reviewed

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Southwest Archery Spyder

This entry to intermediate level, traditional looking takedown recurve bow is one of these bows you can grow with. As a mid-sized, 60″ tall bow, with draw weight between 20-60 lbs and draw length between 22″ to 29″, it’s perfect for beginners.

Check what it’s going for in Amazon.

Bear Archery Grizzly

This high-end alternative is, in my opinion, the best option for more experienced archers. As a shorter bow 58″ tall, lightweight recurve bow, it’s very mobile. Its draw weight between 40-60 lbs, which is perfect for most experienced archers. The beautiful maple wood the riser is made of is also very durable, and generally, it’s made of high-quality material.

Like most other things, you can find it in Amazon.

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You can also read more in the full recurve bow buyer’s guide.