Recurve vs Compound bow | Which is Better for Beginners?

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If you’re just starting out with archery, a question you might be faced straight away with is what type of bow you’re going to use. Since the type of bow you’re going to use will affect the technique and style of shooting you’re going to train for, it’s quite a major decision.

In this post, I’m going to detail the pros and cons of recurve bows vs compound bows, to help you make an informed decision. I’ll go over the most important things to consider, so you can get a bow that fits your goals.

In my opinion, the thing you should consider first is how you’re going to use the bow. Bowhunters and 3D archers, who generally prefer compound bows, will have very different needs from target archers, who typically go for recurve.

But let’s cover the basics first, and detail the most important pros and cons of both recurve and compound bows. I’ll start with a quick list, and explain the most important points later in the post. Let’s go.

Compound bow

Compound bows are the modern, technologically advanced type of bow. They are wildly used in any type of archery, from target shooting to bowhunting. They are probably the most common type of bow since the late 20th century [1].

The most significant technological advancement that was introduced with compound bows is the cam system, that makes the bow much more energy-efficient. The design of the cam creates a different weight curve than traditional bows.

Where recurve bows become heavier the more you pull the string, compound bow act differently: they first become heavier until a peak weight is reached, stay constant for more of the draw and then become lighter when fully drawn (which is typically called “Let off”). This is why you can shoot heavier weights on a compound bow.

Generally, the pros of compound bows are:

  • They’re more powerful and faster than recurve bows.
  • It’s easier to use high draw weights on a compound bow. When holding it in full draw, you’re not actually holding the full weight of the bow, which makes it easier to shoot higher weights.
  • If you have the correct type of cams, you can very simply adjust the bow. It makes them very versatile.

The cons of compound bows are:

  • They’re significantly more expensive
  • Generally, require more equipment and parts. For example, people rarely shoot a compound bow with their fingers because it can create issues with the bow’s cams. This means you will probably have to shoot with a release aid.
  • Compound bows need more frequent tuning and maintenance than recurve bows. Since there are more mechanical parts, they tend to have more issues.

To decide whether or not compound bows fit your needs, think about the things on the list. I’m going to detail some of them farther later in the post.

If you think about getting a compound bow, I’d suggest looking into my recommended gear page where I explain how to pick a compound bow and the most important things you should consider. I’m sure you’ll have a good experience following the advice there.

Let’s now discuss the main pros and cons of recurve bows.

Recurve bow

Recurve bows get their name from the limbs that curve away from the archer. They’re as old as history but nowadays made from fiberglass, aluminum, and other strong materials. Some bows are still made from the traditional wood though, just like old times.

Most recurve bows these days are “takedown bows”, which means that their limbs can be disconnected from the riser (splitting them to 3 parts). They’re basically a great combination of traditional and new archery.

Currently, only recurve bows are permitted in the Olympics. If you’re planning to go professional, that might be something to consider.

The overall pros of recurve bows are:

  • Recurve bows are simpler to use and have a more intuitive technique initially. They’re basically less sensitive to small form issues, mainly because they’re taller.
  • They’re lighter and are generally more portable. Most recurve bows nowadays are takedown bows, which are really easy to store and transport.
  • They are cheaper to buy and maintain than compound bows

The cons of recurve bows are:

  • Recurve bows can’t shoot as far away. It means you have to stand closer to the target when shooting a recurve bow, which can be a disadvantage.
  • They are not as good for bowhunting, which generally requires a higher draw weight. It’s much harder to shoot the required draw weight with a recurve.

Besides the feeling of becoming a warrior from old times, recurve bows are really awesome to shoot. They’re much less complex than compound bows, which makes them perfect for you if you’re looking to get into archery as a hobby – but also if you want to become a pro one day.

Let’s dive deeper now on the most critical aspects you should consider when picking what type of bow you should get.

How are you going to use the bow?

In my opinion, considering what main use you’re going to have for your bow should be the first thing you do. This way you’ll be able to utilize your full potential straight away. This is true for picking what type of bow you’re going to use, but also for the specific bow you’ll use.

Both recurve and compound bow can be used for all types of archery, but they both have natural advantages for specific uses. Using a recurve bow for bowhunting, for example, will take much more practice than using a compound bow.

Of course, eventually you’ll be able to use both types of bows anyway you want, but it would take much more effort to overcome the bow’s disadvantages.

Most elite target shooters use a recurve bow, mainly because the distances and power requirements fit it. Bowhunters use compound bows almost exclusively, because they need more power from the bow. For 3D and field archers, both bows can be effectively used, though somewhat differently.

Let’s discuss every style of archery and explain how the pros and cons of each type of bow is affected by it. If you don’t know what the different styles of archery are, I have a complete guide on archery competitions that detail the differences.

Target archery

In it’s most basic form, archery is simply shooting from a line to a static target. It’s what most people think of when you discuss archery with them, and also the style of archery on the Olympics. It’s somewhat of a traditional interpretation of the sport.

Though both compound and recurve bows can be used to practice target archery, most of the archers use a recurve. There’s no real limitation or reason not to use a compound bow to practice target archery, but still, it’s less common.

The mean reason for that is that most target archery competitions, including the Olympics, are revolved around recurve archers. I mean, only recurve archers can compete in the Olympics. You can still find local target archery competitions if you’re a compound archer, but they’re typically less common than other styles of archery for compound.

So though you can still enjoy target archery if you’re shooting a compound, I suggest going for a recurve bow if you’re interested target shooting. Especially if you’re serious about becoming a good archer and joining tournaments.

Field and 3D archery

I’ve decided to put field archery and 3D archery in a category together, because they’re somewhat of a middle ground that both involve mobile archers that shoot static targets. There’s a lot of difference between the two styles, but the basic requirements of the bow are pretty much the same.

Shortly, field archery is a style of mobile archery where the archer runs around in the wood, and shoots different types of targets (including traditional targets) from varying unmarked distances and environments. 3D archery is similar, but involve the archer shooting life-sized animal-shaped targets. The different styles also have somewhat different rules.

Recurve and compound bows can be used to practice both field and 3D archery. They obviously have different pros and cons, and they compete in different divisions in tournaments. Both recurve and compound are common in this style of modern archery.

The main thing you need to consider if you’re into 3D and field archery is the mobility of the bow. You’re going to run around the in woods, and shoot unmarked distances in changing terrain, so you want to have an easy time carrying your bow around. Though recurve bows are larger than compound bows, they’re also typically lighter.

Though compound bows have a much higher range, recurve and compound archers typically shoot in different divisions. They shoot from different distances, where compound archers have the shooting line farther.


Most bowhunters out there prefer using a compound bow over a recurve. Bowhunting requires a high draw weight, which is much easier to shoot with a compound bow. The natural advantages of using a compound bow are the higher power and speed, that are essential for hunting.

Since compound bows are smaller and more portable, they’re much easier to hide and move around with. Bowhunters occasionally need to hide on a treestand, hide and run with their bow. It’s much easier to do it with a more compact bow.

If you do decide to go for a recurve bow and want to use it for bowhunting, make sure it has a high enough draw weight. Typical bowhunting draw weight is above 40 pounds.

Recurve vs compound bow: which is easier to use?

As a beginner, you might be interested in what bow is simpler to use. Though there’s a lot to learn to achieve a perfect technique with any type of bow, they are not created equal. Compound bows generally involve more equipment and form errors are harder to identify with it.

Generally, both types of bows are equally easy to use. But considering that compound bows involve more gear and complex technique, recurve bows are generally more recommended for beginners. It’s also easier to feel any form error you have with a recurve rather than a compound bow.

Think about it: if you go to any archery event and look at the type of bows that are given to people there, it’s almost always a recurve bow. Now, recurve bows are more traditional, so maybe people are more excited to use them in such events, but another major reason is that they’re simpler.

Compound bows have a more complex form to maintain, rather than the simple recurve basic form. Most people new to archery find the proper position quicker with a recurve bow. It’s common to say that recurve bows give more feedback, so with self-correcting, it’s easier to quickly develop proper form.

The differences in technique make it really important that you start with the right type of bow straight away. I mean, you can always learn proper technique for both types of bows, but learning to shoot with just one is hard enough. That’s why it’s important that you make an informed decision.

Consider storage and travel

Another thing you should consider is how easy is the bow to store and travel with. It’s something many archers forget before purchasing a new bow, and I don’t think it’s fun to find out your bow doesn’t fit in your car and the way to a tournament.

Many people travel to cool places to practice archery, and even fly out to high-end competitions. Considering how portable is your bow is important.

If you’re wondering how to actually travel with archery gear, I have a detailed post with all the information you need. Make sure to give it a read.

There are also times you’re not going to practice as much. Mainly in the winter, you’ll mainly practice on inside ranges, and you might decide to do that less often. But even if you’re won’t, it worth putting some thought into it, because having a giant bow case taking a lot of space at your home can be annoying.

Overall, compound bows are smaller, and because of that, they’re more comfortable to store and travel with. With that in mind, most recurve bows these days are takedown bows, which can be disassembled for travel. They are really comfortable to travel with because they’re both portable and light.

The main thing you should consider when considering storage is the size of the bow. A bigger bow will have to be stored inside a bigger case, which will take up more space. A standard compound bow will be around 32″ long, while recurve bow start at around 50″ long.

With regard to travel, the weight of the bow should be a much more significant consideration. Carrying around a heavy bow isn’t ideal. Recurve bows are typically lighter than compound bows, coming at around 2 pounds compared to around 4 pounds for compound.


Every bow needs a tune every now and again, but if you’re spending a lot of time and money every year it can become an issue. While the maintenance of a bow is rarely overlooked, because of how impactful it is on your accuracy, it’s something you should consider earlier rather than later.

Compound bows, which have a lot of moving mechanical parts, generally need more frequent tuning than recurve bows. Recurve bows are also much easier to fix yourself, compared to compound bows that need complex equipment for maintenance.

Compound bows are really designed to be tuned and fixed by archery shops. If a string breaks or a cam goes out of place, you need a bow press to fix your bow. You’ll find that you can only do very minimal tuning yourself.

Recurve bows are relatively pretty easy to fix. You can basically assemble them yourself without a lot of equipment. They also tend to need a lot less maintenance, so you probably won’t have to do that much.


Picking what type of bow you should get is mostly up to preference. While there are some aspects to think about, like power and transportation, it all comes down to how you want to use the bow.

If you want to connect to your roots and shoot a more traditional style bow, you should probably get a recurve. If you’re planning to use the bow for hunting, or you’re all about power and speed, you should go for a compound bow.

Try to consider this as the main aspect of choosing your bow, but still keep in mind the ideas you learned in this post. I’m sure you have a positive experience picking your style of bow. Hope this helped!