How to Choose Your First Recurve Bow

For archery enthusiasts, there’s that one distinct bow that serves as a go-to during sports events: the recurve bow. This is the bow with limbs that characteristically curve away from the archer when unstrung.

Known for its swiftness and smooth arrow release, the recurve bow is a widely popular tool in target archery and the Olympics. In fact, it is the only style of bow allowed in the prestigious worldwide competition.

Recurve Bow Beginnings

The recurve bow design is credited to the Mongolians, who invented the bow to be used for battle while riding horseback. Its design was markedly different from that of the longbow, which was found to be too cumbersome for horse-riding archers.

In around 1,000 BC, the archers in Central Asia invented the recurve bow, which could shoot further for the same bow length. Its popularity quickly spread from Central Asia to China and nearby areas like Persia (Iran) in West Asia. From there, the technology was brought to the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians.

Recurve Bow Design

Considered a revolutionary design at the time, the recurve bow’s design presented two distinct advantages.

First, its shorter length allowed the archer to easily pass the bow from one side to the other, so archers could switch seamlessly between shooting from their left and right while riding horseback or battling in a forest terrain.

Second, the curve of the bow’s limbs formed pads that stopped the string faster. This created a higher initial velocity for the arrow. Basically, the bow drew speed and power from the unique curve at the limb tips.

Takedown Recurve Bow

Recurve bows used to be made of one solid piece, different from those on the market today known as takedown recurve bows. Takedown recurve bows are separated into three parts once unstrung, which allows for easier transport.

The archer grips the bow on the middle part, called the riser. The top and bottom parts are called limbs.

KESHES Takedown Recurve Bow

Things to Consider When Buying a Recurve Bow

When deciding on which recurve bow to purchase, keep in mind that the best will depend on what you will use the bow for. It will also depend on your strength and fitness level, so make sure that you test the bow before making a purchase.

Here are the key features to consider when buying a recurve bow:

1. Discipline

Before you go ahead and buy a bow, it’s important to focus on what your purpose for that bow will be. There are two general uses for bows: hitting targets and hunting.

Identifying your purpose or discipline will change some of the specifications of your recurve bow, so you have to be clear about this part before buying one.

If you are after hitting targets, most recurve bow models will work for this purpose. In competitive archery, there are two main types of recurves for target shooting—Olympic recurve and barebow.

The difference between the two is in the components used, with Olympic recurve having additional items like sight, stabilizer, and a clicker. These items may help with your consistency, but shooting with this bow is still just as challenging as shooting with a traditional barebow recurve.

As for hunting, a recurve bow might not be your ideal choice for this purpose. Most bow hunters prefer crossbows because they have more force in each shot.

2. Budget

The price is a significant factor for potential buyers, especially if you are looking to buy your first recurve bow.

Most archers begin with a simple and affordable bow that will introduce them to the basics of the sport. You’d be better off with something that’s not too expensive, as you still have to hone your skills with shooting.

The price is a significant factor for potential buyers, especially if you are looking to buy your first recurve bow.

Most archers begin with a simple and affordable bow that will introduce them to the basics of the sport. You’d be better off with something that’s not too expensive, as you still have to hone your skills with shooting.

You can transition to a more advanced bow as you develop a better form and you learn which features to look for to suit your own technique.

Of course, a more expensive bow will last longer and give a better experience overall. But for those who have a tighter budget, there are still a lot of great options to fit your price range.

3. Draw Weight

The draw weight refers to the kind of power that the recurve bow can deliver. You can find different draw weights for many different kinds of bows and sizes.

So which one will suit you?

The average draw weight you should look for would be:

  • 10–25 pounds for children
  • 25–45 pounds for women
  • 30–60 pounds for men
  • These are only estimates, so it’s best to test the bows before you purchase to make sure you are capable of using the bow. Ideally, you should consider your own strength when determining the draw weight.

    If you are just starting out in archery, it’s best to start at 15–25 pounds, depending on your fitness level and how often you plan to shoot. Even an extremely fit beginner should not start off at more than 35 pounds.

    A big no-no is choosing too high of a draw weight when starting out. Sure, you could brag about your capacity being much higher than others, but in reality, this can only make it harder for you to shoot accurately. Remember, anyone who is really into archery knows that having a high draw weight actually means little in the sport.

    4. Brace Height

    Brace height is an important feature in archery, whether you use a recurve bow or a longbow. It’s the length between the string and the deepest part of the bow grip.

    Brace height is important because it affects two important things: arrow speed and bow forgiveness.

    In terms of speed, a shorter brace height will produce a higher arrow speed.

    For instance, compare two recurve bows that are both set at 30 pounds with a 24-inch draw length, but one has a brace height of 8 inches, and the other, 7 inches. If you shoot an arrow from both bows, the one with the 7-inch brace height will produce a faster shot than the other.

    Meanwhile, forgiveness is about minimizing imperfections. Bows that have shorter brace heights tend to increase arrow speed, but they also give little forgiveness for mistakes in aim and draw.

    This is because an archer has to maintain their form longer when using a bow with a short brace height. There’s greater likelihood that your form will strain as you release the arrow.

    When you’re trying out different recurve bows, ask the retailer what the ideal brace height is for that specific product. It will usually fall at 7 to 9 inches, depending on what feels right for you.

    5. Bow Size

    The size of your recurve bow is critical to making accurate shots—too long or too short just won’t give you a great shooting experience.

    You can determine the correct bow size by following the steps below:

  • Stand with your arms naturally extended on both sides of your body at shoulder level.
  • Let someone measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger all the way to the tip of the other.
  • Take that number and divide it by 2.5. This serves as your calculated draw length, which should be close to the actual draw length.
  • Another way to get your bow size is to pull back the string of a bow in a proper firing position. Measure the point from the nock—where you notch an arrow on the bowstring—to the pivot point.

    Here is a useful guide for matching your draw length to the right bow size:

    Draw Length









    Bow Size









    6. Eye Dominance

    Eye dominance refers to your individual visual preference. You may not realize it, but you may prefer using one eye over the other. This doesn’t have anything to do with hand dominance.

    Studies show that about two-thirds of people are right-eye dominant, while one-third are left-eye dominant. Only very few do not favor one eye over the other.

    Knowing your eye dominance is crucial in archery as bow manufacturers design recurves that maximize an archer’s visuals. There are left- and right-styled bows, and you have to choose which type fits you. Otherwise, you could have a harder time aiming properly. 

    To test your eye dominance, try these steps:

  • Try looking at an object that is at least 10–20 ft away.
  • Put your hands out in front of you and make a circle.
  • Keeping both eyes open, use the circle to frame the object.
  • Pull your hands slowly towards your face, making sure that you see the object framed within your circled hands.
  • Your hands will come back naturally to your dominant eye.
  • In case you do not feel any strong preference for either eye, it’s recommended that you use your dominant hand to draw the bow.

    7. Warranties

    Choosing a recurve bow not only involves getting the best model for your size and strength, but also getting the best bang for your buck. Warranties help secure your purchase from any future problems or defects.

    Manufacturers offer varying warranty periods with their bows, but typically only the limbs and riser are included in the warranty.

    Some provide a limited warranty, which covers a chunk of the costs related to parts replacement. It’s best to review the warranty specifications that come with any product, such as the warranty period and any caveats that will void the warranty.

    It’s recommended that you purchase your recurve bow from an authority retailer with a good reputation when it comes to customer service, so you can be sure that they will address any concerns you may have about the product.

    Other Essentials to Look for When Choosing a Recurve Bow

    • Bow Stringers

    For recurves, always opt for a commercially-made bow stringer. Home-made stringers may not be as reliable, and the step-through method—usually seen in movies—can twist the limbs of your bow and damage them.

    Or if you see a wall stringer fastened to a wall at your local archery range, use that one for your bow.

    • Arrows and Quivers

    For target shooting, you’ll need about 6 or more arrows to start practicing. Choose arrows that have longer shafts, and those that are close to your draw length. These are easier to use than shorter ones.

    You’d also need a quiver to hold your arrows. Quivers can be placed on the ground or attached around your hip or hung across your back. Choose whatever is most convenient for a good shooting experience.

    • Arm Guards

    For beginners, an arm guard can be useful, as it keeps your sleeves out of the way, protects your arm, and provides a nice, even surface if the string grazes your arm when you shoot.

    You can opt for a small arm guard that covers just the forearm once you’ve mastered rotating your elbow out of the path. Even elite archers wear them to maintain a vertical elbow and ultimately be more consistent with each shot.

    • Finger Tabs

    A finger tab is usually made of leather connected to either plastic or a steel plate. This is worn on the middle finger, meant to protect it from blisters, which can affect your arrow release. Newer models separate the index and middle fingers to help the archer avoid pinching the arrow and going off-target.


    The recurve bow may no longer be used in warfare, but archers and shooting enthusiasts still appreciate its great qualities in terms of precision, handiness, and speed. Preferred in competitive arenas, the recurve bow is definitely an exciting option for those looking to start out in archery.

    There are so many recurve bow models on the market for you to try, which means you have to look diligently to find exactly what fits your criteria.

    Use the tips discussed here and test each recurve bow to get a good feel of the product. It will be a tedious process for sure, but all the effort is going to be worth it.

    Once you find that special bow, you will have a more fulfilling time honing your skills.