Recurve Bow Guide -

Your Complete Guide To Recurve Bows

What exactly are recurve bows? The aim of this article is to introduce you to them. It will teach you what they are, the individual parts that make up a recurve bow as well as advice on stringing, shooting and finding the best recurve bow.

With so many different types of bows from recurve bow, longbow and crossbow. Its nice to know a little bit about each type, so you know which one is ideal for you and your requirements. This complete guide has been written with one goal, to teach you everything you need to know about recurve bows.

After reading this guide you should know exactly what one is, the individual parts that make it up such as the limbs and riser. You will hopefully have a better understanding on how to string one as well as how to shoot a recurve bow.

If you then know that you want to choose a recurve bow for your archery, there is some advice on what you should look out for and a recommendation for a great beginner recurve bow.

Let’s get started into the great world of the recurve bow!

What Is A Recurve Bow?

A Recurve bow is often also known as “Olympic Bow”, because it is the only style of bow allowed in competition. You can tell a recurve because each end of the bow (known as the limbs), point away from the archer. The benefit of these curves is that it allows the bow to store more energy, which is what helps give the arrows their speed when shot. Many people prefer them to traditional bows because they can shoot more accurately as well as faster and further distances.

Another benefit of these recurve bows is that they tend to be shorter in length, making them smaller if you are into bow hunting or simply want something a little less cumbersome. They do tend to make a little more noise than traditional bows, but this does tend to depend on the different bows.

The bows have changed a lot of the years and most of the modern recurve bows are take down bows. This basically means when you have finished with it, you can dismantle it into 3 different parts. Ideal for if you want to transport it or store it easily, as well as allowing you to purchase the parts individually. Being able to buy replacement parts such as the limbs is perfect for when you need to upgrade, you don’t need to buy a whole new bow.

Parts Of A Recurve Bow?

The recurve bow is made up of different parts, as mentioned if it is a takedown bow then these can be dismantled. There are many different parts that can be purchased and added at a later stage to help with your archery such as sights and stabilisers. These are completely natural and not needed to become good at archery.

The main parts that you will find on all recurve bows are;

The Riser

The riser is crucial when it comes to the recurve bow. You can find it in the centre of the bow between the limbs. If you were to use any accessories such as sights then they will connect to the riser (as long as it has the holes available). Originally they were made from wood, however aluminium is becoming more common due to them being lighter. You can also find carbon fiber risers that again are even lighter.

Riser is a part of a recurve bow - the limbs connect to it - ArcheryGuide

Riser Grip

The grip is a part of the riser and is where you would be holding the bow. The grip is very important as you want it to fit your hand naturally and feel comfortable. They can often be replaced, allowing you to find one that you like. To be honest, I have never had a issue with the ones supplied with the recurve bows I have brought.


At either end of the riser are the limbs, these are flexible wood or in many cases fiberglass or carbon fiber. It is these that when the string is pulled stores and then releases kinetic energy needed to fire the arrow at your target. Many limbs are manufactured following a common standard, this means that you don’t always have to stick to the same manufacture for limbs as the riser its connected to.

As you begin experienced with archery and your strength increases, you may upgrade the limbs to ones that have higher pressure and more weight.

recurve bow limbs

Arrow Rest

Old bows people would have rested the arrow on the hand that was gripping the bow, now recurve bows have what’s known as the arrow rest. This is usually plastic or in some cases metal and is where the arrow rests whilst you draw the bow.

Bow String

The bow string is attached to both of the limbs and is what you naturally need to pull back with the arrow attached, releasing this releases the stored energy which then shoots the arrow. The bow string needs to be fully drawn in order to get the most of your shot.

How To String A Recurve Bow?

It’s important to learn how to string a recurve bow, it is important to remove the strings as this decreases the tension on the bow which means the bow and string will last longer. If you also decide to get a take down bow, you will need to remove the string to dismantle the rest of the bow.

Don’t worry though, it is incredibly easy to string a bow. It’s important that you do learn how to do it as incorrectly stringing the bow could cause damage and actually void the manufacturer’s warranty.

There is a tool known as a bow-stringer which can be purchased from your local archery shop, they will also help you with stringing a recurve bow if needed. The Bow stringing is recommended by manufacturers because its is the safest way of unstringing and stringing a bow.

The stringing is used to help flex the bow as though it was being pulled, which makes the limbs bend allowing the string to slide into the right place. When you stop flexing the bow the string is in place and you can remove the bow stringer.

Below is a step by step guide on how to string a recurve bow;

Step One – Attaching The Bow String

The first step is actually attaching the string of the bow. There are two loops on the string, the larger one goes on the top and the smaller one on the bottom. You should start from the top limb and then do the bottom. Simply place the top string loop over the bow and then with the bottom one place slide it on but make sure it goes into the groves.

Step Two – Using The Bow Stringer

Repeat the process with the bow stringer, placing the top one on first (this again is the larger loop). With the bottom one place this over the bottom limb. You will notice the bottom one is actually a pouch, this is to help keep tip in place

How To String A Bow with a Bow Stringer -

Step Three – Stringing A Recurve Bow

This next step requires you to stand on the bow stringer, don’t let this put you off.  Hold the bow by the handle and with the string facing down and the riser facing you, stand on the bow stringer with both feet.

Pull the bow up and you will notice the limbs will flex, this is the bow stringer taking the draw weight (as though you were shooting the bow). Don’t pull up to much, just enough so you can easily move the top bow string down into the groove to lock it in place.

Step Four – Final Checks

Now you need to remove the bow stringer but before you do, face the bow away from you as though you were going to shoot an arrow. Remove the bow stringer, the reason you face it away from you is incase the string comes off.

Check that the string is in both string grooves and you are ready to attach your arrow and fire. To remove the string, simply follow the same process.

Shooting A Recurve Bow

One thing I get asked a lot is about actually shooting a recurve bow. There are many clubs that will give you training but if you would prefer to give it a go yourself, below you will learn exactly how to do it.

Step One – Getting Your Stance Right

The stance is critical if you are wanting to get the most out of your shot, if you have a poor stance then you will really struggle to not only hit the target but get the right amount of draw on your bow.

Stance is really a technique that you need to make sure you master early, picking up bad habits can make it really hard to drop them in the future.

You want to stand side on to the target, if you are right handed,  your left hip will be facing the target. You want to imagine an invisible line between your legs, this is your shooting line. To help with stability make sure your legs are shoulder width apart.

Keep your body upright and your back straight, turn your head to face the target but make sure the rest of your body is facing sideways.

Shooting A Recurve Bow - The stance is essential

Step Two – Holding The Bow

Now you have your stance right, the next step is to hold the bow correctly. If you are right handed then you need to hold the grip of the bow with your left hand. Keep the handle held firm but make sure your grip is comfortable, do not hold the bow to tight as this will impact your aim.

Step Three – Attaching The Arrow

Keeping the bow faced downwards you want to now attach the arrow, which is known as “Nocking”. You will notice at the end of the arrow there are 3 fletchings, one of them will be on its own and in some cases might be a different colour. When attaching the arrow you need to make sure this single fletching is facing up to the sky.

Place the arrow onto the arrow rest on the riser. The bottom of the arrow will often have a notch which is usually plastic which will clip onto the bow string. The arrow will now be attached to the bow and ready for you to aim.

Shooting Recurve - Position The Arrow

Step Four – Holding The Bow & Draw

Lift the bow up until it is at shoulder height and straighten out your arm. You need to make sure your arm is fully stretched and locked in place, if your arm is bent at the elbow then you will find it harder to hit your target.

Place your fingers directly under the arrow and pull the string back until it goes to the side of your mouth. You want to keep your thumb out, therefore a good tip is to put your thumb in the thumbs up position, helping it get closer to the corner of your mouth.

Shooting recurve - The Draw

Step Five – Aiming

You should know which eye is your dominant eye already and it is that eye that is open, the other eye should be closed. This will hopefully mean that your using your strongest eye to aim. Position the arrow point to the centre of the target and get ready to shoot…

Recurve Shooting - Aim

Step Six – Shooting

Gently release your fingers from the string to let the arrow fly, if you sudden move your fingers then you will find your arrow will move off target. Do not move away from the shot, keep the bow in the same position until your arrow has hit the target.

TIP: Fire a couple of arrows and you will hopefully notice a pattern as to where the arrows land, adjust your aim to compensate. For example if I shot 4 arrows and they all went in the top left side of the target, id move my aim a little down and to the right, this should mean I hit the centre.

Shooting recurve

How To Choose A Recurve Bow

Picking A Recurve Bow -

If you are looking for the best recurve bow for you and your needs, there are a few things you need to consider. Thinking about these should help you narrow down the bows until you find your perfect bow.

The Use Of The Bow

Before you start looking for your bow, you need to figure out what you are actually going to be shooting at. This is important as different recurve bows are more suitable for different uses. Are you planning on doing target archery or do you intend to go bow hunting or even bowfishing.

If you are hunting then no doubt you will want a smaller recurve bow that is lightweight but is also quiet. Bowfishing requires a bow that offers enough speed to get through the water and also needs to be lightweight as you will need to aim for some time to get the right target. Once you know what you will be using the bow for, you can narrow down your choices a little.

Find The Right Draw Weight

Draw weight and getting a bow with the right draw weight is essential, you should make sure to get the right draw weight before buying a recurve bow. Your draw weight will depend on your age, frame and your gender.

As you continue with archery you will find your strength will increase and therefore your draw weight will also improve. Its important that you don’t spend a fortune on a recurve bow as your first bow, you will soon need to upgrade to a stronger bow.

If you are planning on hunting then you need to make sure the draw weight is a minimum of 40lbs, this is to ensure you have the strength to do a humane kill.

A child would normally use a draw weight of 10-15lbs, on average women have a draw weight of between 25 and 35.

Men will usually start with a draw weight of 40-55lbs, with larger men going up to draw weights of 60lbs. As mentioned it does depend on gender and size so the above is just a guide, below is a break down of different weights and ranges of draw weight.

Archers Weight (lbs)Draw Weight
Small Children (70-100)10-15lbs
Larger Children (100-130)15-25lbs
Small-Frame Female (100-130)25-35lbs
Medium-Frame Female (130-160)25-35lbs
Small-Frame Male (120-150)30-45lbs
Medium-Frame Male (150-180)40-55lbs
Large-Frame Female (120-150)30-45lbs
Large-Frame Male (120-150)45-60lbs

Do You Need A Takedown Recurve Bow?

As already mentioned a takedown bow is exactly as it sounds, it allows you to takedown the bow and dismantle it into smaller parts. A full length bow can take up a lot of space and some people don’t like to have to transport a full sized bow. Being able to dismantle it can be more convenient and is often very important if hunting.

Weight Of The Bow

Another aspect to think about is the actual weight of the bow, now to be honest most recurve bows are not actually that heavy. They vary from 2-3.5lbs, if you are planning on holding it and aiming for extended periods of time then you would probably be better going for the lighter option.

Do You Need Accessories

There are some accessories that can help you even further such as sights, these fasten to the riser via pre-drilled holes. If you therefore intend to use accessories or feel like you would want to in the future, it would be a good idea to get a bow that has pre-drilled holes already in the riser. There are a lot of wooden risers that don’t have the holes already in them, drilling them yourself could void the warranty.

Common Recurve Questions

The Archery Guide gets a few questions about the different types of bows, below are the most common questions asked about the recurve bow.

Can I Buy A Bow and Shoot Right Away?

More than often it will need you to string the bow and tune it, there are many guides to help do this and at first it might seem scary it is actually easier than it sounds.

How Much Should I Spend On My First Bow?

You don’t want to spend too much on your first bow as you will outgrow it very quickly. The best beginner bows are usually around $100-$200 and these are perfect for just starting out, some of them will take you further if you do upgrade the limbs.

Which Bow Manufacture Is Best?

There are some great recurve bow brands and I would always recommend getting your bow from one of these well-known manufactures. You know that the bow is going to be made of quality and will last a lot longer than some cheap knock off. Brands that are recommended are Bear, Samick, PSE and Hoyt – although there are others.

How Big Of A Bow Should I Get?

The larger bows do tend to be more accurate when you shoot, so many hunters tend to go for something a bit bigger but this does depend on transporting it etc. The length of the bow should be around double your draw length.

Can I Shoot My Recurve Bow In My Garden?

It will vary from country to country but it is completely legal to shoot your recurve bow in your garden. You do need to be careful and take full responsibility that the arrows remain in your garden.