Types of Bows

The Number 1 Guide to Choosing a Bow

Archery is a sport that requires skill, patience, and a decent bow. The bow you choose can make or break your whole experience, so it’s important to be educated on the various types of bow available on the market.

Bows have been around since humans first picked up tools, but they’ve certainly evolved since then. In 2020, there are 4 main types of bows, and all come with their unique features, pros, and cons.

If you’re eager to learn more about the different types of bow, including the recurve bow, the compound bow, the longbow, and the different types of crossbow, then keep reading.

Types of Bows
Chapter 1

The Recurve Bow

The recurve bow is a traditionally-designed bow that’s still hugely popular with target-shooters and hunters alike.

When you think of archery, the recurve bow is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It’s recognized by its two long limbs that extend away from the user.

The Recurve Bow

Unlike some of the other bows we are going to talk about today, not much power is required to get a decent shot with a recurve bow.

Recurve bows are generally easy to operate – and are often the bow of choice for beginners due to their ease of use.

The configuration of the bow ensures that it’s still powerful enough to shoot accurately at a distance, while not being too bulky and hard to use.

The design of the recurve also makes for faster shots – faster than compound bows.

As recurve bows are generally quite large, with long and stable limbs, your shots are likely to be more solid and accurate.

Generally, beginners tend to start with a standard recurve bow, and as their skill improves, they add bow accessories such as stabilizers and sights to enhance their archery experience.

A ‘bare’ recurve bow may look pretty simple – with only a string, arrow rest, limbs, and a riser – which is pretty much all you need to get started.

The recurve bow is hugely popular and it is the only bow permitted for use in the Olympics and many archery tournaments and competitions.

Chapter 2

The Takedown Recurve Bow

If you’re an archer on-the-go, then you may prefer a takedown recurve bow. These are more portable and can be disassembled quickly for convenient storage or travel.

The Takedown Recurve Bow

Takedown bows are generally more upgradable – with different materials, and higher draw weights.

You can separate the bow into separate parts, easily, which is ideal for hunters or bow fishers.

Many takedown bows come equipped with specialist bags, which hold the bow along with its accessories for a convenient trip to the range or to the woods.

Chapter 3

The Compound Bow

Compound bows are popular with more advanced archers that are familiar with the sport.

The Compound Bow

They’re operated using a system of cables and pulleys that help offer a heavy draw weight, which hunters find extremely useful.

Despite the heavy draw weight, the overall weight of the crossbow is generally more lightweight than it’s recurved counterparts.

It also requires less effort to draw the bow, which is sure to help you preserve your valuable energy on hunting trips.

Thanks to these cables and pulleys, they’re notably more powerful than recurve bows.

This is great for hunters, as this enables them to hold the arrow into firing position for as long as needed without losing control or fatiguing, which does wonders in improving the accuracy of shots.

One of the downsides of the compound bow is that it generally requires a good amount of strength to draw it – and this can scare beginners away.

As most components of compound bows are man-made materials, they’re generally more durable than other types of bow.

Things like heat and humidity are far less likely to inflict damage on the bow, which certainly adds to the bow’s longevity.

It can take some time to get used to the way a compound bow works – the pulleys and cables can look quite daunting if you’ve never picked up a bow before.

This is another reason why it’s not a popular choice amongst beginners.

Most compound bows have pre-installed bushings, which allow you to attach accessories of your choice to enhance your archery experience.

If you’re hoping to build your skill using a compound bow, it’s always worth checking to see if your choice of bow has bushings installed.

Chapter 4

The Longbow

The longbow has an interesting history and has been a part of humanity for centuries – as early as the late 1200s.

They were frequently used in battle up until the mid-16th century, and are still used today for recreational purposes.

The Longbow

It was an extremely popular choice of weapon in the middle ages – the equivalent of today’s modern guns.

Unlike many other weapons of the time, the longbow was suitable and accessible for all social and economic classes.

The rich history of the longbow doesn’t end there – it was the bow of choice of famous fictional figure Robin Hood and his merry men during the 100-year war.

The typical longbow can shoot anything between 250 and 300 yards and was so popular as it could penetrate the opposition’s armor at 100 yards away.

Similar to the recurve bow, longbows have a simplistic design, with long, slightly curved limbs a similar height to the user (approximately 6ft).

They’re a very traditional bow, with no arrow rests or sights – and little to no room for accessorizing.

However, unlike the recurve, the longbow doesn’t have separate limbs – it is just one piece of wood that curves around.

More modern bows have been upgraded to make the experience easier and more convenient for the user, but the longbow can be quite difficult to use.

They’re noticeably more difficult to aim than other bows such as the crossbow, and aren’t as powerful.

Traditionally, longbows are crafted from Yew wood, but many other types of wood have been used to craft them, such as elm.

You’ll find that most modern longbows are laminated, to keep the wood protected against wear and tear and weathering.

Despite the larger size and amount of time it takes to perfect using a longbow, it’s a popular choice amongst many archers that want a challenge.

If you’re bored of the same old bow and want to spice up your archery experience, the longbow is a great choice.

Chapter 5

The Crossbow

Crossbows are a hugely popular type of bow, as they’re known for their high power and heavier draw weights.

They are thought to have originated in China, and much like the longbow they where commonly used in battle during medieval times.

The Crossbow

Crossbows tend to have shorter firing ranges, which makes them more suited to target practice and less suited to most types of hunting.

This isn’t to say you can’t find a crossbow with a decent firing range – there’s definitely some out there.

They work slightly different to the standard bow and arrow – they are similar to firearms in the sense that they are drawn by a crank mechanism and then the string and trigger are locked in place until you fire it.

They’re essentially a combination of a gun and a bow – the trigger system is very gun-like.

To get your shot ready, simply aim, pull the string back and latch it into place, make sure the bolt is in the correct position, and pull the trigger to finally shoot.

Although you can get smaller bows on the market, you generally have to use two hands to operate a crossbow.

One usually goes on the trigger, and the other usually rests on the shaft.

Unlike other bows, crossbows use smaller arrows that are referred to as bolts.

When purchasing your bolts, it’s important to make sure that they are compatible with your choice of crossbow, as many arrows will be incompatible with a crossbow.

You can get both recurve and compound crossbows – the compound crossbows use a similar cam system, whereas the recurve crossbows have curved limbs.

Chapter 6

The Rifle Crossbow

We’ve mentioned that crossbows are similar to firearms – well, there’s a type of crossbow that resembles a rifle in both performance and appearance.

The Rifle Crossbow

The rifle crossbow highlights the features of a crossbow and rifle to make the perfect instrument for hunters to catch their game.

They wield the perfect amount of power for hunting large game, and most rifle crossbows are equipped with useful features such as sights.

With a decent rifle crossbow, you can shoot accurately for up to 250 feet, which is enough to impress hunters, from beginner to advanced level.

If you’re familiar with crossbows, then you’ll appreciate the high level of accuracy that many rifle crossbows offer – but that’s only really useful if you have the skill to match the bow.

Hunting can be a tedious task, especially if you’re carrying a large weapon around with you.

Thankfully, rifle crossbows are generally narrower – and can measure around 6 inches in width, which is super convenient for squeezing through trees and small spaces.

If you plan on hunting in a dense forest, the rifle crossbow is certainly a great choice. Not only are they generally easy to carry around, but they’re also relatively quiet.

The rail design is great – it enabled bolts to be shot with zero friction, making for super-fast shooting speeds.

If you’re a beginner, you may have difficulty operating and firing this type of crossbow, as it requires a lot of power to manage a rifle crossbow.

Rifle crossbows yield more power, so naturally, it’s going to require more power to shoot.

Chapter 7

The Repeating Crossbow

If you’re interested in crossbows but are put off by the complexity of it, then you may be interested in a repeating crossbow.

The Repeating Crossbow

Repeating crossbows are generally easy to use, with only one small movement needed to shoot your shot.

It’s a super convenient crossbow and is more frequently used by hunters due to their quick-firing action and simplicity.

Beginners are drawn to the repeating crossbow as it’s almost like cheating – pretty much all the work is done for you by the mechanics of the bow.

It’s a super convenient shortcut that can be a great introduction to the world of archery – without having to learn your way around a bow.

Experienced bowmen on the other hand may not be so drawn to the repeating crossbow.

As there’s so much mechanical work going on, there’s not much left for the archer to control, which can take the fun out of the sport.

It’s believed that the repeating crossbow is capable of shooting up to three times faster than a standard crossbow, so it is the best choice for hunters needing a quick-shooting weapon that will get the job done in seconds.

The feature that draws people most to the repeating crossbow is the fact that it can repeat shots unlike the other types of crossbow – so if you mess a shot up, it’s not the end of the world, as another one will be released straight after.

Chapter 8

The Recurve Crossbow

Much like the standard recurve bow, the recurve crossbow has delicate curves that point away from you when you’re using it.

The Recurve Crossbow

These curves keep the strings in place, straining it and locking it in. This is safe for not only the user, but for the bow too.

Hunters love recurve crossbows as they yield a remarkable amount of power, and are a great choice if you’re looking to shoot large game.

Although many hunters love recurve crossbows, some hunters are put off by the noise of the bow when shot.

This noise can scare off your game, so any miss-shots can be the difference between a successful hunt and a failed one.

One of the downsides of the recurve crossbow is the string durability – the overall design of the bow puts a strain on the string, which can cause them to snap frequently.

Chapter 9

The Compound Crossbow

Just like the compound bow, the compound crossbow is complex, and can be quite difficult to assemble before the first use.

The Compound Crossbow

The compound crossbow is another popular bow amongst hunters, predominantly for the level of energy-efficiency.

Not much manpower is required to get a good, powerful, and fast shot from a compound crossbow, which makes it a convenient bow for hunting situations.

They’re quite heavy, so hunters with smaller frames may have difficulty carrying a compound crossbow around in the wilderness, but the narrow structure of the bow makes up for this.

If you’re hoping to squeeze through a gap in the trees, then you shouldn’t have any problems with a compound crossbow.


I hope you have enjoyed reading our guide on the types of bows used in archery and now feel more confident in choosing a bow of your liking.

There are many bows to choose from so remember to take your time and get the feel of each bow, and most importantly go with what bow you most have your heart set upon because you are much more likely to keep practicing and stick to the sport if you are doing it with the bow you love and want to use.

Another important point to note is to make sure your bow measurements are done correctly so that you can use the bow to its full potential and minimize the risk of injury or accidental damage to your bow and other archery equipment.

And never forget safety first, bows should always be used lawfully and with yours and other members of the public’s safety always at the forefront of your mind.

That’s all from the Archery Edge team today, have fun selecting and using your new bow!


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