Longbow vs. Recurve: What’s the Difference?

longbow vs recurve bow

If you have only recently found an interest in bows, whether for matches at the archery range or hunting, you might have noticed that there is a variety of products on the market. A very common debate is that of the longbow vs. recurve bow. 

While the two might have some things in common, there are several differences that make each ideal for specific purposes. 

For those who are new to archery, understanding the differences between a longbow and  recurve bow is critical. This will ensure you end up buying the correct type of bow and give you the ability to shoot your target without any problems. 

Let’s take a look at each of these bows and compare the most critical features that archers need to look at when choosing a bow.

A Quick Overview Of The Longbow vs Recurve Bow

The first step to comparing a longbow vs. recurve bow is to understand what each of these products is. When you take a closer look at the characteristics posed by each product, you get a better understanding of how they work. This would also give you a view of the purpose of each bow type.

The Longbow

Long bow

Let’s start with the most popular bow that exists today – the longbow. In fact, the standard longbow dates back thousands of years. There is a good reason why it is called the longbow –  it is quite long, especially when you compare its size to other types of bows that are available today. 

The main reason why the longbow features such a long shape is due to the lack of any recurves or cams. Instead, it features a single wooden bar with a bowstring attached to it. When drawing, the longbow will take on a D shape. 

The idea behind the shape of the longbow is to increase the amount of power that can be gained in a shot. The specific length of these bows varies from one product to another, but they can be as long as 1.8 meters –  often as tall as the archer themselves. 

The Recurve Bow

Recurve bow

Next, we have the recurve bow. The recurve bow is also made from two pieces –  the bow itself and a string that is drawn back when shooting. This bow is not as long as the longbow.

Instead, the recurve bow is a much shorter bow with curves at both ends of the actual structure. Due to the curvature on both ends of the bow, drawing the string back does not create the same D shape as with a standard longbow. Instead, the shape is much sharper. 

In most cases, a supportive bracket is added to the center of the bow. This provides a place for the arrow to rest when perfecting the aim during a shot. The goal of the structure of the recurve bow is also to provide increased power when the arrow is shot, especially when compared to a longbow of the same length.

Comparing Specific Features Between Longbow Vs. Recurve Bow

Now that we have taken a quick look at both the longbow and the recurve bow, the next step is to consider how each of these does in specific categories. 

Here are a few different areas that archers should consider when choosing the perfect bow for their archery activities, and whether the longbow or recurve bow comes out on top in each. 

Power 

Power is an essential element when it comes to archery. When a bow is unable to provide adequate power, the reach of the arrow will be poor. For this reason, one of the first factors that an archer will look for in a bow is adequate power. However,  it should be noted that power is not the most important factor for every type of archery. 

Most often, archers will find that there is a lot of similarity in terms of power between the longbow and recurve bow. One thing to take into account at this point, however, is that the shape of the recurve bow tends to store more energy during a shot. 

What this means for the archer is they might be able to get more power out of a shot from a recurve bow when it is compared to a longbow of similar size. The specific shape that forms when the string of a recurve bow is drawn will most often deliver more power upon release compared to the D shape that is featured by the traditional longbow. 

Overall, when power is the most critical factor in your archery or hunting session, then you might want to consider opting for a recurve bow. 

Accuracy

target

Accuracy is another critical factor for both hunting and regular archery sessions. Thus, you should also consider which of the two bows gives you the best level of accuracy. 

Many archers will find that the curvature of the recurve bow can cause the string to move a little to the side when released. When the string limbs, it means the shot will not be as accurate as the archer would like it to be.  

With a longbow, this issue does not exist. Instead, due to the straight design of both the bow and the string, many archers find that they gain a significant advantage in terms of accuracy when they choose a longbow. 

For this reason, if accuracy is the main priority, then you should consider a longbow over a recurve bow. 

Noise

Noise is critical among hunters, especially. When you go out hunting, a bow that makes a significant amount of noise will lead to animals being scared away.

The structure of the recurve bow means the string has contact with the end of the limbs, so it can produce more noise compared to the straighter structure of the longbow. 

This is one of the most critical reasons why most people choosing a bow for hunting will go with a longbow. This type of bow is able to provide a significant reduction in string slap and the overall production of noise compared to a recurve bow. 

Size & Portability

Size and Portabilility

For many people, the size of the bow also plays a role in whether it is appropriate for a specific purpose. Whether hunting or going to the archery range, a huge bow can be uncomfortable to carry and may also be much heavier. 

We have noted previously that the traditional longbow can sometimes be as long as 1.8 meters – that’s longer than many people. The recurve bow, however, has a unique shape where the edges feature slight curves. This makes it possible to put more power into a smaller bow.

If your goal is to find a bow that is easy to carry with you while out on a hunting trip or more compact when holding it, then you should definitely take a look at the recurve bow. This type of bow is much smaller than a longbow in most cases – and can produce better results in terms of power when compared to a longbow of a similar size. 

Cost

If you are just starting out with archery or hunting, then you most probably want to save as much money as possible when buying your first bow. 

Thus, you might also be looking at whether a longbow or  recurve bow is the most cost-effective solution. 

If you take a look at these two types of bows on the market, however, you will find that there is little price difference between the two. Therefore, pricing won’t be able to make your decision easier – as it is mostly similar and will depend on the brand that you choose. 

For Hunting

hunting

When it comes to hunting, you do not want to carry an exceptionally heavy bow with you. You also do not want a bow that is too long. Carrying a long, heavy bow with you will easily scratch against branches and the ground, which could cause noise – and every hunter knows that noise is will quickly scare the prey away. 

Due to the specific requirements of a hunting trip, most people will find that the recurve bow is the most appropriate option for this particular purpose. 

The size of the recurve bow is not all that makes it a great choice for hunters. While the longbow does outperform the recurve bow in terms of accuracy, power is definitely necessary when you are looking to go out on a hunting trip. Power will allow you to effectively hit the prey without allowing them a chance to get away. 

Overall, consider both the portability and the power of a recurve bow when considering which option is most suitable for a hunting trip. 

For Beginners

It takes skill to hit the target – and some bows may be more difficult to get used to when you’re new to the sport. Thus, another common question when comparing longbow vs. recurve bow is which of the two is the most appropriate for beginners. 

If you hold both of these in your hands, you will notice that there seems to be improved comfort and stability with the recurve bow. The long and large structure of the longbow also makes it more difficult for beginners to really get the hang of the archery process. 

The recurve bow is a more compact solution, so beginners will find it easier to keep the bow in their hands. A beginner archer will generally also find that the recurve bow provides them with improved performance when they are looking to start practicing at the archery range. Plus, there is a much wider selection of recurve bows on the market – yet another benefit that you should take note of. 

Conclusion

While there might be some similarities when comparing longbow vs. recurve bow, the two have their own characteristics that you need to take note of. Understanding how the two bows compare in terms of power, accuracy, noise, and ease-of-use will ultimately help you choose the product that is right for you. 

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