Archery Bows, Selecting The Right One!

Last Updated on June 9, 2021 by Bruce

Archery bows have come a long way from caveman days to the modern archery equipment that we have today. The bow and arrow was a major breakthrough in hunting and weaponry of its time. There is a wide variety of archery ones, like the compound bow, recurve, crossbow and longbow in different brands, styles and designs available. Modern ones carry the sophistication of advancing technology while staying true to the origin and spirit of the bow and arrow. Over thousands of years, archery has been part and parcel of human culture.

As with anything, getting the right tools is of paramount importance in ensuring that you get the best results in whatever it is you do, this is no different in archery. So getting the right bow must go hand in hand with the purpose for which you intend to use it. While there are variations and different terminologies of different archery bows, depending on culture, history, location, etc. Some other names and designs also might be called; composite, flatbow, English longbow, horse, deflex, Mongolian, reflex, decurve, and many other types, names and designs. But which type is for you and how are they designed? Here is a guide to the four more widely used archery bows.

Compound Bow

Compound bows have only been around since the mid 1960s and are now used by beginners to the more experienced professional archers and bowhunters. The compound bow has a more complicated design than the other ones, it allows for the maximum speed of the arrow. They are designed with a pulley system of wheels or cams and cables, which help the archer hold a heavier draw weight when at full draw. This weight let off, depending on brand and design, it can be anything from about 60% to 80% of the full draw weight. That means a young archer or female can shoot and aim a more powerful bow for a longer time when aiming. While the older compound bows look more like the letter “D” when held sideways, the more modern ones, look like the letter “W”. The ultrafast compound bows, with their shorter and more parallel limb, have a “batwing” like shape. The advanced technology of the modern stuff also means it can be shot with heavier poundage, which results in a flatter arrow trajectory for more accuracy. For 3D archery, field and target archery, the faster arrow speed can be an advantage in the right hands. For hunting the modern technology of the bows speed and let off, can help the archer shoot a heavier poundage bow. The higher poundage draw weight, when combined with the correct arrow weight, helps with the arrow penetration on the game. When used with archery sights and release aids, the modern compound bow can be very fast and accurate.


The longbow is first known to have been used more than thousands of years and at the time, was the most popular weapon to take to battle due to its ability to shoot a long distance. This gave soldiers an advantage on the battlefield and changed warfare forever. Today the longbow is still a very popular choice for traditional archers and bow hunters. It is traditionally made from the wood of the Yew tree and around 6 feet long, hence the name longbow. Today they are laminated with all types of wood and fibreglass construction. The shape of the longbow is only slightly curved, giving the shooter the ability to pull the string back smoothly and is great for quick instinctive shooting. The longbow can easily shoot an arrow 200 feet. The downside of this, is that these ones aren’t quite as fast as modern recurve or compound bows, however, for traditional archers it is the only one for them. The longbow is generally shot without sights and gadgets. Like any archery bow, the longbow does need a certain amount of practice for the archer to be accurate and proficient with it. Some keen archers like making their own bows and the longbow is a favourite to build. In fact, building a custom made longbow can in itself become a hobby, art or business. If you are not particularly taken in with the sophisticated, gadget-laden bows of today, the traditional longbow may be perfect for you.

Recurve Bow

Like the longbow, the recurve bow has been around for centuries, both used as a weapon and hunting tool. Today, the recurve bow is the one often used for competitive archery tournaments such as Olympic archery events and also has a large following with hunters. It generally offers a faster arrow shot, compared to the longbow, because of its curved back limbs. The recurve bow is relatively simple and can be used for archers of all ages. From a low budget, one-piece fibreglass recurve bow, which is ideal for young archers, to takedown quality ones used for bow hunting or competitive target archery, this one is ideal. Most modern recurve bows are designed so that additional accessories can be fitted, including sights and stabilizers. It is developed to simultaneously meet the archer’s demands of speed, distance and accuracy, while still giving the archer a traditional aspect of archery.

If you want to learn how to make your own recurve bow, we recommend you read this woodworking blog article How to Make a Recurve Bow.

Cross Bow

Cross bows have also been around for a very long time. Historians believe they originated in China, where they were used as weapons of war. Their practical use and ease of handling has seen them remain available as a military weapon and bowhunting tool. It could be looked upon as a firearm in every sense of the term, the fundamental difference only being that it shoots arrows, (called bolts) rather than bullets. The crossbow has the appearance of a gun with a short bow attached to it.

The crossbow like other ones can be very accurate and powerful. It also can come in the recurve style limb design as well as the compound limb design. Its stock and limbs can be made from a wide range of materials, like wood, steel and modern composite material like fibreglass and carbon. Crossbows are almost completely mechanical, allowing the shooter to fire it with one hand if he chooses, although it can be heavy. It is generally loaded by putting the butt or stock against the archer’s chest and drawing the string back with both hands, until cocked. Some crossbows also have stirrups, where you can put your foot on it on the ground and bend over it and draw it back, until loaded.

Some countries and states have different licensing and strict regulations of the crossbow, compared to other archery bows. This typeis ideal for hunting because you don’t have to hold the draw weight, it is popular with some female archers and hunters with disabilities, who might not have the physical strength to operate the other ones.


All types of bows have their own advantages and disadvantages. They all can be used for hunting or target archery and most can be added with accessories and gadgets.

If you like the simple traditional ones then a longbow or recurve might be for you. For archers who like the latest technology, added gadgets and speed, then the compound bow maybe the choice. If you don’t practice much, then a bow sight on a recurve or compound one may be something you should look at first when buying it, as traditional ones with no sights can take a bit of practice to become proficient with it. Your choice will be determined by what you intend to use it for, your level of experience, how much time you can dedicate to practice and your personal preference. Whatever one you choose archery can be fun an exciting.