Difference Between Recurve and Compound Bow – Detailed Information

If you want to purchase your first bow, you’ll realize that the gear is a bit complex. That’s why you must first identify the difference between recurve and compound bow and, probably, their strength and weaknesses.

This is why we have put this article together, majorly discussing these differences between the two types of bow. We will also explore why some archers prefer compound bows to recurve bows and vice versa. Still, in this article, you will discover how you can switch from a recurve bow to a compound bow and, alternately, from a compound bow to a recurve bow.

Find more detailed information below.

What is Compound Bow and Recurve Bow?

A compound bow uses a mechanized system of operation, while a recurve bow requires more skills from the users. Although both bows are efficient for archery sport, there are still some areas of weakness and strength with each of them. That said, what really is a compound and a recurve bow?

Compound Bow

A compound bow utilizes a levering system consisting of pulleys and cables for limb bending. Compound bows are efficient for hunting, and target practicing, which we can say is its area of strength.

Compound Bow

The user gets a mechanical advantage via the pulley or cam system. This explains why a compound bow has stiffer limbs than a recurve or longbow. This rigidity advantage is why compound bows possess more energy than other bows. As a result, a compound bow aids better accuracy and is not sensitive to different temperatures and humidity.

Recurve Bow

The recurve bow has the simplest appearance of a bow. From the construction, the limbs curve away from the user, with a single string, quite shorter than that of a compound bow and a frame.

Recurve Bow

A recurve bow stores and delivers efficient energy that gives great speed to the arrow (area of strength). Their bows are quite shorter than the bows of a normal straight limb, which gives the arrow more energy. Archers used to prefer the build of the short bows in locations where longer tools can be burdensome.

What is the Difference between Recurve and Compound Bow?

The majority of the differences between recurve and compound bow dwell in their shooting mechanism, sight, and aim.

What is the Difference between Recurve and Compound Bow

The following are the detailed differences between a recurve and a compound bow:

Tab vs. Release aid

One major distinction between a recurve bow, and a compound bow is their release mechanism. While a compound bow works well with a release aid, a recurve bow will use a tab or finger glove.

The mechanism of release aid is quite easier than that of the tab. The reason is that the users do not need to manipulate the string with their fingers. Given that most of the release processes work mechanically, there won’t be a need to worry about consistency.

Furthermore, the release aid poses no strains to your fingers. This is because to take a shot with a compound bow; you don’t require strong fingers to force the bow backward. But to use a recurve bow, it is necessary to master the tab release technique, which is not an easy task to perform.

While this may seem like an advantage that the compound bow has over the recurve, certain people enjoy the feel of the string on their fingers. This, therefore, make them prefer the tab technique to that of the release aid.

Full Draw Strain

The strain at full draw with a recurve bow might pose some pain to your back, arm muscles, and shoulder. This is because, at full draw, the bow of a recurve bow is at its weightiest point.

Conversely, the compound bow supports the user when the strain gets between 60% and 90%. Meaning that the bow provides a let-off for your hand once the weight at full draw gets anywhere around 60% to 90%.

Here is a simple instance to explain the point above. Given a compound bow of 50 pounds with a let-off of 70%, the resulting pounds will be approximately 15 pounds at full draw. And because of the let-off the compound bow provides, users will need more time to aim with precision at full draw.

Archer’s Paradox

Dealing with a conventional bow might seem difficult concerning the archer’s paradox. When the archer shoots, the arrow tends to bend and go around the bow because the weight of the arrow’s point is heavier than the entire body. This is where the archer’s paradox comes into play. It prevents the arrow from shooting off to the left or right, depending on the user’s dominant hand.

This might not be so clear to comprehend without a visual instance.

Archery becomes more challenging with the archers’ paradox. There are several factors to consider to ensure the right bow tuning for the archer’s paradox. The right bow, right arrow shaft, and right point must be in the right place.

Fortunately, with a compound bow, this will not be a problem as the bow and arrow align properly. So that even without the archer’s paradox, it is still feasible to take a clean shot.

Archer’s Paradox

Sight Image

Archers with a compound bow use peep sight to view their targets, while with a recurve bow, archer have their view along the string. The images from a peep view are quite clearer than those from along the string, allowing a more precise aiming.

In recurve training, tutors disallow peep sights with a recurve bow due to this reason.


The setup of both bows may include sight usage. Sight usage is unique micro-adjustments on the bows that provide a more focused view. However, the micro-adjustments in a compound bow are more magnified, making shootings easily precise.

Adjustable draw weight

Many compound bows come with adjustable draw weight. This means it is possible to change the amount of strength you need to apply to bring the bow to a full draw. This feature helps you begin on a low draw weight and extend it in time. In addition, changing the draw weight provides a chance to align the bow to the arrow properly.

On the recurve bow, there is a tool called the tiller. Some archers believe it helps to adjust the draw weight of a recurve bow. However, the actual function of a tiller in a recurve bow is to tune the bow, not to adjust the draw weight. However, adjusting the draw weight of a recurve bow with a tiller is possible only by 5% and depends on the limbs.

You can get a draw weight of 30 to 70 pounds with a compound bow. Heavier compound bows have draw weights that reach a range of 50 to 90 pounds.

Average Scores

Achievable scores depend on the participating archers’ skills. But generally speaking, a compound bow will likely produce more scores than a recurve bow. This is simply because a compound bow makes it easier to target more scores than a recurve bow, given all the added uniqueness.

If an archer with a compound bow and another who has a recurve bow with the same skills undergo training for 12 months, their scores will likely appear in this manner:

  • Compound archer – 9+ per shot
  • Recurve archer – 7+ per shot

Archers with recurve bows will possibly meet up with those having compound bows when they develop in their bow and arrow placements. Scores at this point should be very high and close to that of a compound bow archer.

Why Some Archers Prefer Compound

Some archers see compound bows as a successor to recurve bows because their design allows better shots with power and precision.

Why Some Archers Prefer Compound

Here are the main reasons archer would prefer a compound bow:

They are easier to shoot

Just as it is with every other innovation of man, the design of compound bows makes them convenient and easier to use. The easy-use factor is one of the main reasons archers prefer the compound bow to other bows.

They possess bigger power and precision.

The addition of the mechanical system of operation is the reason for the super arrow speed. While a properly designed recurve bow will push an arrow at a speed of 180 feet/second, an arrow from a compound bow will go at 370 feet/second. That is more than twice the speed of a recurve bow.

They support add-ons and customization.

Some recurve bow archers may add certain customizations to their bows, but nothing comes close to the customization on a compound bow. Here are some customization accessories you can add to a compound bow:

  • Stabilizers
  • Bow sights
  • Bow release
  • Arrow rests
  • Silencers
  • Quivers
  • Wrist slings

Why Some Archers Prefer Recurve

The following are the major reasons archers would prefer recurve to compound bows:

Why Some Archers Prefer Recurve

  • There is a natural feeling that a recurve bow offers when archers grip the string with their fingers.
  • Getting accurate shots is a skill archers obtain over time, achieving an average arrow of 7+. This happens mostly with a recurve bow. This way the competition becomes interesting.
  • The use of recurve bows is the old form of archery sport, which has been on long before the compound bow came into play.
  • Lastly, the Olympic event accepts only recurve bows. This means archers who wish to get into the Olympics should be familiar with the application of recurve bows.

Switching from Recurve to Compound

If you have a recurve bow or you are already familiar with its application and feel a need for a change, here are some tips to help you achieve just that.

  • Draw length: You need to adjust the draw length of the recurve bow before you take a shot. You can achieve this by adjusting the cam/mod configuration of the recurve bow.
  • Draw weight: You need to understand that both bows offer different draw weights. This will require you to pick the perfect draw weight. Since compound bows shoot more poundage than recurve bows, you should consider picking higher poundage.
Compound Recurve
30 – 40 16 – 20 lbs.
40 – 50 20 – 26 lbs.
50 – 70 26 – 30 lbs.
70 and above 30 lbs.
  • Arrow: To successfully switch to a compound bow, you have to check if the arrows for a recurve bow are applicable in a compound bow. This is because there is no archer’s paradox in compound bows, which is responsible for the differences in stiffness.
  • Release types: There are different types of release with these bows. Understanding the release type of compound bows will help you in your switch. Some of these release types include canting release, thumb release, wrist release, and back tension release.

Switching from Compound to Recurve

Below are the basic things to consider when planning to switch from a compound bow to a recurve bow.

  • The draw weight – In a recurve bow, the draw weight, however, is not changeable, so getting the right limbs is necessary here.
  • Arrows – It is possible to use the same arrows for both bows. The only change here is the use of lower draw weight.
  • Tab – This is the release technique in recurve bows, so it is important to get familiar with this it. You get a more convenient shot process and a proper anchor with a good tab.
  • The draw length – For a recurve bow, you won’t need to get a draw length that suits you since you easily adjust the draw length.

Final Thoughts

We have answered the difference between recurve and compound bow above. Both bows are unique, with distinct characteristics and areas of efficiency. However, they also have similarities.

So, if you feel uncomfortable with a particular bow, you can use the tips above for a successful bow switch. It is always a good idea to learn about a particular thing before taking any other action.