Recurve Bow

The recurve bow is perhaps the most and widely used bow in archery. The term “recurve” refers to the shape of the bow as seen from the side. When strung, the bow bends in the usual crescent shape but the end of each limb of the bow curve back in the other direction. So not only does the bow curve, it re-curves at the end; hence the name.

The advantage of this re-curve in the limbs is that as the bow is drawn to its full extent the recurve straightens out until the limbs are completely extended, so that in effect the limbs have become longer as the bow is drawn, generating more power. Modern recurve bows are often “take-down” bows, meaning that they can be taken apart for easy storage and transport, being comprised of a “riser” (the central portion held by the archer) and two “limbs” that detach.






Compound Bow

The compound bow was first developed in 1966 by Holless Wilbur Allen in the USA. It is a very modern bow in design. The compound bow has its bowstring connected to a system of pulleys and cables attached to the limbs of the bow which enables the bow to store more energy than other types of bow when the string is drawn back.

It is generally agreed that the compound bow is superior in accuracy, velocity and distance in comparison to other bows and it has become increasingly popular as a result, especially in the United States of America where it is used in bowhunting as well as in competition.



For those with an interest in the history of archery, especially in the UK, the longbow is the traditional bow. It is the type of bow used by the English in the medieval period to win a series of illustrious victories over the French in the Hundred Years’ War (the battle of Crecy in 1346, the battle of Poitiers in 1356, and the battle of Agincourt in 1415). Medieval Englishmen were required by law to practice with the longbow and became much feared in warfare at that time. Because of this historical context, the longbow is often referred to as the “English longbow”, although it almost certainly originated in Wales, the Welsh being reknowned for the use of the longbow even prior to the English.

The English longbow is used “barebow” (i.e. without attachments such as sights, stabilisers, clickers, etc.) and is generally around 6¬†foot long although traditionally it can be longer. The longbows used in the medieval period are famous for their high poundage, their draw weight (the amount of resistance when the bowstring is pulled back) being much greater than most modern longbows.

Americans sometimes refer to any bow that is fairly long as a “longbow”, including what we in the UK might call a flatbow, but a cross-section of the wood of the traditional English longbow is fashioned in a D shape, rather than being flat.






FlatbowThe flatbow (sometimes called the “American flatbow”) is a straight bow, generally quite long, without any recurve in the limbs, which in cross-section are more or less rectangular. It is flat on both the belly (inside) and the back (outside) of the bow. This is the type of bow associated in the popular imagination with the native tribes of America. However, although flatbows have been around for a long time, these days modern materials like fibre-glass are usually employed in their manufacture.


Horse BowHorse Bow

The classic horse bow is the small but powerful recurve bow used in history by the terrifying mounted archers of Asia and Eastern Europe such as the Mongols, the Huns, the Turks, the Hungarians, etc. The horse bow can, of course, also be used by a standing archer but its design was developed for the needs of archery from horseback.