The Difference Between a Longbow and Recurve Bow

I shot my first bow when I was about 5-years-old. It was a red Bear Archery Cub longbow. My great uncle, who was my idol and the man I most looked up too, was an archer, so I wanted to be an archer. My second bow was his hand-me-down Bear Kodiak, a recurve bow.  After that I moved on to my first compound bow, a Bear Blacktail Hunter. Since then I figure I’ve owned six other bows, a Pearson, a Hoyt and four different Mathews.

After watching a four disk set of old Fred Bear hunting movies, I’m ready to go back to my roots and get a traditional bow. Now all I have to do is decide if I want a longbow or a recurve. To decide, I need to review the differences and the advantages of each bow.

Also Read Compound Bow vs. Traditional Bow

A long bow is a forgiving bow. Its main difference from a recurve is its shape. A long bow is the traditional half-moon shape with a straight grip. It is thin in width, but thicker in depth from a recurve. Because of this thickness, it is harder to torque the limbs when pulling the string for archers with poor form. This makes the arrows fly straighter.

In addition, the length of the long bow means less pinching on the fingers when the string is drawn back and it also has less friction on the fingers when the string is released. This makes the longbow a great learning bow and probably why my uncle had me start on it.

The recurve has that classic ‘three’ shape as the limbs that bend into the half-moon start to bend back out at the tips. The shape gives the bow more power and because of this can shoot an arrow faster. The recurve is wider than the long bow, but thinner in depth, meaning that it is less forgiving to shoot, since the reduction in thickness means it is possible to torque the limbs when pulling the string if your form is off. However, the recurve can come in shorter lengths with the same power, making it a better bow for tighter or brushier places.

After reviewing, the best traditional bow for me would be the recurve. My form is generally good, so I don’t tend to torque my strings or my limbs, and I like the shorter length and faster arrows especially after using compound bows for most of my life. It didn’t hurt watching Fred Bear kill just about everything using his recurve bow either!

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