Traditional archery has an immense following and almost all archers will develop some fascination with it at some point as it is nostalgic, challenging and arguably more fun than any other form of archery.
But apart from getting some beautiful feather-fletched arrows or some cool and traditional looking leather quivers, you also need to decide on whether to use a longbow or the recurve bow.
Longbows and recurve bows are similar in that they are often simpler to use than the compound bows, and they also come in a relatively simpler design that consists an arrow rest, the bow and string only.
Choosing between the two should be easy if you have enough experience with both but for many new and seasoned archers, this is not always the case.
Hence, it is vital to understand what each is all about and both its pros and cons as this will make your choice easier.
Longbows are one of the oldest types of bows, and also what many archers will consider as the more traditional type of the two.
These bows have been in use for hunting and warfare for thousands of years and their design has hardly changed in all that time.
Traditional longbows are characterized by a long single piece of wood with a string and they are what will come to most people’s mind when they think of a bow. And unlike the recurve bows, they will not have tips curving away from the archer
Because they do not have complicated cam and pulley systems like the compound bows or a recurve to increase their power, the only way to make them powerful is by making the D-shaped limb long.
These bows can be as long as the archer because on average they will be between 4 and 6 feet long. But, their size will depend on the height of the archer.
Longbows tend to be more forgiving than the recurve bows thanks to their thicker depth and thinner width and so if you are just starting out they can be a better option.
Also, there is less contact between the string and limbs on the longbow, and this means less string slap which in turn translates to quieter shooting even when you do not use string silencers.
But, the absence of the recurve ends means that it will not store as much energy as the recurve bow and so the arrows tend to be significantly slower than what the latter produces.
- More forgiving. A longbow is often more forgiving than the recurve bow which makes it a much better option for beginner archers. Unlike the recurve bow, it is thicker in depth but thinner in width which makes it more difficult for archers with a poor form to torque the limbs as they draw the string back. Also, this shape helps to ensure that your arrows will fly straighter.
- Quieter shooting. Although loud bows will not be less accurate, many archers prefer shooting quiet bows. Quiet bows can also be more appropriate when hunting. The longbows are generally quieter than the recurve even when you are not using string silencers. And this is often because there is less contact between limbs and the string which means that there is less string slap than when using a recurve bow.
- Appealing classical look. If you are seriously into traditional archery, the longbow fits the bill much better than the recurve bow. It has a more classical and historical appeal than the recurve bow, and it was always the weapon of choice of the ice-age hunters and medieval archers.
- Less powerful. Although you will find longbows that are available in similar power ranges to the recurves, they are often less powerful than the latter. Recurves on the tips of the recurve bows will store more energy and do it more efficiently than the simple D curve design of the longbow. And so the recurve will often deliver significantly faster arrow speeds.
- Relatively less portable. Longbows are longer than the recurve bows and this makes them harder to carry through thick forests when hunting. Also, most longbows cannot be taken down like the recurve bows, and this also affects their portability.
- Recurve Bow
The recurve bow was developed to try and address some of the shortcomings of the longbow, and it has also been in use for at least a few thousand years.
The time-consuming aiming and shooting process of the longbow is one of these shortcomings that the recurve aims to address as it speeds up things significantly.
Recurve bows feature limbs with ends that curve away from the archer to form a “3” like shape. This re-curve is designed to store and provide more power to the arrow for improved speeds.
Also, the recurve bows tend to be more compact than the longbows and archers can transport and wield them easily.
Another comparable design difference between the recurve and longbows is that the former are much thinner in depth, but wider.
However, this thinness introduces some new problems when shooting as it will allow for greater swing if you torque the limbs when drawing the string and this affects the precision of the bow.
But, the shorter length and the increased power that lead to faster arrow speeds can compensate for this shortcoming in many instances. A good example of this is when shooting in tighter places or in more densely wooded areas.
On average, the recurve bows will be between 48 and 70 inches long, and this makes them significantly shorter than longbows. The shorter length is what makes them ideal for use in close quarters or on horsebacks).
- More powerful. Generally, the recurve bows will store more energy thanks to the recurve on the tips. And this makes them more powerful than similar size longbows. Also, these curved tips mean that that the bows will generate relatively faster arrow speeds than you would get from a longbow.
- Highly portable. The shorter length of the recurve bow means that it is easier to move with across densely wooded areas or tight places. But, most modern ones also come in a takedown design that allows archers to break the bow into three pieces which for most models are top and bottom limb and the riser. This makes them easier and more convenient to pack and carry.
- Easier adjustability and repair. A longbow is hard to repair in case the limbs were to break. Broken limbs often mean that you have to buy a new bow but this is not always the case with recurve bows, and this is more so with the takedown types as you can replace the broken section. Also, with a recurve bow it is possible to buy different types of limbs to increase or adjust the power which is hard to do with the single piece longbows.
- A little louder. If you are looking for a bow that offers quiet shooting, the recurve bow might not be the right option. The fact that there is more contact between the string and limbs on the recurve bow means that there will be more string slap which makes them significantly noisier when shooting.
- Less precision. A recurve bow in the hands of an expert or highly experienced archer can be a highly precise tool. But generally, it offers less precision than the longbows. And this is because of the thinness of the limbs and the fact that the string gets pulled relatively farther back to generate the greater arrow speeds.
There is still no consensus out there even among seasoned archers on which one is better between the longbow and recurve bows as they are both fantastic traditional bows.
However, the longbows are by far the more forgiving of the two, more precise and also a much better option for beginners that want to learn archery.
Recurve bows, on the other hand, are smaller for portability and to enable greater mobility and more powerful to generate faster arrows speeds.
How you intend to use the bow and your preferences should guide you in making the right choice. But, if you are still unable to decide, the best idea is to go and try out both at an archery shop and then choose what you like most at the end of it.
Article Written By; Ashley Ward