Without getting too
much into the history of bows, the Recurve bow, as we know it, traces
its ancestry to ancient Asian cultures. They were among the first to put
a double bend in their bows, although this design shows up as well and
in the Mediterranean region. Horn was widely used for its great
flexibility and durability. Farther to the east bamboo was used more
prevalently to the extreme of it being the sole material used by some
cultures. It works well and has a very smooth pull, but unfortunately
The Recurve design is truly a stroke of shear genius for the age of its
conception – some thousands of years BC. Some call it a
"pre-stressed" design, although that seems a misnomer to me.
It is simply the way you build and shape the limbs. What it does do –
and this is the genius of it – is pure physics. Any time tension in a
stressed member rounds a corner; energy is either lost or gained. By
building the limbs pre-curved at rest (hence, "pre-stressed"),
the energy is gained rather than lost. This enables a bow to be built
compact with very great power and a full draw, while a straight bow of
equal length and strength would have a very short draw before it would
break. Recurve bows typically give greater arrow speed than longbows of
A modern Recurve provides the shooter with more easily attainable
accuracy and is therefore a good choice for the beginning archer as well
as the veteran shooter. This is mostly due to the "cut-out"
shelf design. It does three things.
First the shelf is cut to or beyond the center point of the handle or
"riser" area bringing the arrow perfectly in line with the
direction of the bowstring travel. There is less to compensate for as
with older longbows particularly where the arrow has to "get around
the shelf", if it has a shelf at all.
Second the "scooped-out" area above a modern Recurves arrow
shelf gives a definite visual perspective of the target area wherein
there is a "sweet spot" that the mark, or bull’s eye, is
more readily found.
Third the deep-cut grip raises the wrist and arm into the shooter’s
perspective giving yet another sight-plane to aid in target acquisition.
Now you have triangulation – your line of vision, the arrow, and your
arm. Triangulation is seldom wrong.
There are variations in both types of bows – flatbows in the longbow
category, and traditional Recurves with a longbow style handle. That
aside, you now have enough information to help you make some choices.
The only thing left is to try a few different bows and see what feels
good to you. When an aspiring archer comes into my shop, I will put
several different bows in his/her hand until one feels
"right". I won’t even let them try a bow until one fits
their hand and they say, "Yeah, this feels good". If it doesn’t
feel comfy in the bow hand you will fight with it and spend too much
time getting used to it instead of actually learning the particular bow.