Compound Bow vs Recurve Bow Comparison

While there are several types of bows available for archery, the most commonly used ones are the compound and recurve bows. If you are a beginner looking for your first bow, any research you conduct will likely help you make an informed choice on whether to go for a recurve or compound bow. Both bows are great in their own right. Here we’ll give a compound recurve bow comparison, seeing what makes each bow type unique.

For instance, the recurve bow has a simple design that makes archery easy and lots of fun for beginners. Compound bows, on the other hand, are considered the most accurate bows ever made. They are, therefore, the perfect fit for anyone looking to stick with archery. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each bow type, as well as the differences between the two bows, is your best bet of making the right choice for you.

Difference in Design

compound recurve bow comparison - recurve designOne of the major differences of recurve and compound bows lies in the design of the bows. A recurve bow is sometimes referred to as a traditional bow because it has a similar design to bows used in the past. There are even some current day recurves which retain the traditional bow design of one solid piece with a string running across the ends of the bow.

Most recurve bows however, feature the more modernized takedown design of a 4-part bow. These parts include a riser, upper and lower limbs, and a bowstring. The riser, which is the middle part you hold onto while drawing and releasing an arrow, has mounts for the limbs, sight, and a few other bow accessories. The limbs in turn have a unique curve at the tips (a design first developed by Egyptian archers thousands of years ago) with a single bowstring resting across the tips of the limbs.

Compound bows are a much recent development than recurves with the first compound bow developed in the mid-20th century. This bow type was designed to improve on the draw power of traditional bows, which is why compound bows have an entirely different design from that of the recurves. Unlike the 4-part recurve bows, which can be taken down, compound bows stay as a single unit that comprises of a riser (which holds the limbs), bowstring, and a system of pulleys (also referred to as cams or wheels) attached at the tips of each limb. The string passes through the cams several times giving off the impression that compound bows have a series of strings.

Difference in Draw Technique

Although different in design all bows share the similarity of using the mechanical advantage of leverage to store energy in flexed limbs as one draws on them by pulling back the bowstring. It is this stored energy that enables a bow to shoot an arrow faster and farther than the human hand can throw one. The difference in bow performance, however, comes in the manner in which the said energy is stored.

Recurve Draw

Recurve bows store all their energy directly onto the limbs. As a result, the further back you pull the limbs of a recurve bow, the more the energy that will be transferred onto the arrow, and the faster the arrow will move once released. Unfortunately, the effort it takes to draw a recurve bow increases the further back you pull the bowstring. So, if you manage to draw a recurve bow all the way to its maximum point (usually referred to as ‘draw weight’), you will be holding the entire of that weight in your hands. Draw weights vary from one recurve bow to the next with the common weights being between 50 – 80lbs. Therefore, you can imagine just how hard it can be to balance those amounts of weight between your hands.

Compound Draw

compound recurve bow comparison - US Gov Work - Sgt. Matthew BenackCompound bows on the other hand, function like recurves up to a certain point. At first, pulling back a compound bow’s string is hard and only gets harder the further back you pull. However, at a certain point, the load suddenly decreases making it easy to hold back the string. This is thanks to the cams at the tips of the compound bow. These cams are designed to create a let off’ at the end of a draw. Basically, they take off a certain percentage (anywhere between 60-80%) of the draw weight when your pull the string all the way back to the let off point. For this reason, it takes much less effort to draw a compound bow compared to a recurve.

Pros and Cons of Recurve

Due to the difference in design, compound and recurve bows each offer their own set of pros and cons. For instance, the simple design of recurves gives these bows the benefits of being:

  • Cheaper than compound bows since recurves do not require specialized parts
  • Simple to shoot as no serious adjustments are needed
  • Easy to maintain

Unfortunately, the simplicity of the bow’s design also causes a few problems. These include the fact that recurves:

  • Are less powerful than compound bows
  • Are difficult to draw and therefore require plenty of skill from an archer for accurate shots to be made

Pros and Cons of Compound

Similarly, the complex design of compound bows gives these devices several pros and cons. For the pros, you get to enjoy:

  • A sturdy construction that allows for enhanced durability
  • A powerful force that can be especially useful during hunting
  • High level of accuracy that can be further improved with the use of sights and other accessories
  • More speed

As for cons, compound bows:

  • Cost more
  • Are hard to repair
  • Have high maintenance costs


Best Compound Recurve Bow Selections

When it comes to compound and recurve bow options, the SAS Explorer takedown recurve with Metal Riser and the Bear Archery Cruzer 70lb compound bow are considered the best beginner bow options in their respective fields. These bows would therefore make an ideal fit for beginners looking to choose between compound bows and recurves. Read on to find out more about the bows.

SAS Explorer Metal Riser Takedown Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are well known for their characteristic curve at the limb tips. Despite allowing the bows to hold a lot of power, they make it difficult to draw a recurve to its maximum point. For this reason, recurve bows usually attract expert archers who have a bit more experience in bow usage. The SAS Explorer Metal Riser Recurve Bow, however, seeks to turn things around. It offers a design that makes it easy for beginners to use the bow.


The Good 

With a length of 66”, this bow is longer than most recurves. The extra inches give the bow the advantage of reducing much of the string pinch’ situation that is common with shorter bows. String pinch is a condition where fingers of the bowstring hand get pinched when the bow is nearing full draw. With the string pinch situation reduced, beginner archers will have a much easier time drawing the SAS Explorer to its maximum draw point and holding that position long enough to make accurate shots.

Another nice touch to the SAS Explorer’s design is that the limbs can be interchanged. You can select limbs across a range of 22, 26, 30, and 34 pounds. Compared to most recurves whose draw weights start from 50lbs, the limbs on the SAS Explorer make it easy to achieve a full draw. As a result, this bow would make an excellent fit for those new to archery. It provides a great learning curve on how to use recurves. The interchangeable limbs also give this bow the advantage of making an ideal fit for shooters of varying heights even those as tall as 6’.

Other highlights of this recurve bow include:

  • Sturdy Construction

Despite being one of the few takedown recurves that you can get on a budget, the SAS Explorer has a sturdy build that promises durability. Its riser is made of a high quality aluminum material. The limbs are made of maple laminations and strong fiberglass. According to users, this combination of materials gives the SAS Explorer a light feel, smooth performance, and the quality of high priced recurves.

  • A Beautiful Look

Another great thing about this bow is that it has a stylish look that is sure to turn heads. The gorgeous maple build fiberglass limbs are complemented by the metal riser’s carefully polished finish. Together they give the bow a beautiful professional look. To top it up, the metal riser comes in the options of a blue or red color both of which add on to the overall look of the bow.

  • Easy Assembly

One of the biggest downfalls of takedown recurves is that most feature a complex assembly & takedown process that can make anyone dread using these bow types. The SAS Explorer however is one of the few exceptions. This bow’s simple design makes it very easy to put together (as well as takedown) the bow. Some users claim to be able to put together the bow and string it in under 5 minutes.


The Bad 

One of the common complaints among users is that the string, which comes with the bow, is too long. So, if you decide to purchase this bow, you should be prepared to buy the right sized string, twist the string to size, or take your bow to an archery shop to be properly strung.

There have also been a few complaints about the riser’s grip section. Some users say that it is too small to fit an average sized hand while others find the grip to be uncomfortable. This however may just be a matter of opinion as many users find the bow to be quite comfortable to draw.

Another downside of this SAS Explorer bow is that it is designed for right hand use only. So, if you hold your bow with the left hand, this bow will not be a good fit for you.


Cruzer – Ready to Hunt Compound Bow RH A5CZ21007R from Bear Archery

When it comes to compound bows, the Bear Archery Cruzer RTH is one of the best options available. Durable, sturdily built, versatile, highly accurate, and comfortable to hold, this bow literally offers you everything you would want in a compound bow. And the best part is that the Bear Archery Cruzer is designed to be used by archers of all stages. It may be enjoyed by all including beginners and experienced shooters.

The Good 

Right from its build, this compound bow is designed for serious business. It’s made from a quality aluminum material that can easily handle pressure brought on by frequent use or rough handling. And despite this high performance, the bow is comfortable to handle, as the aluminum material is lightweight while the bow itself only weighs 3.6lbs. In addition to that, the compound bow features what is referred to as the Max Pre-Load Quad limbs construction’. This is whereby the upper and lower limbs are split 2 ways. The biggest advantage of this construction method is that it protects the shooter’s hand by diminishing hand shock and vibrations. Therefore, you can shoot continuously for hours with this bow without feeling fatigued or experiencing muscle aches.

With this compound bow, you will also get to enjoy the fact that it:

  • Is Highly Adjustable

One of the best features of the Cruzer compound bow from Bear Archery is that it can be used by anyone thanks to its stunningly wide range of adjustability in both draw length & draw weight. The draw length spans from 12-30 inches and can be adjusted with half-inch increments. The draw weight in turn can be adjusted from a 5lb point all the way to 70lbs thereby allowing every user to draw the bow at their own comfort.

  • Comes Loaded With All Relevant Accessories

As the name suggests, the Bear Archery Cruzer bow comes fully loaded, ready to hunt straight out from the box. Not only do you get a strung bow. You also get a quiver, a stabilizer, fiber optic sights, a high quality whisker biscuit arrow rest, and even a wrist strap. With these many accessories already available, all you will require to add is quality archery gloves and you will be ready for a fun and safe day of archery be it target shooting or bow hunting.

  • Operates Quietly

This bow is fitted with offset string suppressors, which reduce the vibrations made by the string after every arrow release. This feature comes in handy for those instances where you will be using the bow for a hunt.

  • Has A Design That Enhances Accuracy

Through its combination of features, the Bear Archery Cruzer compound bow puts the user at a better position of allowing the user to make accurate shots. The lightweight build of the bow, max pre-load quad limbs construction, and adjustability of the bow make the bow easy to handle. Thus it allows the archer to direct his concentration on making accurate shots. What’s more, the bow itself is designed to eliminate hand torque. Hand torque is one of the biggest enemies of accuracy in bows.

The Bad 

The only downside of this compound bow is that it falls on the higher side of pricing. However, considering the quality and array of features, the price is well worth it.

Like the SAS Recurve, this model is right-handed archers only.

Which Bow Is Right For You?

So, which of the above bows wins the epic compound recurve bow battle? Well, it all comes down to how you plan on using your bow. The SAS Explorer Recurve Bow makes a good fit for uses such as display and target practice where accuracy is not highly required. This recurve would also work for small game hunting. However, when it comes to serious bow usage such archery competitions, large game hunting, and sea bow fishing, the Bear Archery Cruzer RTH would make a much better fit.

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