How To Choose a Recurve Bow (For Hunting and Archery)

With so many recurve bow models on the market, it is easy to get confused when shopping for your first bow. This article provides a detailed guide:

  • How to choose a recurve bow for hunting or traditional archery?
  • How to determine your draw length and draw weight?
  • What’s your eye dominance?
How to choose a recurve bow

We’ll cover everything, including the critical features to consider, in this 7 minutes read.

First Define A Purpose For The Bow:

The first question to answer is what you want a recurve bow for. There are several types of archery:

  • Target archery
  • Field archery
  • 3D archery
  • Traditional archery
  • Bow hunting
  • Other sub-categories under these
defind purpose

Not all recurves are suitable for certain kinds of archery. For example, a recurve bow for competition.

You need to check that it conforms to the rules set by the World Archery Federation.

The idea is to research the most suitable bow for a particular kind of archery you are interested in.

The most common reason people buy a recurve is for:

  • Target practice
  • Competition
  • Bow-hunting

We’ll recommend this article’s end to those who want a recurve for hunting or target practice.

Much of this guide revolves around these three critical metrics:

  • Draw length
  • Draw weight (poundage)
  • Eye dominance

Why Is It Important?

Unlike in compound bows, there’s scarcely any room for modification in a recurve.

1) Hard to customize:

For starters, you can’t change any of those metrics significantly should you get it wrong the first time.

Only in compound bows can you customize draw length and draw weight (where you can increase or decrease them). But you still can’t change eye dominance.

2) Full force keeping:

You have to bear the burden of the entire draw-weight (force) required to keep a recurve at full draw.

In compound bows, you can reach a 70-pounds draw by inputting less than 20-pounds of force.

While in a recurve, you must input 70-pounds of force to reach a 70-pounds draw. The difference is because compound bows have a feature known as the “let off”.

3) Bad habits:

Last but not least, winding up with the wrong draw length, poundage, or eye dominance can lead you to develop bad shooting habits that may be difficult to correct later on.

Types Of Recurve Bows

There are two major types of recurve bows with pros and cons:

  • Takedown
  • One-piece recurve

Taken downs (Three-Piece) Recurve:

takendown recurve bow


A recurve is termed a "take-down" if you can deconstruct it into separate parts after unstringing the bow.

Takedown risers are usually bigger and add extra weight to the bow.

It's a toss-up whether this added weight is an advantage. While some people prefer very light recurves, the heavier takedowns provide a more stable hold which is good for accuracy.

You can also adjust the tiller, use limbs from different companies, change the draw length or poundage, and share the bow with others.

Both types can make noise, but it’s more likely in takedowns.

However, modern recurves mostly have a string silencer, so you probably shouldn't worry about noise.

Quivers tend to work more comfortably in takedowns.

Take-downs easily fit into a small bag, are easier to transport, and require less storage space.

Add to this that you can also buy the parts of a takedown separately and that they are easier to fix or maintain.

One-Piece Recurves

One Piece recurve bow


A one-piece recurve stays the way you bought it until you part with it. There can be no modifications that involve dismantling the bow.

One-piece recurves are generally lighter and tend to have better aesthetics than takedowns.

The more beautiful look of a one-piece is due to its cleaner lines. But for most users, it can be a tough call going with a recurve just for its beauty.

With a one-piece, you can never lose a bolt, hex-key, or limb due to rust or misplacement, and neither are there any parts to rattle.

A one-piece is typically on the cheaper end and is less prone to hand shock (vibration of the bow after releasing an arrow).

Draw Length:

What Is Draw Length?

recurev bow draw length

Draw length is simply the length of your full draw, measured from the nock of your arrow to the middle point of the bow’s handle, and then added to it “1 ¾” inches. The nock is the end of your arrow that touches the string.

Your accuracy is in jeopardy if the draw length doesn’t match your strength and height.

The right recurve isn’t too short or too long for you and lets you take full advantage of your body frame.

how to measure draw length recurve:

There are several ways to find your proper draw length. We’ll discuss two of the commonest.

The best way is to get help from a coach or an expert – like when using a practice bow and measurement arrow.

1) Practice Bow and Measurement Arrow:

A coach or an expert should determine your draw length using a practice bow and measurement arrow.

It is a bow made specifically for that purpose and uses an uncut arrow with graduation marks for measurement.

He can always tell if you position your body correctly. You’re going to stand erect and pull the practice bow to your full draw length (not necessarily the bow's).

The coach ensures that you’re holding a good form and then takes the reading on the arrow. That represents your draw length.

But can you do this on your own? Well, that's a bad idea.

Because in the absence of an expert, you're very likely to end up with the wrong measurement – where you record a figure that’s higher or lower than your actual draw length.

2) Using The Arm-span Method:

> Step 1: Stand erect, preferably with your back against the wall, and extend your two arms sideways at shoulder height.

Don't stretch. Also, open your palms flat.

> Step 2: In one hand, hold the tip of a measuring tape between your thumb and the palm.

> Step 3: Then have someone measure the distance between the tips of your middle fingers.

> Step 4: Divide the result by 2.5 to get your average draw length.

Having found your draw length, use the table to pick a corresponding “bow length” at the end of this article. Bow length, draw length, and poundage are all interrelated.

Draw Weight (Poundage):

what is the draw weight of a bow?

draw weight

The draw weight is the amount of force required to get a bow at full draw (through its full range of motion).

Poundage closely relates to draw length in that the longer a draw length, the higher the poundage and vice versa.

How to determine draw weight:

It’s pretty simple. Just find your draw length, and in most cases, it will correspond to your poundage.

There are several ways you can do this other than using draw length.

1) Determine your poundage by measuring bow length

A bow’s length measures from tip to tip along the bow’s curvature and behind the riser or handle.

2) Looking for a bow that matches your weight

Check following map your weight, bow length, or draw length to your poundage.

Table Mapping Poundage To Body Weight:


Large Frame Men (180+ lbs.)


Med. Frame Men (150-180 lbs.)


Large Frame Women (160+ lbs.)


Small Frame Men (120-150 lbs.)


Athletic Older Boys (130-150 lbs.)


Med. Frame Women (130-160 lbs.)


Small Frame Women (100-130 lbs.)


Larger Child (100-130 lbs.)


Small Child (70-100 lbs.)

If you’re new to archery, I recommend you to start with low poundage (30 - 40 lbs). It enable you  to draw faster, sturdier for long periods.

Eye Dominance

You need to know your dominant eye. It provides more information to the part of your brain responsible for vision.

The dominant eye relays a more accurate signal about objects’ location, which helps improve your aim.

how to determine Your eye dominance:

1) The easiest and most popular is for you to extend your arms forward and form a triangular shape with your two thumbs and index fingers.

2) With both eyes open, view an object 10 - 20 ft. away through the triangle such that the object appears in the center.

3) Then, close your left eye and note the new position of the object.

If it still appears in the center, then the right eye (which you viewed with) is your dominant eye - otherwise, the left eye is.

4) For optimal accuracy, a right-eye dominance requires you to draw the bowstring with your right hand regardless of whether you’re right-handed or not.

If you are right-handed but have a dominant left eye, learn to draw the string with your left hand instead.

The Truth About Eye Dominance:

35% of right-handers are left-eye dominant, and 43% of left-handers are right-eye dominant.

Congratulations! You now know your draw length and draw weight, and you’ve also managed to determine your eye dominance.

So what’s next? 

Maybe we should look at the “riser” because it’s a pretty important factor in choosing a recurve.

The Riser

recurve riser

The riser is the part of a bow that you grip. It is the foundation of a recurve. What kind of riser to choose depends on your budget.

It is best to physically feel the weight and balance of a recurve in your hand if you can.

Risers can be made from different materials, including wood, carbon, metal, or a mix of these, with pros and cons.

  • Carbon and wooden risers are light and require more effort to stabilize.
  • Metal risers are heavier and rugged and better able to accommodate tech features.

While you can read about a bow’s material from its specs, a riser’s quality can only be determined by physically testing the bow for weight and balance.

The best other alternative is to go through online feedback by users. After the riser, you got to look at the limbs.


ilf limbs


If you are still growing physically, you’ll likely outgrow your new pair of limbs within a few months.

Luckily, most limbs on the market follow the ILF system (International Limb Fitting)

If you go with an IFL riser, you can fit any ILF limbs to it regardless of the brand.

That’s why it's preferable to go for low-priced limbs so that you don’t have to spend too much on something you’ll soon replace.

The material and design of a limb differ from brand to brand. Choosing a design is primarily a personal affair and shouldn’t matter provided you buy a recurve with the right draw length.


crossbow string

Strings vary in material make, length, and thickness.

They usually fit the poundage and draw length. As for arrow rest, both plastic and metal iron rests are okay.

My Recommendations:

First and last, a takedown has more advantages than a "one-piece" recurve. We encourage beginners to choose a takedown recurve.

When buying a recurve for target practice, any poundage is okay, provided it's your correct draw length.

For hunting small games, anything from 30# is fine. But you need at least 40# to hunt big game because the arrow must penetrate layers of solid muscle or even bone.

You may use a recurve 66 - 68 inches long for the Olympics. But you should go for 58 - 62 inches for hunting.

It helps when hunting in thick cover, from a tree stand or ground blind, while making a comfortable string angle.

Mapping Draw Lengths To Bow Lengths

Draw Length (Inches)

Bow Length (Inches)

















Pro Tips:

  • As a new archer, you should shoot for muscle development first, and then form improvement next.
  • Find a coach and learn proper form which saving you from frustration
  • Get 5-pound increments until you’re proficient.

Now Your Turn:

Now you know how to choose a recurve bow

There are other factors to talk about, but discussed herein are the most important ones.

You may ask any questions or leave suggestions in the comments, and we’ll respond where necessary.

Robert Gate

Hi, I’m Robert Gate – an avid hunter and founder of I grew up in Texas, USA and learned archery from my dad when I was a child. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift when I got 12 years old. Read my story!

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