You might be struggling to decide between recurve vs compound bow, then this guide will give you confidence.

In this article, we'll look at:

  • What’s their difference?
  • What are their pros and cons?
  • Which one is better for beginners and hunters?

Let's dig deep into it...

Recurve Vs Compound Bow: What’s Their Difference?

Here are the MAJOR differences between a recurve bow and a compound bow.

1. Basic Design:

Recurve Bow

takedown recurve bow

A recurve bow has a traditional, simple design with a curved shape that bends away from the archer when unstrung.

It's made up of a riser, string, nocking point, arrow rest, bowstring, grip, sight window, race height, arrow shelf, backing, belly, string grooves, and two limbs.

The two flexible limbs of a recurve bow are made of wood, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.

Compound Bow

compound bow

The compound bow's design is based on a mechanical framework called an "eccentric system".

Two cams, two strings, and two cables or harnesses are always present in this arrangement.

The cam is on one arm and the axle on the other area where the harness is fastened in a compound bow.

Here’s the deal:

The cam and pulley system allows the bow to be more efficient at storing and releasing energy, which results in greater speed and accuracy.

Single cam vs dual cam

Lacking of cam and pulley is the biggest disadvantage of recurve bow.

2. Let off:

Let off is the one of the BASIC differences between compound and recurve bow.

Let off is the power percentage (draw weight) of a compound bow that a shooter holds at full draw.

The let-off feature of a compound bow helps to reduce the amount of force required to draw the bowstring back.

Let-off chart

Let-off chart - The more let off, the less draw weight

Why is let-off important?

It helps you:

  • Reduced fatigue (due to the archer holding a lower weight)
  • Increased accuracy
  • Longer hunting sessions as you don't have to fully hold your draw all the time
  • Smoother and easier release.


If a compound bow has a 65-pound draw weight then it'll most likely have an 85% let-off at full draw, the archer will have to hold back roughly 15% (13lbs).

So 85% of the bow draw weight is the let off at full draw.

Hunters usually prefer an 80-85% let off and target archers prefer as low as 65-70% let-off at full draw.

Recurve bow doesn’t have a let-off.

Recurve bows do not have let off because its draw weight will gradually increase as you pull back the bowstring.

What does it mean?

It means you have to use 100% physical strength to pull it back.

If you’re drawing #39 recurve bow, you have to pull a full of #39 with NO support.

But here's the problem:

The let-off won't work if you under-draw or over-draw your compound bow. You need to pull the string to the draw stop point (find out below).

3. Draw Stop:

The modern compound bow has a draw stop that gives you a hard back wall (the point where you can’t pull the string further).

The best part?

You can shoot A LOT more consistently, from time to time, from arrow to arrow.

Recurve bow doesn’t draw stop which is a challenge for novices to draw properly.

4. Material:

Compound bows are made of aluminum and they are carefully designed with cutouts that reduce weight, but maintain strength.

In contrast, recurve bows are made of woods, carbon fiber or fiberglass.

This justifies the strength of compound bows over recurve bows because an aluminum material is surely stronger than carbon fiber.

5. Speed:

Compound Speed

The arrows shot by a compound bow can travel up to 200 miles per hour, while the arrows shot by recurve bow can travel up to 150 miles per hour.

A compound bow shoots arrows faster than a recurve bow thanks to a mechanical cam and pulley system. They store more energy and transport it to the arrows.

Here's the thing:

If you get into hunting, a faster arrow speed will eliminate the the deer to jump string (they jump up and avoid your arrows before getting hit) which improve your success rate.

Therefore, a compound bow shoots arrows at a faster speed than a recurve bow.

6. Accuracy:

archery target

Both types of bows are accurate when you use them correctly.

A compound bow has a higher edge due to its smoother draw and reduced hand shock, which makes it more deadly accurate than a recurve bow.

IMAGINE 2 new archers who started a target competition at the same time.

After a couple of hours, a compound shooter properly tuning and sighting in could easily shoot any targets within 25 yards.

On the contrary, 25 yards are pretty far for a new recurve archer without let-off and draw stop.

7. Power:

power stroke

The estimated draw weight of recurve bows is between 50-70 pounds, while that of a compound bow is between 60-80 pounds.

A compound bow is more powerful than a recurve bow because it uses a system of cables, pulleys, and cams.

It reduces the amount of force that you'll use to hold the bowstring at full draw and increases the strength at which you release the arrow.

What does it mean?

  • You can shoot arrows at a higher velocity without relying much on your physical strength.
  • You can shoot from a long distance and still take down a large game.

8. Noise:


Due to the complex design of a compound bow and because it creates more power when shooting, it can produce more noise than a recurve bow.

The consequence of this noise is that it can spook your game and potentially scare them off, making it harder to get a successful shot.

However, this can be mitigated with the use of noise dampeners and other accessories.

9. Size and Weight:

The length of a compound bow is 27 to 40 inches, while that of a recurve bow ranges from 60 to 65 inches.

A beginner wooden takedown recurve will be lighter than most of the compounds.


Samick Sage weighs about 2.5 lbs. vs The Diamond Infinite Edge weighs 3.3 lbs.

This shows that a compound bow is typically smaller but heavier than a recurve bow, making it easier to carry and maneuver in tight spaces.

10. Maintenance:

tuning the bow

The cables and pulleys of the compound bow need to be checked regularly and adjusted to ensure that the bow is functioning correctly.

In recurve bows, there are no cables and pulleys, so it doesn't require frequent maintenance like the compound bow.


  • It saves your time
  • You can change recurve parts (taken down recurve) on the field without a bow press.
  • It is more reliable, as a recurve bow can last for 10 - 20 years.

Sounds cool?

11. Cost:


Recurve bows are often cheaper for beginners, students, or those on a budget, which makes them able to afford it easily without much stress.

For example:

A good recurve bow setup for beginners only costs around $200, but a compound bow package can take you up to $1,000.


You’ll outgrow a compound very soon and need to upgrade your limbs.

Then you have to bring it to a local bow shop as you can’t DIY without a bow press.

The result:

You have to spend not only for new gear replacement but for the technician guy.

This isn’t an issue with recurve bow. You can replace gear without much effort and tools.

12. Shooting Techniques:

Recurve Bowfishing


The shooting technique of a compound bow is quite different from that of a recurve bow.

Let me explain:

Drawing techniques

The traditional archers seem draw smoother and quicker than a compound bow, as they don’t have a let-off to keep them at peak draw length.

The result? They draw and release sooner to avoid fatigue.

Aiming methods:

Recurve archers have more aiming methods, such as instinctive, gap shooting, and string walking which require proper form and disciplines.

Compound archery is MUCH more about mechanical techniques that provide accuracy, speed and less holding weight.

The best part?

If you’re would like to hunt, a compound bow is fastest and easiest choice for novice archers.

Release aid:

release aid

A release aid is a device that allows archers to shoot arrows more precisely by using a trigger to release the bowstring and not archer's fingers.

The release aid in a compound bow makes it a simple and easy shooting technique.

It eliminates your finger touches on the string movement, free up your mind and get “gold” areas on targets. 

You need to depend on your fingers if using a recurve, which is relatively more complex.

13. Learning Curve:

Both compound and traditional recurve take lots of time for master, but the time you spent is different:


If you pick up a compound with a good setup, you can shoot decent groups within 20 minutes.


The same story doesn’t apply for recurve archery.

You have to take a lot of time to nail down the consistent form, keep patience to get proper follow through.

In short, it takes time and dedication to master in a couple of days/ weeks.

14. Accessories:

10 Archery Essential Gears

A compound bow is typically more customizable than a recurve bow, with a wider range of accessories such as: sights, stabilizers, and release aids available to help improve accuracy and performance.

Technically compound bow is designed to attach accessories.

15. Sight:

Sighting is the soul of bows.

Recurve bow has its own set sights but less “sexy” as a compound.

They’re nothing more than a bar with an aperture to aim through. You have to aim to base on your own vision.

recurve bow sight

But you have lots much more choices for compound sights:

  • Lasers
  • 1 pin
  • 3 pins
  • 5 pins

They provide clear magnification for deadly accuracy.

Pros and Cons:


Recurve Bow

Compound bow


Simpler design

Complex design





Wood, carbon fiber or fiberglass











Size and weight

Longer and lighter

Narrower and heavier


Less effort

More effort






More expensive

Shooting techniques

More complex


Learning curve




Less choice

More choice

Less smooth release

Smoother and cleaner release

So Which Bow Is Better For Beginners?

Archery Tips for Beginners

Both compound and recurve bows can be suitable for beginners, but recurve bows are generally simpler to use and learn the discipline as a martial art. 

This is because the recurve bows don't have as many moving parts as compound bows, and they don't require a lot of extra accessories, like sights or stabilizers, to shoot accurately.

So recurve bow will be great for learning the basics of archery, target and Olympic shooting.

Compound bows are more powerful, with a draw weight of between 40 and 80 pounds, it’s great for hunting.

Which Bow Is Good For Hunting?


Big game:

Both compound and recurve bows can be effective for shooting and targeting large animals, but the best choice will depend on a variety of factors.

They include your experience level, personal preference, and the specific hunting situation you may have.

Compound bows are generally more robust and accurate than recurve bows due to their advanced technology, high speed, and mechanisms.

This makes them better suited for hunting big games at longer distances.

Small game:

For small game hunting, a recurve bow  is better suited for taking down the small game because they are quieter and have lower draw weight than compound bows.

Final Thoughts:

This post has made us understand recurve vs compound bows.

The best choice of bow ultimately comes down to personal preference and intended use.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them because I will be happy to answer them below.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Robert Gate, a hunter from Texas and Founder of ArcheryTopic.

I first learned archery from my dad when I was 12 years old. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift and instantly fell in love with the pursuit.