Skip to content

Bow Styles

Modern recurve bow

A modern recurve is one of the more recognisable styles of bow, and is used at the Olympics for target archery. You can identify the recurve bow by the curved tips at either end of the bow, which increases the speed of the bow and the smoothness of the release. Many archers also shoot recurve bows in field archery & 3D archery.

What is special about a recurve?

Recurves can be one solid piece, but most competition recurves on the market today are known as “takedown” recurve bows. This means that once unstrung, the bow will break down into three parts to allow for easy transport and adaptability. You grip the bow in the middle part, which is called the “riser” and is usually made of metal, but may also be made from wood or carbon. The top and bottom parts are called “limbs” which are made of wood, fibreglass, carbon, and other materials. Your bow gets its power from the unique curve at the limb tips, a design first developed by Egyptian archers thousands of years ago.

Modern compound bow

You can identify the compound bow by the multiple strings and the system of pulleys at either end of the bow. This bow is known for its widespread use in both field and 3D archery as well as bowhunting in the USA. Many archers also shoot compound bows in target archery.

What is special about a compound?

Some see the compound bow as the most recent evolution of archery. The pulley system or “cams” on either end of the compound are what give the bow its unique “let-off” capability.

What does “let-off” mean?

A let-off is the point during the draw when a compound archer can hold less draw weight. It allows the archer to take more time in aiming and is especially useful in hunting situations.

For example, this means that with a 60 lb compound bow the archer will begin drawing the string at the “peak weight” of 60 lbs. Then partly through the draw, the archer reaches the let-off point and the draw becomes easier at typically 65-75% of the original weight. The archer will stay at this “holding weight” of around 15 lbs until he or she is ready to release the arrow.

Traditional English longbow

The English Longbow originated in the 12th century and was a development of a succesful bow used earlier by the Welsh! It was the chief weapon of war from the late 12th century until the 16th century when the musket took over. In famous battles at Cresy, Poiters and Agincourt small armies of mainly English archers defeated much larger French opposition. The bow we shoot today was developed in Victorian times for recreational purposes. The bow is a simple D section wooden bow with no arrow rest or sight and shoots a wooden arrow with feather fletchings.


Barebow is similar to recurve shooting – you use a recurve bow, but don’t use the sight to aim. Instead you can learn techniques for aiming such as point of aim, string walking and face walking. There are also no other additional features like a long rod or clicker. Archers shoot barebow for target, field and clout shooting.