Compound vs. Recurve Bows

If you’d like to become a competitive archer, you’ll likely want to specialize in one type of bow shooting. Depending on the type of coaches and equipment available to you and your goals as an archer, your decision might be made for you. To help you, here’s a table comparing the differences between the bow types below.

Compound vs. Recurve Bows

 CompoundRecurve
UsesAllowed in all competitive events except for Pan Am, Parapan Am, and Olympic and Paralympic GamesAllowed in all competitive events, including Pan Am, Parapan Am, and Olympic and Paralympic Games
LengthShorter axle-to-axle (end-to-end) length; uses wheels and cams to conduct energy of bow.Much longer length from limb tip to limb tip; energy of bow is stored in limbs.
LimbsBow has a more compact appearance, with limbs that are constantly flexed; limbs may be parallel to one another.Bow has an elongated appearance, with limbs that curve out from riser and then curve again out to limb tip.
WeightHas let-off (i.e. the archer pulls back the full weight of the bow but holds only 15 to 35 percent of bow weight while aiming).Archer pulls and holds the full weight of the bow when aiming.
ReleaseMechanical release is used to release the string, though a limited number of archers use a finger tab with a compound bow. Archers always use their fingers to release the string, most often protected by a finger tab (a piece of leather that covers the fingers) or, less often, a shooting glove.
compound bow the walking deadrecurve bows