Are All Recurve Bow Limbs The Same?

by | Aug 10, 2022

The two most important parts of your bow are the riser and the limbs. They are also the most expensive parts. So it stands to reason that all recurve limbs are the same…?

When it comes to selecting a riser, it’s easy to establish the differences between an expensive riser and a cheap riser. Limbs, on the other hand, are a different matter. They all look the same! So what’s the difference? Do you need to get specific bow limbs to fit specific risers, or are they all the same?

In general, most bow limbs are compatible with most risers, making it easy to remove takedown bow limbs for convenient storage and replacement. The majority of takedown recurve bow risers and limbs are compatible due to the fact that they are using International Limb Fitting (ILF). This means that any limbs and risers carrying the ILF label have standard parts that slot together.

Selecting the right set of recurve bow limbs may seem a little daunting, so in this article, we’ll break down the differences in recurve limbs so you can make that all-important selection a little easier.

Are All Recurve Bow Limbs Interchangeable?

Although as stated, ‘most’ bow limbs and risers are compatible, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Recurve Bow Limbs

Some cheaper brands of recurve bows use their own limb fitting systems which are not interchangeable with risers using the ILF system.

Another notable exception on the higher end of the scale is the Hoyt Formula Series. They also use their own limb fitting system which means you have to stick to buying Hoyt Formula limbs for a Formula bow.

You can purchase adaptors to marry the bows and limbs together, but it’s much simpler to either go with ILF limbs and risers or stick with the Formula risers and limbs.

What Do Bow Limbs Do?

It seems like an obvious thing, so it’s a question that is seldom asked. While risers act as the central hub of the bow, it’s actually the bow limbs that do most of the work.

As the string is drawn back, this causes the bow limbs to flex, which stores potential energy. Upon release, the limbs snap back, transferring that energy into the string and then the arrow.

A frequent misconception in shooting is that the power comes from the bow string. While the string does do some of the work, most of the heavy lifting comes from the limbs.

What are Recurve Bow Limbs Made From?

Bow limbs achieve the amounts of energy they store from the various different materials used in their construction.

Historically, bow limbs were made traditionally from wood, bone, horn, and sinew, while more modern bows now use materials like carbon, wood, fibreglass, and synthetic foams.

Are All Recurve Bow Limbs The Same Length?

When selecting limbs for a bow, you need to choose limb length. Olympic Target Recurve bows are typically 68 inches, but you need to remember that this measurement is for the entire bow length and not just the limb length.

Lengths listed for limbs will assume that the riser is 25 inches, the most common length. Limbs are generally sold as 66, 68, or 70 inches after the limbs have been attached to a 25-inch riser.

There are some risers that come in 23 or 27-inch variants. So if you pair a set of 68-inch limbs with a 27-inch riser, you’ll end up with a 70-inch bow.

The same applies to pairing 70-inch limbs with a 23-inch riser. You’ll get a 68-inch bow. You can swap things up with short, medium, and long limbs by pairing them with short, medium, and long risers.

The most common combination is medium limbs with a medium riser, which gives you a 68-inch bow.

Can You Combine Different Recurve Bow Limbs With Different Risers?

If you’re looking for more length, you can combine longer limbs with longer risers, or medium limbs with long risers, depending on your needs, but the different limb lengths do make a difference.

Shorter Limbs – will deliver more ‘punch’, which means that your arrows will have more velocity as they leave the bow.

The downside to this is that you can quickly reach a point where ‘stacking’ can occur.

Stacking is the point in the draw where you reach the limit of the bow’s rating. As you draw back, there’ll be a point where drawing the bow string becomes dramatically more difficult. This is because the energy in the limbs isn’t consistent with the draw length.

Stacking isn’t a bad or dangerous thing, it just means that when you reach the stacking point, it makes it much more difficult to be consistent with your release.

Longer Limbs – will be less efficient, meaning that your arrows won’t be launched as quickly, so if you have a shorter draw length, then you shouldn’t be using long limbs.

If you’re thinking about customising your recurve bow limbs, you might like to read this article

What’s the Difference Between Cheaper and More Expensive Recurve Limbs?

Cheaper recurve limbs are made from fibreglass with a wooden core. More expensive limbs are made from carbon and synthetic foams.

The one major difference here is pricing.

Cheaper, wooden and fibreglass bows generally come in around the $140 mark, whereas the more expensive carbon bow limbs can be anywhere from $500 to $700.

Pros of Carbon Recurve Limbs

More linear – when you draw with carbon limbs, it will feel much smoother than a cheaper wooden bow. The carbon bow will still stack at some point, but wooden limbs will stack much sooner. The carbon limbs will have less variation on the draw and will be more forgiving than a wooden set.

More efficient – If you compare a wooden set of 30lb limbs to a carbon set of 30lb limbs, the carbon set will produce a higher velocity.

For this reason, carbon limbs are the preferred choice for competitive shooting.

Pros of Wooden Recurve Limbs

Beginner friendly – It’s ok to go with cheaper wooden limbs in the beginning because, if you’re new to archery then form, not accuracy, is your primary goal.

You’ll be increasing your draw weight relatively quickly, so it’s worth waiting until you’re happy with your final draw weight before you splash out on expensive carbon limbs.

Conclusion

If you’re shooting target-style recurve bows, you don’t really need to have matching limbs and risers. You can mix and match because that’s what everybody does! Carbon limbs will give you better groupings and allow you to perform better overall, but if budget is a concern, or you’re just starting out, a good set of wooden limbs will do just fine.

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