What Is The Highest Draw Weight For A Recurve Bow?

by | Aug 2, 2022

Recurve bows have been around for thousands of years. Developed by the Assyrians in roughly 1500 B.C. they dominated throughout military history until gunpowder came onto the scene in the 16th century. One thing that modern-day recurve archers continually ask, is what is the highest draw weight for a recurve bow?

From ancient times through to the medieval period and into the modern day, the recurve design has remained largely unchanged. But one thing that has fluctuated, is the bow’s draw weight.

Chinese and Mongol bows from the 14th century, for example, had draw weights of 166 – 240lbs, and Turkish Recurve bows in the Topkapi Palace also have estimated draw weights of 240lbs. find the highest draw weight for a recurve bow ever recorded, we need to look back at Sikh history, where we can find several references to Guru Gobinda Singh, who supposedly drew a 225kg bow.

Modern recurve bow draw weights average between 30lbs – 70lbs. This pales in comparison, however, with ancient and medieval Recurve bows.

14th-century Mongol Recurve Bows (Bottom), and replicas, (Top)

To get an understanding of draw weights for recurve bows we need to look at what different draw weights are capable of and why they need to be adapted for different purposes.

In this article, we’ll look at the higher draw weights of recurve bows throughout history and compare them with modern-day bows.

What Is The Highest Draw Weight For A Recurve Bow?

To find the highest draw weight for a recurve bow, we’d have to travel back in time.

Periods throughout history show that different jobs required different tools. For example, a Mongol recurve bow from the 14th century would have been shot from horseback, so the draw weight would have needed to be much lighter (80 – 130 lbs) than say, an English Longbow (90 – 185lb).

The distances the archers on horseback were shooting were nowhere near the distances required of the Long Bow, therefore, the draw weights needed to be much more practical and manageable.

There are many reports from the history of archery competitions where draw weights of over 200 lbs have been recorded. Unfortunately, none of those Recurve bows is around today.

Then we have the story of Guru Gobinda Singh, who allegedly had a recurve bow that weighed 5lbs, and had a draw weight of 496lbs! But I think we can safely put that down to myth and legend.

The only surviving bows from the late middle ages with massive draw weights were the English War Bows excavated from The Mary Rose. They had average draw weights of 140-160 lbs, with some calculated at 185 lbs.

Fast forward to modern times and the recurve bow remains the most widely used bow on the market, from beginners to competitive athletes.

If you’re not sure when to move up in draw weight then you should also read this article.

What Is Draw Weight?

Draw weight is the amount of force needed to apply to the bow string in order to pull it back to a fully drawn position.

How Heavy Does A Recurve Bow Need To Be?

One of the main questions that beginners ask when contemplating taking up archery is:

“Don’t I need to be really strong to do it?”

For novice archers, it’s not a problem to reach a 30 and 50m target with a 26-28lb bow. Reaching distances of up to 70m wouldn’t solely depend on the poundage, but also on the bow limbs.

The tendency is to shoot with a heavier bow than is necessary, mainly because it soothes the ego as well as supports personal progression. But the fact is that 70m can now be achieved with modern bow limbs and lower poundages than ever before.

Olympic Recurve Archer
Olympic Recurve Archer

The consensus is to start with lower poundage and then work your way up as your muscles and skill level adjust and become accustomed to the weight.

You’ll only be shooting with what you can control. There’s no point in spending hours and hours practising with a weight that is too heavy because injuries will occur.

Even Olympic recurve athletes, in a sport where there’s no upper limit on draw weight, are only shooting with bows in the 40-55lb range.

But you have to start somewhere!

Below you’ll find the recommended draw weights based on body type. If you plan on choosing a recurve bow to start your archery journey, then I would recommend starting with a lower poundage bow first, then working your way up as your muscles adapt and get stronger.

Archer’s Weight (lbs)Recommended Draw Weight (lbs)
Small Child (70-100 lbs.)10-15 lbs
Larger Child (100-130 lbs.)15-25 lbs
Female (100-130 lbs.)25-35 lbs
Female (130-160 lbs)25-35 lbs
Male (120-150 lbs)30-45 lbs
Medium Male (150-180 lbs)40-55 lbs
Female (160+ lbs)30-45 lbs
Male (180+ lbs)45-60 lbs
Recommended recurve draw weight based on archer’s weight

What Can You Do With Different Draw Weights?


Contrary to popular opinion, a 25-30lb draw weight is more than sufficient for recreational archery. You can hit a target 70 yards away if your aim and form are on point with those kinds of draw weights.

One thing to note is that many high-end recurve bows will have a ‘minimum’ draw weight of 30lbs, which is unusual considering the number of beginners who choose recurve bows as their entry point.

If you’re only looking at doing some recreational target practice, then 25-30lbs is more than enough. Just make sure that you get your bow from a well-established manufacturer. If you’re an avid hunter


You can still target shoot with a 35lb bow, but If you’re an avid hunter, then you should consider a 40-pounder. A 35lb bow generally lacks the kinetic energy needed to penetrate the flesh of your target. And in some states, it’s illegal to hunt with a bow less than 40lbs.

Some game, like wild Elk, will probably require a 45lb bow. But a 35lb bow should be ok for Turkey and Deer.


If it’s hunting or target practice your after, there is very little that you cannot do with a 45lb bow. The only thing that you need to concern yourself with is trying to keep up with the bow!


These days, there are no Recurve bows with draw weights over 100lb. The only bows with draw weights of this magnitude today are the English Long Bow replicas, which are mainly used for demonstration and display purposes.

Which draw weight should you choose?

You can refer to the chart above or check in with your local archery shop. They will measure you up for the right bow based on your own goals with archery, and your size and draw length.


When it comes to the highest draw weights for a recurve bow, they are probably best left consigned to history. You only need to shoot with a bow that you can control, and one that is fit for the intended purpose.

If you are thinking of taking up archery as a competitive sport, or purely for recreation, then a Recurve bow with low poundage is a great place to start.