How To Choose The Right Recurve Bowstring: A Buyer’s Guide

by | Apr 5, 2023

If you’ve recently been online with the intention of buying a bowstring for your recurve bow, then you’ll know how confusing picking the right bowstring can be.

There are many options, from Dacron to B55, to Fast Flight. So how do you know how to pick the best bowstring for your recurve bow?

In general, the difference in strings is defined by how much stretch they have. Lower levels of stretch provide different levels of speed. More stretch equals less speed but also makes for a quieter bow. More traditional bows generally match strings with more stretch, while high-performance bows require tighter strings for higher speed and flatter trajectories.

While bowstrings tend to be universal in the fact there are no ‘recurve’ bowstrings and no ‘compound’ bows strings, some strings are better suited to different bows.

In this article, we’ll look at how to choose the right recurve bow string to suit your particular needs and break down the essentials in order to make the right buy for your recurve bow.

Buying A Recurve Bowstring? Read Our Buyer’s Guide Below

1. How Long Should Your Bowstring Be?

The biggest complaint that people have when they buy a bowstring online is that they open up the package, only to find that they have ordered the wrong length.

If you have an existing bowstring that you like the length of, then you can measure that. The best way to measure your bowstring is to place one loop over something fixed, like a nail or a screw, then measure from the outside of the loop all the way to the outside of the opposite loop.

You may also have heard about AMO Length. The stands for Archery Manufacture Organistation. This is the standard measurement of the entire bow from outside nock to outside nock, measured on the belly side of the bow.

If you know your recurve bow’s AMO length, you need to minus 4 inches from the AMO length to get the length of your string. So for a 60″ recurve bow, your string length would be 56″. Alternatively, if you have a Longbow, you need to minus off 3 inches from the AMO. That makes a 60″ Longbow 57″.

2. What Type Of Bowstring Should You Buy?

Depending on the type of bow you have, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ordering the right string.

The main difference in string material is how much the string stretches. In general, the more stretch the string has, the quieter the string tends to be. The only downside to that is that you will be compromising on speed.

If you have a homemade wooden bow, a bow without limb-tip overlays, or even a vintage bow (classified as such if it’s 30 years old), then you should be thinking about a material that has more stretch to it.

This means that the string is going to be much more forgiving to the bow. A tighter string on a wooden bow, or limb tips that haven’t been protected could splinter, or even rip off the limb tips.

3. Why is The Right Bowstring Material Important?

Bowstring material can be divided into two main categories: Pure and Blended.

However, they both contain the main ingredient called High Modulus Polyethene (HMPE). The most common form of which is Dyneema.

HMPE is particularly lightweight and strong and is ideal for making bowstrings. To make a blended string, the HMPE is mixed with a polymer called Vectran which has virtually no stretch and a high resistance to heat.

To help simplify things, we’ve picked out 3 main types of bowstring that cover a wide range of speeds and bow types. See the table below.

They are Dacron, D97, and Fast Flight. This is by no means exhaustive because there are literally dozens of different strings on the market.

Related: How To Make A Recurve Bowstring: A Complete Guide

String Material SpeedNoise Cost Recommended Bow
Dacron150spfQuietest$14Wooden/ Homemade Bows/ No limb-tip overlays
D97155spfSome noise$22Fibreglass Recurve bows
Fast Flight 160spfLoudest$15-35Target Recurve/ Olympic Style Recurve

The term Fast Flight originated from Brownell’s Fast Flight strings but is now used to describe most modern strings which can include a blend of materials like Dyneema, Spectra and Vectran to produce higher tension and performance.

A quick example of using a Fast Flight string is the Samick Sage recurve bow. The Samick Sage is an extremely popular recurve bow, especially among beginners. It comes in a variety of draw weights and is very reasonably priced. It comes advertised as Fast Flight-compatible.

What this means is that it comes with reinforced limb tips. The Sage comes with a Dacron string installed, but because of the limb-tip overlays, you can use a Fast Flight string.

Modern bows will never be labelled Fast Flight compatible, because it’s already a given that they can handle the stress.

5. How Many Strands Should My Bowstring Have?

The amount of strands that your bowstring has largely depends on the poundage of your bow. The heavier the bow, the more strands you will need.

Check out the table below for strand recommendations.

Bow Weight (lbs)Dacron (strands)D97 (strands)Fast Flight (strands)
20-25lbs8 1014
25-30lbs10 1216
35-40lbs121418
45-55lbs141620

Bow String Maintenance

The only 3 things you need to focus on when maintaining your bowstring are:

1. Wax

Think of bowstring wax as being like the oil of your engine. String wax comes as Real Bees Wax, also known as String Maker’s Wax, which will be slightly stickier, or you can get wax sticks which are the most common.

Warm up your string before applying the wax using your fingers or a cloth. Then liberally apply the wax along the string. The more wax, the better.

Wax is an essential component of string maintenance. If you don’t apply it regularly, your string will fail.

We would recommend applying wax every time you shoot, that way it’ll be a long time before you need to replace that bowstring.

After you’ve finished waxing, take a piece of serving thread, wrap it around the string and then pull it toward you. This will remove any excess wax and make your string nice and circular.

2. Look After The Serving

After a few thousand shots, your bow serving may start to fray and come loose. This is pretty normal but when that starts to happen, then you’ll definitely need to look at re-serving your bow to maintain the string’s integrity.

Man using a serving jig

The best way to add the centre serving is to use a serving jig, but you can also do it by hand if you have the time and patience!

3. Trim The Tag Ends

After taking hundreds of shots with your string, you may start to notice little strands starting to poke out of the string. These are called tag ends. They don’t affect the performance of the string and there’s no danger of the string failing. They just make the string look untidy and unkempt.

The best way to deal with these is to take a sharp knife or a razor, pull the tag end up and cut through it, but away from the string so you don’t damage the main bowstring.

We wouldn’t recommend a dull blade or burning the tag ends, due to the chance that you may compromise the string.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have a clearer picture of which string would suit your recurve bow. Generally speaking, for the target archer with a higher draw weight, the tighter the string needs to be. If you’re a hunter, then you want a quieter bow with more stretch to it.

If you have a homemade bow or traditional style recurve bow, then go for a string that will look after the limb tips instead of risking them splintering with the faster strings.

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