Longbow or Recurve Bow For A Beginner? (Which Is Better?)

by | Sep 3, 2022

If you’re new to archery and trying to decide on which type of bow to start with, the two most common types you’ll likely come across are the Longbow and the Recurve bow.

A Recurve bow is the most common type of bow for a beginner. It can come either as a one-piece bow or a takedown bow. Recurve bows are used by clubs and ranges to teach new archers. The Longbow is a more traditional bow and can also be used by beginners. It can be a little more forgiving than a Recurve bow, but the draw weights on Longbows are generally much higher.

So which one should you choose as a beginner? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide on either a Longbow or a Recurve bow.

Longbow Or Recurve Bow For A Beginner: Which is Better?

You might be looking at getting into the more traditional forms of archery for the first time and are confused by the two most recognizable bows out there: The Recurve bow and the Longbow. But from a beginner’s point of view, how do you define better? Easier to use? Maybe. But there are other points to consider.

On initial inspection, both bows look quite similar, so what are the differences between the two? And which one is better for a beginner archer?

The first obvious difference is in the shape of the bows. The Longbow has a distinctive D-shaped curve to it. A lot of people refer to the Longbow as the Robin Hood bow, as it stems from its time in the middle ages.

The Recurve bow’s shape, while also distinctive, is more like the number 3, with its limb tips famously curving away from the archer. This style of the bow has been popularised recently as the bow adopted by Hawkeye in the Avengers movies.

Both bows fall under the classification of Traditional Archery. They will appeal to people who are looking for a historical connection, traditional appeal, or a cultural association.

While these differences may seem subtle, the shape of the bows has a huge impact on how they draw and shoot. So let’s break it down a little further by weighing up the pros and cons of each.

The Longbow

Traditional Longbow

Pros

A Quieter Bow
Longbows are generally a lot quieter than Recurve bows because there is no string slap. A Longbow’s string runs from tip to tip, whereas the shape of the Recurve bow means that the bowstring rests against the limb, creating a slapping noise as the bowstring resets.

More Durable

Built to stand the test of time, and simply because the Longbow has far less maintenance than a Recurve. Longbows dating back to the 16th century have been found in pristine condition on the Mary Rose. That was Henry VIII’s ship!

More Forgiving

With a thicker limb design and a straighter grip, there is little to no chance of the limbs twisting on a Longbow. The Longbow provides a much more stable base on which to shoot than a shorter, more flexible bow.

It’s More Fun!

The simple stick and string design challenge the archer to rely on skill and instinct. With no two bows alike, Longbow shooting can prove to be the most rewarding. And nothing beats that old feeling of nostalgia when you pick one up!

Cons

Less Speed

The speed of an arrow comes from the energy produced by the bow’s limbs. Because Longbow limbs are much stiffer than a more flexible Recurve bow, they can’t produce as much energy, resulting in much slower arrow speed.

Less Transportable

Let’s face it, Longbows are well, long! You’re going to be limited by where you can take it. Hunting with a Longbow can also be inconvenient due to how cumbersome a Longbow can be.

Less Adaptable

As a beginner looking to buy your first bow, you’ll most likely want a bow that you can grow with as you get stronger and develop those upper back muscles.
If you buy a Longbow, you’re going to be stuck with the same draw weight until you change bows, meaning you’ll likely outgrow that bow fairly quickly.

Not as Popular

In its heyday, the Longbow was the gold standard of bows across the UK, but sadly, that’s no longer the case.

People do shoot still shoot Longbows, but you’ll find that not every club and range caters to them anymore. Specialist leagues and events are still around the country, but nowhere near as frequently.

For our guide on how to choose the right Longbow for a beginner, check out this link!

The Recurve Bow

Recurve Bow

Pros

More Speed

The fact the Recurve’s bow limbs are far more flexible than the Longbow enables it to transfer a huge amount of energy into the arrow, producing a much higher velocity than the Longbow.

More Adjustable

Recurve bows are available in two styles: Takedown, or One-piece. Takedown bow draw weights can be adjusted as you get stronger over time due to the fact that you can replace the existing limbs with new ones.

This removes the hassle of having to buy a new bow when you’ve outgrown your current draw weight.

More Transportable

As mentioned above, Recurve bows can be dismantled into three separate parts, which makes transporting them around super easy. You can literally shoot with them anywhere.

More Accuracy

The Recurve bow has been designed for accuracy. This is why it’s the only bow used in Olympic-style target archery.

Smoother Draw and release
The draw on a Longbow and Recurve increase in weight as you pull the string back.

Recurves tend to be smoother overall due to the design of the bow. The Longbow, however, favours taller archers as they find shorter bows more difficult to draw.

Cons

Less Forgiving

Because the Recurve bow is thin and lightweight, it doesn’t provide as stable a platform as the Longbow. The Recurve limbs can sometimes twist and torque if the draw is a little off-centre.

A Steeper Learning Curve

Due to its accuracy and speed, the Recurve bow is used at a competitive level, including in the Olympics. There is less stability in the Recurve due to its lighter frame and flexible limbs. This can be a little intimidating to a beginner at first, as the bow can be tricky to control.

A Louder Shot

As the Recurve limbs curve away from the archer, this distinctive shape creates a contact point with the bow string. Every time you shoot, this will cause the bowstring to make a ‘slapping’ sound against the limbs. Not great if you’re a hunter!

If you’re looking for tips on how best to store your Recurve bow, you might like to read this article.

Conclusion

Whether you choose a Longbow or a Recurve bow, both will provide you with an excellent entry point into the world of archery. The most important thing to remember is, what you want to get out of archery. If it’s the history, fun, and tradition of archery, then I would lean toward the Longbow.

If you have a desire for competition and target archery, go for the Recurve!

You’ll probably end up with more than one bow anyway if you decide to make archery a long-term investment of your time. And it will be time well spent. You can trust us on that!

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