Archery – Types of bows.

The bow and arrow was a major breakthrough in hunting and weaponry of its time. Over thousands of years, archery has been an important part and parcel of mankind. Archery has come a long way from primitive days to the modern archery equipment and bows we have today.

types of bows

What are the types of bows? The types of bows are: 1. Longbow, 2. Recurve bow, 3. Compound bow, 4. Crossbow.

(Some say the crossbow isn’t a true bow, so arguably their might only be three types of bows, consisting of: 1. Longbow. 2. Recurve bow and 3. Compound bow.)

Of the above archery bows, there are a huge variety of brands, styles and designs available. Some of the modern bows carry the sophistication of advancing technology while staying true to the origin and spirit of the bow and arrow. Others are more like a high tech space weapon.


A Guide to the different types of bows.

As well as the four main types and categories of bows, they are many variations and hybrid designs of each type.

Also, if you mix in different culture, history and countries, that might use different labels and terminologies, it can get confusing for some of the names of the bows. Such as the different types of bows might be called something else in a different region.

As an example a longbow or recurve bow design might be labelled as a: composite bow, flatbow, English longbow, horse bow, deflex bow, Mongolian bow, reflex bow, reflex deflex bow and many other types and names.

For the purpose of this article we will stick to the four main types of archery bows. Here is a bit more information about the different types of bows.


Types of compound bows.

types-of bows compound bowCompound bows have only been around since the mid 1960’s and are now used by beginners to the more experienced professional archers. The compound bow is quiet popular in events and sports like, target archery, field, 3D archery and bowhunting.

A compound bow has a more complicated design than the other bows, it allows for the maximum speed of the arrow. These bows are designed with a pulley system of wheels or cams and cables, which help the archer hold a heavier draw weight when at full draw.

This weight let off, depending on brand and design of the bow, can be anything from about 60% to 80% of the full draw weight. That means a young archer or female can shoot and aim a more powerful bow, for a longer time when aiming.

Older compound bows looked more like the letter “D” when held sideways and had small wheels. The more modern compound looks more like the letter “W”.

Ultra-fast compound bows, with their shorter and more parallel limb have a bat wing like shape with huge cams.

The advanced technology of the modern compound bows also means it can be shot with a heavier poundage bow, which results in a flatter arrow trajectory for more accuracy.

For 3D archery, field and target archery, the faster arrow speed can be an advantage in the right hands.

For bowhunting, the modern technology of the bows speed and let off, can help the archer shoot a heavier poundage bow. The higher poundage draw weight, when combined with the correct arrow weight, helps with the arrow penetration on game.

When used with archery sights and a release aid device, the modern compound bow can be very accurate. The release aid device helps release or loose the string with more accuracy, as opposed to holding the bowstring with your fingers.

Beginners can get reasonably accurate with a short time with a compound bow. Holding less weight at full draw, (Poundage let off.) and the advantage of using a release aid device is probably the main reason why the compound bow is so popular. Although you still have to practice.


About the longbow.

types of bows longbowThe longbow design has been used for over thousands of years. At one time it was the most popular weapon to take to battle, due to its ability to shoot a long distance. This gave the soldiers an advantage on the battlefield and changed warfare forever.

Today the longbow is still a very popular choice for traditional archers and bowhunters.

One type of the early traditional longbow was made from wood of the Yew tree. It was around 6 feet long, hence the name longbow.

Today the modern longbows might be laminated with all types of wood and fiberglass layers.

Some longbow designs are straight, others slightly curved. The different designs can give the archer the ability to pull the string back smoothly and is great for quick instinctive shooting.

The longbow has a simple design, quiet and is great fun to shoot. The downside is, the longbow isn’t as fast as a modern recurve or compound bows. However for traditional archers it is the only bow for them.

The longbow is generally shot without sights and gadgets. Like any bow, the longbow does need a certain amount of practice for the archer to be accurate and proficient with it.

Some keen archers like making their own bows and the longbow is a favorite to build. In fact, building a custom made longbow can in itself become a hobby, art or business.

If you are not particularly taken in with the sophisticated, gadget-laden bows of today, the longbow may be one of the closest design you can get to the primitive or traditional bow.


Types of recurve bows.

Like the longbow, the recurve bow has been around for centuries, both used as a weapon and bow hunting tool.

Types of recurves bows can be a one piece, or a take down three piece design.

The three piece bows are handy for travelling as they can be taken down to smaller pieces. The handle might be made out of wood or even metal.

The recurve can also be used for target, field, bowhunting and 3D archery.

types of bows recurve bows

Today the recurve bow is the only design allowed to be used for Olympic archery.

A recurve bow is generally faster, compared to the longbow, because of its curved back limbs, hence also its name, the recurve bow. (Depending on quality, equal draw weight and design.)

The recurve bow is relatively simple and can be used for archers of all ages. From a low budget one piece fiberglass recurve bow, which is ideal for young archers, to takedown quality recurve bows used for bow hunting or competitive target archery, the recurve bow is ideal.

Most modern recurve bows are designed so that additional accessories can be fitted, including sights and stabilizers.

Some archers might not choose to use sights and use other methods of aiming such as gap shooting or instinctive aiming.

The wooden basic design recurve bow, can give the archer a traditional aspect of archery.



crossbows types of bowsCrossbows have also been around for a very long time. Historians believe they originated in China, where they were used as weapons of war.

The crossbow while not as popular as a military weapon today, is used for bowhunting and general target archery.

A crossbow has the appearance of a gun with a short bow attached to it. A cross bow could be looked upon as a firearm in every sense of the term, the fundamental difference only being that it shoots arrows. (Technically, the arrow it releases, is called a bolt.)

The crossbow like other archery bows can be very accurate and powerful. It also can come in the recurve style limb design as well as the compound limb design.

A crossbow stock and limbs can be made from a wide range of materials. Like wood, steel and modern composite material like fiberglass and carbon.

Crossbows are almost completely mechanical, allowing the archer to fire it without holding the draw weight to shoot it.

To load the crossbow, it might have a stirrup. Where you can put your foot in it and on the ground and bend over it and draw it back, until loaded.

Some light poundage design are loaded by putting the butt or stock against the archers chest and drawing the string back with both hands, until cocked.

Other crossbow design use a loading pulley to help pull the string back, yet others have a cranking or winding handle to load it.

Some countries and states have different licensing and strict regulations of the crossbow, compared to other archery bows.

The crossbow has the advantage for bowhunting, because you don’t have to draw and hold the draw weight once loaded. Although it is slower to load.


What archery brands to buy and where from?

Although not a complete list, some well-known archery brands are Mathews bows, Bear Archery, Hoyt bows, PSE Archery, Bowtech, and Elite Archery. Some of these companies don’t carry every type of bow, but are a good start for anyone looking for a compound bow.

Bear archery also has a range of recurve bows and some longbows.

There is a wide variety of archery supplies and in America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Check out and support your local archery dealer, or sporting shops for some advice. Cabela’s, Lancaster Archery and Three Rivers Archery might also be worth a look for some bows and equipment.

Also eBay, and Amazon are other places to check out and buy some gear.


For information on how to measure your draw length, click on How To Figure Out Your Draw Length, & Easy ways To Measure Your Draw Length.


Conclusion – Types of bows.

Types of bows youth compound bow

The longbow, recurve, compound, and crossbow have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

The bows can be used for general archery, bowhunting, or target archery and most can be added with accessories and gadgets.

If you like the simple traditional bows then a longbow, or recurve might be for you.

For archers who like the latest technology, speed, then the compound bow maybe the choice.

If you haven’t got much time to practice, then a bow sight and a release aid device with a compound bow may be something to look at.

A traditional bows with no sights, can take a bit of practice to become proficient with it. But its simplicity of shooting, can be very enjoyable.

Your choice of archery bow will be determined by what you intend to use it for, your level of experience, how much time you can dedicate to practice and your personal preference.

Whatever type of bow you choose, archery can be fun an exciting.