The Best Recurve Bows: Our Picks
Welcome to The Complete Guide to Archery! In this post, we'll be discussing recurve bows.
We'll review a few of the best-rated recurve bows, and specifically talk about bows that are a good choice for beginners, for hunters, and for target shooters. Then we'll talk about the bow that is—in our opinion—the best recurve bow on the market.
But before that, we'll go over some of the things you'll need to keep in mind when buying a bow—because buying a recurve bow can be complicated! It's not as simple as finding a bow you like and taking it home. We'll go over how to find your draw length, the appropriate bow length, and what draw weight makes sense for you. We always try to use these product review posts as an opportunity to teach readers a little bit about archery, so hopefully you'll find those sections helpful.
If, however, you know what you're doing, you can skip the sections below and scroll down to our reviews. Good luck, and happy shooting!
How to Find a Recurve Bow That Fits Your Measurements
Most people, when getting into archery, feel totally overwhelmed by all the information required to get a bow and start using it. There are only three measurements you need, and once you figure them out, you can find a bow that fits, and you're good to go.
The three measurements you need to calculate are:
1. Your draw length;
2. Your bow length; and
3. Your draw weight.
Here's how you figure out each measurement.
Draw Length. Here's the simple definition: the draw length measures exactly how far the archer pulls the bow string back. Here's a more complicated definition: the draw length is measurement, in inches, from the back of the bow handle (called the pivot point) to nock (the place on the bow string where you place your arrow) when the archer is at full draw.
There are two ways to get that measurement:
- You can go to an archery store and have a professional measure you, OR
- Put your back against the wall, and spread your arms out, so that the backs of your hands are flat against the wall. Measure the length, in inches, from the ends of your fingers on your right hand to the ends of your fingers on your left hand, and then divide by 2.5. That's number is your draw length! Yep! It's that easy. Do that and you've got your draw length.
Here's a quick example: if your measurement against that wall is 70 inches, your draw length would be 28 inches (70 inches / 2.5 = 28-inch draw length).
(By the way, the finger-to-finger measurement is usually pretty close to your height.)
It's easiest to have someone else do this measurement for you, but if you're alone at the moment, here's a trick you can use: find a white wall where there's a couple of feet worth of space. Put your back against the wall, and then put your right arm out against the wall, so that the back of your right hand is flat against the wall. Make a small pencil mark at the end of your fingers tips. Then, keep that hand against the wall, and stretch your left arm out and place the back of your left hand against the wall. When you're there, bring your right arm over and make a small pencil mark at the end of the fingertips on your left hand. Measure the distance between the two marks on the wall, divide by 2.5, and wallah! You've got your draw length.
The draw length is perhaps the most important measurement you'll take, so check it twice to make sure you've got it right. You can buy the best recurve bow in the world, but if your draw length is way off, you'll have a hard time maintaining accuracy.
Bow Length. Now that you know your draw length, use the chart below to find out what size bow will be right for you:
This a general guideline, and it's ideal to stick to the measurements listed above, but there's a little more wiggle room when it comes to the size bow that's right for you. Usually, when you're buying a bow, the description will list the range of draw lengths for that bow's particular height. For instance, the Samick Sage listed above is a 62-inch bow, which means that it's ideal for an archer with a 22-inch to 24-inch draw length. However, as per the manufacturer's description, it's good for anyone with a draw length up to and including 29 inches.
Draw Weight. Draw weight is a measurement of the force stored by a bow, stored in foot-pounds, when it is at full draw. That's a little difficult to comprehend, so here's a very, very unscientific way to determine draw weight: draw weight is a measurement of how difficult it is to draw the bow string and shoot it. A bow with a very low draw weight—10 or 15 pounds, for example—is going to be easy to draw, and a bow with a high draw weight—50 to 60 pounds, for example—will be much more challenging to draw.
(By the way—many people will use a hashtag to signify the word "pound," so a 30# bow would be a bow with 30 pounds of draw weight, and a 50# bow would be a bow with a draw weight of 50 pounds).
So, you want to get the draw weight right. It's a VERY important measurement, because a bow with a draw weight that's too low will feel wimpy to you, and a bow with a draw weight that's too high will simply be too difficult for you to draw—or, worse, you'll be able to put in the effort to draw it, but it'll tucker you out very easily and you'll strain your muscles. So, the right draw weight is important.
So, here's the bad news: there's no real test for it. There are some generally-agreed upon parameters, and for recurve bow, they look like this:
- Young adults aged 18 to 21: 15 to 30 pounds of draw weight, with 20 pounds as a good place to start;
- Adult women 22 and older: 20 to 35 pounds of draw weight, with 20 to 25 pounds as a good place to start; and
- Adult men 22 and older: 25 to 40 pounds of draw weight, with 30 pounds as a good place to start.
There are plenty of bows with a draw weight of 40 pounds or more, but it's usually experienced archers who buy those models. Archers on recurve bows usually need to build their strength in order to use bows of that draw weight.
Here's an important rule of thumb: always "go low" on draw weights. It's a very common thing for people to imagine themselves a little strong than they are, but think of it this way: if you have a bow with a draw weight of 35 pounds, every time you draw the bow, it's going to feel like you're lifting 35 pounds. If you're at the range for an hour and you shoot 100 arrows, that's going to tax your muscles. It doesn't sound like a lot of weight, but repetition (and archery is all about repetition!) is going to make it feel like a lot. So go low—your body will thank you!
Draw weight is important to every archer, but believe it or not, particular draw weights are required by law for hunters shooting game. It takes a bow with a draw weight of at least 40 pounds to kill a white-tail deer, and a bow with a draw weight of at least 50 pounds to kill larger game such as elk. A bow with a draw weight less than those figures won't be able to provide a humane kill, and most states have laws about the poundage that hunters need to use when hunting.
So, let's recap. To buy a bow, you need:
- Your draw length;
- Your bow length;
- Your draw weight; and
- That's it! Easy peasy.
Parts of a Recurve
So, in the reviews below, we throw out a whole bunch of terms that may be foreign to you. Here's a quick rundown of the most important parts of a recurve bow, why they're important, and what you need to look for. Let's first take a look at an image of a recurve bow:
We'll start with the...
Riser. This is the handle of the bow, and while it looks like a simple thing, there's actually a lot going on. In the image above, you'll see that the riser includes:
- The handle, which is molded to fit the archer's hand. Recurve bows are specifically made for righties or lefties, so you'll need to decide which kind of bow you want to get.
- A platform, called a "shelf," that you can put your arrows on when you draw (shooting arrows off this platform is called "shooting off the shelf"). We added a green line to the diagram above to show where it is—it's riiiiiiiight above the green line.
- An elevated rest, right above the shelf. Many archers—particularly target archers and competitive archers—attach an elevated rest to their bows, and shoot arrows off of that, instead of shooting off the shelf. Most people believe (we do, too) that shooting off an elevated rest improves accuracy. Most bows come with an elevated rest, but they're pretty inexpensive, and usually only cost a couple dollars.
- A place to attach a bow sight. Many archers use a bow sight, because it makes target archery and hunting much, much easier, but there are plenty of archers who forego a bow sight, and shoot "instinctive." Most recurve bows come with a place to attach a bow sight.
- A clicker. This is something new archers don't need to worry about; it's allows competitive archers to draw their arrows to a very precise draw length. Archers place an arrow underneath the clicker, and then when the arrow is pulled back past the clicker, it smacks the bow, makes a click sound, and tells the archer that he/she has reached an ideal draw length. Again, it's kind of an advanced concept, so if you're new to archery, you don't need to worry about it.
- A place to attach a stabilizer. This is another piece of equipment for competitive archers. After you've been shooting for a while, you'll find that your bow shakes a little bit when you hold it; a stabilizer allows you to hold the bow with a steadier hand. It's another thing you don't need to worry about when you're new to archery, but it's a good feature to have, so that when you're ready to up your game, you can purchase a stabilizer and attach it to your riser.
Attached to the riser are...
Limbs. These are part of what makes a bow a bow, and the limbs above are unique to recurve bows. If you look at the tippy-top of the upper limb and the absolute bottom of the lower limb, you'll see that they bend forward a little bit (we've added a red dot at the top limb to show you where we're talking about). That's where we get the term "recurve"—the limbs curve back towards the archer, and then curve away from the archer at the end of each limb.
The reason why recurved limbs are an advantage is because they allow the archer to more fully draw the bow string, so that when he/she releases the bow, the limbs move forward more quickly, and transfer more energy to the arrow. That results in more speed for the arrow. Old-school bows—usually called long bows—don't have that "recurve" feature; the limbs on a long bow curve back towards the archer, and stop there.
Takedown Limbs. You going to see the term "takedown" a lot in the reviews below. Takedown limbs are limbs that you can remove from the riser. This is a really, really fantastic aspect of recurve bows, because you can buy a bow with 20-pounds limbs, and then, after you've practiced for a while, and built the appropriate "archery muscles" in your arms and torso and back—you can unscrew the limbs you have, buy 25-pound limbs, and screw the new limbs into the bow (if you look at the diagram above, we've added a little blue dot where you remove the limbs). You can do this again and again, until you're using very heavy limbs, and your draw weight is in the 50s or 60s (and on some bows, even higher than that).
So, a "takedown bow" refers to a bow with limbs that you can remove, and that's an awesome feature because it means you can buy one bow and have it for years. Long bows and traditional bows are often made from one piece of wood, so you can't remove the limbs, and that means whatever the draw weight on that bow is, that's the weight it's going to stay. That can be a fine option if you've worked your way up to a personal draw weight you like, but if you're not there yet, it makes takedown bows a great idea. That's why we often recommend the Samick Sage—the riser is very very strong, and it's a bow you can use for many years as you increase your draw weight.
Finally, attaching the top limb to the bottom limb is the...
Bow String. Bow strings have come a loooooong way in the last few decades. The part of the string that you grasp with your draw hand is called the "center string serving"—see the diagram above—and the part of the center string serving where you attach your arrow is called the "nock." A nock is a little metal thing you attach to the string, but you can also make your own nock using thread. The nock needs to be placed at a specific location, and most bow manufacturers give you specific instructions on where you should place the nock. That's another reason the Samick Sage is such a great choice—there are very clear instructions on how to set up your bow. (Have you gotten the picture yet, that we're big fans of the Samick Sage? We try to not be too obvious about it!)
By the way, many bows come with a bow string, and that's a nice feature—it's one less thing you need to think about, if you're new to archery and purchasing your first bow.
Now that you know how to determine your measurements and have a grip on the different parts of a recurve, let's take a lot at some of the best models available.
All-Around Awesome Bows for Target Shooting and Hunting
These are our "Best All-Around" bows, and each one of the bows in this section are great for beginners.
The Samick Sage
If you browse through the pages of this site, you'll find out pretty quickly that we are big, big fans of the Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow. We think it is, without a doubt, the best recurve bow for people who are just getting into archery, and we think it's the best bow for the money. It's a high-quality takedown bow that is strong, accurate, and with its composite maplewood riser, it's pretty darn attractive.
This will probably be our longest review on this page, but we want to go point-for-point about why this is the best recurve:
- As you become a better archer, this bow will get there with you. There are some bows that are fantastic starter bows, but they remain just that: a starter bow. Once you figure out what you're doing, you'll need to buy a better bow. That's what's so fantastic about the Samick Sage—it's basic enough for a beginner, but you use it effectively until you're an intermediate/advanced intermediate. One of the reasons you can do that is because...
- The riser allows for a ton of accessories. If you take a look at the bow's handle, aka the "riser," you'll see a whole bunch of holes. That allows you to add a bow sight, a plunger button, an elevated rest, a stabilizer for when you get into competitive archery, and a whole bunch else. That's fantastic, especially for beginners, because you'll be able to experiment with each equipment piece and learn how to use it. And not only that, but...
- It's a takedown bow. As we explained above, a takedown bow is one where you can remove the limbs of the bow and replace them with stronger limbs. Every bow has a draw weight, and that's a measurement of how difficult it is to draw the bow. A bow with a 20-pound draw weight will be easier to draw than a bow with a 40-pound draw weight. So, here's why it's a great option that you can remove the bow's limbs and replace them: as you spend time with the bow, you'll build your strength. If you start out with a 20-pound bow, you'll eventually want a 30-pound bow, so you can shoot faster arrows and shoot those arrows further. The takedown bow will allow you to remove those 20-pound limbs and replace them with 30-pound limbs, so you won't have to buy a new bow—you'll just have to buy new limbs. That is a FANTASTIC feature.
- It's easy to set up. Believe it or not, when you get a new bow, there's some assembly and tuning required. But that's another great thing about this bow—it's fairly easy to put together (and we've written posts about how to do so). Some bows can be pretty complicated, but the Sage isn't one of them.
- You can use it for target archery and hunting. It's accurate enough to be used in competitions (although most archers, when they get VERY serious about competing, move up to a pricier bow), AND, if your poundage is high enough, you can use it for hunting. In most states, you'll need at least a 40-pound bow to hunt with, but the Samick Sage is available in poundages from 25 pounds to 60 pounds. And, actually, that's another great feature:
- It's available in a wide range of poundages. Most bows are very limited in their draw weights: some bows are only sold at 35 pounds, or 45 pounds, or 65 pounds. The Samick Sage is available in a wide range of draw weights, from 25 pounds all the way up to 60 pounds.
So, we're not sure if this came across in our breathless praise, but we think the Samick Sage is a fantastic bow, and we think it's an especially fantastic bow for new archers. It's very popular, and if you go to the range, you're likely to see a few of them being used by other archers.
There's one very important thing about the Samick Sage that we need to share: it's 62 inches long, so it's for archers with a draw length of UP TO 29 INCHES. If your draw length is 29 inches or less, this is a fantastic bow (and if you don't know what your draw length is, we'll show you how to measure it in one of the sections below). If your draw length is 30 inches or more, this next bow may be a great fit for you:
The Spyder XL 64 Inch. It's very, very similar to the Samick Sage—it's even made by the same folks who make the Samick Sage—but it's specifically built for people who have a draw length of 30 inches or more. It's got all the same features—gorgeous maplewood riser, takedown limbs, and a complimentary string that comes with the bow—it's just made for taller folks and folks with longer arms who have a draw length of 30 inches or more.
If you're interested in the Samick Sage but need a bow with a longer draw length, this is a great option.
The Samick Ready-to-Shoot Package
If you're a beginner and you're interested in a getting a Samick Sage, the "Ready-to-Shoot" package can be a very easy way to get started. It includes the 62-inch Samick Sage bow, a bow string, a bow stringer, an arrow rest, an armguard, and a selection of three carbon arrows, as well as—and this perhaps the best part about this package—and hard-shell bow case so you can transport your bow.
This is a great option, and a smart move by Samick—a lot of new archers figure out what kind of bow they want, but forget to buy the rest of the necessary equipment (or just feel overwhelmed doing so). A starter package is a great idea, and this one should introduce the novice archer to the sport. It would be great if it included a bow site (and perhaps six arrows instead of three), but it's still a great package.
Best Recurve Bow for Hunting
The Martin Archery Jaguar Elite is a bad-to-the-bone, fierce and fearless, epic hunting bow. It looks like something that the alien from the "Predator" movies—the old one with Arnold Schwarzenegger—would use.
It's got a couple of really awesome features that we really like:
- You have the option of a camouflage riser. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a recurve bow that's camouflage. Most recurve bows are solid colors or wooden, so finding out that's stylized for hunting is kind of a big deal.
- Room for Accessories. The riser has room for a bow sight, an arrow rest, a quiver, and all the other accessories you'll want to add.
- Lightweight but Durable. It's made from magnesium and aluminum, so it's super, super light. Recurve bows aren't as compact as compound bows, and they can be unwieldy; having a lightweight option to carry through the woods is a very nice feature.
This is a pretty fantastic bow. But, if you're looking for something a little more "mid-range," a more affordable version is the SAS Courage 60 Inch Hunting Takedown Recurve Archery Bow, which is kind of a steal. It's available in a wide range of draw weights, the riser allows for a bow sight, plunger, and quiver to be added, and it's wood, so its got a nice traditional look. You'll probably need to add string silencers to the bow, but that's a small add-on that you'd probably ending up using anyway. A good choice.
We actually review one or two bows below which are great for hunting, so be sure to check those out.
Best Low Poundage Option
If you read a lot of archery websites, you've probably noticed that they don't really mention much about low-poundage bows, and that's a shame. If you're new to archery, chances are you're going to want to start on a lower-poundage bow, especially if you're worried you don't have the strength to pull a giant bow.
So, we figured we'd write a little about a great, low-poundage model: the SAS Spirit 66 Inch Take Down Recurve Bow. We really like this bow, and here are the specs:
- It comes in a wide range of poundages, from 20 pounds to 35 pounds. That makes it pretty unique--most recurve bows offer a range from 25 pounds all the way up to 60 pounds; it's nice to see a bow that focuses solely on lower-range weights.
- It's sleek. Spend a couple of months going to archery ranges and/or competitions, and you'll see a looooooot of wooden bows and a looooooot of camo bows. The white limbs on this bow make it look like something out of The Lord of the Rings, and the riser is fashioned from some pretty gorgeous materials—namely gmelina arborea, chuglam, and beechwood. It's sleek and graceful and effective.
- It's tall! At 66 inches, it's taller than the Samick Sage and the Spyder Takedown, and that means that it's a good fit for shorter archers and taller archers.
One important thing to keep in mind about the SAS Spirit: because it's a lower-pound bow, it's for target shooting only—no hunting.
Other than that, it's a beautiful bow, and another great option for beginners.
The Absolute Best Bow on the Market
After careful consideration, we've determined that the best recurve bow on the market is actually a tie between the Bear Archery Grizzly Recurve Bow and the Martin Archery Hunter Recurve. Both are works of art that provide accuracy, efficiency, and consistency. Here's a closer look at both:
Bear Archery Grizzly
The Bear Archery Grizzly is one of the best bows you'll find because JUST LOOK AT THAT THING! It's gorgeous! It's perfectly symmetrical, and it's got a deep, red glow, just like a half-poured bottle of bourbon. It's a work of art, and that's all there is to it.
Actually, that's not true. There's more to it. There are a couple of things that make this unique, outside of simply being gorgeous:
- It's made by Bear Archery. They've long been a big name in the archery game, and they're U.S.-based, which is important to most of us. They've made a number of beautiful bows over the years, and this is a great addition to their tradition of high-end bows.
- Available in Many Different Draw Weights. It comes in a range of draw weights—usually 30 pounds, 40 pounds, 45 pounds, 50 pounds, and 60 pounds. That's rare for a higher-end bow.
- More Compact. It's a little bit shorter than the rest of the bows in this post. At 58 inches, it's a little more compact, but that makes it look a little more dramatic when it's at full draw.
There are, however, some things that keep it from being a "bow for everyone," namely:
- It can't be broken down into smaller parts. This is NOT a takedown bow—it's a traditional recurve, so you can't take the limbs off of it. You buy and use it as it is.
- The color of the bow when it arrives may be a little different than expected, because there's always a little variation in the color tones of wood, but you roll the dice a little when you buy something that looks very unique.
- It's for right-handed people only. Sorry, lefties!
As we said—it's not for everyone, but the Bear Archery Grizzly Recurve Bow is something beautiful. It shoots like a dream and if you take care of it, it lasts forever. It's a legacy bow—the kind of thing you can pass down to a younger archer as a gift.
Martin Archery Hunter Recurve
Based in Walla Walla, WA, Martin is another fabled archery company. They've been making bows for more than six decades, and many of their designs have brought about the evolution of modern archery as we know it. There are plenty of Martin archery products on the market, and their bows have a reputation as being sturdy, reliable tools for recurve archers.
Like the Bear Archery Grizzly, the Martin Archery Hunter Recurve is simply a beauty. The Hunter is made from three types of wood: Shedua wood, native to the tropical areas of West Africa, which is a dense wood often used in the construction of high-end instruments and furniture; Bubinga wood, which is another exotic wood found in the rain forests of South America; and Eastern Hard Maple, which is from another exotic locale known as "Canada." These three woods form an incredibly strong bow, with the Bubinga wood forming the central structure (that's the red wood that travels horizontally), the Shedua wood completing the riser, and the Hard Maple (along with some fiberglass) outlining the structure. It's lightweight and sturdy, which is a difficult combo to create.
As for the specs, it's offered in a wide range of draw weights, which is a rarity for a high-end bow, but the brace height is pretty standard for Martin (6.75 to 7.75 inches). And at 62 inches, it's definitely one of Martin Archery's longer traditional bows.
This is another bow that can become a family heirloom. It captures everything that's powerful and graceful about archery. It's pricey, and it's not a good option for a beginner, but WOW is it gorgeous.
We get a lot of emails from visitors to the site, and there are a couple of questions we run into again and again, so I'm going to "head them off at the pass," if you will, and answer them here. They're mostly about buying bows and some of the most common issues that pop up. The first is the one we hear the most:
Q: When I'm buying a bow online, there's an option to buy a left-handed bow or a right-handed bow. I'm not sure which one we should choose.
A: You would be AMAZED at how often we get this question. For most people, if you're right-handed, you'll hold the bow with your left hand and pull on the arrow string with your right hand. For most people, if you're left-handed, you'll hold the bow with your right hand and pull on the arrow string with your left hand.
For "Hand Orientation," if you're shooting as a leftie, you choose "Left," and if you're shooting as a rightie, you choose "Right."
Q: So, I bought my bow... and I forgot to buy arrows! I've looked online, and selecting arrows is totally baffling. What do I do?
A: When most new archers get a bow, they forget that they need to buy arrows, too. Our favorite for new archers is the Easton Jazz XX75 arrow. They're aluminum, which means that can get beat up and remain usable—and that's a great feature for new archers—they're affordable, and pretty much any size will be a good fit for a new archer, which means they're easy to select. We've written about them here.
Q: What does the "#" mean? I see that everywhere.
A: A lot of archers use that as a substitute for the word "pound" when they're referring to draw weight, so a 25# bow would be a bow with a 25-pound draw weight, and a 45# bow would be a bow with a 45-pound draw weight.
Q: If I buy one of these bows, can I use it to fight crime?
A: No; that is specifically not allowed.
(Ok, so that's not a real question we get. We just wanted to make sure you're paying attention).
And, last but not least, there's one more question that we get a lot:
Q: When I'm ready to buy new limbs, can I buy whatever limbs I like, or do I have to stick with the limbs for the particular type of bow I have?
A: You should definitely stick with limbs that fit the bow. If your bow is a Samick Sage, get Samick Sage replacement limbs. If your bow is a Spyder Takedown, get Spyder limbs.
What Kind of Bow Are You Really Looking For?
You're already reading a post about recurves, but we'll include this section anyway, because a lot of people who are new to archery—presumably, the people who would be reading a post like this about what bow to buy—aren't sure about the differences between the two types of bows.
Here's the main difference, followed by a huge "BUT." The main difference between recurve bows and compound bows is:
Recurve bows are mainly used for target archery and competitive archery, and compound bows are mainly used for hunting.
In general, that's accurate. If you look at the Olympics, they only use recurve bows, and if you look at any hunting website, you're going to see a LOT of compound bows.
BUT! We promised you there was a "but." The "recurves are competition and compounds are for hunting" adage is true a lot of the time, but not all the time. There are a LOT of hunters—and truly, we mean a lot of hunters—who prefer to hunt using a recurve bow, and there are plenty of target archery competitions for people using a compound bow. Hunting with a recurve is a very natural experience, and competing with a compound is darn exciting.
So, in other words... it's up to you! If you're draw to recurves, awesome. If you're certain you want to start on a compound, go with God.
In general, we think recurves are GREAT for new archers, and definitely for younger archers. A recurve allows a beginner to learn slowly about each part of the bow, and how it works. They're a lot less complicated than compound bows (there are, literally, fewer moving parts), and they're usually more affordable. You can set it up yourself without going to a pro shop or a sports store, and you can add and remove accessories as you need them (and the accessories are a lot more simple—an elevated rest on a recurve bow is light years simpler than a drop-away rest on a compound).
Plus, if you start out doing target archery and then decide you want to get into hunting, a recurve bow allows you that opportunity. And, if you're getting a takedown bow, you can use it for years and simply increase the draw weight of the bow when you're ready. That in itself is a fantastic feature.
But honestly, our favorite part about recurves bows is that they're simple and they're powerful, and—perhaps most of all—they're traditional. The recurve bow, or some version of it, has been used by cultures all over the globe for thousands of years. When we shoot a recurve, you can imagine our ancestors—both in your family tree and in our human family tree—using the same tool. It's pretty cool.
(By the way, if you're interested in a compound bow, we have a review of compounds here.)
That Wraps It Up!
If you're still here, we salute you! This was a long post, and we certainly threw a lot of information at you. If you're new to archery, WELCOME! If you've got questions, leave them below and we'll see if we can answer them for you.