The Best Recurve Bow: Our Picks (Updated: July 2020)
Humans have been practicing archery for more than 20,000 years, and the invention of the recurve bow dates back to around 1000 BC. For such an old tool, recurve bows are surprisingly complex, and they're not a "one-size-fits-all" device—they're all unique, and you’ll need to find one that fits your needs.
Below, we’ll take a deep dive into the top recurve bows on the market today. We’ll get you started if you're looking for a target bow, a hunting bow, or a versatile, "best-all-around"-type model, and we'll discuss our pick for best recurve bow overall.
By the way, we've included some great beginner bows, but if you can also check out our guide to the best beginner recurve bows, if you'd like to start from square one.
Let’s dive in:
Quick Picks: Overviews of Our Favorites
Here our top picks, and for whom we think they’re a good fit:
> Best Takedown Recurve Bow / Best All-Around: The Samick Sage Takedown Recurve
> Best Bow Package with Gear: PSE Pro Max Takedown Recurve Bow Package Set
> Best Budget Bow: DOSTYLE Archery Takedown Recurve Bow and Arrow Set
> Best Recurve for Tall Folks: Southwest Archery Spyder XL Takedown Recurve Bow
> Best Target Bow / Olympic Style Bow: HYF 68-Inch ILF Recurve Bow
> Best Recurve for Hunting: SAS Courage Hunting Takedown Recurve
> Best Recurve Horsebow: KAINOKAI Traditional Handmade Longbow
Alright, now let's go into some detail:
Best Takedown Recurve Bow / Best "All-Around" Model
We've talked at length about this bow, and it's very popular—and for good reason. It is...
The Samick Sage Recurve Bow
Yep! 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—but also a fantastic option for intermediates, as well. It's a high-quality takedown bow that is strong, designed for accuracy, 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 we think this is the best recurve:
> As you become a better archer, this bow can 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. It's great for target practice and target shooting, and that's because...
> The riser allows for a ton of accessories. If you take a look at the riser (the handle of the bow), you'll see a bunch of holes. These are locations where you can 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, and they're great for beginners to intermediates. 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 recurve 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 (and a feature that makes it great for younger archers).
> 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. The majority of archers enjoy target archery at the range, but if you're so inclined, and your draw weight 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 manufactured in poundages from 25 pounds to 60 pounds. And, actually, that's another great feature:
> It's manufactured in a wide range of poundages. Most recurve 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 manufactured 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. In other words, it's for folks who are up to 6- to 6-foot-1-inches tall. If your draw length is 29 inches or less, this can be a fantastic bow (and if you don't know what your draw length is, check out the section below about finding your draw length). If your draw length is 30 inches or more, check out the section titled "Best Recurve for Tall Folks.”
Best Bow Package with Gear
Archery isn't just a bow and an arrow—there's a lot of gear archers use, and it can be difficult to collect what you need, and that's especially true if you're just starting out / buying a recurve bow for someone else. There are three bow packages we like, and they are:
PSE Pro Max Takedown Recurve Bow Package Set
There's not usually a "budget" option when it comes to bow packages, and that's why we like the PSE Pro Max Takedown Recurve Bow Package Set. It's nothing fancy and not over-inclusive, but it's got all the essentials needed to get started: a bow, three arrows in a hip quiver (with a handy clasp you can fasten to a belt loop), an arm guard (for safety), a bow stringer (also for safety), and an adjustable bow sight so you can aim at different distances. That bow sight is actually a nice little inclusion—those don't always come in sets, and they can make archery and target shooting a lot more enjoyable. The bow itself is well-designed—62-inches with a wooden riser and composite limbs—and good for adults, young adults, and kids 11 and up.
Keep in mind, at current, this is designed with a draw weight of 25 pounds and is designed for righties. More draw weight options would be nice, but it's not uncommon for a budget bow to be offered in a single draw weight, and 25 pounds can actually be a good place to start. We think this is a good option for budget-minded folks, and one of the best recurve packages overall.
The HYF Takedown Recurve Package
The HYF Takedown Recurve Package is another package we like a great deal, and we think it's a great mid-range option. It comes with oodles of gear—a 5-pin bow sight, which is very uncommon for a bow in this range; 12 arrows; a hex wrench, aka "the archer's tool"; a stabilizer, which is okaaaaaay and you may eventually want to replace; a quiver; an arm guard; and a lot of other goodies—and that's really most of what you need to get started. There's no target, which is a bummer, but all that adds up to a really great package.
That said, what's truly unique about the HYF is the riser: if you compare it to most other recurve bows, you'll see that the handle on the riser is actually inset a little bit, giving it a kind of "aggressive" look. That design is actually utile, and it decreases the brace height (the distance between the bow string and the shelf on the riser where you place the arrow). Bows with a short brace height typically shoot arrows at greater speed (although that sometimes comes with a trade-off in accuracy).
Plus, in our humble opinion, the design just looks really cool. With the bow design, it's capacity for target practice, and all the gear included, this is another package we like.
The Spyder Takedown Ready 2 Shoot Archery Set
The Spyder Takedown Ready 2 Shoot Archery Set is a more "deluxe" package, and not only does it feature a lot of gear (bow, three arrows, arm guard, bow stringer, and elevated arrow rest, and hardshell bow case—we'll talk about that in a second), it's manufactured in a wiiiiide range of draw weights for both righties and lefties (20 pounds to 60 pounds—that's a pretty good range, and a 60-pound bow can provide a LOT of shooting power).
We talk more about the bow itself below, but here's a summary: very good. It's actually made by the same guys who designed the Samick Sage, and it's molded for the hand, and features bushings where you can add a bow sight / a stabilizer / a rest / and a few other things. It's a takedown, too, which is always a plus.
The real clincher for us is the hardshell recurve bow case. Usually, those are sold separately, and if you want to do any traveling with your bow—and that includes back and forth to your local range—that hardshell can provide a lot of protection. Softshell cases are popular—those are the cloth ones—but they don't provide as much protection (because they are, after all, fabric). That hard shell is the icing on the cake here—a great inclusion in a solid package. This gets our vote as the best recurve package, because it comes with so much gear, and the hard case is a great inclusion.
NOTE: There's also a Samick Sage Ready-to-Shoot Package, that's very similar—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. It doesn't come in as many sizes as the Spyder package, and that's why we recommend the Spyder over the Sage when it comes to package options.
Best Budget Recurve Bow
Bows can get very "high-end," and we always want to include an "easy access" bow. Our pick for best recurve bow for budget-minded folks is...
The DOSTYLE Archery Takedown Recurve Bow and Arrow Set
The DOSTYLE Archery Takedown Recurve is a great option for new and younger archers, and it meets our "big four" criteria when it comes to bows:
> It's molded with a shaped riser, designed for steady grip;
> It's got all the basics you need to shoot: bow with arrow shelf in the design, arrows with points, and...
> It comes with a few target faces! We always wonder why more bow manufacturers don't throw in a few target faces with each bow they sell. Why not? We're archers—we clearly want to do some target practice! It seems like a small thing and a great added value; and finally...
> It's designed to be easy to assemble—and take our word for it—some bows are *not* easy to assemble!
This can be a great intro to the world of archery, and if you want to make more of a commitment later on, you can always upgrade. It's designed for beginner archers, without needing any of the add-ons that more advanced shooting can require. Note that it's designed solely for righties—sorry, lefties!—and the draw weight is 40 pounds, which may be a little bit much for younger archers and kids. All-in-all, though, a good option if you're looking for an easy-access, budget bow.
Best Recurve Bow for Tall Folks
Our vote for the best recurve for taller guys and gals goes to...
The Southwest Archery Spyder XL Takedown Recurve Bow
In terms of design, the Spyder XL Takedown Recurve is very similar to the Samick Sage—in fact, 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 has 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. People who are 6-foot-2-inches and above usually have a draw length of 30 inches or more.
Draw length is a vitally important aspect of accuracy (and shooting comfort, for that matter), so a properly-sized recurve bow is key. If you're interested in the Samick Sage but need a bow with a longer draw length, this can be a great option (and, by the way, if you need to find out your draw length and your other measurements, we explain all of that in detail below).
We've found the Spyder XL to be a great option for target shooting and recreational practice, and we think it's up there in terms of performance when compared to the Samick Sage.
Best Target Bow / Best Olympic Recurve Bow
We've always considered "target bow" something of a strange phrase—if you're shooting an arrow, chances are pretty darn strong you're aiming at a target of some sort—but in general, when people say "target bow," they're referring to an Olympic-style bow (and usually a recurve bow). Our pick for the best target bow / best Olympic recurve bow is...
The HYF 68-Inch ILF Recurve Bow
The HYF Target Bow Recurve has everything we'd look for in an Olympic-style recurve: it's much longer than normal recurves, and at 68 inches, its longer shape can provide for greater stability; a long riser clocking in at 25 inches, also for more stability; and plenty of bushings in the riser for target-shooting add-ons, like long stabilizers, arrow rests, high-end bow sights, and plunger buttons. It's also got limb sheaths, which is nice touch (and something you don't usually see in non-target bows). And, by the way— that "ILF" stands for "International Limb Fittings,” and it basically means that you can switch out the limbs with any other set of limbs (regardless of manufacturer) if those limbs are also ILF limbs.
It would be nice to see this bow manufactured for left-handed archers—right now, it's only manufactured for righties—but what can you do. We live in a right-handed world. It would also be nice if the riser were manufactured in more colors—that's a non-functional-but-fun aspect of target bows, is that they're usually made in a range of colors and styles—but that's a secondary concern, really. We think the HYF recurve is a great option if you want to do some target shooting, and especially target shooting at longer ranges—and considering it's a "mid-range" option (some Olympic bows can get veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery deluxe), we think this one offers good value.
Best Recurve Bow for Hunting
If you're looking to bow hunt, we would suggest The SAS Courage Hunting Takedown Recurve Archery Bow. It's a simple, streamlined design—limbs, riser, shelf / arrow rest, and that's about it—and it's manufactured in a range of "hunting" draw weights, from 35 pounds up to 65 pounds, and...
It does *not* feature any apertures for bow sights. Many of the recurve bow hunters (and certainly, many of the ones we know) are interested in instinctual shooting—that is, shooting without a bow sight—and the SAS Courage *does not* feature a bushing where you can screw in a bow sight. It's designed for instinctual shooting. If you're looking for a recurve that you can use with a bow sight, this ain't it.
We'll repeat that, just because we want to be clear: without drilling a hole into the riser (which we DO NOT recommend), you won't be able to add a bow sight to this recurve.
All in all, we think this is a solid choice for bow hunting with a recurve. Note that SAS also makes the SAS Courage in a package set—the SAS Courage 60" Hunting Takedown Recurve Archery Bow Package that comes with some good gear. It's not extensive (and it doesn't include arrows, and those would be nice to have), but the soft case is a nice inclusion, and the bow is made in a good range of draw weights.
One further note: If you want a recurve to hunt with that can include a bow sight (and other add-ons), we suggest the Samick Sage. If you have the skill and accuracy, the Sage can provide game with a quick, ethical finish, and it has bushings for all sorts of add-ons.
The Best Horsebow
This isn’t technically a recurve—at least not in the modern sense—but we love it, so we’ll include it anyway:
The KAINOKAI Traditional Handmade Longbow
This next our is a lot different than all our other picks, and that's because it isn't technically a recurve, and would be considered more of a "specialty" bow: the KAINOKAI Traditional Handmade Longbow.
The KAINOKAI is considered a specialty recurve for good reason: it was created and use for a very specific purpose—to shoot from horseback, against enemies or game. There are a number of structural differences that make it great for shooting while in motion—it's shorter/squatter than most modern recurves, making it easier to maneuver when you're on top of a horse, and it's a more "streamlined" design, with no set-up for an arrow rest, bow sight, etc. Those features make it great for shooting while in motion, but they make it a little bit harder to aim. As with many things in archery, you trade one feature for another.
Nonetheless, we wanted to include this bow, because 1) traditional bows like this one can be a lot of fun to shoot; 2) it's not "handed"—meaning, their shape is symmetrical on both sides (if you compare this bow to other recurves on our list, you'll see that it doesn't have a shelf)—and that means both left-handed people and right-handed people can use it; and 3) it's gorgeous. It's got a highly-arced design, made from locust wood, and wrapped in leather. We’re absolute suckers for beautiful recurve bows, and we like this one a lot.
This bow isn't for everyone, and it can be easier to do some target practice with the more "mainstream" recurve bows we're discussed, but there are some people who absolutely love this sort of design.
Alright! Now you know our suggestions. If you need to learn how to select a recurve for your needs—and your measurements—read on:
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 recurve 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. What is draw length, you ask? Here's the simple definition: the draw length measures exactly how far the archer pulls the bow string back before letting an arrow loose. 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 you can
- 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 ever made, 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 length 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 recurve bow we discuss below 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 of that bow, it's good for anyone with a draw length up to and including 29 inches, so there is sometimes a little wiggle room when it comes to bow length.
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 or more, for example—will be much more challenging to draw. Bows with lower draw weights require less strength to use but shoot slower arrows, and bows with higher draw weights require more strength to use to shoot faster arrows (and with more force—something that’s important to bow hunters).
(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 recurve with a draw weight that's too low will feel wimpy to you, and a recurve 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, and that’s the good news—you will probably find that your strength will grow over time.
Here's an important rule of thumb: "go low" on draw weights, especially if you're just getting into archery. It's a very common thing for people to imagine themselves a little stronger 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!
By the way—many recurve bows are made in a range of draw weights, so please don't feel like you need to get a model outside of your range. In fact, takedown recurve bows—which we'll discuss below—allow you to alter the draw weight of your recurve, allowing you to use whatever weight you like. The Samick Sage Takedown Recurve, which we discuss above, is a good example of that.
Draw weight is important to every archer, but believe it or not, particular draw weights are required by law for bow 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.
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 they can get beat up and still remain usable, and that's a great feature for new archers.
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.
That hashtag, ironically, can make it a little bit difficult for us to post on social media, because it confuses the heck out of people. Now you know! Tell everyone for us, please.
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. But, really—no fighting crime).
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. Manufacturers almost always sell replacement limbs for their takedown recurves—we’ve yet to see a bow maker sell a takedown that doesn’t also offer replacement limbs—but just be sure you’re replacing old limbs with the same brand.
With all that said...
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.