Longbow vs Composite Bow | Which Reigns Supreme?

The longbow and composite bow are two of history’s most iconic archery bows. Both have been used to deadly effect on the battlefield and for hunting and sport shooting for centuries. But what exactly is the difference between the two, and which one is better? 

The main difference between longbows and composite bows is their construction. Longbows are made from a single piece of wood, typically yew. Composite bows are made from multiple layers of different materials, such as wood, horn, and sinew.

This article will compare and contrast longbows and composite bows to help you understand their key differences and pros and cons.

Longbow vs Composite Bow 
Longbow vs Composite Bow 

Differences Between Longbow and Composite Bow 

The main differences between longbows and composite bows come down to their construction, power, accuracy, and ease of use.


The longbow is made from a single piece of wood, usually yew or elm. The limbs taper gently from the handle section to the tips. The string is made from hemp or other natural fibers.

Composite bows are made from multiple layers of material laminated together, usually horn, wood, and sinew. This composite construction allows the limbs to store more energy and deliver more power. The layers also prevent the bow from twisting or warping.


Due to its simple single-piece design, the longbow is limited in how much power it can generate. The highest draw weights are around 100-150 lbs. In contrast, composite bows can achieve draw weights exceeding 160 lbs thanks to their efficient composite limb design. This makes them significantly more powerful than longbows.


The composite bow’s laminated construction prevents twisting and allows for a more consistent, cleaner release. This lends itself to greater accuracy compared to the longbow. The tips of a longbow can warp over time, reducing accuracy.

Ease of Use

Composite bows are more complex to construct and require more expertise. Longbows are simpler to make from a single piece of wood. For archers, composite bows usually have a smoother draw through the entire range of motion due to the recurved limb tips. Longbows can stack or have a sudden increase in draw weight at full draw.

Here is a quick comparison summary:

LongbowComposite Bow
ConstructionThe single piece of woodLaminated horn, wood, sinew
PowerModerate, up to 150 lbs drawHigh, over 160 lbs draw
AccuracyModerate due to possible warpingExcellent due to consistent release
Ease of UseSimple to make and shootMore complex manufactures, smoother draw
Primary UseTraditional archeryTarget, bowhunting

Which One is Better the Longbow and a Composite Bow? 

So which type of bow is better – the longbow or the composite bow? There is no definitive answer, as each has certain advantages and disadvantages.

For hunting or warfare, the greater power and accuracy of the composite bow made it superior. Its high-velocity arrows could penetrate armor, and the smooth draw allowed rapid shooting of multiple arrows. This is why composite bows dominated as military weapons from Asia to the Middle East for centuries.

However, the longbow excels at simplicity and low cost. A longbow can be made from a single piece of wood, with just a string needed. This made it an excellent weapon for peasant armies as it was cheap to produce. The long length also allowed high draw weights. In the hands of trained archers, longbows could unleash deadly barrages.

Most people choose composite bows for their power and smoothness for modern archery, target shooting, and bowhunting. The latest composite designs offer high efficiency in a compact package. Longbows remain popular for traditional archery aficionados who value simplicity and classic style.

So, while the composite bow dominates modern target archery and bowhunting, the longbow still has a place among traditional archers. Choose the longbow for its classic simplicity and moderate performance. Pick the composite if you need exceptional power and accuracy.


The longbow’s simplicity and tradition remain appealing for many archers, but the composite bow’s superior power and accuracy continue to make it the top choice for target shooting and hunting. Consider your specific needs and interests when deciding between these two classic bow designs. Thanks for reading this comparison! Please leave any questions in the comments.

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