Recurve vs Reflex Bow: Which One Suits You?

Archery is a sport that dates back thousands of years, with bows and arrows used for hunting and warfare throughout history. In the modern era, archery is commonly practiced recreationally and competitively. Two of the most popular types of bows used in archery today are the recurve bow and the reflex bow. While both bows have curved limbs that bend away from the archer when drawn, there are some key differences between recurve and reflex bow designs.

Recurve vs Reflex Bow 
Recurve vs Reflex Bow 

Differences between Recurve and Reflex Bow

The main distinction between a recurve and a reflex bow lies in the shape of the limbs when the bow is strung and unstrung.

Recurve Bow

A recurve bow has limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. When strung, the limbs curve back in the opposite direction near the tips, giving the limb tips a recurved shape. This double curve provides more power and energy storage than a traditional straight-limb bow.

  • When unstrung, the limbs curve forward away from the archer
  • When strung, the limbs curve back towards the archer at the tips
  • Gives more power and energy storage than a straight limb bow

Reflex Bow

A reflex bow, on the other hand, has limbs that curve towards the archer when unstrung. When strung, the limbs straighten out but maintain a slightly curved shape.

  • When unstrung, the limbs curve back towards the archer
  • When strung, the limbs straighten but keep a slight curve
  • Stores less energy than a recurve due to the curved limb shape

This reflexed shape makes the limbs more stable but stores less energy than a recurved limb. Reflex bows tend to be faster and have a smoother draw than recurves.

Other differences between the two bow types include:

Draw Weight

  • Recurve bows have a higher draw weight for a given bow length
  • Reflex bows typically have a lower draw weight thanks to the curved limb design

Power Stroke

  • Recurves have a longer power stroke, which creates more arrow speed and power
  • Reflex bows have a shorter power stroke due to the curved limbs

Arrow Speed

  • Recurves can shoot arrows at higher speeds due to the efficient energy storage and transfer
  • Reflex bows shoot arrows at lower speeds due to less energy storage

Shooting Style

  • Recurves work best for target shooting at various distances
  • Reflex bows are great for bowhunting due to the smooth, fast draw


  • Recurve bows tend to be longer than reflex bows
  • Reflex bows can be made shorter due to the curved limb design

So in summary, recurve bows are more powerful and efficient at storing energy, while reflex bows provide a smoother, faster shot. Recurves excel at target archery, while reflex bows are ideal for hunting situations.

Which One is Better – Recurve or Reflex Bow? 

When choosing between a recurve or reflex bow, there are a few key factors to consider:

Intended Use

What will you primarily use the bow for? Recurve bows are ideal for target shooting and archery competitions, where arrow speed and power are critical. Reflex bows work well for hunting situations where a fast, smooth draw is needed.

Draw Weight

Do you need maximal power or an easier draw? Recurves have greater draw weights for more power. Reflex bows have lower draw weights that may be easier to pull.

Shooting Style

Your shooting technique can help determine which bow works best. Recurves align well with a classic archery stance. Reflex bows work great for intuitive shooting styles like instinctive aiming.

Distance Shooting

If you need to accurately shoot at longer distances, a recurve is likely the better choice. Reflex bows lose arrow speed and power at longer ranges.

Size and Portability

For a compact, easy-to-transport bow, reflex designs have an advantage. Recurves are typically longer for optimal energy storage.


Well-made recurve bows are generally more expensive than reflex bows. Reflex designs allow for shorter, simpler bows that cost less.

For most target shooting purposes, recurve bows are the superior choice due to their extra arrow speed, power, and accuracy at range. For hunting or situations requiring a smooth, fast shot, reflex bows can be ideal with their forgiving draw.

It’s also worth considering hybrid designs that blend reflex and recurve elements for versatility. In the end, choosing the right bow comes down to your specific needs and shooting style. The key is matching the bow design to your intended use. With practice, both recurve and reflex bows can be used to shoot accurately and effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the draw weight of a recurve bow vs a reflex bow?

Recurve bows typically have a higher draw weight, in the range of 25-60 lbs for target bows. Reflex bows often have lower draw weights of 15-45 lbs. Higher draw weights allow recurves to generate more arrow speed and power.

Which bow is easier to shoot for beginners?

Reflex bows are generally easier for beginners to shoot due to their lower draw weight and smooth, fast shot. The curved limbs make the draw more forgiving. Recurves require more technique and strength to shoot accurately.

Do recurve and reflex bows use the same arrows?

Most recurve and reflex bows use the same kinds of arrows, with common sizes being aluminum, carbon, and wood arrows. Arrows need to be matched to the bow based on draw length and weight rather than the bow design itself.

Can you hunt effectively with a reflex bow?

Yes, reflex bows can be very effective for bowhunting, especially at moderate ranges. The fast, smooth draw allows rapid shooting when opportunities arise. The lower draw weight aids stealth. A large game may require a higher poundage reflex bow.

Are recurve or reflex bows used in the Olympics?

Olympic archery events utilize recurve bows. The recurve design allows archers to shoot accurately at long distances, which is essential for the Olympic format. Recurve bows are also the only design permitted in most other competitive target archery tournaments.


Lastly, recurve and reflex bows both utilize curved limbs but differ significantly in how the limbs are shaped at rest and when drawn. Recurves store more energy and shoot arrows with greater speed and power, making them ideal for target shooting. Reflex bows provide a smooth, fast shot that excels at hunting but lacks the power of a recurve at range. When choosing between the two main designs, consider your intended use, shooting style, required draw weight, and shooting distance. With practice, both recurve and reflex bows can be mastered for recreational and competitive archery. Thanks for reading! Please leave any other recurve vs reflex bow questions in the comments section below.

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