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There are four main types of bows for archers. They vary in size and skill level.
Crafted for both the beginner and the expert, the recurve bow is the most commonly used bow. Both limbs curve away from the archer, which can lead to confusion while stringing the bow. The bend in the limbs provides more energy to be released into a shot than other straight-limbed bows, which means it’s capable of a lot of power.
Recurve bows are often made from several layers of fiberglass, carbon, or wood, with a wood or composite riser. For this reason, as with all bows, dry firing (firing without an arrow) can be extremely dangerous. Any bow can experience damage from dry firing, and that damage can hurt you in the process. Avoid it at all costs.
On the plus side, a recurve is the perfect bow to both learn and advance with. Recurves are currently the only bow allowed in the Olympic Games, so if sport shooting is your goal, then a recurve is what you need.
The crossbow has taken the traditional style of archery, turned it on its side, and added a trigger release mechanism.
The simple point-and-shoot method can be applied with crossbows much easier than with other bow types. Because the crossbow takes on this style of shooting, it’s easy to use for people who want to get into bowhunting but don’t have much time to practice.
Crossbows have much shorter limbs and a nearly nonexistent riser, as the grip is elsewhere on the bow. The shorter bow requires a much higher draw weight, so a crank mechanism is used to pull back the bowstring. Once the arrow is nocked, it’s simple to aim and pull the trigger.
The longbow excels in its simplicity. Essentially, it’s a long wooden pole with a string on both ends. Due to the lack of technological advancements, the longbow is the most difficult of these four types to handle and shoot accurately. As the bow gets longer, the draw weight also increases. These bows required incredibly strong archers in warfare and provided deadly power. The longbow is most often used for target shooting. But skilled hunters still take longbows and recurves into the field. And they can take down any type of game with them.
The compound bow is probably archery’s greatest technological advancements. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the compound bow was born.
Applying a system of pulleys, cams, and cables to the bow allows the archer to hold heavy draw weights with little effort. This means that once you get past the strain of the initial draw, you can hold your bow steady and take more time to aim effectively.
While you can find a much more traditional wooden look with recurves and longbows, the compound bow is almost exclusively made from composite materials. Wood often changes in flex and strength when the weather changes. On the opposite end, these composite materials are durable, long lasting, and strong.