Are you the type who likes a challenge? Are you looking to shake up your hunting experience? Maybe you simply get lost in the magic of watching an arrow arc through open space. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to pick up a traditional bow, odds are you’re cut from a different cloth. Trad bows offer a one-of-a-kind shooting experience and challenge to archers. While both are great bows, you might be wondering is a recurve better than a longbow, or vice versa? If you’re looking at purchasing your first traditional bow, or looking for the next stick slinger to hang on your wall, here are 3 things to consider when choosing your next bow.
If you have to choose between a recurve or a longbow one of the first things you need to consider is the shootability of the bow. Typically, longbows are considered easier to shoot and more forgiving. Legendary archer Howard Hill stated in his book Hunting the Hard Way that he “wasn’t good enough” to shoot a recurve and felt they were too touchy. While I believe that Howard Hill could outshoot most guys with a clothes hanger, he does reflect majority opinion on the subject. That being said archers comfortable with a recurve can feel like a longbow presents a new challenge. One such archer is modern favorite Fred Eichler. I recently read an article by Fred describing his goal to begin taking big game with a longbow instead of his preferred recurve. Again, in my opinion it doesn’t matter what Fred Eichler shoots, good things happen. In the end, for shootability the longbow gets the nod.
Anyone familiar with archery has heard this phrase before, and experienced archers have made their high school science teachers proud by mastering an understanding of the subject. In short, kinetic energy refers to the energy an arrow possesses during flight. The more kinetic energy, the more energy available to pass through hair, bone, muscle, or whatever else your arrow needs to pass through. In the kinetic energy department the advantage has to go to the recurves. The reason lies in the curved limb design that gives these bows their name. Since the limbs of recurves flex, they store more energy than a longbow and shoot a faster arrow. All things even, a recurve shoots an arrow with more kinetic energy than a longbow.
One final thing to consider is the length of the bow. This plays a little into the shootability of the bows but should be addressed. Longbows typically are longer (seems like a no-brainer) which decreases the pinch a “fingers” shooter will have. If you are a spot and stalk hunter however, the shorter length of the recurve might give it more mobility in tight quarters you sometimes find yourself in. At the end of the day, each bow has trade offs in this department and each archer needs to decide what they are looking for.
In conclusion is a recurve better than a longbow? It all depends on your hunting style and what you are looking for out of your trad bow. Longbows have earned the reputation as easy shooters, while recurves are faster. Either way you choose you are in for a great experience and either will provide you with endless challenge in the future.