Types of Bows & Their Pros & Cons
If you’re a beginner who would love to start out in archery, you’ll stumble across many types of bows.
Knowing more about these bows isn’t only fun, but it’ll also help you choose your favorite type.
In the following article, I’ll walk you through different types of bows and their pros and cons. Let’s dive in!
They have a unique appearance and construction that keeps them a hot topic to this day.
The crossbow is a modernized type of bow and arrow. It was initially used as a warfare weapon due to its powerful projectile. But, it was also used for hunting purposes.
The crossbow was invented during the Zhao Dynasty of Ancient China around the year 700 BC. The bow reached Ancient Greece in the late 4th century.
Crossbows are currently used in modern archery sports as well as scientific research (blubber biopsy samples).
The horizontally mounted bow, often called the prod, was initially made of wood. In medieval times steel, horns, and bones were also included in the construction. Currently, it’s made of composite materials or fiberglass.
- Powerful projectile
- Highly accurate
- Easy to use
- Heavier than bows
- Long reloading time
- Release some noise that can alert preys
- Limited by law in some states
At first glance, these bows look like a sci-fi weapon. They have a modern design that made them among the most commonly used bows today.
Compound bows are modern ones. They’re widely used for hunting and target practice.
It was first developed by Holless Wilbur Allen in 1966 in Billings, Missouri. It gained popularity ever since and it’s currently the dominant form of bows.
The compound bow is known for its lightweight construction. Many materials can be used in the construction of the compound bow, but most commonly composite materials.
The bow has mounts for other components too, such as sights, stabilizers, and risers. These parts can be usually made of aluminum.
As you know, the compound bow was invented about 55 years ago. It was designed to suit most archery enthusiasts from beginners to hunters and professionals.
- Extremely lightweight
- Ultra-quiet for hunting
- Requires minimal skills
- Difficult to maintain and repair with multiple parts
- A bit pricey
- Breaks easily
Whether it’s now or in the past, recurve bows have always been among the most popular bows around.
Recurve bows were initially used for warfare, as they were relatively lightweight and delivered high force.
The oldest record of a recurve bow dates back to the 8th century BC. Recurve bows were used by a lot of ancient civilizations and groups, including Persians, Egyptians, Mongols, Koreans, Chinese, Cumans, and Greeks.
Currently, Recurve bows are used for recreational archery and target practice. Some varieties of them are used in Olympic archery, but more on that later.
- Affordable price when compared to compound bows
- Much simpler to use
- Easy to repair and maintain
- Takes time to master
- Weaker projectiles when compared to compound bows
They’re the most “classic-looking” bows. Along with the recurve, these two bows dominated the medieval scene.
In the past, they were mainly used in warfare. However, they have been used for hunting and practice as well. Today, they’re used for training and hunting to a lesser extent.
The first recorded longbows were made of yew, and it dates back to around 3,300 BC. Before the invention of firearms, longbows were the weapon of choice of the English and Welsh Archery.
They’re among the simplest bows to be made. For example, they can be easily crafted from a single piece of wood, especially yew wood. But, it can be made of other woods too.
Even to this day, most bowyers make longbows out of wood, which makes them beginner-friendly.
Because recurve bows offer more power and speed than longbows, they’ve been falling out of use ever since.
Today, while there might be some special ranges for longbows, they’re not as popular as other competitors like recurve bows.
- Excellent for taller archers
- Relatively quiet
- Less speed and power than recurve bows
- Causes a power hand shock on release
- No special ranges and courses for it today
A takedown bow is a modernized form of recurve bows that has the same shape. The only difference is that the limbs are detachable, which makes them easier to pack along.
The main advantage of takedown bows is that they can be disassembled and assembled. This makes it easy for transportation for hunting.
The first use of bows with detachable limbs was in the early 1800s.
Since you can change the limbs, you can configure multiple aspects of the bow. This includes the materials used in limbs and risers. This includes composite materials, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.
Currently, almost all Olympic recurve bows are from the takedown variety. They’re also used outside of the Olympics for hunting and target practice.
- Easy to transport
- Highly adjustable
- Accurate and powerful
- A bit pricey
- Requires skill
“Yumi” is Japanese for “bow”. These traditional Japanese bows were of various sizes. They shoot special arrows called “ya”.
Yumi was an important weapon in the arsenal of Samurai warriors. The Japanese Have been using the Yumi bows mainly for warfare and ceremonial purposes.
Some archeologists suggest that these bows have been used in Japan as far back as 10,000 BC.
Their early simple form was called “Maruki”. The bow has undergone various changes in structure throughout the history of different Japanese eras.
Yumi bows are characterized for being an exceptionally tall and asymmetric bow, as it could stand over two meters.
Traditionally, they were crafted from wood, bamboo, and leather. Modern yumi bows are made of fiberglass where the strings are made of kevlar.
Currently, these bows are mainly used for recreational purposes as well as target practice in Japan.
- Designed to be used over horseback
- Excellent for tall archers
- Requires careful attention
- Larger than the average bow
A reflex bow is a type of bow that has curled or curved arms that take the shape of the letter “C”.
The curves of the bow put it under greater stress. This gives a smaller and shorter bow a longer draw length. This allows the bow smaller than a recurve or longbow to shoot with a similar or even greater power and velocity.
These types of bows were traditionally common among Turkish and Indian archery. In fact, these bows are still in use by Koreans to this day.
To give them their high level of stress, they’re almost always made of composite materials. These include layers of wood, sinew, and horns.
This type of bows is heavily replaced with the modern recurve and compound bows. That’s why they’re currently mostly limited to traditional ceremonies.
- Small size
- Powerful projectile
- The extreme reflex when unstrung is difficult to handle
- Rare to find
Recurve bows are the only variety of bows that can be used in the Olympic games. The Olympic recurve bows is a redesigned recurve bow that’s mostly used by Olympic archers.
These ones meet the specific guidelines that make them fit for participating in archery Olympic games.
In addition to the regular design of a recurve bow, this one has a sight, a clicker, and an improved arrow rest.
The first modern Olympic games that included archery were held in 1900 followed by a long period of absence. However, since the constant return of the sport in, many bowyers have been developing these specialized bows for competitive archery.
Modern Olympic recurve bows are usually made of carbon fiber. This makes them much lighter and more durable than the previous composite materials.
Besides being an Olympic grade bow, it’s also used by tons of recreational archers around the world. They’re also used in indoor and field target archery tournaments.
- Competitive grade bow
- Smooth shot
- Take much more time to perfect
Barebow archery is more of a style of archery rather than a specific type of bow.
As the name suggests, the barebow is a form of modern archery that includes a stripped-down bow with no stabilizers, sights, and other gadgets.
These bows are usually recurve bows that are devoid of any accessories that can help you aim. It should also have no clickers or markings.
However, some archers use compound bows as barebow too. Yet, others argue that compound bows already defeat the purpose of barebow archery.
The advancement of technology made archery a lot easier. However, some thought that the true essence of archery fun is by doing it the traditional way. That’s how barebow archery came into existence a few decades back.
Barebow archery is more about the exclusion of external aids than materials and construction. For example, metal recurve bows are allowed as well as carbon ones. However, “shoot-through” models are allowed.
These bows are mostly used in barebow archery competitions.
- Challenging but exhilarating experience
- An excellent way to fully master archery
- Take long years of practice
Ottoman (Turkish) Bow
The Turkish bow is a unique bow with a blend of both recurve and classic Asiatic composite bows. Similar to the reflex bow, this one has the shape of the letter “C”.
The Turks used this bow in a wide variety of purposes, but mainly for traditional archery. It was popular throughout the Ottoman Empire and used in traditional and ceremonial purposes.
Turkish bowyers were fascinated with making bows that shoot extremely light arrows in high velocity and long distances. The sport of Turkish archery has seen a lot of ups and downs throughout the Ottoman reign.
As you already know, this bow’s design is inspired by different types of bows. To allow the Turkish bow to curve extremely when unstrung, the bow was made of composite materials.
It had a wooden core, which was mostly made of maple wood. The side facing the archer was mostly made of animal horns while the other side was usually made of sinew fibers glued together.
Turkish bows are currently used in Flight Archery contests. These contests focus on shooting arrows at a maximum distance rather than accuracy.
- Shoots arrows at an extreme force and speed
- Ideal for Flight Archery contests
- Low accuracy
Mounted Bows & Horseback Archery
Last but not least, let’s discuss the world of mounted archery and the best type of bows used on horseback.
cavalry archers were valuable units in warfare. However, they were also popular for protecting large herds of cattle and sheep. Moreover, it was a successful form of hunting despite being quite challenging.
Throughout history, mounted archery was common in eastern civilizations, such as China, Korea, Japan. However, they were also documented during the middle ages in Europe.
Some bows are built to suit mounted archery more than the others. For example, yumi bows were long and asymmetrical, which made them easy to switch sides while on horseback. In the Eurasian cavalry, yumi bows were replaced with composite recurve bows.
Horse archery is currently a sport with different federations and associations. For example, The Mounted Archery Association of the Americas and British Horseback Archery Association, which was established in 2007.
- A unique sport
- Small bows
- Highly maneuverable
- You’ll need to learn the skill of horse riding first
- Horse bows are a little more demanding than regular recurve bow
There you have it. A brief guide with different types of bows and their pros and cons. As you can see, bows can vary according to their properties and ease of learning.
If you’re planning to start out with a simple bow, I suggest you go with modern recurve bows. They’re much easier to maintain and fun to use.
Also, they allow you to advance quickly to Olympic recurve bows if you want to kick things up a notch!