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The Different Types of Bows

The Different Types of Bows

Posted by Archer Full Throttle on 12th Jul 2023

Bow hunting and the practice of archery in general has been in existence for thousands of years. In that time, it’s no surprise that humans have created different kinds of bows to suit different purposes. Today, there are four types of bows that the avid archer or bow hunter may use to suit different purposes. Read on to learn exactly what these bows are, and what makes each one unique.

  1. The Compound Bow

Compound bows are often the bow of choice for hunters, the prototype you may have in your head when someone first asks you about archery. But, these bows are a relatively new invention. Created in the 1960s, the compound bow innovated the game by allowing more energy to be stored in the limbs of the bow through the use of rotational wheels. Hunters could easily pull back the bowstring which would then act on the wheels in a pulley system and bend the limbs of the bow back seamlessly. Not only did this efficiently store the energy of the shot, but it also gave the shot more of a boost upon the archer releasing the bowstring as the wheels spun out adding even more energy to the arrow. Today’s compound bows are easily identifiable from other types of bows by their pulley system and wheels on either limb of the bow. These bows are often made of resin or fiberglass, making them stronger than bows of yesteryear. Pair that with being able to reach speeds around 350 fps (feet per second) per shot, and it’s no question why this bow remains in the limelight nearly 60 years after its creation.

  1. The Crossbow

While there is controversy among some hunters and archers as to if the crossbow is “true archery” or not, it is undeniable that the crossbow does follow the basic mechanics of archery: propelling an arrow at a target. Crossbows are one of the most easily identifiable bows because of their unique construction. Essentially, they utilize the same pulley method of a compound bow to amplify energy for the shot, but the crossbow is used horizontally rather than vertically like all the other bows on this list. Like a gun, the crossbow has a trigger and a stock (no mechanical release aid needed here). Unlike other bows, the crossbow relies on a cocking device to pull the string back into place. People may equate shooting a crossbow to be more like shooting a gun rather than any other kind of bow because of the sheer consistent power each crossbow shot delivers. While the crossbow is a top contender for many hunters, some may be put off by the time it takes to reload a shot compared to a compound bow. If you’re considering choosing between a compound bow or a crossbow, always consider what type of terrain you’ll be hunting in, the behavior of the animals you’re hunting, and your own ability to have a consistent and accurate shot with either bow.

  1. The Long Bow

The long bow is considered the oldest type of bow we know of. Its simple construction of just two limbs and a single bow string made it easy enough to craft for ancient people, and proved to be a great choice for hunting and defense. While the first long bows in existence were made of whittled pieces of wood and animal hide, today’s long bows have benefitted from advancing technologies that improve upon the bow without compromising its historic simplicity. The limbs of today’s long bows are usually made of stronger laminated wood or other synthetic materials, with endless possibilities for custom inlays or engravings. Unlike modern compound or crossbows, long bows do not use sights or even arrow rests. It is archery at its most simplistic, and some may say most challenging because the lack of modern bow amenities puts all the responsibility on the skill of the archer.

  1. The Recurve Bow

To tell a recurve bow from a long bow, simply look at the limbs. They should curve away from the bow (hence the name recurve) to help increase the energy stored when pulling back to take a shot. This is also the type of bow you may recognize when watching archery in the Olympics. Unlike the archery-purist long bows which do not accommodate modern add-ons like sights, some recurve bows today can be fitted with these amenities (although many recurve archers still opt out of using them). The recurve bow has less of a draw weight, making it a great choice for compound or crossbow users who want to try their hand at a more traditional bow. Archers may also find this to be a more affordable choice than a compound bow, which makes it a great stepping stone into the archery world.

No matter what bow you use, there’s something to appreciate about each one. Not only do these bows serve unique purposes, but they also have unique histories and traditions that make the sport of archery into what it is today.