If you are new to archery or to bow hunting, one decision you will have to make is whether you would prefer to use a traditional recurve (or takedown recurve) bow or a compound bow. Both bows have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, deciding which one to purchase and use will come down to a matter of personal taste. Are you more interested in speed and accuracy, or would you rather have a bigger challenge? Are you interested in a more modern implement which utilizes technology to help you with your shot, or are you more interested in a traditional experience? The answers to these questions can help you to determine which bow is best for you.
The recurve bow is the more traditional bow; it can trace its history to many ancient societies. The compound bow, on the other hand, is a more modern invention, tracing its history to the mid-twentieth century.
Both bows work by imparting kinetic energy to the arrow through the bowstring; they take advantage of the potential energy stored as the bowstring is pulled and the limbs begin to flex. This allows the archer to inject much more energy into the arrow than could be achieved without the bow.
However, the ways in which these bows turn the energy from the archer and the bow into the energy needed to launch the arrow are different. Recurve bows directly store the energy in the bow and so become harder to pull the farther the bowstring is drawn.
Compound bows use a system of pulleys or cams through which the string passes. Pulleys are simple machines which allow for force to be multiplied; therefore, these pulleys grant the archer a mechanical advantage. The bow allows for the force to build as the string is drawn, and after a certain point, what is known as the let-off point, the string becomes easier to pull.
Because of this let-off point, because the string is easier to draw, the compound bow will allow the archer to take more time to aim, and by doing so, improve accuracy. They also allow the archer to shoot for longer periods, as they do not cause as much muscle fatigue, fatigue caused by holding the bowstring at a full draw. Also, because they are better at storing energy (relying on the pulleys and not just the bow itself), the arrow will be let loose with more energy, and therefore compound bows can often shoot arrows at longer distances.
Compound bows tend to be both stronger and smaller; however, there is something to be said for the simplicity of the recurve bow, however. For one, recurve bows have a much simpler construction, consisting of the body of the bow and the string. They therefore tend to be less expensive than compound bows and also easier to repair. In fact, the archer might be unable to repair a compound bow without consulting a professional.
Compound bows also tend to be heavier because of their complicated machinery and because they tend to come with more accessories than the recurve bow. (Many recurve bows can be fitted with some of these accessories; however, not all of them can, and even when they can be, many recurve enthusiasts prefer to shoot using fewer of those accessories, are purists who want the challenge of the recurve bow.)
Recurve bows are also easier to set up and have a less steep learning curve. In other words, they are easier for someone new to archery to learn how to shoot. However, they are probably more difficult to learn how to shoot in the long term; they will probably require more practice for mastery and for developing perfect technique.
Before making a decision about which bow will be right for you, you should take stock of what you want to do with the bow and how you want to do it. Basically, determining which bow will be the right one for you will depend on your wants and needs. If you would prefer a bow that will lend you an advantage in terms of distance and accuracy, you might be better off choosing a compound bow. If you are looking for something that is easier to learn (at least at first) and for a bow that will provide a unique challenge, the recurve bow might be the better fit for you. Both bows, however, can give you a fun and challenging sport, whether you are a target archer or a hunter.