Anatomy Of The Bow: Compound vs Recurve

Anatomy Of The Bow: Compound Vs Recurve

If you’re interested in buying a new bow, you might wonder if you should choose a compound or recurve bow.

One of the most important things is to compare the anatomy of both bows.

What’s the anatomy of a compound vs recurve bow?

One of the main differences between a compound and a recurve bow is that a compound bow has many moving parts. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their anatomical differences. Both bows can be said to be works of art because they have such interesting features and designs.

Let’s take a deeper look at their anatomies and compare them.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the bow anatomy, we got you covered:

Bow Anatomy

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Compound Bow

Compound Bow On Table

At first glance, a compound bow can look quite intimidating.

You see a riser, wheels, strings, and it all looks very complicated. Let’s break down all of its parts.

Basic Setup

A compound bow has a riser – this is the middle part of the bow – to which all the other parts are attached.

On either side of the bow are the limbs. These are also attached to the riser and they have cams attached to them.

Cams are basically those wheel-like structures at the bottom of the bow.


The bow’s cams are actually round discs that get connected to the limbs, and they’re the most important feature of compound bows.

They mechanically tweak the bow’s draw weight when you pull the string, so that it gets easier to pull it back.

But cams don’t come standard as there are many different types.

These include hard cams, which create faster arrow speeds, and round wheels which are cams that offer much more accurate shooting.

Cam Systems

Compound Bow Cam System

But that’s not the end of the story about cams!

Not only can compound bows have different types of cams, but they also have different cam systems.

A cam system can be defined as how the discs in the bow work together, and there are four types: single cam, twin cams, binary cams, and hybrid cams.

You’re likely to find single cams on many compound bows. They basically make use of a round wheel on top of the bow as well as another one on the bottom.

The reason why single cams are so popular is that they don’t make much noise and they’re easy to maintain, thus being great for beginners.


The limbs of the bow are where all its energy resides, and you use that energy when you pull the bowstring back.

You can find different limb styles, such as solid limbs that are made of fiberglass, or split-limbs that have two thin limbs.

The latter tends to be more durable. However, there are also parallel limbs. These are very common on compound bows.

In these bows, the top and bottom limbs are parallel.

The reason why parallel limbs are so popular in compound bows is that they are quieter than other limbs and experience less recoil.

Limb Bolt

Limb Bolt

The limb bolt is what holds the limb in place but it also increases and lowers the bow’s draw weight. You can adjust this on your compound bow.

When you turn it clockwise it will increase the weight and then turning it counter-clockwise will lower it.

Cables And Cable Guard

A compound bow will also have cables, which are strings that travel from one camp to another, as well as a cable guard.

This is a piece of fiberglass that’s positioned to be perpendicular to the bow’s riser. It basically functions to keep the cam wires out of the way when an arrow has to be shot.


The bowstring of a compound bow will usually be made of synthetic materials, as in the case of other bows.

It’s advisable to replace your compound bow’s string and cables at least once a year in the case of target bows and every two years for hunting bows.


Compound Bow Quiver

You might not always find a quiver on a compound bow, although some will have it fitted. A quiver is basically just a structure in which you can store your arrows. 

Even if it’s not in your bow, you’ll likely find an attachment point on the riser for it.

Arrow Rest

This is where the arrow sits so that it can be held in place, and you can find various types of rests.

A common one is called the “whisker biscuit” and it holds the arrow in place with what looks like whiskers.


This is basically where your hands will hold the bow and a grip can be made of various materials to ensure that it can be held firmly.


This bow has a pin sight, which is basically an opening with aiming pins through which you can aim your arrow.

Recurve Bow Anatomy

Recurve Bow In Hands

How is a recurve bow different from a compound bow when it comes to its design?

Let’s take a look at analyzing the different parts of a recurve bow.

Top And Bottom Limbs

These are the parts of the bow that curve. The end of the top limb is known as the limb tip, and the end of the bottom limb is known as the limb notch.

The bow’s limbs are highly important because they maintain the energy of the bow and then release it when the arrow is released.


The riser in a recurve bow will be located in the middle of the limbs and it’s a central part of the bow. In fact, all major parts will connect to the riser.

The best material for a riser is aluminum but some contain carbon fibers to further decrease the bow’s weight.

Riser Grip

This is a handle that makes it easier to hold the bow when you’re shooting an arrow.

The more comfortable this handle feels, the better you’ll be able to shoot with accuracy.


Using Bow Sight

The recurve bow also has a sight. This is attached to the riser and can help you shoot better.

Arrow Rest

This is attached to the riser and it’s the place where your arrow will rest before the bow is drawn and the arrow is released.


Directly opposite and attached to the recurve bows limbs is the bowstring. This is a cord that uses the energy from the limbs and turns it into kinetic energy in your arrow.

Breaking Down The Differences

As you can see, there are many differences in design when it comes to the compound bow and recurve bow.

The recurve bow does seem to be less complicated with fewer parts, although it does provide many options for accessories to be added onto it, more on that in a bit!

When it comes to heaviness, a recurve bow is lighter than a compound bow, even though it’s usually larger in size.

This is because of its simplicity. You don’t have features like cams and the like to take into account. This also makes the recurve bow more portable.

However, when it comes to the materials that are used in their construction, there are lots of similarities.

Compound bows usually have risers that are made out of carbon or aluminum, and recurve bow risers tend to be made from aluminum, carbon, or laminated wood.

Both bows’ limbs will usually be made out of wood laminations.

In addition, both bows give you the opportunity to add lots of accessories to them.

These include quivers to store your arrows, stabilizers, silencers for your string, and sights.

Mastering A Recurve Bow Vs Compound Bow

Compound vs Recurve Bow

While all bows will take time to master if you’re wondering how much skill and practice is required to master a recurve bow as compared to a compound bow, here’s the lowdown.

Since a recurve bow isn’t as mechanized as a compound bow, it does require a lot more technique and practice to get used to it and to become accurate when shooting with it.

The fact that it’s a lighter bow than a compound bow does mean that it’s easier to carry around and that can make it easier to handle for smoother and more consistent shooting.

In addition, a recurve bow can have a takedown design, which means that its limbs can be removed. This further makes it more portable.

However, there’s a catch to this: since you don’t have mechanisms to worry about with a recurve bow, the drawback of this is that you will have to be able to use your body’s strength to handle this type of bow.

If you lack the physical strength to draw the bow, this can prove problematic.

When learning how to use a bow for hunting, you’ll need to learn other skills simultaneously, such as stealth.

This is important when getting closer to your prey because recurve bows don’t shoot as far as compound bows, so you need to be able to get closer to the animal you want to hunt without being heard or seen.

This requires patience and technique. In some ways, a compound bow can be said to be easier to master than a recurve bow.

It has various mechanisms that can help you to draw it and release your arrows without putting in a lot of physical strength to shoot.

That said, these bows are heavier than recurve bows, which can be troubling during a hunt, especially if you’re a beginner.

In addition, they have lots of different mechanisms that need to be tuned and maintained properly, so you need to be gadget-savvy in order to use this bow, which can take some time to master.

Which One Is Best For Beginners?

Kid Using Compound Bow

There is no clear answer as to which bow is better for beginners and easier to use straight away.

Some people claim that recurve bows are easier for people entering the world of archery because they have a low weight of between two and four pounds and this is considered safe for beginners to handle.

On the other hand, some people say that compound bows are a solid choice for beginners because they don’t require much upper body strength and skill.

They can also shoot further, which prevents hunters from having to get too close to their game during the hunt.

Of course, whichever bow you choose depends on the factors that are most important to you.

If you don’t have upper body strength and you worry about carrying a heavy bow, using a compound bow will probably be a better choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’re physically able to draw your bow with ease, then a recurve bow can be a valuable bow to start out with and enjoy.

Choosing The Right Arrows For Your Bow

You’ve chosen between a recurve and compound bow.


But your work’s not done just yet. It’s important to know what arrows are suitable for these bows, and which ones are recommended for use on them.

Here’s a rundown of the types of arrows you can buy, as well as their pros and cons.

Wood Arrows

5 Arrows

These are the classic arrows you might think of when talking about archery.

The good thing about them is that they don’t cost a lot of money and you can even build them yourself if you’re so inclined.

However, they can easily break, and they’re only suitable for use on recurves and longbows.

Fiberglass Arrows

6 Arrows

These are becoming more popular nowadays, especially among beginners because they don’t cost a lot of money.

They are difficult to make according to custom sizes, though, and they are heavy, which isn’t so great for accuracy.

However, they’re only meant for recurve bows, and since you’ll have to use recurve bows at shorter distances, these can be perfect for you. 

Aluminum Arrows

Aluminum Arrows

These arrows offer many choices if you want to custom-make them. They are suitable for both recurve and compound bows, which is a plus.

Although it’s worth bearing in mind that these arrows are quite flexible and can easily bend, aluminum arrows are stronger than fiberglass or wood arrows, and they don’t cost a lot of money.

Carbon Arrows

5 Arrows

These are popular for hunters because they fly straight and are very durable while being fast. They can be used by both recurve and compound bows.

However, when they splinter they do shatter, which can potentially cause harm to you or people around you, so you have to be extra careful with them.

Composite Arrows

Composite Bow Arrows

These have many benefits, but they’re recommended for professionals and often used by Olympians. Composite arrows are made of a blend of carbon and aluminum.

They’re the straightest arrows you can find and have excellent accuracy when shot from long distances. Their high quality also means that they don’t break or splinter easily.

That said, they are quite expensive to replace, which can be a drawback if you’re a beginner or not that serious about archery.

Related Questions

Do you need a stabilizer on your bow?

While they’re not necessarily a must, a bow stabilizer has many advantages, such as absorbing the bow’s vibrations, which reduces hand shock, keeping the bow quieter (which is essential during hunting), and balancing the bow so that it can be held up straight to give you greater accuracy.

Which is more adjustable, a recurve bow or compound bow?

While both can have accessories added, you can’t change the draw weight or draw length of a recurve bow easily.

However, you can change its limbs to increase or decrease draw weight.

You can change the draw weight or length of a compound bow by tightening the limb bolts and adjusting the cams.


If you’re wondering if you should purchase a compound bow or recurve bow, one of the most important things is to consider the bow anatomy of both.

This will show you what you’re dealing with and how easy or difficult it will be to use the bow as well as maintain it.

In this article, we’ve covered the anatomy of both bows in detail. It’s now clear that there are many benefits and drawbacks to both types of bows.

The bottom line is that you need to consider which one has the features that you need in order to hit your target with accuracy and feel comfortable while shooting arrows.

Whether it’s a recurve or compound bow that has taken your fancy, the important thing is to be able to use it comfortably and enjoy the archery experience.

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