The Most Common Types of Bows for Hunters and Archers

Bows have been used by mankind for several centuries. Traditional, bows were used in warfare and hunting for food. Today, bows are mostly used in recreational activities and sports such as archery and hunting. The kind of bows that hunters and archers use largely determines how successful they shoot at a target.

Bows come in different forms and shapes. Each type is unique in its own ways. The most common types of bows for a hunter and archer include compound bows, crossbows, recurve bows, and traditional bows. Let’s discuss these bows in detail.

1. Compound Bows

Compound bows are one of the most common types of modern bows. They were first made in the 1960s. Their production continues to date. These bows use a levering system comprising of pulleys and cables to bend the limbs and shoot an arrow. They’re typically made of carbon fiber, aluminum alloy, or a composite of carbon fiber and aluminum.

Parts of a Compound Bow

A typical compound bow includes the following key parts:

  • Limbs- These are the parts of a compound bow that flex and release energy when shooting an arrow. Limbs are typically made of composite materials for enhanced flexibility and strength.
  • Cams- Cams work like levers and assist in holding the bowstring with more draw and minimal effort for less strenuous aiming. Cams are either one, two, or a hybrid. One cam allows for easier pulling and easier adjustment but is slow. Two cams are faster but more challenging to pull. Hybrid cams are made to feature the advantages of a single cam and two cams. Thus, hybrid cams are fast like two cams and easy to adjust like one cam.
  • Riser- This is the central part that holds quivers, stabilizers, sights, and limbs. It’s made of carbon fiber, magnesium alloy, or aluminum for enhanced rigidity.
  • Cables- Cables are the part that fastens the limbs to the cams securely and allows the limbs and cams to pull each other. Cables are typically made of polyethylene for maximum tensile strength and minimal expansibility.
  • Cable slide- They hold cables to one specific side such that the cables sit away from the path of an arrow.
  • Bowstring- The bowstring is the part pulled to rotate cams and simultaneously flex the limbs. Once the bowstring is released, the arrow is launched.

Advantages of Compound Bows

One of the key advantages of compound bows is that they store more shooting energy and are faster in shooting than other types of bows of a similar size. You can also control how fast an arrow accelerates with the help of the cam design. That way, compound bows are designed with enhanced accuracy due to reduced vibrations and recoils of the limbs.

Also, compound bows are not affected by changes in humidity and temperature. Thus, their accuracy remains constant in both hot and cold weather. Their accuracy also remains constant in both low and high humidity. This makes them ideal for use throughout the year regardless of the season.

You can also use a sighting mechanism with a compound bow for enhanced aiming. These bows can also be used with mechanical release systems that help in holding and releasing the cable with consistency. This is especially helpful in archery.

Disadvantages of Compound Bows

Compounds bows also come with some shortcomings. For instance, they’re made of several moving parts, making their design quite complex. The high number of moving parts in compound bows also makes them demand more maintenance than most types of bows. They also have several points that can break. For instance, a compound bow can get damaged quite easily when fired without an arrow.

Also, replacing the cable of a compound bow is often expensive as it demands using a special tool that is quite challenging to find. Compound bows are also lighter and prone to twisting, thereby resulting in left/right errors.

2. Crossbows

A crossbow is a type of bow that resembles a cross set between a rifle and a bow. A crossbow uses a string and trigger mechanism to launch arrows known as bolts or quarrels. Crossbows were traditionally used as weapons in warfare. Their use dates back to 2000 B.C in China and 385 A.D in the Mediterranean. Today, crossbows are mostly used in archery. They’re also a popular choice among some hunters.

Parts of a Crossbow

A typical crossbow comprises of the following parts:

  • Barrel- The barrel is also known as a track or rail. It has a grooved track that aligns the bolt with the string. The barrel is typically made of wood, plastic, polymers, aluminum, carbon fiber, or composite materials.
  • Foregrip- The foregrip is the part of a crossbow that rests on the user’s aiming hand. It allows for enhanced control.
  • Stock- This is the part of a crossbow held by a user away from danger points when shooting. The stock usually rests on the shoulder of a shooter when aiming and shooting. It’s usually made of wood, molded plastic, or composites. It ties the sight, trigger, and barrel together.
  • Sight- The sight is the part that assists in aligning a bolt with a target for enhanced shooting accuracy.
  • Sight bridge- This is the section where the sight is mounted in place.
  • Limbs- These are the two curved parts of a crossbow.
  • Cams- These are the wheels that are mounted on each end of a limb. They work as pulleys.
  • String- The string propels the bolt. It’s usually made of natural fiber, polyester fiber, or synthetic fiber.
  • Cable- The cable works with the cams to reinforce a crossbow and assists in adjusting the firing power of a crossbow.
  • Flight groove- This is the part that allows the bolt to be aligned properly.
  • Projectile retention spring- This is the part that keeps a bolt secure in the flight groove before it’s released.
  • Latch- The latch is a mechanism that holds the string when drawing the crossbow until it’s released by the trigger.
  • Trigger- The trigger is the part that you press with your finger to release the string and fire the bolt.
  • Risers- This is the part on which limbs are attached. Risers are usually made of machined/cast aluminum, magnesium, or carbon fiber.
  • Safety- The safety is the part that prevents accidental shooting. It’s engaged either manually before pressing the trigger or automatically upon cocking.

Advantages of a Crossbow

Crossbows come with several advantages. One of their main advantages is that keeping the crossbow full drawn upon cocking doesn’t require any effort from the user. Thus, you can focus on aiming and pressing the trigger once you’re ready to shoot. This makes it possible for disabled archers or hunters to use crossbows effortlessly. Young people can also use a crossbow easily.

Crossbows are easier to shoot from a kneeling or sitting position, unlike compound bows. You can also shoot a crossbow from a rest. Thus, a crossbow allows for more precision aiming since you can aim it from a more comfortable position.

It’s also easy to use a crossbow with a telescopic sight. Thus, hunters or archers who are experienced with using rifles will find it easy to use crossbows with telescopic sights for enhanced aiming and shooting accuracy.

Another advantage of crossbows is that they can be used with heavier draw weight than compound bows. Draw weight is the force needed to draw a bow. The higher the draw weight, the more powerful you’ll hit a target. Also, crossbows shoot projectiles with more speed than compound bows.

Disadvantages of a Crossbow

One of the main shortcomings of a crossbow is that it’s generally heavier and larger than typical compound and recurve bows. Their larger weight and size make a crossbow challenging to use when hunting. Also, their weight makes it challenging to aim accurately without relying on a rest.

Crossbows also require more time to reload than other bows. Thus, if you miss your first shot when hunting, your target may run too far away before you reload for a second shot. Also, crossbows make more noise than compound and recurve bows when shooting. The noise may alert a target when hunting, thereby increasing the chances of missing the target.

3. Recurve Bows

A recurve bow is a type of a bow that has curved tips on both ends of the bow. The name recurve originates from the curved tips. There’re two categories of recurve bows. They include a one-piece recurve bow and a take-down recurve bow.

A one-piece recurve bow features limbs and risers made of a single material. As such, it’s solidly built. Most one-piece recurve bows are made of a wood core and fiberglass lamination. On the other hand, a take-down recurve bow comes in several parts assembled together. Typical take-down recurve bows feature two limbs and a single riser. You can disassemble a take-down recurve bow for easier storage and transportation and assemble it with your hands and a tool known as a bow stringer.

Parts of a Recurve Bow

A basic recurve bow comprises of the following parts:

  • Riser- The riser is the middle section of a recurve bow where the limbs are held in place. The mono rods, plunger, arrow rest, and sight among other parts are also attached to the riser. Thus, the riser is the most critical part of a recurve bow. A riser is typically made of aluminum or carbon fiber.
  • Riser grip- This is the handle of a recurve bow. It’s the section the user holds when aiming and shooting with a recurve bow.
  • Limbs- Limbs are the part that bends in a bow to store and release the energy needed to launch an arrow. They are attached to either end of a riser. They’re usually made of carbon fiber, fiberglass, or wood.
  • Arrow rest- This is the part on which an arrow rests before being released to a target. It’s usually attached to the riser. The arrow rest is generally made of metal or plastic.
  • Stabilizer system- This is a set of rods that absorb vibrations when shooting an arrow. The stabilizer system also reduces noise resulting from an arrow upon release. The set of rods in a stabilizer system includes short rods, a long rod, and an extension rod.
  • Sight- This is an add-on accessory on a recurve bow that assists in aiming at a target for more consistency when shooting. You can adjust the sight as needed.
  • Clicker- The clicker assists in holding an arrow steadily, especially when weather conditions change rapidly. It works by assisting the shooter to create a dependable draw length such that multiple arrows will have uniform force. It makes a clicking noise every time the desired draw length is attained.
  • V-bar- The v-bar is a part attached to the stabilizer system and connects the short rods with the long rod.
  • Mono rods- Mono rods are rods used in keeping the bow stabilized when pulling the strings backward before an arrow is released. It prevents the bow from bending when pulling the string for more accurate shooting.
  • Bowstring- This is the cord that is attached to both limb tips. It produces the energy required to shoot an arrow.
  • Plunger- The plunger prevents an arrow from going towards unwanted angles, thereby assisting the arrow to propel towards the center of a target.
  • Nock point- This is the part where an arrow’s nock is inserted for it to be attached to the bowstring in readiness for shooting.

Advantages of a Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are generally lighter than crossbows. This makes them ideal for hunting since it’s easier to carry them around. Besides, a take-down recurve bow can be collapsed for easier storage and transportation. It’s also great for hunting in rough terrain and thick bushes.

A recurve bow is easier to aim and shoot with more accuracy without using a sight. Besides, recurve bows are typically more affordable than compound and crossbows, thereby making them a great option for a beginner archer or hunter.

Disadvantages of a Recurve Bow

Recurve bows also come with some shortcomings. For instance, recurve bows require more effort to draw because they lack a pulley and wheel mechanism. Also, a recurve bow requires the shooter to get closer to a target, something that requires a lot of experience as getting closer to a target when hunting can alert the target only for it to escape.

4. Traditional Bows

Although changing technology in bows has led to the introduction of bows with advanced features, some archers and hunters still use traditional bows. Traditional bows don’t use special equipment such as stabilizers, sights, and advanced arrow rests. They don’t have many synthetic and metallic materials and are often made of solid wood. There are several types of traditional bows. Those still used by some hunters and archers today include reflex bows, longbows, yumi bows, and flat bows.

i. Reflex Bows

A reflex bow is a traditional bow featuring curved arms facing away from the shooter. Once you relax the string of a reflex bow, its length arches away from the shooter to form a C-shape. The pivot point of the limbs of a reflex bow sits in front of the shooter. The arch resembling C-shape allows for a longer draw length for enhanced shooting power.

ii. Longbows

Longbows are either laminated or un-laminated. Laminated longbows are usually made of wood and fiberglass. The core material is wood and is laminated with fiberglass. A laminated longbow has a narrow cross-section limb and is thicker than the limb of a recurve bow. Laminated longbows resemble recurve bows, but are narrower, and longer. Also, the string of a longbow doesn’t touch the limbs like in a recurve bow.

An un-laminated longbow is generally known as a self-bow. A self-bow is typically made of wood. The wood is bent to form a C-shape and a string is attached to the bent piece of wood. Thus, a self-bow resembles a D-shape.

iii. Yumi Bows

Yumi bows are also known as kyudo bows. They’re the longest type of bows. Earlier yumi bows were made of a solid piece of wood. Today, they’re made of wood and bamboo or wood and fiberglass laminate. Yumi bows made of wood are extremely delicate due to their length. Those made of wood and fiberglass laminate are more durable than those made of wood alone.

iv. Flat Bows

Flat bows resemble self-bows, but their belly and back are flat with wide limbs. Their cross-section is rectangular whereas the bow tends to be deeper at the handle. Flat bows have lower feedback than self-bows. Older flat bows were made of a single type of wood. Modern flat bows are made of several kinds of wood and are laminated with fiberglass.

Advantages of Traditional Bows

Traditional bows are extremely simple in design. This makes them friendly to beginner hunters and archers. They have a simple shooting mechanism such that the time taken to replace arrows is extremely short. It’s also easy to make traditional bows.

Disadvantages of Traditional Bows

Traditional bows have a lower speed of firing arrows than other bows. Also, traditional bows are challenging to adjust such that you may not have a consistent draw weight. Also, traditional bows are challenging to aim at a target since they lack a sight.


A bow is an important equipment for any hunter or archer. All types of bows are designed to shoot arrows regardless of their operating mechanism. Also, each type of bow comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, you’ve learnt everything you need to know about the most common types of bows for hunters and archers.

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