The recurve bow is the most popular type of bow. Beginners are most likely to get their first archery experience with a recurve bow while experts use it to compete at the highest level such as the Olympics or the World Archery Championships. The Olympic Recurve Bow is a type of Recurve Bow and is the only type you can compete in the Olympic Games with.
Knowing the parts of a recurve bow is one of the first steps into diving deeper into archery. And there are advantages to knowing these parts too, such as knowing what to upgrade or change as you progress.
A recurve bow is a type of bow that has a unique shape. The edge of the bow limbs curves away from the archer (see Fig 1), hence the name, “recurve”.
Assyrians invented the recurve bow around 2800 years ago for hunting and warfare. Because of this recurve shape the limbs store more energy. Once shot, a recurve bow delivers a faster and more powerful shot.
The design also makes it easy to draw without sacrificing power. But strength is still an important part of recurve archery and specific archery exercises can help with this.
Now, archers use the recurve bow in Olympic archery. And it is also still used for hunting and recreation.
There are three major recurve bow components. The riser, the limbs and the string. Each one of them has its own parts as well. You can see an overview of the whole bow in the image below. The riser, recurve limbs and string are what makes up a recurve bow. The clicker, sight and stabilizers are only found on an Olympic style recurve bow.
The riser is the central part of the bow that an archer holds and it’s also the part that holds the other pieces together.
A recurve bow riser or handle is made of wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of these materials. Also, companies manufacture plastic risers for beginner archers.
The riser consists of several parts as well. You can see these parts in Figs 1 and 2.
The limbs are the long and flexible part of a recurve bow that stores energy when the bow is drawn. They create the power of the bow and come in different weights.
Importantly, there is an upper and a lower limb. There is a misconception that the limbs are interchangeable. But, that is not the case since the lower limb often has a slightly heavier draw weight to balance out the bow when drawn. And even though some manufacturers now make the two limbs practically the same weight, they are still specifically labeled ‘top’ and ‘bottom’.
The most common type of limb for recurve bows is called ILF or “International Limb Fitting.” This means that ILF limbs are compatible with ILF risers. You can mix and match those regardless of brand.
ILF limbs are easy to attach and detach. You have to insert it into the ILF riser until you hear a click and you are good to go.
Another type of limb are called “screw-in limbs”. You need to use a “limb bolt” to secure them into place. Screw in limbs are more common on beginner bows.
These limbs are often proprietary. You cannot use a screw-in limb from one manufacturer to another unless they are from the same OEM.
Like risers, limbs are made of different materials. The common ones are wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a combination of these materials.
Additionally, recurve limbs also have minor parts such as the string notch and the string groove.
The string notch is where you would attach the string loop and secure it to the bow. The string groove is where the string lies whenever it is at rest.
A recurve bow is not complete without the string. Recurve strings are usually made of Dacron, Fast Flight, or Vectran. These materials are strong, durable, and resistant to wear and tear.
Manufacturers normally use Kevlar, Dyneema, or Spectra to produce these bow strings.
Furthermore, a string has several parts too:
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An Olympic recurve bow is made up of all the parts we’ve shown you so far plus the clicker, sight and stabilizers. The three major parts are the same as any recurve bow with the riser, limbs, and string.
These additional parts might seem overwhelming at first, but you will encounter them sooner or later. In case you need a more in-depth guide, our Step-by-Step Archery Courses cover this fully in Recurve Archery 101 for Beginners. But our YouTube video below also gives a quick overview.
Now, let’s talk about the necessary equipment for Olympic recurve archery.
A recurve bow sight mounts on your riser and will help you aim at the target. It consists of pins or dots that you can line up at a target to aim and shoot.
There are knobs to adjust a bow sight depending on the situation. More advanced sights also have adjustment knobs to fine-tune your sight. There are marking lines and numbers too to guide you as you adjust for your shot.
Recurve bow sights are made of plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber.
The in-depth video below shows you on how to aim a recurve bow properly. You can use our Equipment and Sightmark Sheets to note down your sightmarks and keep them safe. As well as details for other measurements on your bow.
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Have you noticed the long sticks attached to an Olympic bow? That long “stick” is called a stabilizer.
Because every advantage counts, stabilizers are mounted on the riser to help balance the bow and absorb vibrations. It is a long slender tube with weights and vibration dampeners.
It works by counteracting the forces on the bow when it is shot. And rubber dampeners also reduce the noise and recoil that a bow produces.
Beginners may start off with a single rod. But, advanced archers find that adding a v-bar and side rods will help in achieving a more balanced shot. Indeed, all archers in the Olympics shoot with a full stabilizer setup.
Competitive archers shoot consistently due to the clicker. It is a device that you mount on the riser as a draw length check.
Archers use a bow clicker by setting their arrow under the clicker, and pulling back until the clicking sound is heard. The click serves as the cue to finally release the shot.
Although virtually every advanced archer uses a clicker, you won’t need one if you’re a beginner. This is because you need time to learn basic technique and find your draw length.
The plunger is a small yet important equipment for competitive archers. It is used to guide down the arrow through the bow’s centerline. Arrows flex as you release them and the plunger cushions the flex for a proper arrow flight. This tool is sometimes called the “pressure button” or “cushion button” and is normally made of an aluminum case and a plastic or carbon fiber ‘stick’.
Tuning a recurve bow involves adjusting the plunger until you find the right center shot for your setup. This is just one of the steps involved in tuning.
The arrow rest was listed earlier as part of the riser. However, it is technically a separate part since it is optional for barebow archers yet, a must-have for Olympic recurve shooters. You need to use an arrow rest in order for your arrow to have a clean flight.
An arrow rest is a small part where your arrow “rests” during a shot. It is made of plastic or metal and sticks to the riser.