Longbows Vs. Recurve Bows – What You Need To Know

This article will cover the topic of longbows vs. recurve bows in detail. You will see the key differences between the longbow and the recurve. So, by the end of this article, you will learn about the history of the bow. And you will finally know which bow is better to use in modern times.

So, what is the main difference between the longbow and the recurve bow? Well here is a summary of the key differences.

The longbow differed from the recurve bow in four different areas. Longbows are larger than recurve bows and are thus stronger. They are also heavier due to the material used to make them. Even with the increased size and strength of the longbow, the recurve is far better than the longbow in terms of accuracy and use in modern-day archery.

This was the short summary of this entire article. Now, let’s go deeper. The following segments cover the history of both bows, their impact on world events, and also the key distinctions between the bows that make one bow a far better option for today’s archers.

The Detailed Breakdown Of Longbows Vs. Recurves

Characteristics Of The:LongbowRecurve Bow
Their Impact On HistoryHelped the British dominate during Medieval timesHelped create and destroy civilizations in Asia and the Middle East
How They Are MadeUsing yew wood (or Osage orange in modern times) and carving the bow out of the woodCarving out a block of wood and adding steam in order to bend it to the desired shape
Size/Dimensions71″ (180 cm) or higher47″ to 61″
Modern-day BenefitsCheap, compared to fully equipped recurvesCan attach gadgets to your recurve to aid in greater accuracy
Longbows vs. Recurve bows

The table above briefly demonstrates the differences between the two bows. Now, let us examine each point in detail. Starting with the history behind each bow.

The Impact On History And World Events

When it comes to world events. Recurve-shaped bows definitely played a far greater impact on world history than the longbow. The reason for that can be attributed to the widespread use of recurve bows as opposed to longbows.

While longbows were localized to the British isles, recurve bows were in use with practically every great civilization of the Middle East and Asia.

So, if we are talking about composite recurve bows or simple recurve bows, it applies. Armies fought with recurve bows for thousands of years. So, naturally, they were involved in major battles throughout history. From the advance of the Persian Empire to its collapse at the hands of Alexander the Great.

To the later use of recurve composite bows by the Huns and the Mongols.

What About The Longbow?

Well, aside from being a great hunting tool for the inhabitants of the British isles, it was a formidable weapon of war. The average longbow was more than 71″ long and had draw weights of 80 lbs on the low end and as high as 130 lbs.

It was able to fire arrows from 200 meters away. Although this was rather impractical against heavily armored troops. So shorter distances were preferred given that arrows had more piercing power at shorter distances.

So, as it pertains to impact on the course of humankind recurve bows and their cousins the “recurve-composite bows win here.

Longbows vs. Recurve Bows – How They Are Made

Now, let’s discuss how they were made.

Longbows were made from a single piece of wood. Usually, this was yew wood in medieval times. But in modern times bowyers also use Osage orange. A tree is cut down and a stave of wood is carved out of the trunk.

Staves of wood

After the stave of wood is cut out from the trunk it is left to dry for a year or even more. And after a year or so, the bowyer takes the piece of wood (stave) and draws the outline of the desired bow. Then he/she proceeds to cut it out. You can see the entire process in detail in this video below.

Making A Longbow

Now let’s move on to the recurve bow.

How A Recurve Bow Is Made And From What?

The process for making a recurve is relatively the same. You cut out a block of wood for the bow. You draw an outline of the desired bow and then you cut it out according to your outline.

The difference comes in how you shape the bow. After the bow design is set you simply steam the block of wood in order to add flexibility to it. After an hour or so of that, you can carefully bend the wood according to your desires.

After that, it’s a simple issue of making minor corrections to the bow until you see the bow bend as it should. For more details, you can see this video below. Where a young bowyer demonstrates how it’s done.

Making a Recurve Bow

A thing of beauty isn’t it?

To see how a traditional Composite Recurve Bow was made check out my article where I compare the longbow to composite bows here.

Longbows Vs. Recurve Bows – Their Size Difference

This is one of the reasons why the recurve bow is better than the longbow. Recurves tend to be smaller in size i.r. shorter than longbows. While the longbow is often 71″ (180 cm) or higher recurves tend to be smaller. Recurve bow can be as short as 47″ which is common among composite recurve bows and as long as 62″ which are the sizes you can find among modern-day recurves of a non-composite build.

The difference in size can be attributed to the curved tip design of the recurve. Given the curvature of the bow tips, this means the bow can store a lot more energy efficiently which negates the need for bigger speeds.

The longbow on the other hand has no fancy designs to improve efficiency. It relies on the massive size and properties of the wood to store and release the energy.

Modern Day Benefits Of Longbows vs. Recurves

The benefit of the longbow is that it can be a very powerful bow. Due to its size its a fact it can send your arrows flying at great distances. Well, that size is also its Achilles heel when compared to the modern recurve bows.

It can be heavier compared to modern recurves (made from modern materials). And if you are shooting all day this difference in weight will translate into archery fatigue.

The benefit of recurve bows is also that many allow for extra gadgets to be added to them like stabilizers and sights. If you are looking for that added edge at the range.

And given that modern archery competitions use the latest versions of recurve bows (and not longbows) you can see why recurves are a far better choice for any archer.

It is easy to see the appeal of longbows. They do look cool. If you are an outdoorsy type, you might get a kick out of going all-natural and firing a bow made from wood and arrows that are fetched with actual feathers.

I get the appeal. In the end, the choice is of course yours. If you are basing your decision on practicality then recurves are a far better option. If looking cool plays a part in your decision-making process then of course the longbow deserves a thought as well.

Since they do look cool.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article on longbows vs. recurves. Hopefully, it made your decision on which to choose a little easier.

If you wish I suggest taking a look at my article on the Yumi bow vs. the Longbow by clicking here. Here I compare two massive bows to each other.

Or go here to see the comparison between Longbows and modern-day Compound bows.

Take care.

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