Common Types of Archery Bows for Beginners?

Most people who haven’t owned a bow before aren’t sure which bow is the right one for them to purchase. We are going to go over each type today and help you understand the benefits and drawbacks to each choice to help you know which is the right one for you!

What are the types of archery bows for beginners? There are three main types of bows that you will typically choose from. The most common one being the recurve bow, the next most common is a compound bow which allows easier draw. The oldest style bow is the longbow which is not very commonly used any longer except in demonstrations.

We have talked about what types of bows are the most common and why. Instead, below we will dive into each bow type and give more details as to why you would want to make that the option for you. To read our thorough guide to archery bows click here.

What Are the Different Types of Archery Bows

There are basically three different main types of bows that are available for you looking into getting into archery. These three will provide the backbone of your time to learn and master different skills and the needs of each.


When you are looking for a bow, close your eyes and imagine what you think this looks like. In almost all cases the bow you are picturing is most likely a traditional longbow, the one from Robin Hood or other medieval movies.

Longbows are one of the oldest bows which actually date back to the 1300s and earlier. The longbow is a very simple bow which is really, at its core, it is a long curved piece of wood which was as tall as archers were.

A longbow has no fancy equipment, arrow rests, or sights on them, they are much more difficult to aim due to this lacking ability. If you are looking for a bow that will be amazing to master but take you much time and patience, this would be the bow for you!

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This is the most common bow available in stores, it is also the only accepted Olympic bow, in fact, it is called an “Olympic Recurve” because of them. In addition its the bow of choice for hunters and many other recreational archers who love this exciting style of archery.

Bow shooting hands only. Active, practice -  What Are the Different Types of Archery Bows
A man is shooting with a recurve bow during an open archery competition

The recurve bow got its name from the distinctive shape it has. The center limbs curve towards the archer and then the points curve away from the archer. This “recurve” of the bow grants it much more power than a standard straight wooden bow.

A recurve on the bow helps to lessen the strength needed from the archer to draw the string back. A Recurve is a perfect starting bow choice for those who are learning archery, whether older or younger.

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If you love to be accurate and you aren’t planning to be an Olympic athlete, then you should consider a compound bow as they are able to be fired with precision. With practice and time, you will be able to center hit the target every time.

Compound bows were first developed in the 60s and unlike a traditional bow, they are operated with pulleys, cables, and cams. The benefit of using these is that an archer can pull and hold a draw weight with much less effort and hold it longer.

A compound bow is incredibly lightweight, with accuracy, and speed. They are built from incredibly lightweight materials like aluminum, magnesium, carbon, and fiberglass. The limbs on this bow are much stiffer than other bows which makes them more efficient and increases accuracy. There are multiple styles or types of cams, the fewer cams the more skilled the archer should be.

With the ease of use overall, there are a great many options available online in a large variety of sizes, styles, and configurations. If you want to choose a compound bow you may need to learn to adjust cams or visit with an archery range to help get it perfectly set up.

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What About Crossbows?

Since as far back as China in the BCs there is evidence of military use of crossbows during their wars. Today crossbows are used in very much the same manner, for hunting and sport.

A crossbow uses a horizontal limb instead of vertical limbs and is mounted on a stock more akin to a pistol with a trigger release. The projectiles are also called quarrels or bolts and not an arrow.

Crossbows that are used for hunting use string made from very strong fibers that don’t easily break or unravel. Crossbow bolts are typically inspected and marker to make sure they maintain a good weight consistency and have various different options for heads.

Crossbows have a very heavy draw weight but the actual draw length is much smaller than on any normal bow. In addition, the power stroke when your fire is much shorter also due to this draw length being so short.

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Final Thoughts

Choosing which bow shouldn’t be imposing and should be one of your most fun purchases. There is really no wrong decision, only the purchase of the first of many for your enjoyment.

If you would like to dig in further we have a more comprehensive guide to the different types of archery bows here.

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