Bow Types

Which Bow Type for which purpose?

What are the differences between the different bows? And what’s right for me?

First of all, we must distinguish between the three fundamentally different bow types:


The most original and simplest arch shape. The bow is more or less straight, the string swings freely between the nock notches. One can differentiate between subtypes according to the arch form:

  • Longbow : About man-high, straight, narrow-high limbs
    Example: English longbow
  • Flat bow: Shorter, limbs flat-width, offset handle, can also be reflex-deflex.
    Example: Indian Bow


At the end, the limbs are clearly curved or bent towards the target. This allows the tendon to rest against the throwing arms to a certain extent at the top and bottom and only becomes completely free when the bow is pulled out.

There are also different designs of Recurve Bows

  • One-piece
  • Three-part/Takedown Recurve (one large middle section with two interchangeable limbs)


A modern bow variant reminiscent of the pulley principle, but in which the bowstring and the cables are guided via eccentric deflection rollers. These act like levers, changing the angle of attack and the lever arm, while the cables pull the two limbs together so that you can always work in the most effective area. In addition, the full pull weight is reached very early and the shooter only has to hold a small part of the pull force when fully extended.

Longbows and recurve bows are also differentiated according to material and design

Selfbows consist of a single piece of wood, e.g. a wooden bow with bamboo backing, or the classic Asian wood and tendon composite bow composed of modern materials (glass fiber or carbon) are often referred to as laminated sheets

Sometimes a bow is called after its actual purpose

  • Equestrian bow
  • Hunting bow
  • Disc bows

However, these distinctions are inaccurate and questionable, because in principle every bow can be used for every purpose, only differently satisfying. For example, a rider’s bow does not automatically have to be a short one-piece recurve bow; the extra-long Japanese bow was also used to shoot, hunt and pursue war. It was and is at the same time a rider’s bow, hunting bow, sports bow, etc.

The bows can also be distinguished according to accessories and equipment

  • Barebow (without aiming aids)
  • bows drawn with the fingers or shot with a release (mechanical release device)
  • Bow with shooting window and arrow rest (a small to large recess in the grip area) or the arrow lies traditionally directly on the bow hand.

Sometimes a distinction is made between Traditional and Modern, although the definition of Traditional can be quite different

Only bows made of natural materials and without bow rests are traditional. Even bows made of modern materials are traditional if they resemble the old types of bows and are shot in the traditional style without any additional tools.

In sports, it gets even more complicated because we have to distinguish the bows by style. (These styles are also often called bow classes. However, this should not be confused with the age groups that exist within the individual styles. These styles are defined by the various archery associations in their respective rules and regulations