What should you look for when buying a recurve bow?
Check to make sure the bow fits the hand; the thumb should at least
be close to touching the index finger when the hand is closed
around the grip, but thumb and index finger should not overlap more
than an inch or two (if the archer's fingers are actually touching
their palm, the bow's grip is likely too small). Also make sure the
bow is not too heavy, physically, for the archer it is intended
for. If the bow does not fit the hand of the person using it, or it
feels "heavy" while being used -- if the archer is not comfortable
while using the bow, then it (the bow) will never be the "right"
bow for that person.
Make sure the bow is the right length. The bottom limb tip should
not touch the floor (or ground) when the bow is being used, nor
should the bow be so short that the bowstring is at such an acute
angle (in relation to the arrow) at full-draw that the archer's
fingers are severely pinched.
If it's a used bow, look down the length of the bow and see if the
limbs are straight and in-line with each other; if the limbs are
twisted too much, they can not be straightened, and the bow should
not be used. The limbs should be checked for twisting both with and
without the string installed, because limbs which appear straight
without the string installed can sometimes become twisted with the
string installed (and the reverse is also true). The important
thing is that the limbs are not twisted when the string is
installed and the bow is drawn back; with twisted limbs, there is a
real danger of the string coming out of the string nocks on the
Check the string for signs of wear. The loops should be "clean"
(without fuzz), and the serving (the wrapping of thread around the
loops) must be intact; a slight amount of fuzz is permisible, but
should be watched to make sure it doesn't become broken strands.
The nocking area (where the arrow nock sits on the string) should
also be "clean", as well as relatively firm and solid-feeling
(compared to the un-served portion of the string), and the serving
should be intact. A slight amount of fuzz on the string can be
taken care of with wax, but watched closely so it doesn't become
broken strands. If there are any broken strands anywhere on the
string, the string needs to be replaced; the most likely places the
string will break are in the loops, under the nocking-point serving
and at the ends of the nocking-point serving. If the string has any
knots tied into it, it should be replaced; tying knots into the
string only weaken the string where the knot is tied.
Also look for cracks of any kind going across the limbs (transverse
cracks); the best way to do this is to bend each limb by hand,
while at the same time watching closely for any "invisible" cracks
to show themselves. The limbs should be crack-free, although
longitudinal cracks (those going along the length of the limb) are
sometimes not a danger, so long as they do not extend into the limb
tip, where the string nock is; if there are any longitudinal cracks
in the bow's limbs, take the bow to a professional to have it
looked at. A bow with transverse cracks which go deeper than the
paint or varnish on the bow is already broken, and should not be
used. If there is any doubt as to how deep a crack is, or if it
might be a danger to the bow, always take the bow to a professional
to have it looked at.
It also depends on what the bow will be used for. If you want
something to take down an elk, make sure it has a sufficiently high
draw-weight (at least 50lbs for elk and larger bears; at least
40lbs for white-tail deer and other animals), while for target work
a lower-poundage bow is normally sufficient. A heavily recurved bow
shoots faster, but also tends to be less "forgiving" of mistakes;
faster bows are often harder to control because they tend to have
more of what is known as "hand shock", where "excess" power is
transmitted into the hand.
Also to consider are such things as: does the archer want a
take-down model for convenience , or a one-piece model for beauty
and traditionalism? Does the archer want a modern recurve such as a
Bear Kodiak, or an older design such as a Magyar Horse Bow? Does
the archer want a wood, laminate, or metal riser (the part of the
bow which comprises the handle, between the limbs)? Does the archer
want to use accessories such as a bolt-on arrow rest, or perhaps
sights? Some of these considerations are purely cosmetic -- i.e.,
up to the aesthetic preferences of the archer, while others are
more practical in nature.
There may be other things, not included here, which an archer
would want to look for in a recurve bow. In such cases it is
probably best to find a reputable archery store which deals in
Traditional Archery, and ask the professional(s) there for