Differences between Recurve and Compound Crossbow

Differences between Recurve and Compound Crossbow

Crossbows have been a crucial tool in human history, serving various purposes from hunting and warfare to sport and recreation. Over time, two main types of crossbows have emerged, each with its distinct design, mechanics, and advantages. Understanding the differences between recurve and compound crossbows is essential for individuals interested in archery, hunting, or target shooting.

A crossbow consists of a bow and a barrel. It can be recharged mechanically or automatically. However, these characteristics do not make the crossbow a hybrid weapon. It is above all an arrow and precision weapon that has a reduced rate of fire. Indeed, it is a tool combined with multiple mechanisms of the bow as well as the rifle. It is a precision weapon with a reduced rate of fire. This powerful string weapon’s advantage is that it is silent. Coming in different variants, a crossbow can be compound or recurve.

Differences between Recurve and Compound Crossbow

Let’s uncover the intricacies of Recurve and Compound Crossbows, unraveling the mysteries behind their design and performance.

What is Compound Crossbow?

A compound crossbow is a combination of the traditional crossbow and the compound bow. This shooting weapon resembles its ancestor by reducing the force essential to arming the rope. By increasing the speed at which the tile is thrown, it is closer to the compound bow.

Currently, compound crossbows are widely used for hunting, except in some Europe countries. They are now used for target shooting games. Typically, a pulley crossbow has a power of around 150 pounds for a projectile speed of up to 350-420FPS feet/second. The length of the projectile is approximately 14 to 22 inches for a total weight of approximately 30 to 35 grams.

What is Recurve Crossbow?

As the name suggests, a recurve crossbow is a crossbow with inverted curves at the ends of the arms of the bow without the pulleys. Unlike a traditional or compound crossbow, this model is significantly larger. With fewer moving parts, a recurve crossbow makes it easier to change the shooting rope. Equipped with a straightforward operating system, this weapon lacks pulley cables, in contrast to a compound pulley crossbow. Consequently, this model is easier to maintain compared to the pulley variant.

The Details That Differentiate a Recurve Crossbow From a Pulley One

The pulley mechanism forms the main difference between a compound crossbow and a recurve crossbow. Pulley crossbows are generally oval or round and located at the end of the branches. While for recurved crossbows, the string is immediately sealed to these branches.

The advantage of the pulley system is that it offers a reduction in the effort provided when stretching the rope similar to the principle of the hoist. This mechanism then gives the possibility to whoever uses it an easier arm of his crossbow. It is in terms of power that the difference between a recurve crossbow and a pulley crossbow is felt.

The Power Required for Crossbows

Crossbows are classified according to their power between 50 and 260 pounds. This tension once exerted on the rope, manages to propel the tile at a maximum speed of 130 m / s. If you are thinking of going on a deer hunting trip, you will need a model that can reach 200 pounds. Pulley or recurve models can achieve this power very well.

However, it should be noted that this type of hunting is prohibited in some European and Asian Countries. To test the performance of your crossbow, you will therefore have to go to America, Africa in the countries of Eastern Europe or Russia. With such power, the bolt can easily stab a large game if you shoot sideways into a vital organ.

Using a caliper, a fairly muscular hunter would manage to manually cock a crossbow with a power of 150 pounds. With this pulley system, manufacturers can reduce the traction weight by 50%. This arming aid makes it easy to bend the rope of a very powerful crossbow model. The pulleys also allow the arrows to reach a very fast firing speed.

Difference in Power

The difference between a recurve crossbow and a pulley crossbow is also felt in its power. Comparison made, the compound model is more powerful than the other. This power is associated with the branches of the compound crossbow which are significantly stiffer in the single-branch version or more flexible in the double-branch version than those of a Recurve crossbow.

This elasticity of the branches gives more energy to the throw of the tile. The pulley system also plays an important role in cocking the crossbow, as it makes it easier to cock the string. Arrows of the same weight thrown with a compound crossbow will reach a higher speed than those thrown with a recurve crossbow.

Note that the line speed record is held by a bolt shot with a compound crossbow.

Difference From the Mechanical Point of View

From a mechanical point of view, a recurve crossbow is easier to use than a compound crossbow. This simplicity in the mechanism plays in favor of the operation of this crossbow. The recurve model does not feature any cables, as opposed to the pulley crossbow. This absence of cables makes maintenance easier, requiring no specialized tools for upkeep.

Indeed, if you break a shooting rope, for example, you can repair it yourself. This is not the case with a pulley crossbow. If you break your string, you will need an arch press, or find a bow with compression systems such as clamp, jack, or other hydraulic press, but also a specialized technician for the repair.

Difference From the Aesthetic Point of View

From an aesthetic point of view, recurve crossbows are longer than compound crossbows, and some models are removable with the string in place. This makes it easier to transport pulley models, unlike recurves. This small size also allows a compound crossbow to be easily handled in rather narrow places.

The new trend is ultra-compact bows with large pulleys. I also see on the market compound crossbows appearing in versions with reverse bows of which Barnett is the first to have launched the concept. Since then, the largest manufacturers of crossbows such as CenterPoint, Ten Point, or Ravin have followed this trend by each releasing their own ultra-compact reverse-arc compound crossbow.


Here you see there is a huge difference between recurve and compound crossbow. Both options have clear advantages over the other in certain situations. Hope this guide helped you. To learn more about crossbows for hunting, I suggest you go to our hunting section which includes buying guides and product reviews that will help you find a suitable model for you.

Liam Dean is a Professional Blogger and Outdoor Enthusiast. He completed Masters in Sports Sciences and spend all of his free time doing sports and other outdoor activities. During vacations, he goes hunting, fishing and mountaineering.

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