Suggested Recurve Bow Draw Weights for Target Shooting & Hunting

The fact that many people still consider the ancient practice of archery to be an enjoyable recreational sport is evidenced by the numerous different local archery shops in any given location.

However, when first entering the sport of archery, one of the questions that inevitably comes up is “what draw weight bow do I purchase”? Well, the obvious answer to that question is to purchase a bow with the maximum draw weight that you can comfortably draw.

That answer really only applies to those archers who intend to hunt game with their bows because, the truth is that archers who only intend to shoot targets can get by with bows with much lower draw weights.

There is also the matter of traditional bows versus compound bows because traditional bows do not reach their peak draw weight until full draw and then, the archer has to hold that entire draw weight whereas, with a compound bow, peak draw weight is reached one half to two thirds of the way through the draw length and then, let-off occurs so that the archer is holding only a percentage of the peak draw weight.

Consequently, the proper draw weight not only depends on the purpose for which you intend to use it but, also on the type of bow you choose.

Recurve Bows for Target Shooting:

When choosing a recurve bow for target shooting, bows with draw weights ranging from 15 lbs. to 70 lbs. or more are perfectly acceptable. However, bows with draw weights ranging from 25 lbs. to 35 lbs. are most common.

Also, the type of target archery you intend to pursue should also be considered. For instance, when shooting at known distances as in the discipline of Field Archery, because the target is always located at a known distance from the firing line, having a flat arrow trajectory is not nearly as important as having a consistent arrow trajectory.

Therefore, most Field Archers choose to shoot recurve bows instead of compound bows because of their light weight, lack of recoil, and consistent performance. But, when shooting at unknown distances such as in the discipline of 3D Archery, because the targets are located at unknown distances from the firing stakes, having a flat arrow trajectory becomes very important because a flatter arrow trajectory helps to compensate for minor miscalculations in the distance from the archer to the target.

Therefore, most archers choose to shoot compound bows instead of recurve bows due to their significantly faster arrow speeds and, of course, the maximum draw weight that an archer can comfortably draw and hold when shooting either type of bow is best for this type of target archery.  Most 3D archers who shoot recurve bows chose draw weights ranging from 50 lbs. to 60 lbs.

Recurve Bows for Hunting:

When hunting with a recurve bow, most states do have a minimum draw weight restriction which is commonly 45 lbs. Thus, to hunt legally with a recurve bow in your state, you will need to comply with whatever the minimum draw weight for your state is. However, a recurve bow with a draw weight 45 lbs. will launch an arrow with surprising speed and thus, they are perfectly capable of taking down any North American game species from a reasonably close range.

But, like the 3D target shooter, hunters also gain the same benefit of automatic compensation for slight miscalculations in range in addition to that of deeper penetration and a greater ability to pierce bone from choosing heavier draw weights.

Therefore, although most states have a minimum draw weight restriction of 45 lbs., the rule of thumb for compound bow archers who are switching to a recurve bow is to choose a recurve bow with a draw weight that is 10 to 15 lbs. less than that of your compound bow and, for those of you who are not compound bow shooters, a recurved hunting bow with a draw weight of 45 lbs. is a good choice for youth and female archers whereas, most male archers prefer a draw weight of 50 lbs. to 60 lbs.

On the other hand, it should be noted that a recurve bow requires a couple of hundred shots before it “settles in” to its final draw weight. Also, it should be noted that the archers muscles will adjust to drawing the bow so that, between the bow settling in and the archer’s body adjusting, any new recurve will seem to get easier to draw at first.

Wrap Up & Final Thoughts:

So, when choosing a recurve bow for target shooting, you will likely want to choose a relatively light draw weight ranging from 15 lbs. to 35 lbs. depending on the physical stature of the intended archer.

But, when choosing a recurve bow for hunting, then you will need to choose a bow with as much draw weight as you can handle and thus, draw weights from 45 lbs. to 65 lbs. are most popular.  Some Archers prefer a lower range for compound bows.

Therefore, it should be noted that sets of extra limbs in different draw weights can often be purchased for most take-down recurve bows from the bow’s manufacturer which is very convenient because it enables the archer to tailor a single bow to different purposes simply by changing the limb sets.


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