While it’s true that many compound bows feature adjustable draw weights, recurve bows do not. Because they’re not adjustable, it’s important to get this right the first time around. After all, if your bow’ draw weight is too heavy, you’ll find yourself developing poor form and opening up the possibility of personal injuries.
So, then, this begs the question …
What is recurve bow draw weight?
Recurve bow draw weight is the amount of force that you have to apply to the bow string (pulling back) in order to pull it through its full range of motion. This is usually calculated in pounds and often designated with the “#” symbol. Draw weight is basically just another way of saying how easy or difficult the string will be for you to pull it back to its full length.
How is draw weight set on a recurve bow?
The bow’s draw weight is pre-determined by the construction and stiffness of the limbs and cannot be adjusted. The only exception to this rule is if you purchase a takedown recurve bow.
With a takedown bow you can often increase the strength of the bow after you increase your ability to pull heavier bow weights by purchasing a new set of limbs for the recurve.
What difference does draw weight make?
Aside from the obvious of being more or less difficult to shoot, different draw weights are suitable for different tasks with your bow. The harder you have to pull on the string, the more kinetic energy will be unleashed when you cast the arrow. With that in mind, you should think hard about your archery goals before you choose the poundage.
Let’s take a look at what you can do with various strengths:
What can be done with a 25# or 30# recurve bow?
Youth and small-framed women will sometimes have trouble with a draw weight heavier than 30#. Fortunately, these lighter recurves are still more than enough for recreational target practice. With time and discipline in developing aim and form, even a lightweight bow can be used to hit a target from 60 or even 70 yards.
This, of course, depends on your skills–because the tool itself won’t do the work for you.
The bottom line, though, is this: if all you are looking to do is target practice, a 25# or 30# recurve bow will suit you just fine.
What about 35–40 pound bows?
Once again, these recurves will be perfectly suited for recreational archery, and you could find yourself shooting out well over 80 yards, if you have the eye and concentration for it. When you step up to a 40# bow, the world of bow hunting opens up to you.
Anything below that, bear in mind that the arrow likely will not have the kinetic energy to pierce the flesh of your prey, particularly when the shot is further away than 15–20 yards.
If you plan on hunting wild turkey or deer, a 40# recurve will work out well for you. If you want to add elk to your list of eligible game, going up a notch to a 45# draw weight will do wonders for performance and confidence, especially when you’re far away from your prey.
What can I do with a 45# or higher draw weight?
These bows can be used for almost anything, including target practice and hunting with the exception of larger game like grizzly bears or cape buffalo. For those bigger animals, you’ll want a draw weight of at least 55#.
The important thing to remember with recurves this powerful is that you will have to try to keep up with the capabilities of the tool, not the other way around. A 55-pounder definitely isn’t a beginning bow, but rather one to work up to.
So shouldn’t I just get the most powerful bow I can?
Not exactly, no. Not at first, anyway. The most powerful bows are to be achieved over time, with practice. These bows are generally not to be started out with by a beginner.
If you’ve never shot a recurve before, you probably don’t know what kind of draw weight your muscles can handle. While they’ll adapt rapidly, and what may seem difficult one day will become much easier after shooting a few hundred arrows, starting off with a draw weight that’s too heavy can lead to poor form, technique, and even personal injury.
Much in the same vein, starting off with a draw weight that’s too low is also not the best idea either, because it doesn’t allow you to adapt and train your body properly for the heavier weights.
The smaller your frame, the less of a draw weight you’ll be able to work with, and the same is true for bigger folks. So, consider this list of suggested poundages to see what you’ll likely be able to handle starting out.
- Small children (70–100 lbs.): 10–15 lbs.
- Larger children (100–130 lbs.): 15–25 lbs.
- Small-frame female (100–130 lbs.): 25–35 lbs.
- Medium-frame female (130–160 lbs.): 25–35 lbs.
- Small-frame male (120–150 lbs.): 30–45 lbs.
- Medium-frame male (150–180 lbs.): 40–55 lbs.
- Large-frame female (160+ lbs.): 30–45 lbs.
- Large-frame male (180+ lbs.): 45–60 lbs.
Please keep in mind that the above table are just suggestions, and your experience may vary.
How can I increase my draw weight?
The first, and most important, way to increase how much bow you can handle is simply by drawing it and casting arrows. Your muscles will rapidly adapt, and after a few hundred shots you’ll find that it’ll get easier over time. Of course, we can’t spend all day every day at the archery range, so here are some exercises to help you build up the necessary muscle strength outside of archery.
- Bench presses
- Bent rows
- Lat machine work
- Lateral dumbbell raises
- Standing rows
You can also use tools like this bow dry fire tool from Amazon to help build up your muscle strength, as well as practice form, but it’s not strictly necessary to buy specialty products to improve the back and shoulder muscles used in archery.
Recurve bow draw weight doesn’t have to be a mystery, and it’s actually pretty easy to figure out what the optimal strength is for you to target in a recurve. Bear in mind your body frame size and what you want to do with your archery, and you can quite easily find a suitable poundage for you.
The fact that your muscles will adapt to the amount of force it takes to pull back the string means you can start with an inexpensive, lighter weight bow, and hen work your way up to the draw weight you need for hunting larger game, if that’s your goal.