The Recurve bow is so named because its limbs curve away from the archer. This is the direct descendant of the bows of antiquity, differing only in the materials used and refinements. The primitive, or traditional, longbow, is generally made of wood with no arrow rest or other acoutrements. The modern longbow, which may use other materials such as fiberglass or more exotic materials as carbon fiber based materials are designed to be outfitted with various aids such as arrow rests, sights, stabilizers and other attachments. A bow without all these is sometimes referred to as a Barebow.
The force required to pull a Recurve bow increases directly with the distance pulled. These are used in many types of archery events and still many times selected as the "first" bow due to its lower cost as compared to Compound bows. Despite its lower cost, the Recurve bow is considered to be more difficult to master. The force required to hold the bow in a drawn position while aiming is considerable. Mastering the Recurve bow will result in better muscle tone and overall archery habits.
This bow uses cams and cables to make the holding weight less than half of the draw weight. The Compound bow represents a leap forward in accuracy and force and are by bowhunters because of their better accuracy and flatter arrow trajectory. A Compound bow is built for a particular draw length, which may not be easily changed which makes it somewhat tailored to the shooter.
Some Recurve bows have handles (risers) that are made of aluminum alloys and are machined for a combination of strength and lightness. The limbs attach to the handle or riser and can be taken apart for storage. This type of bow is sometimes refered to a "break-down" bows. Some bow handles are made of a magnesium and aluminum mixture which is heated to liquid form and poured into a mold. Once cooled, it is cleaned, final machined and painted. Some lower cost, childrens bows have wood risers, as do some rather expensive, hand made bows.
The limbs of a bow are generally constructed of man-made materials, such as fiberglass, carbon and syntatic foam. The limbs store the energy of the draw and release it to the arrow. The string and the limbs are commonly removed from the riser when the bow is not in use, allowing for easy storage of the "knocked-down" bow. The Compound bow, unlike the Recurve bow, is never knocked-down between uses. The great tension preset into the lambs can only safely be countered when the bow is couched in piece of equipment called a bow press. The cams are synchronized when this is done, and are held in place by the tension. Compound bow cases must be able to accommodate the entire bow.
Both Recurve and Compound bows can have stabilizers to reduce torque (twisting) in the arrows upon release. They can also have sights to aid in aiming and rests to help align the shot.
Most bow strings are made of either "Fast Flight", a hydrocarbon product that also has medical and other uses, or "Kevlar", the material used to make bullet-proof vests. The important point to be made about the string is that it must not stretch under normal environmental conditions, as that would change the bows pull weight and make consistency impossible. A layer of string material called the serving is placed where the arrow is nocked to snugly match the notch on the arrow, and a small ring is permanently placed on the serving to mark where the arrow rests when nocked. A bow square should be used whenever replacing this mark on the bowstring to ensure the correct alignment with the arrow rest and the nock point.
An arrow is pulled back to an anchor point using the middle three fingers of the draw hand. These fingers are often covered with a glove or a leather "tab" which protects the fingers. A tab may have a metal shelf built in so that the two fingers on either side of the arrow do not squeeze it.
Just as the sight on a rifle aids in aiming at the target, archery sIghts allow the archer, when the arrow is properly drawn, to line the bow up with the center of the target by eye. The sight generally has adjustments in up-down and left-right dimensions with markings so that ageing equipment, weather, temperature and distance to the target may be accommodated.
Arm guards and chest protectors protect the skin from string burn, as well as provide a low-resistance surface that the string may skim over easily upon release. A quiver is used to hold arrows. Hunters typically have quivers that are worn on the belt or over the shoulder. Stationary target archers manytimes use a quiver that is nothing more than a free standing hoop that holds the shooters arrows in a position that the shooter can reach them without moving the feet.
Arrows in the recurve bow events can travel in excess of 150 miles per hour, while compound arrows can fly in excess of 225 miles per hour. The shafts are made of either aluminum or aluminum with carbon fibers. Aluminum arrows are more durable and uniform in weight and shape, while carbon arrows fly faster and provide less cross-wind resistance. Arrows also come in varying widths. Carbon arrows, designed to minimize cross-wind interference at long shooting distances, have small widths, minimizing the wind's grip during flight. Larger widths are used for short distances and indoors. Since the arrow need only just touch a line in order to score the higher point, wide arrows theoretically provide slightly better scoring advantage.
The target end of the arrow is weighted and tipped with a target point, designed to penetrate but a short distance in the target butt. Hunting arrows, of course, use a different, extremely sharp cutting point called a field point. The other end from the tip features a nocking point, usually a plastic cap glued or otherwise attached to the end of the arrow. It grips the string until it is flung loose, and it provides a protection for the arrow shaft by deflecting hits from later incoming arrows.
On the shaft itself fletchings are glued to stabilize the arrow's flight. Sometimes they are glued in such a way as to cause the shaft to spin around its long dimension, further stabilizing its flight at a cost to its flat trajectory. The fletchings are generally three in number, one of which (the index feather) has a different color than the other two.
The nock is installed gripping the string perpendicular to the index fletch, so that it's friends both brush the riser equally in passing, minimally disturbing the arrow's flight. Another way of considering it, is the odd color is always away or on the outside of the bow. Fletchings may be plastic "feathers" or solid vanes, in a variety of shapes, lengths and, of course, colors.