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Bow Styles

There are basically three types of bow that are used in archery. Recurve, longbow and compound. The Recurve group of bows includes a multitude of interesting bows. So, let us have a look at each group in turn. I will not be going into massive detail, but just a taste of each style.


What many people call the English Longbow was actually developed in Wales in the 12th Century. When the English conquered Wales in the 13th Century they were very impressed with the longbow and adopted this article of war and used it effectively for about three centuries when it was outmoded by the handgun. In warfare against France the longbow is legendary. History shows that the battles of Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and famously Agincourt (1415) were all won with devastating efficiency by longbow archers.

A longbow is made of wood or bamboo. It can be made from a single piece of wood (self bow) or many pieces or wood glued together (laminate bow). If used for competitions it must have horn nocks and be no less than 5 feet in length. There are several other requirements all of which can be found in the Archery GB ‘Rules of Shooting‘. Arrows must be made of wood and have feather fletchings.

A longbow has no sights but the archer can use one of the following: a mark on the bow limb, a rubber band on a limb or a ground marker.

American Flatbow

An American Flatbow is similar in one respect to a longbow in that when strung, the string does not touch any other part of the bow except the string nocks. It can be made of any material or combination of materials. The shape of the handle is not restricted. Centre shot is allowed. Arrows must be made from wood. An anchor plate on a finger tab is not allowed.

Recurve Bows

Recurve bows, according to Archery GB, come in three categories: Freestyle, Barebow and Traditional.

Freestyle Bows

If you have seen archery in the Olympics, the archers are shooting a Freestyle bow. These bows have a central riser (the part the archer holds) and two limbs extending from the riser. The bow is permitted to have sights fitted and also a clicker. A clicker is a small device which enables the archer to draw every arrow to exactly the same length prior to release.


A Barebow is the same as a Freestyle but the archer is not allowed to fit a sight, a clicker or stabilisers. The archer is not allowed to have a ground marker or any marks on their bow.

Recurve Traditional

This bow is the same as a Recurve Barebow but with additional restrictions. The arrows must be made of wood. The arrow rest must not be adjustable and no pressure button is allowed. The archer is not allowed to change their anchor point or string hold position throughout a competition.


A compound (unlimited) bow uses cams, levers, pulleys, bells and whistles (sorry, getting carried away!!) to gain a mechanical advantage. The peak draw weight must not exceed 60lbs. The compound can have a sight which may contain magnifiers, prisms and a levelling device. The compound can have stabilisers. A release aid can be used when loosing the arrow.

Compound (limited) – similar to the Compound unlimited, but a release aid is not allowed and the sight is not allowed to contain magnifying lenses or prisms.

Compound (barebow) – similar to the Limited but with further restrictions. The bow must be bare except for one stabiliser and the arrow rest.

Riverside Archery Club is unable to allow compound bows to be shot on the top field because there is insufficient overshoot.

Other Bow styles

There are many more bows than those described above. Asian bows, horse bows, recurve flat bows, and others.