Compound vs Recurve Crossbow

Choosing a Compound vs Recurve Crossbow for Hunting

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You’ve decided on getting a crossbow. Good for you! Crossbows are awesome hunting weapons which have the advantage of not needing to hold the bowstring after you’ve cocked it.

You don’t have to worry about holding back the draw weight and you’re hunting with a relatively quiet weapon, compared to the rifle. So, your next step is deciding whether you should buy a recurve or a compound crossbow.

Both recurve and compound crossbows, like their counterparts in conventional bows, have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look into each of the types of crossbows, how they work, and what their benefits versus their problems.

The Recurve Crossbow

When people think about crossbows, they often think about the recurve crossbow. The recurve crossbow is a simpler design than the compound crossbow as it has no cables or cams to make it complex.

It has larger limbs and a larger overall barrel to provide the necessary power to the crossbow bolt. As a result, the recurve crossbow is larger but lighter than the compound crossbow.

Recurve crossbows are called recurve because the tips of the limbs curve away from the shooter to provide more power while shooting. The recurve crossbow is wider than compound crossbows and is slightly quieter than the compound crossbow.

The Compound Crossbow

The compound crossbow is a more complex design, but that means it is often more powerful than the recurve crossbow. Like the recurve bow, the recurve crossbow uses cams and cables to produce more power and greater speed to the crossbow arrows.

Because the compound crossbow does not rely on the limbs to make most of its power, the limbs are smaller and the barrel is shorter. Although it is more compact, the extra cams and cables add to the overall weight.

The overall width of the compound crossbow is less, but it is noisier than the recurve crossbow when fired. At the same time, the reloading speed on the compound crossbow is faster because of its more compact size.

Pros and Cons of Compound vs Recurve

There are a lot of differences between a compound and a recurve crossbow and below are some of the differences that might help you in choosing one over the other.

Recurve Pros and Cons


  • Simpler design that makes it easier to maintain. You can often do the work on the crossbow yourself.
  • Fewer moving parts. Can often repair a recurve crossbow in the field away from the archery repair shop.
  • More reliable than recurves since it has fewer components.
  • Lighter than the compound crossbow because of simple design.
  • Somewhat quieter than the compound crossbow.
  • Faster to aim than a compound crossbow because of less weight.


  • Larger and less compact than the compound crossbow. Wider limbs.
  • Often not as powerful as a compound crossbow. Doesn’t have the draw weight and bolt speed that the compound crossbows can have.
  • Does not have a cocking mechanism that enables you to draw easily. All cocking must be done using your physical strength.
  • Full draw weight will reduce the trigger mechanism’s life.
  • Can be difficult to maneuver in tight conditions such as thickets and overgrown glades.

Compound Pros and Cons


  • Generally more powerful than the recurve bows. Able to have draw weights and bolt speeds above the recurve bows.
  • More compact than the recurve bow. Better for thickets and overgrown areas where limb size and maneuverability are an issue.
  • Less stress on the trigger sear which will prolong the trigger mechanism’s life.
  • Easier to cock and doesn’t require the strength of the recurve crossbows to cock the weapon.


  • Complex mechanism that often cannot be fixed in the field. If the compound crossbow breaks in some fashion, unless you have a back up weapon, you are done for the day.
  • Generally cannot service your own crossbow. Requires service at an archery repair shop.
  • If the string breaks, you must use a bow press to replace the string.
  • Heavier than a recurve bow due to the complex mechanism.
  • Not as fast to aim because of the additional weight.
  • Compound crossbows are louder than recurve crossbows when they release the bolt. If you are after skittish game, they may be further spooked by the noise.

What to Choose?

So, which crossbow should you get? Recurve or compound? Much of it depends on your hunting style and your needs as a hunter.

If you’re hunting in a remote area where you need reliability and possible on the spot repairs, a recurve crossbow may be the right choice for you. If weight is a factor, that is, the overall carry weight, then a recurve will also fit the bill nicely. If your game is particularly spooky and you need faster aiming and shooting ability, then a recurve crossbow is better than a compound.

However, recurve crossbows have their downsides. They require more strength to load and cock. If you’re going after bigger game that needs more powerful and faster bolts on the target, a compound crossbow may be right for you.

If you’re hunting particularly dense areas such as brambles, thickets, and overgrown forest, the maneuverability of the compound crossbow will beat the recurve. Remember that there is no right or wrong answer to which crossbow to get. Both types will serve you well down the road if you choose them according to your needs.

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