Recurve vs Compound Crossbow – What’s the Difference?

Crossbows are awesome hunting weapons that have the advantage of not holding the bowstring after you’ve cocked it. Back in the day hunting form an integral part of that life and most hunters used archery equipment for hunting. While there are various modern and new crossbows available that you can use, in the end, it still boils downs to two – the recurve and compound crossbows.

So your next step is deciding whether you should buy a recurve or compound crossbow.

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

Recurve Crossbow

Recurve Crossbow

Recurve crossbow has a simpler design than the compound crossbow as it has no cams or cables to make it complex. Crossbows with recurve limbs must have longer limbs and a longer barrel to provide the longer power stroke to the crossbow bolt. Most of the hunters choose the recurve crossbow because of its simplicity.

Recurve crossbows are known as recurve because the tips of the limbs curve away from the shooter to provide power while shooting.
These crossbows are wider than a compound crossbow.


  • It has less moving parts, hence, requires less maintenance.
  • Recurve crossbow is easier to restring.
  • It makes less noise.
  • It has a simple and effective design, which makes them more reliable option.
  • They are quicker to aim since they are lighter in weight.


  • It has larger limbs. Therefore, it is large and less compact than the compound crossbow.
  • It doesn’t have a cocking system that enables you to draw easily. This requires your physical strength for it.
  • Recurve crossbow can be tough to maneuver in tight conditions such as overgrown and thickets glades.
  • It produces less power as compared to a compound. It doesn’t have draw weight and bolt speed that the compound crossbows have.
  • Its full draw weight will reduce the trigger mechanism’s life.

Compound Crossbows

Compound Crossbow

The compound crossbow is often described as the modern crossbow where the limbs are generally much sturdier. It uses cams and cables to produce more power and great speed to the bow arrows.

Its limbs are smaller, and the barrel is shorter as it doesn’t rely on the limbs make most of its power. However, it is noisier than the recurve crossbow when fired. The reloading speed on this crossbow is faster because of its more compact size.


  • It is faster at lower weights.
  • It is easier to cock and doesn’t require the strength of the recurve bow to cock the weapon.
  • They are more powerful than recurve crossbows, because of faster bolts speed.
  • It requires less force on the trigger sears that will prolong the trigger mechanism life.
  • It is compact hence better for thickets and overgrown areas where maneuvrability and limb size are an issue.


  • They are usually heavier than recurve bows because of the dense weight of the bow’s front part.
  • It requires bow press to replace the string if the string breaks.
  • They are not as accurate as recurves, especially when the crossbow is dropped and the cam is knocked out or removed of its normal position.
  • They are louder than recurves when they release the bolt.
  • It requires more maintenance. It has tiny moving parts that wear out relatively easy.

Recurve vs Compound Crossbow

Recurve vs Compound Crossbow


  • Compound crossbows can fire arrows at much higher velocities compared to recurve crossbows. Their mechanism allows for higher tension in the limbs, that translates into higher velocity.
  • Recurve crossbows are getting better, but are unable to match the power of the compound crossbow. They have slower velocity and lesser kinetic energy as compared to compound crossbows.


In bow hunting, accuracy is very important. You want a crossbow that puts the bolt exactly where your sight says it will shot after shot.

  • Cams on the compound bow can get out of tune, and you can’t count on the bolt going where you want it to. To fix this issue, you’ll need to take it to a bow technician.
  • Recurve crossbows don’t have this issue as the tension from the string naturally pulls on the limbs with equal force.


  • Recurve crossbows are larger than compound crossbows.
  • Compound bows can use shorter, rigid limbs as the cams present a mechanical benefit to the hunter in pulling the bowstring back.


Durability is a toss-up between the styles of recurve vs compound crossbow. On the one hand, recurve crossbow exert more strain on the bowstring as it’s less efficient at storing all that stress. This means that the string will need to replaced more often. However, compound crossbows have more moving parts, that means there’s more point of failure.

  • If you’re careful with recurve bow maintenance schedule, that won’t be a problem, and it is easier to replace a bowstring every hundred shots than it is to fix a cam on a compound bow.


Recurve crossbows are less expensive than compound. However, compound crossbows are a great choice for those just getting into the sport. They are twice as expensive as a comparable to recurve crossbow.

Which is Right Crossbow for Hunting?

To be fair, it depends on the type that best suits your preferences. If you’ve been bowhunting for a few years and would like something quieter & more stopping power, then a compound crossbow may be more suitable for you.

If you’re new to the sport, looking for a crossbow for a small game, recurve crossbow is probably the right choice for you as it comes with a lower price tag and less complicated maintenance.

Aksroop Kaur

About the author

Aksroop Kaur is a senior staff writer for Best Crossbow Guide, where she covers outdoor gears and hunting tools. Aks began her career in blogging as an outdoor writer at the AnG Eesti Technologies. She keeps a beady eye on all the latest comings and goings in the crossbow world. She believes in writing creative articles & blogs on travel, adventure, and health. She has a keen interest in learning new things and sharing her knowledge with others. Exploring various platforms for blog writing is one of her passion. She also loves to design indoor and outdoor spaces. In her free time when she’s not writing, she enjoys watching movies, exploring different places with her friends. Also, she is very into fitness activity. She believes in staying fit is the root of good health.