How to Shoot a Recurve Bow

Five Parts:Selecting a BowChoosing Arrows for Your BowGathering Other EquipmentFinding the Right StanceDrawing and Firing the Bow

Archery has become a popular sport recently. The recurve bow’s popularity is in part due to it being the weapon of choice for Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of The Hunger Games. By choosing the right bow and arrows for your body and purpose, along with practice, you will be able to hit targets accurately and consistently.

Part 1
Selecting a Bow

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    Decide on the purpose of your bow. Recurve bows are used for one of two purposes: for target practice or for hunting. These bows are essentially the same, with one fundamental difference: the draw weight. This is the amount of strength you’ll need to draw the bow. Decide if you’ll use your bow primarily for target practice or for hunting.[1]
    • Your bow will need a higher draw weight for hunting.
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    Choose a suitable draw weight. Draw weight on a bow correlates to how hard you have to pull in order to draw back the string on the bow. To select your ideal draw weight, try about 75% of your maximum strength.[2]
    • Choosing a low draw weight will result in less speed and power in your shooting.
    • If you're a beginner, shoot with a lighter bow with regard to the draw weight. Don't choose a bow that's too hard to pull back.
    • Younger people should also choose a lower draw weight.
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    Opt for a bow length that’s twice your draw length. Your draw length is your arm span in inches divided by 2.5. Bows come in different lengths, so choose one that is at least double your draw length.[3]
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    Decide if you want a take-down bow. A take-down bow is one that dismantles for easy portability. The bow’s two limbs can be separated from the rest of the bow. This also allows for easier servicing of the bow.
    • A take-down bow also makes the draw weight flexible. You don’t need to buy a whole new bow if you decide to raise your draw weight; rather, you’d just need to purchase new limbs for the bow.[4]
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    Try out a few different bows. It is a good idea to see how well you can hold and shoot a bow before you settle on purchasing it. Try out some different options at a local archery range. This place will likely have several sample brands and styles.
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    Ask an expert to fit you for a bow. If you are going to purchase a bow, consult an expert at the sporting goods store to fit you for a bow that takes height, draw strength, and handedness into consideration.

Part 2
Choosing Arrows for Your Bow

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    Measure your draw length. Your draw length is the length that your arm can draw the bow string back in order to fire the arrow. Spread your arms out to either side of your body and hold them parallel to the ground. Have someone measure the exact number of inches from one middle finger tip on one arm to the middle finger tip on your other arm. Divide this number by 2.5. This gives you your draw length.[5]
    • Your ideal arrow length will be 1-2 inches more than your draw length.
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    Choose the arrow material and weight. Most arrows are made of either fiberglass or carbon, which keeps them relatively lightweight. The arrow weight can vary in the shaft. The heavier the arrow shaft, the deeper it will sink into a target. If you are using an arrow for target practice, you don’t need the arrow to sink in very far. If you are using it for hunting, however, you do need the arrow to sink in through skin and bone.
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    Make sure that hunting arrows have broadheads. If you are planning to get arrows for hunting, make sure they have suitable heads made of strong material with good piercing power.

Part 3
Gathering Other Equipment

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    Get a target. Shooting a recurve bow is not as simple as picking up the bow and some arrows alone. If you plan on practicing someplace like your backyard as opposed to a range, then you will need to purchase a suitable target that won’t ruin your arrows. Targets are available online or at sporting goods stores.
    • Alternately, make your own target with 2 firm hay bales. Wrap them in shade cloth to tighten them up.[6]
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    Buy an armguard. An armguard goes on the forearm of the arm that's holding the bow. Its purpose is to protect your arm if the string hits it. These can be purchased at sporting goods stores, outdoor stores and online.
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    Buy a finger tab. A finger tab is a strap of leather that protects your fingers from the tension of the string as you pull it back. Your finger tab goes on the fingers that will be drawing back your bowstring with your pointer finger above the arrow and middle and fourth below. You can also touch your thumb to your pinkie behind the string to keep them out of the way.[7]
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    Consider optional training equipment. Depending on the bow you rent/purchase, it may or may not come with additional parts helpful for beginners, such as a sight and a clicker. A clicker especially can be useful for beginners because it makes an audible click letting the shooter know when the arrow is drawn back to the ideal pull.[8]

Part 4
Finding the Right Stance

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    Stand perpendicular to the target. If you are right-handed, stand with your left hip pointing toward the target (vice versa if you are left-handed). Keep your body remains vertical. Don’t lean to one side or the other. Rather, imagine that your body is aligned with a center vertical line to keep yourself straight.
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    Straddle the shooting line. The shooting line is a line that marks a particular distance from the target. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, centering yourself over the shooting line.[9]
    • Keeping your feet firmly planted at shoulder-width also maximizes your stability as you shoot.
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    Turn your head toward the target. Look directly at the target by turning your head toward it. Be sure not to turn the rest of your body, which should instead remain perpendicular to the target. Keep your chest in and shoulders down, making sure not to hunch up your shoulders.[10]
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    Hold the bow with a firm yet comfortable grip. If you are right-handed, hold the bow with your left hand on the hand grip. Most recurve bows have handles, so you will know where to hold the bow.
    • The thumb and index finger should turn slightly inward, while the rest of your fingers on this hand should be relaxed. Your wrist should also be relaxed.
    • Don’t hold your bow with a death grip. This will cause inaccuracy in your shooting.[11] Stay relaxed so that every movement will be smooth.

Part 5
Drawing and Firing the Bow

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    Load an arrow onto your bow. You need to load the arrow by fitting the notch in the end of the arrow onto the bow string. Do this before lifting your bow and without actually drawing the string. This is called "nocking" the arrow.
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    Lift the bow to shoulder height. As you lift, ensure that the arm holding the bow is straight and locked at the elbow.[12] If your elbow is bent at all, it will be much more difficult to draw the bow.
    • Keeping the elbow of your bow arm straight additionally helps to keep your arm away from the bow string as you release.[13]
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    Pull the bowstring back. You should pull back far enough that your hand rests right under your jawbone. Your bowstring should nearly touch your face around the corner of your mouth.[14] Check again as you draw back that you are not twisting your torso to face the target.
    • Try to practice letting the stronger muscles in your back do most of the work as you draw the bow as opposed to your arm muscles.[15]
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    Take aim. You want to aim with your dominant eye while keeping your other eye closed.[16] Your dominant eye is much more reliable for your aim to the target.
    • If your bow has a sight, use the notches in the sight to help you line up your target. Also check your aim with your eyes.
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    Relax your fingers off the string to fire. Don’t jerk the string back, or the arrow won't fly straight. Keep your release as smooth and gentle as possible, thinking of the action more like relaxing your fingers off the string as opposed to letting it go.[17]
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    Stay in position until the arrow hits the target. Once you release the string, the arrow still must accelerate off the bow, and any movement during the fraction of a second can disrupt the intended flight path of the arrow. Train yourself not to jerk or flinch by holding your position until you hear the arrow hit the target.[18]


  • Inform those around you when you’re shooting and make sure that no one is walking around or behind your target.
  • Be very careful, especially if you've never shot a bow before.

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Categories: Archery