What Poundage Recurve Bow is Best for You?

One of the most important things about buying a new recurve bow is figuring out what poundage, or what draw weight is best for you. Correctly figuring out the appropriate weight can help you have better posture, a better experience shooting, and lessen the chances of feeling soreness and fatigue after shooting practice.

Body weight and your draw weight are loosely correlated and can be useful for determining a good draw weight. This weight differs based off of your muscle development and form and will increase through practice.

However, in addition to sharing a few of these charts, this article will also talk about another method, the 30-second test, which is also good for helping you determine the correct poundage you need to purchase your new recurve bow.

Using other information like your draw length, what style of bow you want to buy, what function you’ll be using your bow for, and how to avoid things like draw weight egos, you’ll finish this article feeling confident that you understand how to buy the correct recurve bow!

How to Find Your Appropriate Draw Weight

As I said before, there are two main methods that people use to decide what poundage recurve bow they want to buy. Although frequently debated on which method is more correct for determining the appropriate weight, I will talk about both, and you can decide which one fits your fancy!

If you look up on the Internet, what poundage recurve bow is best for me, you’ll find a lot of charts that draw a connection between your body weight, gender, and the associated draw weight for your bow. This is the first method of figuring out your appropriate draw weight.

The one chart that I found to be the best is courtesy of Best Recurve Bow Guide, a site that focuses on all things recurve bows. It’s pretty clear and gives you a pretty good idea of what the best draw weight is for you, so I will feature it down below.

Archer’s WeightSuggested Draw Weight
Small Children (70-100 lbs.)10-15 lbs.
Larger Children (100-130 lbs.)15-25 lbs.
Small-Frame Female (100-130 lbs.)25-35 lbs.
Medium-Frame Female (130-160 lbs.)25-35 lbs.
Small-Frame Male (120-150 lbs.)30-45 lbs.
Medium-Frame Male (150-180 lbs.)40-55 lbs.
Large-Frame Females (160+ lbs.)30-45 lbs.
Large Frame Men (180+ lbs.)45-60 lbs.

As you can see, this chart clearly demonstrates how your body weight, gender, and your draw weight are related.

This is another chart from Learn-Archery.com that is a little more specific to level and skill, in addition to age and gender.

Recurve Recommended Proper Draw Weight
For Beginner Recurve Bows
– Youth (Age 8 to 10) 10 – 12 pounds
– Youth (Age 11 to 13) 10 – 14 pounds
– Teens (Age 14 to 17) 12 – 16 pounds
– Young Adults (Age 18 to 20) 16 – 22 pounds
– Adult Women 16 – 26 pounds
– Adult Men 22 – 28 pounds
For Intermediary Recurve Bow
– Youth (Age 8 to 10) 10 – 14 pounds
– Youth (Age 11 to 13) 12 – 18 pounds
– Teens (Age 14 to 17) 16 – 22 pounds
– Young Adults (Age 18 to 20) 22 – 32 pounds
– Adult Women 22- 32 pounds
– Adult Men 26 – 38 pounds

However, many people argue that charts like this are bogus because there’s a lot more that goes into play as to what your correct draw weight is. For example, even if you weigh a certain weight, it may not mean that you are strong enough for a 45lb bow.

Or you may be lighter, but because of your strength and fitness, you may be able to handle a heavier bow.

So that’s why some people, instead of following charts, use another method called the 30-second test.

Often times when you go to a pro shop looking to buy a bow, you pick up a bow and draw it back, and since it’s lighter than you thought, you think that you can manage that certain weight.

However, if you’re going to be traipsing out in the wilderness looking for your next kill, or you’re going to be shooting competitively on a league or in a tournament, then you’re actually going to be shooting your bow more than once.

So that means that even if you can draw a recurve bow at the full draw if you’re feeling tired and you’ve been shooting for a while, you may not be able to handle that specific bow.

So, in order to avoid that strain that comes from a poorly chosen bow, you can try the 30-second test! Basically, what it consists of is you pulling a bow back at full draw and holding it for 30 seconds. Trust me, you will know if the bow is too heavy for you. It burns!

Not only does it burn, since drawing a bow activates all these muscles in your shoulders and your back that aren’t used all too often, if the bow is too heavy for you your muscles are going to shake too.

What you want is a recurve bow that’s comfortable to draw even after an extended period of time. You (and your muscles) will thank me later!

But since the uses for recurve bows can vary from archer to archer, sometimes the poundage may have to change based on what you’re using the bow for.


You may understand that heavier bows actually make arrows fly straight. And if you’re a hunter, accuracy is really important for making a successful hunt. If you miscalculate a shot, the heavy weight of the bow will compensate for that, sending the arrow straighter than it would be if the bow was lighter.

Consequentially, many states will require that bowhunters who are using a recurve bow have a draw weight of 40-45 lbs. before they hunt. If a 45 lb bow is difficult for you, then you might want to prepare beforehand and plan accordingly.

You might have to start with a lighter poundage bow and work your way up from that weight to a heavier weight, or until at least you can shoot the minimum draw weight for hunting with a recurve bow.

And that’s totally okay! We’ve all been there at some point, so if you have to push your hunt back for a little bit until you are able to wield a bow that will render you undefeated on the battlefield, then that’s totally okay!

Field Archers and 3D Archers

If you are interested in participating in field archery or 3D archery, then you can get away with a little lighter of a recurve bow. Because field archery and 3D archery, while being accurate is important, having good shooting form is also an important part of participating in the sport.

If your recurve bow is within the draw weight range of 15 to 75 lbs., then you’re probably good to go. Many people also use recurve bows with the draw weight of 20 to 35 lbs. In fact, that’s probably more popular.

If you are specifically looking for a recurve bow for 3D shooting, because this is similar to bowhunting, you need a heavier bow that will help you aim more accurately and correct any little mistakes that you make. Some people recommend that you use a recurve bow weight with a draw weight of 50 to 60 lbs.

However, if you are a field archer who is more specifically focused on a target that has a set distance, while it’s important to have a recurve bow that will send your arrow far, you want to make sure that your bow is being consistent and hitting the same place over and over again.

So it doesn’t necessarily matter if your recurve bow is incredibly heavy or not. If your recurve bow is lighter, it’s totally not a problem! Just make sure to choose a bow with a draw weight that you’re comfortable with.

Avoid a Draw Weight Ego

One thing that can be difficult when choosing a bow is making sure you don’t let your ego get in the way! This can be a problem when you are deciding what draw weight will be the most comfortable for you.

Some people may feel bad about not being able to handle heavier weighted bows. Some people may compare draw weights like people in gym compare to lifting weights or being able to press a certain amount of weight. “I was able to press 350…” etc. Sounds familiar?

And while I’m sure that there are some archers who are prideful about their ability to shoot heavy-weighted arrows. But don’t feel pressured to have a heavy-weighted bow just because someone else is using one!

If anything, avoid recurve bows with heavier poundage when you’re first starting out. Looking good or strong to others is not worth sacrificing your performance!

When it comes all down to it, archery is not about being powerful. It’s not that sort of sport. What really matters is if you can make the target or the bullseye. If you end up sacrificing that accuracy or performance, then it’s going to make your experience miserable more than anything.

Here’s a really great YouTube video by the archery expert NUSensei that talks about the importance of discovering your draw weight, and why you should ignore your ego!

So eat your humble pie and put that ego away!

Other Draw Weight Tips

When you’re choosing the correct draw weight for your recurve bow, there are all sorts of other tips that I have that might help you choose wisely as well as help you after you’ve bought the recurve bow.

How to Know When You Overbow

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it can still be easy to mistakenly choose your draw weight as heavier than you actually should have. This can sometimes be referred to as “overbow”-ing.

An easy test to identify if you’ve overbow-ed or not is if you’re pulling the bow back at full draw, and you have to aim the bow towards the sky in order to pull it all the way back. Or if you’re pulling the bowstring towards your waist in order to get it into full draw.

You might be shaking, or extra fatigued after a light practice session. You might be collapsing your shoulder in order to get the bow to cooperate with you.

If you watched the NUSensei video, you’ll see him do a draw weight test for a recurve, and he explains the shaking that occurs if you’re pulling too much weight on your bow.

These are all signs that you are pulling too much weight on your bow.

Another famous test, one that was originally suggested by the world-famous traditional archer, Archer G. Fred Asbell, is to have an archer bend at the waist and pull the bow at full draw just at their knee. If this isn’t possible, the bow’s poundage is too heavy.

Building Shooting Muscles

Some people talk about growing into your bow. And while it’s true, that you can build more muscle to be able to handle a heavier bow, it’s unwise to start out with a bow that is heavier than what you need. The experience just becomes all the less fun.

So start out with a bow that has your correct poundage, and if you feel a need to increase the draw weight of your bow, then you can certainly work up to it! For example, if you’re a hunter who needs to have a bow that matches the state minimum draw weight, then you can do it!

You need to focus on exercises that will work your upper back and your shoulders, which are the main muscles that drawing a bow works. You can try working up by building those muscles that you may not normally think about, but set goals and you can eventually work your way up!

Changing Your Bow Draw Weight

If you start your journey into the archery world with a goal of one day reaching a certain draw weight, then you might have to take that into consideration before you purchase your recurve bow.

Some people will buy take-down recurve bows, which basically means the same thing as its name says. The bow’s limbs can be taken apart and then substituted for new limbs with different weights, which can make it easier for you to move up draw weights.

If you buy a one-piece recurve bow, and then move up a draw weight, you’ll have to buy a completely new bow, so you might want to think about what makes more sense to you economically.

Of course, there are some times that the riser of the bow (which is basically the main body of the bow, the part where you’ll grip) actually can’t handle different weights, or it gets worn out, so make sure to consult with your technician at the pro shop you’re buying at.

It may seem like a lot of work and thought that you have to take into account, but if you take the time to thoroughly research and test out your draw weight, you will be so glad that you did!

Buying a recurve bow with the wrong poundage can result in injury, extra fatigue and soreness, a lack of accuracy, and overall not as fun of an experience as your time shooting could have been.

So make sure that you really think about what would be best for you carefully and choose wisely, so that you can have the best shooting experience that you can with your recurve bow!

Happy Shooting!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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