I don’t like to give out definitive statements if I can’t back them up with some hard facts, but if properly maintained and stored a recurve bow may last anywhere from 20+ years to a lifetime. It all depends on what’s it made of, how it’s used, and how well you keep it.
To dig into that answer a little bit more in-depth, let’s look at each part of the recurve bow in a bit more detail.
The durability of a recurve bow
In general, recurve bows are a very simple piece of equipment, manufacturing-wise. You usually only have two parts, the bow itself and the bowstring.
In addition to that, you may also have or find additional equipment on the bow such as a clicker, a kisser, plunger button, stabilizers, or a sight. Also, if you are using an Olympic recurve takedown bow, then the limbs will also be removable and replaceable.
The riser and the limbs
The most important parts of a bow are the riser and the limbs of the bow, which all come together and form one piece aka the “body” of the bow. Because takedown bows have removable limbs, the “body” in their case is made of three separate components (two limbs and one riser).
The “body” of the bow, regardless of whether or not it’s traditional or takedown is the part of the bow that takes the most “abuse” and which also has the highest price tag from the entire package. The upside is, that if you take care of it properly, there are good chances that it will last you for decades.
Usually, recurve bows are made out of either wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a combination of them. As I said, the material the bow is made out of is extremely important when trying to determine how long it will last.
- Wood: This is the least durable option when it comes to longevity, but store properly they may last you 10 – 20 years. The problem with wooden bows is that in time the wood will begin to deform and lose some of its power, especially if you don’t use and store it properly.
- Fiberglass: For a long time fiberglass was the material of choice when it came to bows because the material is strong, can handle a lot of use, and is not extremely affected by the elements. Sometimes you would see bows using both wood and fiberglass in their construction, trying to get the best of both worlds and minimize the negatives.
- Carbon Fiber: This is the material of choice now for modern bows. Its lightweight, strong, and very durable. The only problem is that because carbon fiber is rather “new”, there isn’t a lot of data on how well these bows will age. If we examine this material in a void without taking into consideration the normal wear and tear of regular bows, then we should have a product that will last for 50+ years easily. In this instance, only time will tell how long it will last, but my guess is that will proper maintenance will last a lifetime.
This is the second essential bow component, and it’s the part that transforms your “stick” into a bow. In general, the bowstring is the part that you will replace most frequently.
Good practice states that you should replace your bowstring every 3 years at a minimum. If the string shows signs of wear and tear then you should replace it even if it isn’t near the 3-year mark.
Modern bowstrings are made up of multiple strands of materials and these will stretch, fray, wear out naturally from use. If you want to prolong the life of your bowstring, then consider using a bowstring wax to protect it from damage.
Here we find all the addons that you can put on a bow, and generally speaking, they will probably not last you a very long time.
Typically, the sights on a bow if properly maintained will be the most resilient piece, and with a bit of luck, they may last you just as much as your bow. For the rest of them, I wouldn’t count on them lasting more than 5+ years.
How long can you keep a recurve bowstrung?
This is another question I get asked a lot, and my answer always is that the best practice is to unstring your bow when you are finished with it. If you have to leave the bowstring on then try not to exceed a month with the bowstring mounted.
The reason why unstringing your bow is a good practice is that the bowstring places constant pressure on the limbs (when the bow is not in use), which in time along with the repeated load and unload cycle gradually weakens the limbs. This weakening is called fatigue.
Another factor that influences fatigue a lot is the materials of the bows. Bows made of wood are the least resistant as we all know and will fatigue easier whilst bows made out of carbon fiber will be more resilient.
So, if you want to enjoy your bow for a long time, take care of it and unstring it after every shooting session, that way you prevent fatigue from building up to easily.
What happens when you dry fire your bow?
First off, the term dry fire refers to when a person pulls back the bowstring and then releases it without an arrow.
When you draw a bow, nock an arrow, and bring the bowstring back towards your face, the energy of your draw is stored in the bow’s limbs. As you pull back the bowstring, you can see them bend backward, anxiously trying to get back to their original position. The limbs pull the bowstring forward when you release it, and the bowstring pushes the arrow. When you release the bowstring, the energy stored in the limbs is transmitted to the string and then to the arrow, launching the arrow at your target. Some of the energy is returned to the bow which makes it shake a bit.
This is what happens during a normal shot when using an arrow. Now let’s see what happens when you dry fire.
When a bow is drawn without an arrow and the string is released, the stored energy in the limbs has nowhere to go, so it vibrates powerfully throughout the bow—through the limbs, the riser, and, if using a compound bow, through the cams. Those vibrations are so strong that they have the potential to ruin the bow—and maybe send portions of it flying.
A dry fire event can cause limb cracking or splintering, string breakage and cams/other parts fracturing, but that’s not the worst news: all those parts cracking and flying through the air can cause severe physical damage, including blindness (if one of those parts flies into your eye), lacerations or bruises.
So, don’t dry fire if you want to keep yourself and your bow healthy.
In a nutshell, a properly maintained recurve bow will last you over 20+ years, and if you have a properly maintained carbon fiver recurve bow then that may even last you for a lifetime.
Take care of your bow, store it properly, don’t dry fire it and it will surely last you a very long time. Happy hunting!