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Differences between a recurve crossbow and a compound crossbow

A crossbow is composed of a bow and an arrow shaft. With this kind of arrow shooting weapon, the reloading can be done manually or mechanically. Its mechanism is very similar to that of the rifle and the bow. In fact, it gets its stock, its simple or mechanical trigger system, its safety lever and its aiming mode from the rifle. It is similar to the bow in its limbs, string and projectile. The use of these two technologies has resulted in a bolt and precision weapon with a reduced rate of fire.There are currently many models of crossbows to choose according to your needs. But all of them are classified in the D2H category of edged weapons by law. And, the use and sale of these weapons are governed by Decree No. 2013-700 of 30.07.2013 implemented on 06.09.2013.

For this time, we will instead focus on two models of crossbow: Classic crossbow (recurve) and a compound crossbow. At the end of this article, we will determine their differences so that you can make the right choice.


Before going into more detail about these two products, it is important to know what we are talking about. So, let's get to the definition.

Compound crossbow:

The compound crossbow was born from the combination of a traditional crossbow and the adult compound bow. This technology gives an easier cocking of the string and optimizes the precision of shooting. The speed of projection of the projectile with this shooting weapon is similar to that of the compound bow.

The use of the compound crossbow is popular among hunters, except in France. That is why it is becoming more and more popular in target shooting games.

Generally, the compound crossbow can deliver up to 15 lbs of power with a projectile speed of 350 to 42 fps according to the model. These values refer to a projectile length of 14 to 22 inches for a total weight between 30 to 35 grams.

Classic crossbow:

The classic crossbow is a shooting weapon with inverted curves at both ends of the bow limbs. This is the reason why it is also known as a recurve crossbow ou recourbée en français.

Unlike a traditional or compound crossbow, the so-called classic crossbow has a wider span. With almost all components fixed, the change of the shooting string of this crossbow is easier.

In addition, the fact that it is a conventional crossbow means that it is easier to operate and maintain than the compound model.

Concept of power

Crossbows are classified according to their power, which ranges from 50 to 250 lbs. This tension allows the projectile to be propelled at a maximum speed of 130 m/s. Be aware that hunting with a crossbow is forbidden in France, you will have to find other things to test the performance of your weapon. As an indication, the power of a crossbow needed for big game hunting is 200 lbs.

With the help of a caliper and a little elbow grease, there should be no problem in cocking a conventional crossbow with a power of 150 lbs. With a compound model, cocking is easier even for more powerful models. In fact, the draw weight is reduced by 50%.

Significant difference between a recurve and a compound crossbow

The operating mechanism

For the compound crossbow, there are different pulley systems of various sizes. This technology allows to reduce the effort when cocking the string with the hoist principle. The mechanics will be more gentle when triggering with the pulleys. As for the classic model, the rope is just attached to its branches.

The power delivered

The power of a crossbow depends on the limbs of the crossbow.The compound model has stiffer limbs in the single limb version or softer limbs in the double limb version compared to a recurve model. This elasticity of the limbs results in more power for the crossbow. Moreover, as previously stated, with the pulley system, the shooter will have no trouble cocking the weapon for the same bolt weight. In addition, this projectile will have more speed than with a conventional crossbow.

The mechanics

A conventional crossbow will be more robust, easy to use and maintain than a pulley model. This is due to the simplicity in the mechanism of the classic crossbow.


At first glance, the classic crossbows are longer than a compound model. It is therefore obvious that the compound model is easier to handle and transport than the classic. Initiated by Barnett, the ultra-compact inverted compound crossbow is currently the best on the market.