Archery | Recurve Limbs – What’s the Difference?

The two most important parts of your bow
are your riser and your limbs. They’re also the most expensive parts.
Now an expensive riser has some fairly obvious differences to a cheap riser, but limbs generally look the same.
So what’s the difference? In fact, there are quite a few things
which you should know about limbs. So we’ll be covering quite
a bit of information in this video, and hopefully we’ll answer some of the most common questions when it comes to buying limbs. Firstly, let’s talk about what limbs
actually do. While the riser acts as a central hub, the limbs do the work. When the string is drawn, the limbs flex,
storing potential energy. When released, the limbs snap back, and the energy is transferred into launching
the arrow. A misconception is that the power comes from the string, and while the
string does have an effect, the power basically comes from the limbs. The limbs achieve this through its use
of layers of different materials. Traditionally, bows used wood, horn, and sinew. Modern limbs use fiberglass, wood, carbon, and synthetic foam. Take down bows can easily remove their
limbs, allowing for ease of storage and replacement. Most risers and limbs use
international limb fitting, or ILF, which means that most risers are
compatible with most limbs. Cheaper take down bows tend to use their own proprietary limb-fitting systems, so
you can’t swap out Samick Sage limbs with an ILF limb set, for example. There are a couple of notable
examples on the high end as well. The Hoyt Formula Series uses its own limb systems. So you have to, basically, buy Formula
limbs for a Hoyt Formula bow. Now, you can get some adapters, but generally speaking it’s much easier
going with the simplest option which are the Formula [riser] and Formula limbs, or just get
a recurve bow that uses ILF fittings. Let’s go on to differences. The most
important thing to consider when buying limbs is poundage. Poundage refers to the
draw weight of the bow measured in pounds, which is how heavy the bow is when at
full draw. The heavier the bow, more powerful it is. Now, how much poundage you get
depends on what you are getting the bow for. If you are a beginner, it’s recommended that you get somewhere
between 20 to 30 pounds. If you’re shooting competition,
people tend to use 40 to 50 pounds, and if you’re hunting, well, that can be
40 pounds to 60 or even 70 pounds. Again, this varies greatly with gender as
well as fitness, and it will change over time. You may find that you will grow in strength so you will get higher poundage limbs down
the track, or you might find that heavy limbs might be too strong for you, and
you might want to go down to weaker limbs. A couple of notes about draw weight.
The actual figure you see printed on the limbs assumes two things. The first is it
assumes a standard draw length of 28 inches. Now if your draw length is longer, it’s
going to be heavier than the printed draw weight. Likewise, if it’s shorter it’s going to
be a bit lighter than the printed draw length. For example, these are 40 pound
limbs, as rated for a 28 inch draw. Now my draw length is closer to around
26 inches, so I’m not actually pulling 40 pounds on my fingers. The second base line is that a limb’s poundage
is based on a 68 inch bow, unless otherwise specified. If the limb is used for a shorter bow, then it will have a higher effective poundage. Some limbs
will list these separate lengths. For example, on these limbs, you can see it’s 40 pounds for a 68 inch bow, but it’s 42 pounds for a 66 inch bow. And, likewise, if you put these limbs on a longer riser, and you get a 70 inch bow,
this will probably be around 38 pounds. On that note let’s talk about limb lengths.
When you buy limbs you have to choose how long the limbs are.
For an Olympic-style target recurve the most common length is 68 inches. Now, that’s actually not how long the
limbs are, but it’s how long the bow is in total with the riser and the limbs. The next part is a bit complex.
The lengths listed for a limb assume a 25 inch riser, which is the most common size.
Limbs usually come in 66 inch, 68 inches, and 70 inch, and that will be the length
of the bow overall when paired with the 25 inch riser. However, you can get different sized
risers. The most common variations are 23 inch and 27 inch. Although you can get
ones in between or longer ones. Now, if you put 68 inch limbs on a 27
inch riser you get a 70 inch bow, because there’s an extra 2 inches. Likewise if you put 70 inch limbs
on a 23 inch riser you get 68 inches for a bow. Basically, you can have different
combinations of short, medium, and long limbs with short, medium, and long risers.
The most common combination is medium limbs with a medium riser,
which makes your standard 68 inch bow. Although, if you need that extra length, you can combine
long limbs with a long riser or medium limbs with a long riser, depending on how much length
you want. The combination makes a difference. Using shorter limbs will give
your bow a bit more punch, which means the arrows will come out a bit quicker. However, it makes it easier to “stack”. What that means is, when you get past a
certain point, you go beyond what the limb is rated for.
That isn’t bad, and that isn’t dangerous. What it means is that it becomes
dramatically more difficult once you reach this point. That’s because
the energy in the limbs isn’t linear based on draw length. Once you get past that point it
makes it more difficult to be consistent with your release. Longer limbs on the
other hand are less efficient, so they wont launch the arrow as quickly. So, if you have a short draw length, you
shouldn’t be using longer limbs because it’s just not efficient. You may as
well use shorter limbs. Which bow length you use depends on your draw length. Although some charts will draw an
estimate based on your height, most people will use 68 inch bows. Note that this is most relevant to a
full-size target bow. If you are shooting a youth bow, or traditional bow, or hunting bow, your limbs will probably be shorter. Whoof!
OK, that’s a lot to take in. The last part covers the differences between cheap and
expensive limbs, and this is actually the easiest part to explain. Cheap limbs are
made from fiberglass with a wood core, whereas, more expensive limbs are made
from materials like carbon and synthetic foams. The price difference is astronomical! You are looking at, say, AU$200
for cheap limbs, and, you know, AU$800 and AU$1000 for more expensive limbs. There are a couple of big advantages to
using expensive carbon limbs. The first one is that it’s more linear.
I said before that when you draw a bow back the energy in the bow isn’t linear.
It tends to “stack”. Now, for a cheap wooden limb set,
it tends to stack a lot sooner, so you come back, and it gets harder
at this point. With a carbon limb set it’s a bit more linear.
So, when you come in, it’s smoother, it’s more consistent.
So even with a bit of variation it won’t punish you is badly as with a wooden limb. The second advantage is that
carbon limbs are more efficient. If you get 30 pound wood limbs and 30 pound carbon limbs, the carbon limbs
will launch the arrow with higher velocity. This efficiency makes carbon limbs the prime
choice for competitive shooting. That said, for beginner archers the difference
in limb performance isn’t as important. With the focus for a beginner
being on form rather than accuracy, it’s OK to use cheap limbs to begin with. Additionally, as a beginner, you may end
up going through multiple sets of limbs as you increase your draw weight.
Now, if you’re looking for more limbs you can perhaps borrow old limbs off somebody else. Some stores will offer a limb trading
service where you can trade in your old limbs for new ones of a higher draw weight or
the same price range, even if it’s a different brand, but if
you have to buy new limb to each time you may want to consider spreading your
budget out, so you don’t buy AU$1000 Hoyt or Win&Win limbs for
every single draw weight. So you might go cheap limbs until you’re
happy with your final weight, and then you spend big on that one. Take it from me, the carbon limbs will
give much better performance, and they will contribute to tighter groups. By the way, if you’re shooting the target style recurves, you don’t need to get matching risers and
matching limbs. Like, you don’t need a SF Axiom riser with SF Axiom limbs.
You can mix and match. It’ completely fine. Everyone does it. You could put
Hoyt limbs on the Win&Win bow. As sacrilegious as it might sound, you can do that. I mean, it’s not like you’re wearing
one Nike shoe and one Adidas shoe! Whoo! So that should cover most questions
about limbs. Since the limbs do the work of the bow they’re very important,
and buying good limbs will allow you to perform better. However, they also are an expensive investment. So if you don’t need top tier limbs,
you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for them. *cough* Anyway, hope that was helpful, thanks for watching. This is NUSensei.
Like this video.
Subscribe for more archery stuff, and i’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Archery | Recurve Limbs – What’s the Difference?

  1. Hmm, I disagree with the poundages required, but that might be culture as well. Here we recommend 18-ish pounders for the greenest and more 21-ish for green that are stronger. For Recurve, anywhere from 25 pounds or up will get you to 80 yards. Lots of people use such as well, although 30-35 is common as well. For Barebow-recurve, more poundage is advised though, anywhere from 35-45 pounds generally, if you're shooting field or FITA

  2. Hi NU Sensei, I have bought my first riser after finishing with a beginner bow. I have gone for a reasonably expensive one, the W&W RCX-100 (25"), with the thought that I can upgrade the limbs as I improve. Are there any limbs you would recommend as a good early intermediate limb that will last me for a while.

  3. How about fiberglass/graphite foam limbs compared to finberglass/wood limbs? Like these Kaya Tomcats. (Not the Carbon version.)

  4. My draw length is about 27.5". I have a 68" bow with medium limbs. I'm considering reducing to a 66" bow with short limbs. My 68" doesn't begin to stack until it gets beyond 31" DL. As far as string angle on my face, I have more nose than jaw. heh I really felt the difference in string pinch when I switched from a 62" bow to a 64" bow, but would there be much different between 66" and 68"?

  5. love your vids on archery,
    Me and my brother in law finished a beginners course at Sydney Olympic park.
    I want to know which recurve is best, i want a martin saber because it has a good reviews, but he want to buy an individual riser and limbs.
    Whats the best way of choosing? im going for small hunts/target and he wants target shooting.
    We are going to abbeys this weekend to purchase our bows. 
    Our DL is 28 and our DW is 35.

  6. I bought some 50# limbs last night that were made for a 17" riser, but the riser I ordered with them is 23", in order to make a 68" bow. I understand the poundage drop for the limbs with that riser will be about 6 pounds, but will there be any efficiency loss from shooting it at such a different poundage than it was made for? Or will the general efficiency of a recurve made exactly for my height make it just fine?

  7. Hi, I have 32# limbs (SF Ultimate Pro carbon/foam) in a 68" bow. My problem is that my sight is too short even when I shoot to 50 m, so the maximum I can shoot is 40 m. To solve this problem I'm planning to buy some limbs with more pounds. What poundage would you recommend in order to be able to shoot to 70 m with no problem? Also, I'm looking for some good value limbs, do you have any recommendation? (for example, I was checking the SF Elite Carbon/foam limbs, or the w&w winex, which are more expensive than the Elite).

  8. what are the different between the SF premium and premium plus limbs bro? I can't find the premium plus on sale anywhere in australia btw 

  9. Hello again Sensei,

    I tried a set of carbon and foam limbs earlier this week, and I loved them so much that I know carbon limbs will be my next purchase. However, I wasn't too sure on the difference between carbon w/ foam core and carbon w/ wood core. Have you ever tried carbon limbs with a wood core? And if so, does the weight stack on them like fiberglass & wood? How do they compare to a set of foam core carbon limbs?

    I just want to make sure that I'll be buying the limbs that I want, and not something like what I already have. Smoothness is really what I'm after. Thanks!

  10. hey man, what's the difference between carbon limbs(carbon/wood sf premium plus) and wood limbs (fiber/wood sf premium plus ). I meant I have drawn 36 lb fiber/wood limbs with a metal (KAP) riser ,and 30lb club bow limbs(wooden riser/wooden limbs) ,but the 30lb club bow felt like 42lb than the 36lb fiber/wood limbs with a metal (KAP) riser. so what's up with those limbs ,is it easer to draw a carbon/wood limbs or fiber/wood limbs than just wood limbs ? and if so ,I haven't drawn a carbon/wood limbs so is it easer to draw carbon/wood limbs than fiber/wood limbs ?

  11. I have a take-down recurve.  It's tuned to my satisfaction.  Is there any way to disassemble it and keep the string from unwinding and changing the brace height etc.  (I love your Youtube vids!)

  12. Another great video. You really do make it incredibly easy to understand all the little complexities that make archery and a good archer. Many thanks.

  13. As someone that is just getting into the sprt this was an astronomical help. all your videos have helped me out so much. Keep up the great work ^_^

  14. I've gone through a few of your videos now and you've answered pretty much every question I, as a beginning archer, have had. Thanks, man!

  15. Hi – Been shooting about a year and using Kaya K1 limbs, and wanting to upgrade. Using 36# which is fine, but looking at carbon upgrades, there is such a massive price difference, so unsure what is the best route. Kaya K3 carbon seem reasonably priced, but is it worth spending a bit more on some W&W or hoyte limbs, or are you just paying for the name?
    I just want to avoid trying to find the cheapest carbon limbs, and then wishing I had paid more – i look forward to your reply

  16. Is it okay to have one wood limb and one carbon limb. I know you talked about it in the video but I wasn't sure if you were talking about mixing brands and mixing materials or if it was just missing brands.

  17. What is the difference between the "top" and "bottom" limbs? Hoyt and a few other limbs are marked as such. Can they be used interchangebly as they do fit into the riser either way? The construction is exactly the same as well.   Thank you

  18. hello again 😀 i have another question, ive decided to go with a rio supercast 25" raiser and W&W Sebastian Flute axion plus limbs but it asks for the limb size (small,medium,large) what does the size mean? im trying to pick the string but im not sure how long the limbs are, What should i do?

  19. In your opinion, which brand has the the Best model of limbs (without considering costs) ….between SF or Win&win ? Please only consider performance and material….thank you…

  20. i'm a newbie to the sport, but trying some better limbs have made me invest in some "better" limbs, as i build my endurance up. keen to know the difference between the foam and "solid" limbs?? i have the budget sf foam limbs, really like the way they work. not had chance to try the uber limbs yet.

  21. i had 24lb before, now i upgraded to 30lb, but theres a problem after i change limb
    my set became rattly and vibrating so much, everything is tight and doesnt rattle woth the 24 lb limb what do you think is causing it?
    my older limb is sf axiom 24, new one is mybo synergy 30lb

  22. Could you use two different brands of limbs (with the same poundage) at the same time or no because they could have different materials in them? FYI I'm talking about ILF limbs.

  23. Great videos and for the Bruce Lee t-shirt you definitely get extra points. My daughters just took up archery after months of pestering so now I will make them watch all your videos. Thank you for all your effort.

  24. Hello, can I ask you when you have a recurve bow, which limb is the top one and which limb is on the bottom of your bow? Thank you

  25. Ohh.. i have doge goofed and explains, why my 66'' string did not fit into my bow after buying new 66'' limbs. Bevhause my riser was 24'' instead of 25''. Well… Draw weigth increased from 41lbs into 43lbs and now im faceing some problems with my draw length. New arrows it is and 43lbs draw weigth did not bother me in the beginning anyways. Funny thing was, i watched this video before buying my new set of limbs. Shows me well, that i am not so good at listening details. I quess i expekted my riser was 25'' in devault, but it eded up being 24'', when i looked at the numbers under the grip. Well, mistakes where made, no big harm. I just need to remember, that my bow is not 66''', its actually somewhere at 64 or 65 inch. I have to measure that with my coatch. I got a old string from my coatch when we realiced this length change (i did not shoot the bow yet, as i realiced that something is a bit wrong with the length.) All i need to do, is measure the old string length to find the realistic measurements. Thougths and wonders 😀

    Thank you for good video, even this one is from year 2014.

    (New member of "Laukojat" – shooting club)
    Ps. Yes indeed, i got accepted to a shooting club, last week ^^

  26. I have many limbs. 46# limbs are on my draw 61#. I allso have 40# limbs and they are 55# (omd). I have find out that when i shoot trad style i can draw heavier bow. When i try out olympic style louwer ancor point it is more difficult to draw same limbs. And shoot target that is low on ground level and 15m.

  27. another great vid!
    damn they get expensive! I cant imagine it costing more than $80 to make even the most expensive carbon limbs. carbon fiber is no longer the rare, space-aged material it once was. i gotta finde a "how it's made" clip of these things!

  28. I got a 27 hpx riser Hoyt with 28 pound Quattro carbon hoyt. If I decide to go to 30 pound limbs with shorts with wood for $ saving, would that be okay?

  29. Forgot to add, my 28 Quattro is medium. I have a 25 1/2 inch draw length from one end of shaft to the end of fletcher. Hope that makes it clearer. Lam

  30. Fairly well done! Your conclusion that carbon fiber recurve limbs are considerably faster than plain fiberglass limbs is unfounded. Carbon fiber limbs are more thermally stable (unaffected by temperature changes) and more consistent in their performance and a tiny bit faster.

    Most people forget that as important as limb weight or possibly more is their resilience, a measure of the speed at which they resume their undrawn shape. With the advent of fiberglass limb laminations, the performance differences between limbs almost vanished (it did not quite vanish, see The Heretic Archer) but limbs became roughly the same in performance, which is why most archers only think poundage and not poundage + resilience when assessing limbs. (Limb design is also a factor, but limb design reached close to optimum levels a while ago and everyone has copied those designs.)

    The performace advantage of carbon limbs almost vanishes when you tune a bow to a particuular arrow. The fiberglass limbs may be needed to be set a half a pound heavier to get the same tune.

    The perfomance advantages of carbon limbs are real, but the cost disadvantage is extreme. Until one is approaching the elite level, it is likely that no performance increase will be seen in such a purchase. Extra money is better spent on better arrows where carbon really shines (a dull black!).

  31. Nu- year 2 in my archery journey and I just wanted to thank you- you have no idea how helpful your videos are amidst all the noise and misinformation and ignorance. If you are ever in Austin, look me up- you are owed at least a pint and a place to crash for free!

  32. When you consider limbs at higher price ranges here are a few other considerations:

    – Can you shoot 1300 with wood glass limbs on a twisted magnesium riser, with minimal limbs adjustment? Yes. Of course one wood need to be world class, but it is possible.

    -There aren't just cheap/expensive, bad/good, beginner/advanced limbs. There are a wide range of limbs, some are 90% as good as the "beast limbs", and half the price of the best limbs.

    – How do average wood glass limbs today compare to wood glass premium limbs of the past. Not sure, but my guess is since it is a relatively easy product to make, shouldn't be too bad.

    – Are archery competitions won by having the fastest limbs, or the smoothest limbs? No, they are won on the basis of the highest score. Which is affected by arrow speed and limb smoothness, but accuracy is the most important point, and there isn't a standardized test for that.

    – What kind of shooting am I doing? Outdoor shooting at 90 meters is a lot more demanding than indoor shooting at 20 meters, where speed is concerned. Etc.. Add into your selection issues what kind of shooting you do and how your limb choice will affect that.

    – One of my favourite question is to ask myself "how many points are there in…" whatever technology I am considering. Differences do not mean significant differences. If you implement a change that does not gain you an additional point, it is useless., probably. On something like a deer at 20 yards it is hard t see any points in many equipment upgrades, since that shot can reliably be made with a hickory self-bow. Often more advanced equipment has no net additional value, as it will trade some new problems for adjustments to old problems.

    So, the fact certain changes are not all that helpful or necessary doesn't ,mean one shouldn't pursue them. One may learn something new, and gains some enjoyment fiddling with gear, but it may be an activity that is outside the rational outline one has for progressing in the pastime.

  33. Hi NUSensei,
    Im looking into getting a target recurve and I don't really have the money to invest in $800 AUD limbs and risers. I was wondering if the SF Axiom Plus riser and limbs would be a good investment or if I should just save for something closer to $300 too $400 AUD,

  34. Nu, I was wondering how you felt about the kaya limbs in this video? My archery focus is more traditional 3D/hunting than fita target. Are those a consistent set with good value at their price point? Is there another option in the same range that is vastly superior? Thank you for your time, sir.

  35. Hi NUSensei, question about limbs: do you recommend uukha ux100 or uukha vx1000 limbs? im considering upgrade to 40lbs, and they are pretty much the only choices for black limbs, do you know any other recommendations?? Many thanks!!

  36. I have a question and I'm finally beginning to believe that there is no known answer. What are the pins called that go from the back of the riser into a washer in the front of the limb, to help stabilize it?…and what is the washer called?

  37. hi I'm new in the sport and i got a question if your height is 5 foot 9 or 5 foot 10 what length of limbs and risers should you get?

  38. Hello NUSensei, i am enjoying your videos, very informative. i do have a question. i am currently shooting a 23 inch riser with long limbs, my draw length is 26 inches and i am 5'3. Is that the correct length of the bow for me? suggestions if not.

  39. I think that this video of yours explains why I might want to upgrade from my beginner Sammick Sage bow. It seems that what you're saying is that the carbon limbs are "smoother" because they're more linear and have less stacking at the end of the pull.

  40. Hi NuSensei, thanks for creating great videos.

    I have a question about limb weight progression. My wife is about 5'1" and she has a 23" riser with a set of medium length limbs (16#). So on a 23" rise, it is rated 18#. But since she has short draw length, it becomes 16# on her fingers.

    Now she wants to increase the poundage to 20#, but at the same time change from medium to short limbs (since her draw is so short anyway).

    Given this information, what poundage limbs should she get to reach the goal of 20# on her fingers?

    My educated guess is 66" 20#.


  41. "you don't have to pay an arm and a leg.." haha

    I've just started the sport and find your instructional videos the best by far on the internet as a whole.

    Keep up the great work
    Thank you !

  42. Just out of curiosity what about limbs that are carbon with a wood core? I've noticed a few of those floating around

  43. I went from 30l# to a massive 45#. i got that in a Jaguar Elite and it itelt too heavy and stacked too fast. then I went to the current setup at 40#. I adjusted the tiller bolt to make 42# but currently thinking of going up tto a 44# or 45# now that the draw weight gotten a lot lighter.

  44. I just got some intermediate limbs (shop soiled Hoyt 720 – some "paint" chipped off) for my Hoyt riser. Also tried some Samick limbs around the same sort of price mark (£150). Although both fit the riser the Samicks needed some work behind the counter to actually get the limbs on the bolts. Apparently it is a known thing with the Hoyt risers. So that is something you may need to be aware of.

  45. Excellent videos! Just getting back into archery having done it a little bit as a teenager but having to jog my memory on all the basic technical stuff. These are really helpful and you have an excellent manner of presentation!….Thank you sir!

  46. Hi NUSensei!

    I bought myself a 70" Core Pulse 20# bow to begin training, I am 6 foot tall, and I believe i have rather long arms and got a 29.5 inch draw length with the hand to hand divided by 2.5 method. Do you think this is a good setup? I also plan to move on draw weights by buying 2-3 sets of limbs for the same riser and swap them out so i have 2-3 "bows" with different strengths. Do you think that's a good idea?

  47. Why are limbs marked top and bottom? What diff? What if you put them on wrong? Will it shoot differently? Thanx Mickey in South Africa.

  48. NuSensie, enjoyed your video very informative and your honesty. I have a question when you order limbs say from Lancaster can you tell them exactly the weight you want, if you want 40# limbs at mid setting so you can go down a pound or two and up a pound or two. I have heard that some limbs might 40# on one 25" riser and more or less on another 25" riser. Thank you. Alan

  49. Are solid fiberglass limbs acceptable on a first bow? I know they are around 10 fps slower than wooden limbs, but are there other differences aside speed? I bought the pse kingfisher instead of the samick sage and wonder if it is inferior to the sage. I want to target shoot and hunt with the bow. I actually really like it but never tried the sage.

  50. @NUSensei what do you think of bamboo ILF limbs? To start up archery with a modest but realible couple of limbs….

  51. My uncle give a riser to me and it look like a target riser bow, the length about 24 and my father buying me a limb and the lenght 26, is it ok?, sorry 4 bad english…

  52. so…it looks like a person can either buy fancy bow with fancy equipment or they can buy used car or several nice computers instead…

  53. on one hand i love you coz you are so detailed especially for us beginners choosing their first kit. On the other hand you ramble too much and I get confused with every video of yours. I recommend you to use some summary text in your videos everytime you finish talking about one aspect of the review and advice.

  54. Is there any advantage of the Asian siyah limbs over a regular recurve. the siyahs gove the bow more reflex but add weights to the limb. At which draw weight does the advantage out weight the disadvantage?

  55. in japan you see everyone using a japanese long bow, the length is between 6 to 8 feet, what is the difference in effectiveness speed, or ease of use between a short bow, and a long bow?
    short bow i would consider to be maybe what you have discussed here

  56. When I started shooting, I started out with a 62" bow, which was way too short for me, at 5.7' and draw length ~28", so moving from that to a 68" bow was so much better. Plus I got to buy another bow, which is always exciting 🙂

  57. I have a Martin Diablo and have two sets of limbs for it. A set of 35lb. and a set of 45lb. I started with the 45 and found it too difficult. Switched to the 35's and worked at it for a year then stepped back into the 45 with no problems.

  58. This channel has been imperative in my research of archery. Thank you so much for your seemingly unbiased, and informative videos.

  59. god i love ur sarcasm in ur videos <3 one has to be a real snowflake not too understand your joking hahaha

  60. Thanks, son – very interesting & well presented.
    I repair & make guitars (even the occasional violin bow).. just taken interest in archery – and obviously thinking '??? lots of wood – make my own'. So hearing everyone's points of view is critical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *