Finally… a Longbow Vs Short Bow Guide

My longbow vs short bow article explains the features and benefits of each bow, how to choose one over the other, the specific differences and shortfalls and your personal situation that will ultimately drive you to a decision.

Longbow ArcheryFirst Up, What is a Longbow, or long bow as some people write it?

As the name longbow states, this is a lengthy bow that’s generally as tall as the individual firing it. 

The better longbows were crafted from a single piece of timber which makes it more robust and quicker to construct.

It’s been in existence for 100’s of years and was originally used for hunting and protection.

In 1991 the oldest longbow that anyone was aware of at the time was discovered alongside a mummy from around 3300BC, called Otzi.

Otzi’s bow was crafted from Yew and it was 72 inches (just over 1 meter) in length.

A second longbow which was also made from Yew was discovered in a peat bog near Somerset in England. It is thought to be from the period 2700 to 2600BC. Since this longbow was unveiled another forty have been found dating from the 4th century AD, these were found in a peat in Denmark.

Longbows have an extended, flattened out “D” shape curve which allows for additional energy to be generated and stored.

It’s this “D” shaped curve that’s responsible for the longbow’s benefits ~

  • A longer draw length.
  • It holds greater energy.
  • It can fire arrows which are heavier.
  • The arrows travel faster with greater accuracy.
  • The arrows have a flatter trajectory.

In sport, competition or leisure a bow, like any other piece of equipment, will have a significant impact on your overall performance and success.

It goes without saying that, the features and benefits of the equipment you use in archery will greatly impact your choice of bow.

Longbow Benefits

Draw Length

The draw length of a bow is how far a string can be pulled back towards your face prior to shooting, a longbow has much more room to pull your arrow back as far as your cheek/jaw.


The distance you can draw your string back has a significant impact on the power and velocity of your arrow. This additional draw length means the wood your bow is crafted from stores more energy resulting in your arrow travelling a longer distance at a greater speed.

If you’re already a crack shoot this benefit will improve your accuracy through improved power.


There are other benefits when using a larger bow, you can use bigger and heavier arrows without any problems at all.

The benefit of this is your archery will be more accurate in faster winds due to their extra weight. An arrow that weighs more is far less likely to be blown off course.

Of course the option is always available to you to use lighter arrows if you wish, your longbow will shoot arrows of different weights without any fuss at all.

One minor issue, given that your longbow is relatively big it can only be used is in a larger space, a smaller area will limit your ability.

What is a Short Bow Then?

No Mystery here… it’s simply a shorter bow…

As the name implies, they are generally shorter than longbows and the string does not come in contact contact with the limbs.

recurve bowA recurve bow is generally classed as a short bow and you’ll find that when archers refer to them they’re generally referring to recurve bows.

A great illustration of this would be the classic horse bow.

Like the longbow a short bow can be crafted from a single piece, or a number of pieces, of timber.

Generally, these types of bows are less than 5 feet in length however most of them are less than 3 feet long, such as recurve bows.

They operate the same as a longbow but provide the following unique features and benefits ~

  • Has a draw length which is less than a longbow.
  • Can be successfully used in a more confined space.
  • Less strength is required to achieve full draw length.
  • A smaller bow allows for a quicker shooting operation.
  • They’re cost effective and lighter than a longbow making them ideal for horseback archery
  • They’re really beneficial for outdoor archery in heavier wooded areas where there’s an abundance of branches.
  • They are a practical choice when firing while hiding or kneeling down.
  • Having a shorter draw length they cannot fire an arrow as far, or as fast, as a longbow.
  • They are a great choice for those who relish hunting in amongst the trees and undergrowth.

Final Thoughts

The choice you make is entirely dependant on your specific requirements, both of these bows provide practical and useful benefits, albeit different.
So, do your due diligence so you’ll be able to make an educated decision when the time comes.

Choosing the wrong bow for your archery aspirations can result in you not receiving the enjoyment that you expected and, as a result, experiencing disappointment.

And Remember…

  • A longbow is the best choice for you if your ‘thing’ is accuracy and long distance shooting.
  • An arrow from a longbow will be more accurate and able to travel further at a higher velocity.
  • Short bows are the way to go for anyone intending to shoot in confined spaces, thicker wooded areas, or for anyone considering horseback archery.

Hopefully, your understanding of how a longbow compares to a short bow is little clearer now then when you started reading this article.