Can you adjust the draw weight on a recurve bow?

The draw weight of your recurve bow is one of the most important features. If the draw weight is too heavy, you might not be able to draw it correctly or you might start to shake. Or you might want to increase the draw weight to shoot at longer distances. Therefore, you might wonder whether you can adjust the draw weight on a recurve bow.

It is technically possible to adjust the draw weight of a recurve bow with the tillers. But this is not the purpose of the tiller, as the range of adjustment is very narrow (about 5 LBS). The only meaningful way to adjust the draw weight is by exchanging the bow limbs.

You might still be left with some questions like: ‘’why can’t we adjust the draw weight on a recurve bow?’’ and ‘’if we don’t use the tiller for draw weight adjustments, what is the purpose of the tiller?’’. In this article, I will discuss these and other questions in more detail, which helps you understand your recurve bow in the process.

How the draw weight can be adjusted

Although the tiller is not meant to be used to configure the draw weight. It is possible to configure the draw weight to a certain extent. The tiller is basically a large screw that allows you to change the amount of pre-tension on the limbs.

If you turn the screw inwards, the limbs will be under more pretension resulting in higher draw weight. To reduce the draw weight, you turn the tiller all the way out to the farthest position. With the tiller, you change the default angle of the limbs. Which changes how much the limbs need to flex during the draw. More flex means more draw weight!

For a more detailed guide on how to change the tiller, make sure to read my detailed article below. I explain how to configure the tiller for any type of bow:

How to adjust the tiller

The guide is focused on using the tiller for its intended purpose, namely configuring the tiller height. But it works the exact same way as for changing the draw weight.

Why recurve bows do not have an adjustable draw weight

If you are used to compound archery, you might be quite surprised that recurve bows don’t have adjustable draw weight. A lot of compound bows have highly adjustable draw weights. My compound bow, for example, is adjustable from 30 to 70 LBS. You can easily double the draw weight on this bow!

The highly adjustable draw weight is achieved by the cams. Since the cams reduce the overall flex of the limbs, compound limbs can be a lot thicker and sturdier. Also, since they must flex less, you can add more pre-tension, without causing the bow limbs to bend too far during the draw.

Recurve limbs are simply more vulnerable. I have seen many recurve bow limbs break, but I have never seen a compound bow limb break. Therefore, we must be very careful to not bend the limbs too far. This is why it’s important to not shoot with a too-short bow, as I explain in this article.

Technically, archery manufacturers could create tillers that allow you to adjust the draw weight, but many bow limbs will not survive the higher pre-tension. The only way to make this possible is by increasing the length of the bow, but this will make the bow very unwieldy.

The purpose of the tiller

Now you know that we don’t use the tiller to change the draw weight, you might wonder what the purpose of the tiller is.

To cut a long story short: we use the tiller on a recurve bow to set the tiller height, which is a measurement for the amount of pre-tension on the limbs. We need to balance out the tillers to make sure that we apply equal force under and above the arrow.

On a compound bow, this is very easy, we only must make sure that the tiller height of the upper and lower limb is the same. With recurve bows, this is a bit more complicated.

Since the arrow is not perfectly in the middle of a recurve bow, we need to apply more pretension on the lower limb to correct this. Also, the grip on the string (below the arrow) changes the dynamics. Therefore, we generally have a lower tiller height on the lower limb than the upper limb. This is called a positive tiller.

Quite complicated right? Tillering is a very important aspect of archery so it’s worth learning more about it. Below I have added a detailed guide on tillering. It explains the concepts I just discussed, but it’s also a guide on how to correctly set the tiller height:

Tiller height – what it is and how to adjust it

Choosing the right draw weight for a recurve bow

You might be bummed out to learn that you must buy new limbs or a completely new bow. But having the right draw weight is very important. Especially a too-heavy draw weight can cause a lot of issues.

If your draw weight is too high, you can start to shake while shooting or develop bad form. Both are disastrous for your accuracy, therefore it’s better to stay safe and choose a lower draw weight when in doubt.

When you are new to archery, I recommend staying within these ranges:

Archers profileDraw weight
Small children16 LBS or less
Larger children16 till 18 LBS
Teenage female18 till 22 LBS
Teenage male20 till 24 LBS
Female20 till 26 LBS
Male22 till 30 LBS

Even if you are stronger than average, I don’t recommend going outside of these ranges. The muscles you use while shooting your bow are muscles you barely use during daily life.

For more recommendations on how to choose the right draw weight, make sure to read my detailed article below:

How to choose the right draw weight for a recurve bow

Last words

If you are an experienced recurve archer and you might stumble on this article and think: ‘’that is a silly question’’. But it isn’t, especially if you have shot compound before.

On a compound bow, the primary goal of the tillers is to configure the draw weight. Although we can change the tiller height, there is no real reason for it. The tiller height of both the upper and lower limb should be the same.

Therefore, some archers think that the same is true for recurve archery. I got a few questions on my website regarding how you can change the draw weight on a compound bow. That’s when I decided to write this article!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. I will respond as soon as possible and send you an email once I have replied.

Tim van Rooijen

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by archery. First due to its historic significance but later because I like being outdoors. With this blog, I share my knowledge about Archery and how you can improve your shot. More about author…

Leave a Reply

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