Do Recurve Bows Need An Arrow Rest?

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When I first started archery I wasn’t sure if my recurve bow needed an arrow rest. I looked up many sources and it took me a decent amount of time to find the information that I needed. But earlier today, I was thinking: “there is probably many archers out there wondering the same thing”. So I figured that I would put together a simple guide for you.

In short: Recurve bows do not need an arrow rest. In fact, it is perfectly okay to shoot directly off the shelf. However, an arrow rest is recommended because it protects your bow and arrow from damage. It also increases consistency and accuracy when shooting. There are different types of rests that you can choose, each with their own respective pros and cons.

You might be wondering whether or not it might be a good time to invest in an arrow rest. There’s a lot of things to consider, so I’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

How Does An Arrow Rest Work?

Arrow rests are a small piece of equipment, but their importance is not to be overlooked. Arrow rests serve as a consistent point of contact when you draw your bow and release. The rest is there because it helps keep the arrow in place and reduces the amount of contact that the arrow gets with the bow. It makes for a quieter draw, which is something to consider if you would like to use your recurve for hunting.

Some rests can even move or drop away when the arrow is releasing. This gives the arrow the ability to glide past the rest with minimal interference. This is something to consider when purchasing an arrow rest.

Do Recurve Bows Need An Arrow Rest

Should Your Recurve Have An Arrow Rest?

I know that it can be fun to shoot a recurve bow without an arrow rest, but there are a few problems that come with shooting directly off the shelf.

First of all, this causes a lot of damage to the bow. Whenever you shoot without an arrow rest, the arrow slides across the shelf. Over time, this repeated movement causes some nasty wear and tear on the bow. This can leave ugly marks and wear away at the quality of the bow.

Another disadvantage of shooting without an arrow rest is that your shots tend to be less consistent and accurate. When an arrow is shot, its vanes or feathers tend to hit the bow. This negatively impacts the trajectory of the arrow, which leads to more missed shots. The whole point of the arrow rest is to prevent this. Arrow rests offer you a consistent place to rest your arrow, thereby reducing the chances of hitting the bow and increasing your overall accuracy.

Another issue that I’ve experienced is that shooting without a shelf also damages the arrows. Like I mentioned earlier, when shooting without an arrow rest, the arrow tends to hit the bow. In my experience, this has caused the vanes or feathers of my arrows to get damaged. Over time, they have torn or ripped off the shaft.

Naturally, the simple solution to this is an arrow rest. They not only protect your bow and arrows, but they also improve your accuracy. But exactly what types of arrow rests are there? I will cover this below.

Why Use An Arrow Rest?

Arrow rests are beneficial because they solve a lot of the issues that come with shooting directly off the shelf. There are few different types of arrow rests that you can choose from, but I’ll get into that more below. Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of using an arrow rest.


  • keeps the arrow in place while you draw
  • provides a consistent point of contact
  • protects the bow from getting damaged
  • protects the arrow from getting damaged
  • improves accuracy & consistency


  • more equipment
  • more weight to carry
  • less traditional

Personally, I have shot both with an arrow rest and without. In my experience, I have found that the advantages of using an arrow rest greatly outweigh the cons. Ultimately, however, this all comes down to personal opinion.

It can be extremely enjoyable to experiment with your setup in order to get an idea of what you really like. Therefore, shoot with and without arrow rests to get an idea of what works for you.

What Are The Different Types Of Recurve Arrow Rests?

All recurve arrow rests have the same purpose. However, not all arrow rests are created equal. This is largely dependent on the creator’s creativity and innovation.

To start, there are a few different types of arrow rests to choose from. There is not much variation within these products. The difference in opinion mainly lies within the different materials that companies use, as well as the weight of the product itself. For example, an arrow rest made of natural materials may seem higher quality than one made of plastic. But on the flip side, a plastic arrow rest may be lighter in weight.

With that being said, here are the 3 common types of recurve arrow rests:

1. Shelf rests

Shelf rests


A shelf rest is the simplest type of rest. It is used to protect the integrity of the bow, consisting of a small piece of fabric that is applied where the arrow may contact the bow when firing. Some rests also elevate the arrow’s point of contact, which improves accuracy and consistency.

When choosing a shelf rest, there are a lot of materials to choose from. A very common option is felt because of its softness and economical price tag. Some archers love the traditional appeal of animal fur as a shelf rest. Personally, I prefer to use the soft side of velcro. I usually purchase the ones that have a sticky back, because it makes adhering them fairly quick and easy.

However, the material that you choose for your shelf rest mainly boils down to personal preference. For example, you may prefer one over the other because it may be more aesthetically appealing on your bow.

2. Stick-on rests

Stick-on rests


Stick-on rests are used on recurve bows like a 3D sticker. They look like small, trapezoidal panels that have an adhesive on the back. These panels are usually made of plastic or foam and have a “hook” that you can lift. This hook is the part that actually “holds” the arrow when you shoot.

This type of rest works perfectly with vanes or feathers. It is also an affordable option that is incredibly easy to install.

3. Screw-in rests

Screw-in rests


A screw-in rest may be the perfect option if your bow has already been drilled to accommodate it. The good news is that many recurve bows come with this hole pre-drilled.

To start, these rests are usually made of plastic, with nicer ones usually being made of a combination of plastic and metal. Like a stick-on rest, screw-in rests have a “hook” that extends to provide contact with the arrow.

In comparison to the other two types of rests, screw-ins are fastened to the bow more securely. Therefore, it is better for more consistent and accurate shooting.