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Why and When to Unstring a Recurve Bow

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This is a topic that almost always comes up for new traditional bow owners. Maybe they’ve seen somebody string and unstring a bow or they were told by somebody that it needs to be done. Either way, knowing why and when is an integral part of properly taking care of your recurve bow.

You should unstring your recurve bow to prevent damage and loss of power or draw weight. When a bow is strung it puts the limbs under tension and curves them. Leaving a recurve bow, especially an all wooden one, strung for long periods of time without use can cause the bow to retain some memory of this curve resulting in some loss of power.

When Should you Unstring a Recurve Bow?

This is a topic of surprisingly hot debate. However, there is a common theme among top manufacturers, trainers, and bow technicians that we can extrapolate from.

How Often you Shoot Plays a Role

Most people have a “season” with which they are shooting their bow fairly regularly, and then an “off-season”.

You’ll find a group of people that will suggest you unstring your bow EVERY time you shoot it. However, I would not recommend that.

In fact, during your shooting season (or anytime you’re shooting your bow at least weekly). I would suggest leaving the bow strung.

Stringing and unstringing your recurve bow can actually cause more issues than leaving it strung for shorter periods of time. One such problem is the risk of twisting the limbs.

How Long before you should Unstring?

If you plan on not shooting your recurve bow for an extended period you should definitely unstring it. This will help protect the structure of the bow and prevent loss of power and draw weight.

But what length of time is considered extended? This is up for debate depending on who you ask. It seems like every experienced archer has a different opinion on this.

Most people will agree however, that any time you plan on not shooting your bow for more than 2-3 weeks, you should unstring it. And most definitely if you’re storing it during “off-season”. To make things easier you can use a Bow Stringer.

Bow Material Makes a Difference

The material your bow is made of makes a difference in when you should unstring it.

For example, a fiberglass bow can be left strung for a longer period of time without worry of it losing draw weight. It takes longer for the fiberglass to retain the memory of being bent when strung than a wood bow.

In fact, many people believe there’s no need to ever unstring a fiberglass bow. It’s my opinion however that you should be unstringing it for storage, like during the winter months if you’re not shooting it.

Wooden bows, especially those that are ALL wood really should be unstrung more often. My suggestion would be if they aren’t going to be shot for more than a week or two, unstring it.

Other reasons to Unstring a Recurve

Are there other instances when a bow shouldn’t be strung? I’m glad you asked!


If you plan to travel with your recurve bow then you’re best to unstring it. Partially because it will take up less space, and also because it’s a good idea to not have that kinetic energy built up in the limbs in case something happens to the string during transport.

Think about a strung bow as it being loaded. You don’t want it to go off by accident!

Maintenance and Cleaning

Most of the time you’ll want to unstring your recurve for any maintenance and when you are cleaning the bow. It’s just easier, safer, and a good practice to get into.

The exception here would be if you’re waxing the string, as that’s much easier to do with the bow strung.

What Happens if You Don’t Unstring Your Recurve Bow

During the short term? Probably nothing. In fact many people report leaving their bow under full tension for years without losing any draw weight.

This is especially the case with bows containing fiberglass, if your bow is all wood I’d be much more careful however.

Also, this is just a best practice to have when storing your bow. It removes the tension from the limbs, and takes up less space making it easier to store. That will in turn make it less likely to incur any damage.

Ultimately the decision is yours, but considering how easy it is to unstring a bow, especially using a bow stringer, I see no reason not to do it when you’re bow will be out of commission for a while.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.