ILF Bows: The Recurve Take-Down Standard

Apr 12, 2021Bows, Recurve

Interested in learning about ILF bows aka the Hoyt Dovetail System (HDS)? As a beginner archer, it’s important to for you learn everything there is to know about archery bows before making a final purchasing decision. Only after you understand your bow choices are you able to choose a bow that truly supports your shooting style. What are the 4 main types of bows? Recurve bows, compound bows, longbows, and crossbows. Recurves offer an additional option known as ILF. This is simply a takedown style recurve that offers many exceptional benefits.

This bow type has been growing in popularity ever since Earl Hoyt invented it in the early 1980s. Hoyt filed a patent in 1985 to protect the unique design. As of today, the majority of manufacturers who make recurve tournament target bows use the ILF system.

What Is An ILF Bow?

ILF stands for International Limb Fitting. This bow type allows recurve archers to interchange their limbs and risers (as long as they’re labeled as ILF compatible). Because this type of bow allows you to mix and match your risers and limbs, you have many choices when it comes to creating the perfect bow to support your shooting style. The versatility it offers means you can buy any riser you want and then choose your limbs based on your shooting characteristics. Since different limbs offer different features, this bow choice is very versatile.

Patent drawing of bow receiving limb assembly and adjustment. Credit: Hoyt Easton Archery Co Inc. Inventor Miguel A. Quartino

Since ILF risers and limbs will vary in size, you’ll need to know your limb draw weight when choosing this bow option. You’ll also need to know your draw length in order to choose the right limbs for your bow length. In order to determine bow length, simply add the distance between the riser bolts to the length of both limbs. When it comes to riser length, know that 25” is the standard adult size. Lastly, the adaptability ILF bows offers makes the tuning process much simpler to perform.

New adult archers should start with a draw weight somewhere around 20 and 25 pounds. Choosing a draw weight that’s too high is one of the most common mistakes beginner archers make.

How Do ILF Bows Work?

ILF bows work by connecting your choice of ILF riser to your choice of ILF limbs. This uniform attachment system is one that allows you to choose the riser you want without having to buy your limbs from the same manufacturer. This means once you choose an ILF riser that works for you, you can select any limbs that are compatible with the ILF bow system. What exactly makes this bow type work? ILF limbs fit into an ILF riser via proprietary extending sockets. These sockets keep the limbs securely in place when you’re shooting.

Choosing an ILF system means you’re not under a lot of pressure to make the right bow choice right away. Instead, you can choose the riser you want and the limbs you want to create the perfect bow for you. If over time you find the riser isn’t right for you, you can choose a new riser. If over time you find the limbs aren’t working, you can choose new limbs.

Want more detailed information on how this bow system works? You can read more here about Hoyt’s US patent.

5 Benefits Of ILF Bows

Here’s are 5 main benefits of using the ILF bow system.

1. Interchangeable Riser

Interchangeable risers offer new archers the ability to use more than one riser to learn which riser option works best for them. While many beginner archers will choose a simple riser to start with, most will upgrade to an advanced riser within their first year of shooting. Why? Because beginner risers don’t offer as many choices as advanced risers do. For new archers who choose a riser based on its grip, know that grips are replaceable and thus shouldn’t be a main focus.

Because the riser is interchangeable when using an ILF bow, you can choose any riser you want. Maybe you need a longer, shorter, or lighter riser? Understand that your choice of riser will factor into your bow length, which is important when it comes to your draw length. The weight of your chosen riser also factors into your overall bow weight. And since riser materials vary, which material is best for you? Maybe you prefer an aluminum ILF riser, a carbon ILF riser, a wood ILF riser, or a metal ILF riser? Each choice offers its own unique benefits.

2. Interchangeable Limbs

The ability to change the limbs allows you to increase or decrease the weight of your bow. So are heavier or lighter pulling limbs right for you? You don’t want to choose limbs that are too heavy or too light as this makes it more difficult for you to shoot. You can also choose shorter or longer limbs, which directly affect your draw length. If you happen to choose limbs that are too short, it’ll likely lessen the life cycle of the limbs. Choosing limbs that are too long can make a bow difficult to handle. Limb materials also vary, with wood, bamboo, and carbon being the most common. Which limb material will best support your shooting style?

3. Draw Weight Adjustment

Never underestimate the importance of knowing your draw weight. Since finding your ideal draw weight can be tricky, using an ILF bow tends to make the process easier. The best way for new archers to learn their draw weight is to shoot with bows that have different draw weights. While increasing draw weight supports stability, a too high draw weight makes it difficult to hold a bow steady. Lowering the weight tends to give archers more control. Since ILF bows allow you to interchange the limbs, you can buy a few different limbs to try so you can find out which one’s are right for you.

4. Tiller Adjustment

Tiller adjustments allow archers the ability to change the distance between the string and the upper & lower limbs individually. This adjustment allows an archer to more easily and comfortably aim during the draw and release cycle of the shot. This means you have the ability to make fine-tune adjustments to your needs. All you have to do is tighten/loosen each tiller bolt as you see fit.

5. Simple Breakdown

The simple design of ILF bows makes them easy to break down and transport. It’s also easy to assemble this bow type when it’s disassembled. Know that it’s not necessary to always break down an ILF bow after shooting, as many archers only do so when transporting their bow. ILF bow cases are much smaller than traditional bow cases.

Additional benefits? The ability to create the perfect bow setup for you! Also, if one of the limbs become damaged, all you need to do is replace the limb vs. replacing the entire bow.

Are All ILF Limbs Interchangeable?

No, they’re not. Interchangeability isn’t an option for all ILF limbs, even if they include the International Limb Fitting label. Why? Because not all bow manufacturers use the same standard measurements when manufacturing limbs using the ILF system. This means there are some ILF limb options out there that aren’t compatible due to this difference in measurements. Even though the fittings are only slightly different, there’s enough difference to make it so some limbs aren’t guaranteed to fit. Still, know that the majority of ILF limbs made by one manufacturer will fit into another bow manufacturer’s ILF risers.

For instance, I recently bought an ILF riser and shopped around for ILF limbs made by a different manufacturer. The limbs fit into the riser without an issue and it shoots great! Worst-case scenario, if the limbs don’t fit, just return them and purchase a different set.

Do You Need An ILF Bow?

There are many factors to consider when selecting a bow that’s right for you. What’s one of the more important things you need to keep in mind when choosing a new bow? It all comes down to a matter of personal preference. Since you’re still in the beginning stages of learning the sport of archery, choosing an ILF bow allows for more flexibility. While you need to choose the right archery equipment to use now, keep in mind your future options.

ILF is a universal system that offers you many adjustment options, allowing you to fine-tune your shooting. If you plan on partaking in the sport long-term, you should think about reaping the benefits that come with choosing an ILF bow.


ILF bows offer many benefits that support better shooting. Now that you understand everything about International Limb Fitting bows, you can make an educated decision when purchasing your ILF risers and ILF limbs. Because this bow style isn’t brand specific, you can easily mix and match your risers and limbs. If you think this adaptable bow option is one that’s right for you, then you’ll be all set now and into the future!

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1 Comment

  1. Gonzalo Arriaga

    precise and concise..thanks


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