The Complete Bow Riser Guide

Jan 23, 2023Bows

A bow riser is a crucial part of any bow and serves as the foundation for the rest of the bow’s components. Not only does it support the bow limbs, but it gives you balance, stability, and peak performance from your bow. But there is a lot to learn about bow risers, including their materials, design, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

So whether you’re a seasoned archer or someone who is just starting out, this guide will give you a better understanding of bow risers and help you make the right decision when choosing one of your own. With that being said, let’s get started!

What Is a Bow Riser?

The riser of a bow is the central part that connects the limbs to the rest of the bow. It helps to provide balance and stability to every bow. The riser is typically made of metal, wood, or sometimes a combination of both. The riser serves as an important foundation for the rest of the bow’s components such as the grip, sight, and stabilizer.

The bow riser is also responsible for determining the overall feel and performance of the bow. It is what determines the balance, weight distribution, and shot accuracy. It is a crucial element for any type of bow and plays a key role in the performance that you can expect while shooting. This is why selecting the right bow riser is so important.

Anatomy of a Bow Riser

Understanding the anatomy of a bow riser is important for both experienced archers and those new to the sport. Being familiar with the different parts and their functions can help you make better decisions when it comes time to select a riser of your own. Some of the key components of a bow riser include:

Limb Pocket

A limb pocket is the section of a bow riser that serves as a mount for the bow limbs. It is typically found at the top and bottom portions of the riser. The limb pocket is designed to hold the limbs in place while also allowing them to pivot and flex while shooting. The design and construction of the limb pockets also help to transfer the energy from the limbs to the riser and ultimately to the arrow while shooting.

Tiller (Recurve) or Limb Bolts (Compound)

The tiller is the part of the limb fitting assembly and helps retain the limb on a recurve bow. It consists of a large disk and threading that attaches it to the riser. When a recurve bow is under tension, the limb will press against the tiller disk. The job of the tiller is to help retain the limb while the bow is under tension. It also allows you to change the distance between the bow limb and the string.

On a compound bow, the limb bolts perform a similar function. Limb bolts secure the limbs of a compound bow to the bow riser. They allow an archer to adjust the tension of the limbs. This can change the draw weight and performance of the bow. Both the tiller and limb bolt are important components of a bow. They allow an archer to fine-tune a bow to fit their individual needs and preferences.

Sight Bushing

The sight bushing is found in the middle section of the riser and is used to mount a bow sight. It consists of two small, circular holes in the riser. These are used to install a bow sight. It gives you plenty of options to customize your bow with a sight that best meets your needs and improves accuracy. Most risers on bows use the same standard when it comes to the sight bushing in order to be compatible with all bow sights.

Arrow Shelf

The arrow shelf is the flat, sloping surface found on the riser of a bow. It is typically located just above the grip. The arrow shelf is used to support an arrow as it’s drawn back. On a recurve or traditional bow, the arrow shelf is extremely important in holding the arrow before it is released. On a compound bow, the arrow shelf gives you plenty of room to mount an arrow rest to hold and support your arrow.

Arrow Rest Bushing

An arrow rest bushing is a small hole that is found on the riser of the bow. It is usually found above the grip and the arrow shelf. The arrow rest bushing is used to mount an arrow rest, which is a device that helps support the arrow. An arrow rest will hold and support the arrow as it is drawn back. With most bows, an external arrow rest is the most popular option and an arrow rest bushing helps properly mount the rest in the correct position.


The grip is one of the most important parts of a bow riser. It is the section of the riser that an archer will hold while shooting. It is designed to be comfortable and provide a secure hold on the bow. The grip is typically located near the center of the riser and is often contoured to fit the shape of a hand. The grip may be made up of different materials for added comfort. There are wood, plastic, or rubber options that can be added to the grip section for increased comfort.

These grip options are especially popular on compound bows made of aluminum or carbon, as their grip areas are typically very minimal. Most are not very contoured to fit a shooter’s hand and are basically a vertical bar. This makes adding a grip material almost essential for a comfortable shooting experience.

Stabilizer Bushing

A stabilizer bushing is a small hole that is found on the riser. It is usually found below the grip. The stabilizer bushing is used to mount a stabilizer. This is a piece of equipment that helps to balance and stabilize the bow while shooting. Stabilizers can come in a wide variety of lengths and weights in order to counterbalance the weight of a bow. They also do an excellent job of absorbing vibrations and sounds. The stabilizer bushing is the place to mount your stabilizer in order to enjoy these benefits.

Recurve Bow Risers

Recurve bow risers are a bit different from compound bow risers and have a few things you need to consider. First is the length of the riser. A longer riser may provide a more stable and comfortable grip, but may also be less agile and more difficult to handle. A shorter riser can be easier to manage but may leave you more prone to user error because it is so much more maneuverable. It can also be less comfortable to hold.

Another important consideration of the riser of a recurve bow is how the limbs are attached to it. Many beginners and basic recurve bows will use a proprietary limb fitting system. This means that you will only be able to use limbs from that specific manufacturer. On the other hand, many higher-quality bows use the ILF limb fitting system. This is a universal mounting system that allows you to mount different limbs to your riser, regardless of manufacturer.

Bow Riser Materials

When choosing a riser, one vital factor to consider is the material that it is made out of. Because the riser is the main component of a bow, the material can affect the weight, strength, and overall performance of the bow. Both compound bows and recurve bows use a variety of materials in their construction.

For recurve bows, common materials for the riser include wood, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Wood risers are the most traditional option and are praised for their natural look. Wood is often heavier than other materials, and often more affordable. Aluminum risers are much lighter and more durable than wood. They cost a little more than wood risers but not as much as carbon fiber. Carbon fiber risers are the lightest and strongest option but are also the most expensive.

For compound bows, the riser is usually made out of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the most popular option, as it provides a strong and affordable material for the riser. They are also heavier than their carbon fiber counterparts. Carbon fiber is lighter and stronger but will cost significantly more.

Choosing the right riser material will affect the weight and performance of your bow. A lighter riser will be more agile and easier to manage but might be less stable and less comfortable. A heavier riser will be more stable and comfortable but can be more difficult to handle.

In general, a recurve riser that weighs less than 2 pounds is considered lightweight, while a riser that is more than 2 pounds is considered on the heavy side. Compounds are much heavier, with the lightest options being a little less than 4 pounds. The ideal weight, however, will depend on the individual needs and preferences of the archer.

Bow Riser Sizes

As I mentioned earlier, the length of your bow riser will affect a few things. First, the overall length will affect the weight of the riser. The length will also determine how easy the bow is to handle. A long riser provides a more stable and comfortable platform to shoot from but might be harder to hold for longer periods of time and less agile. Shorter risers, however, are much more agile and easier to handle but might be a little less forgiving.

Recurve Riser Sizes

For recurve bows, the risers can range anywhere from 18 to 25 inches or more. The overall length will depend on the style and intended use of the bow. The average length is generally around 23 inches, as this provides a good balance of stability and agility while being suitable for a wide range of archers.

Compound Bow Riser Sizes

For compound bows, the typical riser size ranges from 16 to 21 inches. The length of compound bow risers is generally much shorter than recurve bows due to their design. The average length of a compound bow riser is around 19 inches. This provides a good mix of balance, stability, and agility. It can also be comfortably used by a wide range of archers.

Choosing Your Bow Riser

There are a few different considerations that you should think about before choosing your bow riser. Before making a purchase, ask yourself these questions:

1. What’s Your Style?

One of the first things to think about is your personal style. Do you want to shoot a compound bow or a recurve? These risers are very different from one another, so you will want to consider your style and the type of bow you intend to shoot.

2. What Type of Riser Material?

Once you’ve settled on the style of a riser, now it’s time to pick a material. This will again depend on your personal needs and preferences. Remember, the more that a material weighs the heavier the overall bow will be. This can help to increase inertia and stability but can tire you out more quickly. On the other hand, lighter materials provide less inertia but are easier to hold and handle for long periods of time.

3. What Size of Riser?

After deciding on a material, you can then start your search for the right size of riser. The overall length of your riser can also lend itself to the weight and stability of your bow. It can also affect the overall performance as well. For example, shorter compound bow risers are much less forgiving than those that are longer in length. Longer compound bow risers will be more stable and more forgiving should you make an error in your shooting form.

Final Thoughts

Armed with the right information, you can ensure you find yourself the perfect bow riser. There are many choices to make, including riser size, material, and style. Along with knowledge of all of the various components of a riser, you can make the right decision in your search for a riser. The riser is one of the most important parts of your bow, so take your time, and good luck!

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