The best sort of bow (no favouritism honest :o) is the modern recurve. Also sometimes called the Olympic Recurve, so called because this is the only bow type allowed in the Olympics (and there are no plans to change this any time soon).
The modern recurve differs from the horse bow or single piece recurve in that it is of the ‘take-down’ variety. This means where the central handle (or riser) and limbs are discrete parts that lock together and are held rigid by the string once in place. Other parts screw into special standardized points on the bow to provide sights, vibration suppression and stabilization. This sort of bow is modular and extremely configurable (see below) allowing the archer to mix and match parts to get that perfect feel, performance and surprisingly, colour combination (seriously, that’s SO important to shooting well ;o).
Modern Recurve bows can be used in all types of competitions except where specifically excepted. Arguably outside the USA, the modern takedown recurve is the most popular type of bow and its the one that most people will learn on … at least till they decide what sort of archery they want to pursue.
Materials used in the construction of a recurve can vary wildly depending on the type and cost of the bow. The central handle or ‘riser’ can be made of plastic, wood, aluminium, magnesium or carbon fibre with the limbs varying though laminates of wood, carbon foam and aerospace carbon fibre.
Recurve bow poundage can vary from very low (circa 18#) to a weight most people would struggle to draw (60#) although the majority of intermediate and internationalists will use a bow with a draw weight of around 40 to 48#. During the 2012 Olympics a Mexican and an Italian archer both cranked up their bows to near 60lbs to counter the swirling winds at Lords.
So to recap … Recurve bow, Best bow.
(it should be noted that the editor of this website shoots a recurve and that’s his bow shown above so perhaps you’ll understand the blatant favouritism!)
Bow Porn: The above bow consists of a W&W CXT carbon riser in matt black, Border Archery Hex 5 limbs, W&W HMC+ long and short rods, a Merlin Triad 4″ extender, a Shibuya DX button, Shibuya Ultima II sight and rest, a Gehman Iris sight pin, a Fivics TN-1000 top rod and all dampeners are Fivics. The string is BCY 8125G with Brownell servings and Boots dental floss nocking point incorporating a generic brass nocking point nose kisser! Now that’s a custom bow!