Are Longbows Ambidextrous?

Manufacturers produce Longbows that are ambidextrous and can be used by left or right-handed archers.

Are longbows ambidextrous? 

Longbows can be manufactured without an arrow shelf making it ambidextrous for left-hand and right-hand archers.  While retailers do not usually carry a large selection of longbows with left-hand shelves, an ambidextrous longbow can be ordered and there are accessories to use a longbow ambidextrously.

A longbow has a plain long shaft that is simple and can be used by both left and right-handed archers.  Depending on the handle on a longbow, there are accessories you can attach if you prefer to use a sided longbow. 

Continue reading below to find out more about longbows, other types of bows as well as accessories you can use to convert your bow for left or right-hand use.

How Are Longbows Manufactured?

The shape of a traditional classic longbow is long and simple.  It does not have special contouring and can be used either left or right-handed. Most longbows, however, come with a sided shelf.

Ambidextrous longbows are manufactured for both right-handed and left-handed people.  Manufacturers also make components that you attach to the longbow to make it ambidextrous. 

Because there are more right-handed people, most retailers will stock up on longbows used by right-hand archers. 

However, retailers can order a longbow for those who are left-handed.

Although longbows can be manufactured for both left and right-handed archers, the choice between choosing a right or left-sided bow is very much dependent on the dominance of the archer’s eyes.

What makes a longbow ambidextrous is the lack of an arrow shelf.  This allows both left and right-hand archers to easily use the longbow. 

Two ambidextrous longbows are:

How Do I Know Which Sided Type a Longbow Is?

You need to look at the physical features of the longbow to see which sided it is.

When you hold the longbow out in front of you, you should see an arrow rest above the handle.

  • If you hold the longbow with your right hand and are right-handed, then the arrow rest will be on the left side.
  • If you hold the longbow with your left hand and are left-handed, then the arrow rest will be on the right side.

Sometimes the dominance of your eyes will not match with the dominance hands, so an ambidextrous bow would come in handy for these types of situations.

Is it Better to Use an Ambidextrous Longbow?

You do not need to use an ambidextrous longbow if you feel comfortable using your dominant hand and eye.

  • If you don’t already know how to distinguish between a right-handed and a left-handed longbow, one thing should know first is which eye is your dominant one.
  • And in case you are not sure if you need a left-hand, right-hand or ambidextrous longbow, think about which hand you write with.

Ambidextrous longbows are great for people that can use both hands just the same.  For those that can use both hands easily, then it would be better to use an ambidextrous longbow.

One reason why it would be better to use an ambidextrous longbow is that you will not have to purchase additional accessories to convert when you want to switch sides.

Which Type of Longbow Should I Use?

Depending on which side of your body is your dominant side, the best longbow for you will vary.

Just remember that you need to know the dominance of both your hands and your eyes before you choose a longbow.

However, if you are still unsure of which type is best for you, here are some tips:


  • If your hand and eye dominance is right, then you should use a right-handed longbow. 
  • If your hand and eye dominance is left, then you should use a left-handed longbow.

In some instances, your hand dominance can be one while your eye dominance can be another. Depending on how well your ability to use your non-dominant hand, the type of longbow best for you will vary.

Here are some examples when you have two different hand and eye dominance:

  • If you are left-handed yet your right eye is dominant, then you can use a right-handed longbow.
  • If you are right-handed yet your left eye is dominant, then you can use a left-handed longbow.

So, What if I am Ambidextrous?  Which Sided Longbow Should I Use?

If you can use your left and right hand equally, you are ambidextrous and you can use a simple traditional longbow.

If you are ambidextrous, you should be able to use a longbow with a shelf attached on either side.

You also need to consider your eye dominance.

Your eye dominance can be different and that will also help you determine which sided longbow is better for you to use. Not only is it important to know the bow best for you for comfort, but also for price.

For instance:

  • If your left eye is dominant, then you should use a left-sided longbow.
  • If your right eye is dominant, then you should use a right-sided longbow.

Additionally, when you are neither dominant with your left nor your right eye (Ambiocular), then you can use whichever sided longbow is comfortable for you, and an ambidextrous bow is probably your best option.

Do You Draw an Ambidextrous Longbow differently?

If you are ambidextrous, you should not feel a difference in drawing either a left or right-sided longbow.  You can just make adjustments on how you grip the handle.

Whether you shoot from the left or the right side of a bow, drawing a bow depends on the style that you shoot the arrow and your pre-determined preferences.

For example:

  • If you shoot your arrows based on the western style then you shoot the arrow on the left side of the bow because of the arch and the way that the arrow will bend around the bow. The way you pull the arrow in the western style is by holding the end of the arrow “Mediterranean” style, also called a split-finger release. 
  • If you shoot your arrow on an eastern style, then the arrow is placed on the right side of the bow.  You also pull the arrow with your thumb and forefinger, called the thumb and forefinger release. 

Where Can I Buy an Ambidextrous Longbow?

If you decide to purchase an ambidextrous longbow, you can visit your outdoor and sports store.  However, most retailers are stocked with right-sided longbows, because of the high demand. Some retailers can special order a specific longbow for you, but you might want to call your retailer beforehand.

If you are familiar with the type of longbow you want, you can also search online at vendors such as Amazon (Handcrafted Traditional English Longbow is one type that you can buy on Amazon).

If you purchase a classic simple traditional longbow and want to use it on a particular side, you can attach a shelf to the bow.  You have the option of attaching a one-sided or double-sided shelf, but the most common way to make a longbow ambidextrous is by removing the shelf completely.

What Accessories Can I Attach to Either a Right Hand or Left Hand Longbow?

A shelf can also be used with a longbow; a shelf is what holds the arrow or where it rests.  To make a bow ambidextrous, you can either not use a shelf or use a double shelf on your bow. 

If you decide to use a shelf for your longbow, you should consider which type of shelf is best for you:

  • A shelf that you stick on your longbow.
  • A shelf that you screw on to your longbow.

There is another type of shelf, called the rest plunger combo, that is used by more experienced and competitive archers and is used with certain bows that have hole mounts. This shelf is not usually recommended for beginners, or for the everyday hobbyist.

Other options that can make a bow ambidextrous are dual shelf bows; this gives your arrow two sides to rest on rather than one.

You can also buy guards and quivers that can be attached to whichever sided longbow you use.

One accessory you can attach to a traditional longbow is a single-sided or double-sided shelf.

You can purchase a component (release aids) that attaches to your longbow.  The release aids can be simple enough to twist into place or it can be manually adjusted.

Another accessory that you can purchase for either left hand or right-hand people is sights. Sights help improve target accuracy and provide a method of practice when shooting.

What Other Types of Bows Are There?

Another type of bow is called a recurve bow.  The physical appearance is different from a Longbow. 

Other bows that re similar to a longbow and a recurve bow are: self-bow, a takedown bow, a composite bow, a flat bow, to name a few.

Some of the differences between a Longbow and a recurve bow are:


  • A Longbow is long curved and the tips of the bow are faced slightly towards your body, almost like a closed parenthesis [ ) ].
  • The string of the Longbow is closer to the bow
  • Longbows are quieter when drawing the string
  • A longbow is associated with medieval times

Recurve bow:

  • A recurve bow is shorter and the tips are curved outwards away from your body.
  • The string of a recurve bow is touching the bow. 
  • A recurve bow will shoot the arrows faster because of its shape.
  • Pulling the bowstring back is smoother
  • Recurve bows are associated with Olympians

Information for Beginners

Learning the differences between longbows can be overwhelming for those of us that are not knowledgeable with archery, but the process is a very rewarding one.

Without research, you will not understand how to purchase a proper longbow for your desires and needs—whether you plan on competing or becoming an everyday hobbyist.

If you do not know your hand and eye dominance, you could end up purchasing the wrong type of longbow, so it is important to find that out prior to purchasing any type of longbow.

For a beginner, you need to learn the parts of a bow, how a bow functions, what type of arrows you will need, and more to get you started on your journey to archery.