Draw Length


Checking your Draw Weight and Length

Before you can shoot your bow, you have to be sure it fits you properly. The two measurements that determine whether your bow is a good match for you are called draw length and draw weight.

Draw length is the distance between your drawing hand and the centerline of the bow's handle. Since a compound bow can only be drawn to a certain point and should only be fired from this point (often referred to as "full draw") it is imperative your bow fit you.

Determining your draw length is easy. Spread your arms wide open, as in the photo, and measure in inches. This number should be rouglhy equal to your height in inches. Measure the arms, though, because some people have what is called an "ape index," where the arm span is longer than the body is tall.

Divide that number by 2.5, and that is your draw length, in inches. If you don't know what your bow is set for, it is easy to see. When you draw the bow back is your body scrunched? Your draw length is too short. Is it hard to get the string back all the way, or to hold it there? Your draw length is too long. You should feel comfortable in the fully drawn position.

"When I first started messing with the compound bow, it was my cousin's," said Robert Spottswood, an experienced compound archer. "It was frustrating. I just couldn't get comfortable with it in full draw."

When the 6'5" Spottswood was fitted for a bow of his own, it became evident why shooting his cousin's bow was a nightmare.

"I was shooting a bow set for someone seven inches shorter than me," he said. "I couldn't believe how much difference there was in a bow set for my size."

While draw length is easy to figure out, draw weight can be another story. Draw weight is the amount of force it takes to draw the string back. While basic guidelines can be established, draw weight is different from person to person depending on individual strength and preference.

Generally, a grown man will shoot a bow with a draw weight between 55-70 pounds. My bow is set to 68 pounds, a number I have worked up to by gaining strength over hours of practice.

Women generally shoot bows set with a draw weight of 30-50 pounds. Lower weights tend to make it easier to remain steady, while higher weights increase arrow velocity. It's a balancing act, but over time you'll find a weight at which you're comfortable.

For now, if you can bow your string back reasonably well and are moderately comfortable in the full-draw position, you're ready to start shooting.