Measuring Your Draw Length and Selecting a Draw Weight

Measuring Your Draw Length

Unlike a traditional recurve bow that can be drawn back to virtually any length, a compound bow will drawback only a specific distance before it stops (the wall). 

Compound bows are designed to be shot from the full-draw position. 

If a compound bow is set for a 29″ draw length, it should always be shot from the full 29″ draw position. But the bow cannot be over-drawn, say 30″ or 31″, without modifying the setup on the bow. 

So the draw length on your compound bow must be set to match your particular size. When we set up your bow, we will adjust the bow for your precise draw length.

How to measure draw length

Measuring Your Draw Length 1
  1. To measure your draw length, determine the length of your arm span in inches. 
  2. Stand with your arms out and palms facing forward. Don’t stretch when measuring. Just stand naturally. 
  3. Have someone else help you, and measure from the tip of one middle finger to the other.
  4. Then simply divide that number by 2.5. The quotient is your proper draw length (in inches) for your body size.

The majority of compound bow owners set their bows for too much draw length, which results in poor shooting form – inaccuracy – and painful string slap on the forearm. 

You will better enjoy – and be more successful with your new bow when it is fitted properly to your body. 


If in doubt, choose a little LESS draw length rather than a little more. If you are still unsure or plan to shoot with a string loop, you may benefit from reading our Additional Discussion on Draw Length

If you are a person of average proportions, your arm span will be roughly equal to your height (in inches). So there is often a direct correlation between a person’s height and their draw length as well. 

Once you have computed your draw length using the method above, you can double-check yourself by using the scale below – to see if your number is within the expected range.



Selecting a Draw Weight

There are several factors to consider here, beyond just brute strength. 

First and foremost, we strongly recommend that you choose a draw weight that is COMFORTABLE for you and suitable for your particular purpose. Particularly for the purposes of recreational archery, a bow with too much draw weight will simply make you less successful and the sport less enjoyable. 

A good rule of thumb is to choose a draw weight that requires about 75% of your “maximum” strength. 

If your bow is too heavy, and you can only shoot a few times before you’re fatigued, then you’ll be reluctant to practice and improve your game. But you also want your bow to shoot with as much speed and power as possible, so you shouldn’t choose too little weight either. 

Again, the right balance between comfort and performance – for YOU – will probably be at your “75%” mark. 

Heavy Draw Weights

If drawing your new bow makes you appear to be on the verge of hemorrhage, it’s unlikely you’re going to enjoy the sport. 

While most of us guys understand the importance of preserving machismo, the truth is, shooting too much draw weight won’t provide any benefits at all. 

Some compound bows are actually available up to a 100# draw weight. And while there may be some specific applications where such a bow may be necessary (African big-game hunting perhaps), for the vast majority of bowhunting and recreational archery applications, a super-heavyweight bow is completely unnecessary (commonly referred to as being “over-bowed”). 

All things in Moderation

However, you may not want to choose an excessively light draw weight either (being “under-bowed”). 

Heavier draw weights will undoubtedly yield better kinetic energy (penetration) and quicker arrow velocities with a less parabolic arc in flight. In fact, some states require a compound bow to meet certain draw weight minimums in order to hunt large games like Whitetail Deer. 

Check with your state’s governing agencies, and always observe the rules and regulations for a legally harvesting game in your state.

The “archery muscles” used to draw a bow are primarily large muscle groups in your upper back (the same muscles you use to row a boat or pull-start a lawnmower). Most people don’t specifically work to exercise these muscles.

So you will probably find that once you do put them to work, your “archery muscles” will gain strength quickly and drawing your bow will become easier over time. 

Fortunately, most bows come with at least 10 lbs. of draw weight adjustment. So if you are a new shooter, you may wish to begin with your bow set at a lower draw weight – and gradually “crank up” the draw weight as you become more conditioned.

General Recommendations

Here are some general guidelines for choosing an appropriate draw weight. 

Of course, each individual is different. You should apply your common sense here and interpret this chart with due respect to your own age, general physical condition, and Body Mass Index (BMI).

Recommended Draw Weight Ranges (Modern Compound Bows)

Very Small Child (55-70 lbs.)10-15 lbs.
Small Child (70-100 lbs.)15-25 lbs.
Larger Child (100-130 lbs.)25-35 lbs.
Small Frame Women (100-130 lbs.)25-35 lbs.
Medium Frame Women (130-160 lbs)30-40 lbs.
Athletic Older Child (Boys 130-150 lbs.)40-50 lbs.
Small Frame Men (120-150 lbs.)45-55 lbs.
Large Frame Women (160+ lbs.)45-55 lbs.
Medium Frame Men (150-180 lbs.)55-65 lbs.
Large Frame Men (180+ lbs.)65-75 lbs.

Note:  Not all bows are created equal regarding draw weights. High-performance compound bows with hard cams and high IBO speeds will “feel” as if they are heavier since the bow’s power curve is more aggressive (ramping to peak weight more quickly and letting off later). Bows with round wheels or soft-draw cams will similarly “feel” a little lighter, as the bow’s power curve is smoother and more gradual.

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