At my archery club, we were not really sure how to measure the draw length just with mathematics, so we literally measured the draw length by using a ruler while expanding our arms as if we had a bow in our hands. It’s not the most practical way to find your draw length, but it was our quick and easy way to do it. But we needed help with every new archer that came to the club. Normally we needed two people helping out to measure accurately, but let’s cover the easy and mathematical way to measure this I’ve since learnt
To measure your draw length, stand with your back to a wall stretching your arms out sideways. Measure the distance from the end of your middle finger on one hand to the end of your other middle finger, this is called “Wingspan”. Take this number subtract 15cm, then divide it by 2, that is your archery draw length.
But what is this exactly and what is it for. Let’s head on that now.
What is draw length in archery?
Draw length is the distance from the nock to the throat of the grip in your riser. It helps you determine how long your bow should be, to ensure that you won’t put too much pressure on the limbs and that you can reach the maximum strength for the arrow. This length, although some people may disagree, can change with experience. For example, I had a specific draw length when I started, so I bought the parts of my bow for a medium size bow. But as I learned, stretched and develop my basketball playing muscles into archery muscles, my draw length grew a little bit. According to my coach, now I am able to use a ‘large’ size bow now that I’m able to stretch a little further and use more of the bow’s power than a medium size bow allowed me to.
With that in mind, make sure to calculate this clearly before you buy the parts of your bow, specially the limbs and riser, since they should be totally compatible.
How do I find my actual draw length?
There are two ways, the first one is as my friends and I used to do, use a centimeter ruler and draw it as if it was a bow. Keep one end of your ruler in your holding hand and the far hand straight to measure know the length. Since this is not a mathematical method, I would recommend that you do this process 3 times to get an average length. If you hit the same length three times, then that’s great! If your number changes, calculate the average number and that should be accurate enough for your first bow.
The second way is to use the mathematical method is to stand with your back to a wall stretching your arms. Measure the distance from the end of your middle finger to the end of your other middle finger, this is called “Wingspan”. Now, take this number minus 15cm, then divide it by 2. The result of this is your draw length. Then again, I would recommend you to combine both methods after some time, since your back will stretch and become more flexible as you practice, just like I found.
How do I determine arrow length for my bow?
This is pretty simple, simply add one or two inches (3-5cm) to your draw length to determine how long should your arrows be. For example, if you have a 28’’ inch draw length, your arrows should be 29 or 30 inches long. Now, as a personal recommendation, I suggest you add 2 inches to your arrows. It is for the best to have your arrows a little bit longer because you can cut them down after a while if they’re a touch too long.
Archers normally cut their own arrows to make them a perfect fit for their bows and clickers, once they know for sure their draw length and they have practiced a lot to be certain that their shooting mechanic is consistent. That is why my coach and teammates recommend for me to buy longer arrows when I started out, with two inches above my draw length, and wait for my draw to become consistent with a clicker before sending my arrows to be cut.
Having longer arrows is not really a problem, but having shorter arrows is. As you draw, the arrow might fall from the riser and that is dangerous. So be sure to know your draw length before you buy your arrows. Measure it several times to be certain, one can never be too sure.
How long should my arrows be for a 27 inch draw length?
Applying the method I’ve been through above, and my recommendation, if you have a 27 inch draw length, your arrows should have +2 inches, that gives us a 29 inch arrow. A lot of people will just recommend your draw length, which can be fine if you’ve got a consistent draw but for newer archers I would definitely recommend adding a couple of inches for safety.
How tall should my bow be?
Once again, we need to be sure about our draw length to know this. Typically, your bow should be your draw length plus another 40 inches. So, using the same example, if your draw length is 27 inches, 27 + 40 = 67 inches. Most archery shops use sizes to buy your limbs, which will give most of the height to the bow. Each shop changes their references and places them between small, medium and large. Now, if your draw length plus the 40 inches ends up being a number close to the next size up, go for the larger size. For example, if you’re at the end of the small category, almost medium, I recommend you get the medium bow since your draw length will grow as you learn and become more flexible. That was my mistake and now I need to buy a new pair of limbs and raiser to continue preparing for competitions.
A tall bow won’t make the arrow go faster; it’s about getting the right bow for you. The right bow for your body and your archery development. It’s true that larger bows with the proper draw length will be stronger, but then again, it is up to your body. You can always look for stronger limbs to compensate.
So, this is all about the draw length, an important measure to keep in mind, but most importantly, to know before you buy your own equipment. Both compound and recurve bows require this to be known, otherwise you’ll end up having to buy new equipment after 6 months! Measure twice, buy once, and look in shops for the best options available.
Happy shooting everybody!