How Long Should My Arrows Be: Choosing Arrows of the Right Length – a Complete Explanation

Today, archery has become quite technical regarding equipment and accessories so if you are relatively new to archery, whether it is for hunting or non-hunting purposes, you could end up getting bogged down with these technicalities which even some sharp shooters get flummoxed with sometimes.

Among one of the frequently asked questions is “how long should my arrows be?" An excellent question. Here we take a closer look at how the length of an arrow influences its trajectory, which is a crucial factor to consider if you want to have a good bow hunting experience. With this knowledge, you can get an edge over others regarding your overall archery performance.

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The Dynamics of Arrow Flight

To understand the way the length of an arrow influences the way it behaves on being released, you need to have an idea of what happens to an arrow on release. We all know the saying "as straight as an arrow." Well, in fact, once an arrow gets released, it is far from straight. There is a certain flexibility to the body of the arrow, usually called the 'spine.'

Due to excessive force exerted on an arrow from the bowstring and wind resistance, the spine gets bent in mid-flight. There are some excellent slow-motion videos where you can see this happening. The way an arrow behaves in mid-flight highlights the importance of the strength of the spine. The shorter the arrow, the stiffer the spine, and vice-versa.

Factors Which Affect Arrow Length

There are several technical considerations you need to make while selecting a particular arrow length. However, there are a few external factors as well, which we shall discuss as well.

Legal Requirements

Individual states have a restriction on arrow length and weight. So you need to be aware of your state game laws while deciding the length of your arrows to ensure that they fall within the legally accepted range.

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Comfortable Draw

There is a limit to how much a person can draw an arrow in a bow, which usually varies slightly from person to person. A thumb rule for selecting a comfortable arrow length is to draw an arrow to the maximum that you can and measure the distance between the nock of the arrow to the bow riser.

You then need to add one or two inches more, and that is the required length for a comfortable draw. So for example, if you have 29 inches from nock to riser, you can add another 2 inches to give you an arrow 31 inches long.

Related: When Should You Carry Arrows in the Nocked Position

Spine Considerations

The spine of your arrow is a very critical part. The thicker the spine of your arrow, the longer you can use. However, here you can get the ideal length by referring to an arrow chart.

How to Size your Arrow

Now that you have a fair idea about what length your arrow should be, you can cut your arrow to the required length. There are two basic methods of doing this:

Using a Tape Measure: You can just use a tape measure to get an approximate length that you need. If you are right-handed, hold a tape measure in your left hand with your arm extended to the maximum.

Now, pull the tape out towards you with your right hand, pulling as far as comfortably possible. The total length of the extended tape is the length of your arrow from nock to the riser. Now, you need to add 1 to 2 inches to the total length. This method gives you the exact length of the arrow that you require.

Using a Measuring Arrow: You can use a specially graduated arrow called a measuring arrow which gives you dimensions in increments of inches. Once the arrow is pulled to full draw, the length of the arrow is marked off with a marker.

The rule of thumb is that you usually add an extra inch or two (1 to 1 ½ inches is usually ideal) to the length of the arrow from nock to riser. This rule is basically for safety, to prevent the arrow from getting overdrawn.

Arrow Charts

Here are a few words on using arrow charts. An arrow chart gives you indications for the correct poundage of spine required against different arrow lengths.

All arrow charts are not identical but vary from one manufacturer to the other. Hence, you can get a basic idea about the recommended length of a particular spine but to be sure, you would do well to get your arrows verified at a company outlet.

Safety Considerations


It is very dangerous, for instance, to just randomly pick an arrow by just looking at the length. If your arrow is under-spined, particularly with a compound bow, the force exerted on the arrow increases as the string moves towards the riser and you could end up with a serious injury from a shattered arrow.

Another important thing is to ensure that your arrow is sufficiently long so that there is no chance of it coming off the rest at full draw, which can be quite dangerous. If an arrow that has come off its rest gets released, there is no knowing where it can go. You may even end up shooting your hand!

Summing it all up

So where are we now? Let's just go over in brief what we discussed. There are a lot of aerodynamics involved in the flight of an arrow, and the length is one of the factors that can affect the trajectory of an arrow. However, there are many other considerations which we have to include to decide what length an arrow should be.

To sum up, there is no perfect length that an arrow should be. You need to keep in mind the following points to get properly-sized arrows:

  • Consider what you need your arrow for
  • Be aware of the legalities of arrow length in your state
  • Have all safety measures covered
  • Get assistance from your local hunting and game store when in doubt
  • Make extensive use of arrow charts
  • Above all, use arrows of a length that are comfortable to shoot

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to interact with you in response.

Kevin Steffey

Kevin Steffy is a veteran hunter who has regularly engaged in the hobby for decades.

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